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Lawyers, loony laws and the legal system

Moseyin’ Along

November 28, 2012
By Joyce Schenk - COLUMNIST ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

I was watching a news program recently with a friend when a segment of the program reported on another of those outlandish legal messes, the kind that makes us all shake our heads in disbelief.

My friend, a wise and witty gent, said in a weary voice, "The constitution says 'of the people, by the people and for the people.' But, in today's society, the situation has changed. Now it's 'of the lawyers, by the lawyers and for the lawyers.'"

It's hard to argue with my friend's logic. Today's lawyers and the modern court system often seem to have gone around some invisible bend in the road of reality.

It seems my friend was echoing the sentiments of many other observers of the American scene. From Jay Leno to Bishop Fulton Sheen, commentators on the state of our society have found an endless supply of material in both those practicing the legal profession and in the incomprehensible laws they have developed.

One cartoon I saw summed up a popular anti-attorney sentiment. The caption read, "Whatever their other contributions to our society, lawyers could still be an important source of protein."

And, for Robert Frost, the court system itself brought out this evaluation, "A jury consists of 12 persons chosen to decide who had the better lawyer."

A Washington, D. C., attorney made the interesting observation, "On any given day, 50 percent of the lawyers in American courtrooms are losers."

And many find agreement with Bishop Sheen's classic comment on the endless and complex paper work that is the lawyer's stock in trade. He said, "The big print giveth and the small print taketh away."

My friend is convinced if it were not for lawyers, we wouldn't need lawyers.

But it's important to realize if we had no attorneys, we would miss the fun of reading over all those weird, wacky laws cluttering up the legal system across the nation.

Some time ago, I picked up a little book called "Loony Laws and Silly Statutes" by Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts. As the title promises, this wee volume is a compilation of odd laws from all corners of the country. Some are old and no longer on the books. But many, foolish as they may seem, are still recorded in cities large and small from Maine to California.

Whenever I need a laugh, I can dip into this little book and come away with enough smiles to brighten any dull day.

Here are some excerpts from "Loony Laws." As you read them, remember behind each of these bizarre rules was a lawyer, doing his thing to keep his fellow citizens in line.

In Cleveland, you can't operate a motor vehicle while sitting on someone's lap.

In New York, blind men are forbidden to drive automobiles.

In Florida, it's illegal to transport livestock aboard a school bus.

In Ft. Madison, Iowa, the law requires fireman to practice for 15 minutes before attending a fire.

In Maine, until 1975 it was illegal for a police officer to arrest a dead body.

In South Carolina, it is a capital offense to inadvertently kill someone while attempting suicide.

Until recently, it was illegal to fish for whales off the coast of Oklahoma.

In Erie, Pa., no one is allowed to fall asleep in a barbershop while having his hair cut.

In Chicago, it's illegal to eat in a place that's on fire.

And in Kansas, in the interest of railway safety the state passed a law that states "When two trains approach each other at a crossing, both shall come to a full stop and neither shall start up again until the other has gone."

But in spite of silly laws and our growing impatience with the legal profession, we really need all those paper-shuffling, brief-filing, courtroom-strutting lawyers. Without them, the public might just turn on newspaper columnists ... and we all know what a disaster that would be.



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