Legal Grounds - The FindLaw Legal News with an Attitude Blog

Woman Wins $560M Powerball, Sues for Anonymity

You wish you had problems like this. The New Hampshire woman who hit the $560 million Powerball jackpot last month has sued the state's lottery commission -- asking to remain anonymous. Her lawsuit claims disclosure would "constitute a significant invasion of privacy."

German Shepherd Receives Unemployment Benefits

A Michigan German Shepherd is in the news after being approved for $360 a week in unemployment benefits. It's a story that inserts a cute, cuddly pet into the real-world problem of an apparent state benefits fraud scheme.

2017: The Year in Strange Law

In 2017, things got a little weird. Criminal and civil law has always attracted some odd characters and some odd scenarios, but this year seemed to take the cake.

Here are some of the oddest legal stories from 2017:

On the long list of worst news a person could receive, "Your evil twin sister that plotted your kidnapping and murder is getting out of jail" has to be right near the top. And that's the news Sunny Han might be getting if California Governor Jerry Brown approves the state Board of Parole's recommendation that Jeen "Gina" Han be released from prison.

Jeen was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, burglary, and false imprisonment in 1998 and has spent almost two decades in the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla. And prosecutors aren't as convinced of her rehabilitation as is the parole board.

Are Elephants People Too?

Under the law, plenty of things are people: people are people; municipalities, states, and federal offices are people; and even corporations are people, with religious rights and all. And now, a lawyer is arguing that elephants (three specifically, at least) are people, too.

"The Nonhuman Rights Project's lawsuit on behalf of the elephants," according to Steven Wise, founder of the group and filer of the lawsuit at issue, "marks the first time in the world that a lawsuit has demanded that an elephant's legal right not to be imprisoned and treated as a thing be recognized." From whence do these rights derive? And do Minnie, Beulah, and Karen have any shot at getting the same legal rights as Hobby Lobby?

Diabetes service dogs. Emotional support pigs. Kangaroos? As the debate over which species make legally acceptable service and support animals rages on, one intrepid Florida squirrel has thrust herself into the national spotlight. Brutis, an eastern gray squirrel rescued the emotionally unstable Ryan Boylan during Hurricane Matthew last year. "Ever since then I mean, oh my God, I can't imagine not being around her," Boylan told WFLA.

The only problem is that Boylan's condo association has a thing about unregistered emotional support animals (and also unapproved tenants, apparently), and issued him, and Brutis, an eviction notice.

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. And if you send your ex a bunch of "nasty" text messages and calls in violation of a no-contact order, you'll have to write a bunch of nice about them to make up for it.

So said Maui Judge Rhonda Loo to Daren Young last week, sentencing him to write 144 compliments about his ex-girlfriend in response to the 144 text messages and calls that he was accused of sending her. (We're guessing Young has to turn this homework in to the judge, lest he continue violating the protections order.) Loo's sentence got us thinking of some of our favorite odd punishments, from the Legal Grounds archives:

The plot to Ocean's 14 (or Catorce de Oceano, in this case) this is not. Still, it's a pretty sizzling heist story.

Over the course of almost a decade, $1,251,578 worth of fajitas got delivered to the Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department in Texas. The only problem? The Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department in Texas doesn't serve fajitas, nor has it ever.

Icons from Steve Jobs to Mike Ditka have done it; perhaps Johnny Cash did it best. There is something primeval about flipping the bird, like it was the first, finest, and most simple and complete insult we ever learned and we have yet to find one better. The middle finger's wordless punch transcends linguistic barriers and leaves no doubt as to its intent. It is speech, perfected. Does that make it perfectly legal?

In most cases, flipping the bird is considered free speech protected by the First Amendment. But the limits to that protection might surprise you:

We often warn people going on vacation to not be so busy on social media, for fear of tipping off potential burglars. Well, the same advice might apply to criminals on the run from Johnny Law.

Texas police tracked down a man on their most-wanted list, all thanks to an Instagram post.