Legally Weird: Legislative Oddities Archives

Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Recently in Legislative Oddities Category

Back in 2014, years before avowed racist Dylann Roof slaughtered nine black parishioners in a Charleston church and drew national attention to states still officially incorporating the Confederate Battle Flag into official locations and ceremonies, California passed a law prohibiting the state from displaying or selling merchandise emblazoned with the Confederate flag.

So does that law cover a citizen's Civil War painting depicting the flag displayed at a county fair? One resident and Civil War buff is trying to figure that out, and he's suing the state to do it.

The Garden State can breathe (and drive) a little easier tonight. After a proposed bill was rumored to ban drinking coffee while driving, the law's author and sponsor has clarified matters. Assemblyman John Wisniewski said his proposed legislation, which doesn't mention food or drink, is aimed at distracted drivers and he can't imagine police officers pulling people over for drinking coffee.

But the fact that so many Tony Sopranos were worried about being ticketed for DWC (Driving With Coffee? Driving While Caffeinating?) may reveal a fatal flaw in the intended legislation.

In an odd case of becoming the thing you hate, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has been assigned to serve as defense counsel on a criminal case by the state's public defender office. This is the same public defender's office whose budget he's been slashing for the past seven years.

In response to these budget cuts, Director of the Missouri State Public Defender Michael Barrett invoked a previously unused state statute that gives his office authority to assign cases to private attorneys. Gov. Nixon, previously the state's attorney general, was Barrett's attorney of choice.

Not if New York has anything to say about it. The state that brought you illegal stop-and-frisk polices, while at the same time trying (and failing) to make large sodas and fantasy football illegal, is now trying to criminalize playing Pokemon Go, at least for sex offender parolees.

"While children believe they are out to catch a Pokemon," wrote New York Senator Jeff Klein, "what might really be lurking could be a predator instead of a Pikachu."

3 Weird Divorce and Breakup Laws

First you say I do and walk down the aisle with your true love. Then you hang out for a while and say I don’t, and you’re headed for divorce court.

Whatever state you are in, you will likely come across some strange marriage and divorce laws. Some make sense if you think about them a little — and we will — and some are less logical. Let’s look at a few funny annulment and divorce rules from around the country.

NJ Legislators Consider Punishment for Distracted Walking

You are a product of your time and culture, so you too -- like just about everyone else -- walk around, distractedly, with a cell phone in hand and your face in a screen. As a result of your fascination with tech, you have become a menace on the streets.

Distracted walking is, in fact, a growing international problem as more people around the world grow engrossed with their phones, rather than paying attention to their surroundings. According to The Washington Post, there has been a rise in pedestrian deaths over the last decade, which is linked to the new devices we rely on. Now a new Jersey state assemblywoman is proposing a law that would fine the unfocused.

CA Congressman Puffs E-cig at Legislative Debate

Yesterday, California Congressman Duncan Hunter became the first US legislator to vape at a congressional hearing. Exhaling vapors from his e-cigarette during a debate on their use on planes held by the Transport Committee, Hunter explained the advantages of "vaping" over smoking.

"This is called a vaporizer," Hunter said, as his colleague beside can be seen waving the vapors around with her hand. Congresswoman Candace Miller's gesture is typically used to indicate how irritating cigarette smoke is to the person sitting by a smoker, but Hunter was unfazed and continued, "There's no combustion. There's no carcinogens ... Smoking has gone down as the use of vaporizers has gone up."

Lobbyists lobby -- they try to influence legislators to vote for their particular cause. This effort can include persuasive argument, fundraising assistance, or even campaign committee contributions. Outright gifts are strictly limited and must be reported.

A new Missouri law may require lobbyists to report sex with state legislators as a "gift" under state lobbying statutes. This shines a whole new light on lobbying in The Show Me State.

Ah, New York City. The Big Apple. The Five Boroughs. The Modern Gomorrah. Home of constitutionally-protected sex shops, topless ladies, and gigantic sodas. The City That Never Sleeps is truly a wonderland for all the heart and stomach desire. Except salt.

NYC is requiring restaurants to add a new warning label for any menu item that contains too much salt, but restaurants are not going along without a fight. The National Restaurant Association sued the City, saying health regulators are overstepping their bounds and getting the science wrong. So who's going to win this epic battle between city and sodium?

Butt Dials: a Big Pain for 911 Dispatchers

Last year Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O'Rielly suggested that half of the nation's 911 calls were no emergency. Now researchers have confirmed that there is something to this statement, in San Francisco at least.

Pocket dials -- also known by the more crude appellation "butt dials" -- make up almost one third of the city's emergency calls, according to data from Google researchers shadowing dispatchers. Emergency line operators said these accidental calls were the biggest "pain point" in their day.