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Wacky Laws, Weird Decisions, & Strange Statutes Hardcover – February 1, 2007
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That strip was the first thing that I thought of when I read in this book about a real-life incident in which the National Endowment of Arts gave a government grant to an artist who boarded a small aircraft and threw small crepe streamers into the sky, claiming that her work called attention to the higher spirit of mankind. Bill Watterson probably only THOUGHT that he was kidding.
"Wacky Laws" is yet another book about some of the strange incidents that find their way into the legal system and some of the strange decisions that make their way OUT of the system. However, this book also has a separate section on "Government Waste" detailing some of the more outre projects on which our money is being spent - which is where the above story comes from.
As you might expect, this book also has the usual collection of blue laws that defy belief - and some that don't. I don't think that it's too much of a mental strain to figure out why some ancient Wisconsin legislators made it illegal to serve apple pie in their state without a cheese topping.
But why would the city fathers of Macomb, Illinois make it illegal for an automobile to impersonate a wolf? It must be the only city in the world whose in-custody defendants would have to wait for trial parked in a garage.
The last section contains a number of true-life cases, in which the reader is asked to apply the law to the facts and compare his decision with that of the trial courts and appellate courts who heard the same case.
As a member of the bar, I missed a fair number of these, and I can't help but wonder if I didn't over-analyze them. Quite possibly, the average non-attorney reader who doesn't find himself wondering what the authors were leaving out will do better than the average attorney.
Then again, I'm not sure that the authors always described the facts correctly or were always aware of which facts were important (there is nothing in this volume to indicate that any of the four authors are attorneys themselves) or that the decisions handed down at the time would necessarily be arrived at today.
We are told, for instance, that a homicide victim's statement to a nurse that her husband had poisoned her was thrown out of court as "classic hearsay". Well, I'd assumed that she'd made that statement while conscious of her impending death - which would certainly have made it admissible as a "dying declaration" in most jurisdictions.
And I have a hard time believing that an insurance company negligently issuing a policy that gave the beneficiary a motive for murder could really be held civilly liable for the murder of the insured by the beneficiary. That really sounds like a highly speculative Palsgraf-like chain of causation, determinable only with hindsight. Wouldn't ANY policy of life insurance provide its beneficiary with the same motive?
Still, this book is recommended as pleasant light instructive reading on a subject that fascinates so many of those who DON'T practice it for a living and especially recommended for readers who think that they could do a better job than those who do.
This is perfect light reading to take along with you when you're waiting in a doctor's office or anytime you're stressed out. You read, you laugh, you relax, you feel better. Forget an apple a day, read a page a day to keep the doctor away!