Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

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A judge in Tennessee is making national headlines over a new policy he recently approved. If an inmate in county prison wants to take 30 days off their incarceration, men can get a vasectomy, and women can have a birth control device implanted.

The judge was quick to point out that this is not some form of eugenics. Rather, he contends that it's a way to help inmates more easily reintegrate into society after release. He stated that the hope is to encourage inmates to take "personal responsibility" and that "not being burdened with children" would benefit former inmates after their release. Previously, this same judge instituted a policy that would cut two days off a jail term if an inmate took a course on why it's bad to use drugs around children.

While southern California surf towns, like Laguna Beach, might be known for being full of hot air, liberal people, and progressive notions, there's no shortage of anti-tobacco sentiment. In fact, in May 2017, the city of Laguna Beach actually banned all smoking in all public places. Even outside a bar, late at night, after a few drinks. Even for vapers, e-cig users, marijuana smokers, and midnight tokers.

The Laguna Beach smoking ban prohibits an individual from smoking anywhere in the city except on their own private property and in their cars. A first offense can result in a $100 ticket, with subsequent offenses leading to an increased fine.

The criminal justice system is far from perfect. Sometimes mistakes get made due to accidents caused by flaws in the system. Fortunately for Richard Jones, the miscarriage of justice he suffered has been corrected; unfortunately, it took nearly 20 years to happen.

Thanks to the Innocence Project and another criminal's lack of luck, Ricky Amos, Mr. Jones was confronted one day, while in custody, by a friend who claimed Mr. Jones snubbed him in the cafeteria. When Mr. Jones denied that accusation stating he wasn't in the cafeteria, the truth was discovered: Mr. Jones and Ricky Amos looked almost identical.

A request to be unblocked by two Twitter users who got blocked by @realDonaldTrump, President Donald Trump's verified, personal (?) Twitter account, is making waves through the internet. Users @joepabike and @AynRandPaulRyan have claimed that the block violates their First Amendment rights to participate in a public forum.

Basically, they are claiming that a public forum is being held and they are denied entry for an illegal reason. More specifically, it would be like a public official banning you from a town hall meeting being held at a privately owned location because you publicly criticized or even insulted that official. The First Amendment protects the peoples' right to free speech, particularly when criticizing government officials.

When it comes to hunting hogs and coyotes, lawmakers in Texas are trying to give hunters a new option. Wild hogs, and particularly feral hogs, are not only dangerous to other animals and people, the wild beasts also cause an estimated $80 to $90 million in property damages each year in Texas alone.

To combat the feral hog problem, Texas just passed a law to allow hog hunters to shoot feral hogs from a hot air balloon. Under this new law, coyotes may also be hunted by balloon as well. However, before the law can go into effect, it still must be approved by the state governor, though it is unlikely to be denied as there is a compelling need.

Cryogenics, or the practice of freezing dead bodies so that they can be revived in the future, currently occupies a special place between junk science and fraudulent fantasy land. There are a handful of places across the world that will take your money and put your dead body in a frozen tube, until the power fails or gets shut off. While the hope is that your dead body will be revivable in a few hundred, or thousand, years, there's quite a bit to be skeptical about.

Fortunately, unless you fork over a small boatload of cash and sign some pretty specific and legally binding paperwork, your dead body won't get made into an icicle. There was an exception for the baseball player Ted Williams, however. Williams' remains were cryogenically frozen by his two children, prompting an unusual legal battle with their half-sister. Given the case of Ted Williams, there definitely remain quite a few legal questions surrounding this issue.

The State of Texas is considering legislation to impose criminal penalties against individuals who falsely claim their pets are service animals. While this is a tragically common occurrence, the Texas law is nothing new. Under federal law, and many other states' laws, it is a crime to falsely claim a pet as a service animal.

Essentially, by claiming a pet is a service animal, a person is faking a disability to get the benefits that a disabled person is entitled to. The Texas bill would make it a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of $300 and 30 hours of community service. To be found guilty, a person would have to identify their animal as a service animal, and could do so simply by using a typical service animal type harness, or vest, and would need to have done so for the purpose of getting the benefit of having a service animal.

A Montana State University professor has filed a libel lawsuit against Walmart over the job description a Walmart employee entered on the professor's fishing license application. Rather than list the professors actual occupation of college professor, the employee wrote "cleans toilets." The following year, when the professor went to renew the license, the error remained despite the professor again informing the clerk of his occupation.

When the professor showed his license to fellow MSU teacher, the other teacher made a joke, within earshot of other students, about the fact that "cleans toilets" was listed on the license. The professor's lawsuit explains that in his culture, in Zambia, people who clean toilets are considered to be the lowest social class, and are shunned. The lawsuit asserts that the professor suffered embarrassment and shock as a result.

A recent court decision out of Maine will likely be used in classrooms for generations to come. That's not because it tells a worthwhile story of American history, nor does it involve famous personalities, nor because it's so well written it merits inclusion in America's literary canon. Rather, it simply shows how significant an Oxford comma can be when determining the meaning of a sentence. And if you don't know what an Oxford comma is, read on, because, clearly, it's pretty important to writing clearly and effectively.

This case boiled down to one statute with a list of exemptions, separated by commas, except for the last exclusion. Essentially, dairy delivery drivers were claiming that under Maine law, they were entitled to overtime wages, despite their employer claiming they were excluded by the very same Maine law. However, that law is not so clear on whether delivery drivers would be exempt or not. And you guessed it, that ambiguity is the result of a missing Oxford comma.

It's rare that deaths by natural causes make the headlines, but one Miami man's death recently garnered some attention. Jacob Morpeau, aged 62, died of natural causes while parked in his car a few blocks from the county courthouse. What makes his death legally weird is that for four days, city parking officials continued to issue citations to Morpeau's vehicle, presumably with him dead inside, sometimes two tickets at a time.

One concerned citizen, who was curious about how a car could rack up so many parking ticket went to take a closer look at Morpeau's vehicle. That's when she discovered that Morpeau was in his SUV slumped over, and dead. County officials have dismissed the $160 in parking citations, but have not issued a statement as to how parking enforcement could have missed the dead body in the car. The good Samaritan however explained that Morpeau was slumped beneath the steering wheel out of sight.