Halloween can be a catalyst for unique lawsuits. A 2011 article in the New York State Bar Association Journal, titled Case Law from the Crypt: The Law of Halloween summarizes some of these strange cases.
In one case, the plaintiff alleged that a neighbor’s holiday decorations—which included an “‘Insane Asylum’ directional sign pointed towards the plaintiff’s house” and a tombstone referencing the plaintiff— were “defamatory, harassing, and caused emotional distress.” In addition to claims involving Halloween decorations, other cases have involved injury to persons or property and provocative costumes in the workplace.
In her book, Halloween Law, Law Professor Victoria Sutton calls Justice Scalia the “father of Halloween Law.” During oral argument in Central Virginia Community College v. Katz, 546 U.S. 356 (2006), held on October 31, 2005, a light bulb exploded loudly. This led to the following exchange:
Justice Scalia: Light bulb went out.
Chief Justice Roberts: It’s a trick they play on new justices all the time.
Justice Scalia: Happy Halloween.
Justice Ginsburg: That’s the idea
Justice Roberts: Take your time.
Justice Scalia: We’re even more in the dark now than before.
Listen to the Oral Argument on Oyez.org here (explosion at 42:59).
Fear Not! Use the law library’s E-Journal Finder to locate other GMU Databases that provide access to the needed article.
A Video Short: Once upon a time, a time not so very long ago, Law Books Ruled the Law Library ….
And don’t forget, everything is definitely NOT online!
Since 1916, the Supreme Court’s Term has begun each year on the first Monday in October. 28 U.S.C. § 2. Supreme Court terms are therefore called the “October Term” followed by the year (e.g. October Term 2013). Why the first October Monday?
Under the Judiciary Act of 1789 (1 Stat. 73) the Court sat for two sessions, one beginning the “first Monday of August,” the second the “first Monday of February.” Congress subsequently altered the Court’s term a number of times:
- 1801 Two Terms, began the first Mondays in June and December (2 Stat.89)
- 1802 One Term, began the first Monday in February (2 Stat.156)
- 1826 One Term, began the second Monday in January (4 Stat.160)
- 1844 One Term, began the second Monday in December (5 Stat.676)
- 1873 One Term, began the second Monday of October (17 Stat.419)
In 1916, Congress passed H.R. 15158 (39 Stat. 726) which amended the judicial code to, in part, fix the start of the Court’s term to the first Monday in October. According to both the applicable House and Senate Committee Reports, the purpose of changing the term start date was “to shorten the vacation and give the court an extra week when the weather is favorable to work.” H. R. Rep. No. 794 at 1 (1916), S. Rep. No. 775 at 1 (1916).
For more information about the Court’s docket, including oral argument dates, consult the Supreme Court Website. Scotusblog is another very useful source to keep up to date on cases before the Court.
“Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”
—Article 3, Library Bill of Rights
September 21-27 is Banned Books Week—an annual event launched by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom to “promote awareness of challenges to library materials and celebrate[s] freedom of speech.”
The Banned Books Week Website includes a variety of information, including top ten lists of challenged books from the past decade. The 2011 list includes the legal classic To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
Federal Courts have struck down a variety of efforts to ban access to books. A list of some of these cases is available on the ALA website here.
Today is the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Pursuant to 36 U.S.C. §106, September 17 is designated as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day”, and under 36 U.S.C. §108, the President is requested to “designate the week beginning September 17 and ending September 23 as ‘Constitution Week.’”
Useful resources about the U.S. Constitution include:
- American Memory (Library of Congress) Find documents from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention (1774-1789), includes images of original documents and related materials.
- Founder’s Constitution (University of Chicago Press) Provides links to historical documents related to the development of the Constitution.
- LII: CRS Annotated Constitution Prepared by the Congressional Research Service, provides links to Supreme Court opinions, the U.S. Code, and the Code of Federal Regulations.
- National Archives Images of original documents and historical information
If your answer is 51, then you will only be correct until September 1. Starting next month the U.S. Code will extend to include Title 52. Title 52, “Voting and Election” will cover federal election statutes under three subtitles:
- Voting Rights
- Voting Assistance and Election Administration
- Federal Campaign Finance
Was there a congressional bill needed to add this title? Nope. The U.S. Code is administered by the Office of Law Revision Counsel pursuant to 2 U.S.C. § 285. The OLRC has authority over the preparation of the United States Code, including the ability to make revisions. In the case of voting and election laws, the OLRC staff determined that the volume of laws enacted on these topics warranted a separate title.
More information about this Code reclassification is available on the Office of Revision Counsel Website.
The Law Library will be closed on Labor Day, Monday, September 1. Weekend hours remain unchanged.
Want more information about Labor Day?
The U.S. Department of Labor website is a good place to start. The DOL also provides statutory, regulatory, and general information about issues that come under its jurisdiction, including: wage & hours, occupational health & safety, worker’s compensation, whistleblowers, and family leave. Find a “Summary of the Major Laws of the Department of Labor” here.
Enjoy the holiday!
As we distribute CALI access codes to first years, a logical question has come up: What is CALI?
CALI stands for the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction. It is a nonprofit consortium, established in 1982, that now includes most U.S. law schools and many other entities that are interested in legal education.
For law students, CALI is primarily a source for hundreds of concise lessons written by faculty and librarians. These online tutorials serve to introduce and/or review substantive legal topics, legal writing, legal research, and other useful subjects.
There are several introductory CALI Lessons created especially for 1Ls, including: