Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Recently in Strange Legal Procedures Category

We live in a weird, weird world. Even our legal system, designed to makes things a little more predictable and a little less weird, is not immune from the strange. Many are tempted to call 2018 our weirdest year, but that may be the result of recency bias. There's no doubt that things did get a little odd, legally speaking, over the past 12 months, so here are the five stories from our legal curiosities blog:

That new car smell. For some, it's intoxicating. For others? It's toxic. Count consumers in China in the latter category. "Unpleasant interior smell/odor remains the top industry problem in that market," according to J.D. Power's Brent Gruber. "To put that in context, it is nearly double the problem rate of the second most prevalent problem, excessive fuel consumption."

The solution to that problem? An odor-removal process that eliminates that new car smell after a vehicle has been purchased. Ford has apparently patented such a "vehicle odor remediation" process, but how does it work? And will American car buyers hop on board?

World First: Elephant Receives Habeas Corpus Order

Congratulations to Happy the elephant for being the first pachyderm to receive a habeas corpus order.

In case you've only heard about a writ of habeas corpus on television, it's a fancy Latin term lawyers use to say that if you want to detain someone, like imprison them, the person has to be brought before the court and formally charged. Habeas corpus has never been successfully used to free an animal from a zoo, but that could soon change. Justice Tracey Bannister of the Supreme Court of New York for Orleans County issued an order for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Happy the Elephant against the Bronx Zoo, where she is currently being held captive, for lack of a better word. Happy will indeed have her day in court!

Neglected Horse Has No Standing in Court

There'll be no justice for Justice.

Justice, the neglected and emaciated horse at the center of an animal neglect conviction in July 2017, cannot sue his former owner for future costs associated with the horse's ongoing care due to the neglect. An Oregon judge dismissed Justice's lawsuit, brought on behalf of Justice by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), with prejudice. Judge Knowles declared the $100,000 lawsuit may not proceed because the horse is a "non-human animal." It's quizzical what might be considered a "human animal," but perhaps in this day of advanced genetic modifications, anything is possible.

Like lifting a book report from a Wikipedia article, getting legal advice from Reddit can seem pretty risky. After all, who's behind this information? Is it accurate? And, if you rely on it, are you going to get yourself into more trouble? In the end, you're probably better off reading the book yourself or talking to a real live lawyer.

But, as a recent Vice profile highlighted, that's where Reddit's Legal Advice subreddit can be at its best: answering the most common legal question, "Do I need a lawyer?"

Misappropriation of taxpayer funds; "unnecessary and lavish" spending; authorizing salaries over state law restrictions; misuse of state resources, including cars and computers; and even using state money to frame personal photos, documents, photos, and artwork. They sound like charges levied against corrupt congresspersons or city officials.

But nope -- those are all parts of 14 articles of impeachment filed against the four sitting justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Tuesday. (The fifth justice wasn't included, as he resigned last month.) The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee moved to impeach the four justices based on a staggering amount of financial malfeasance, including $3.7 million to renovate and decorate their offices. So, what happens if the entire court gets the boot?

A complaint filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination claims Twitter unfairly singled out the Salem-based Satanic Temple when it suspended two accounts associated with the religious organization, instead of an account that made a threat against the temple. While the two accounts have been restored, they have yet the be "verified" by Twitter, a choice that amounts to religious discrimination, the Satanic Temple claims.

"The failure of Twitter to verify both accounts ... clearly demonstrates a pattern of hostile discriminatory behavior engaged in by Twitter against The Satanic Temple," according to cofounder Lucien Greaves. "It reveals the biased human agency behind a facade of neutral and evenly enforced standards."

Gone are the days when marriages could only be performed by a priest in a church or an official in city hall. Now just about any Joe Schmo can perform a marriage ceremony, if they click a few buttons online. And while the new Wild West of wedding officiants can leave brides and grooms wonder whether their union is actually legal, it can also open the doors for some fun marriages and ministers.

So if you're looking to get licensed to perform a wedding ceremony, here are the three weirdest places to get ordained (sadly, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption is no longer one of them):

11-Year-Old Summoned for Jury Duty

Although most people don't enjoy getting a jury summons in the mail, there was at least one Pennsylvania resident who didn't feel that way. Jeanette Fox's son, Luke, was very excited when he was summoned for jury duty. But, there was a problem: Luke is only 11 years old and, unfortunately for him, a person has to be at least 18 years old to serve on a jury.

So, what happens when someone is over 18 years old and doesn't want to serve on a jury? Well, unless you have a valid excuse - and make the court aware of the excuse - you can actually get into trouble for not showing up when summoned for jury duty.

We like to poke a little fun at people who try to pay fines in pennies. But a misguided protest that doesn't punish any of the people responsible for the fine itself shouldn't open the door for civil rights violations. And bringing $10 in pennies to pay a ticket doesn't give court officers the right to grabbed you from behind, choke you and throw to the ground so hard you defecate yourself.

But that's what one Michigan man alleges happened when he tried to pay a parking ticket in pennies in Royal Oak.