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 new 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).
On Monday, October 8 the law library will be open regular hours: 8:00 am – 11:00 pm. Reference librarians will be available 9:00 am – 9:00 pm.
Today is the 225th 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- Founder’s Constitution (University of Chicago Press) Provides links to historical documents related to the development of the Constitution.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.
One of the many legacies of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 has been the expansion of law aimed at combating terrorism. As discussed in an earlier post, this legislative response included enacting the Patriot Act on October 26, 2001.
The Law Library of Congress has posted a list of Legislation Related to the Attack of September 11, 2001. Updated through the 107th Congress (2001-2003), the list cites 21 Bills and Joint Resolutions signed into law, including H.J. Res. 71 designating September 11 as Patriot Day (36 U.S.C. § 144). President Obama’s 2012 Patriot Day Proclamation is available on the White House Website here.
Independence Day marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. But what exactly is this document? It is printed in Statutes at Large. It is included in the United States Code as one of “The Organic Laws of the United States of America.” It has been mentioned periodically in Supreme Court decisions. Not surprisingly, the relevance of this document has been the subject of some debate in the legal academy. “Declaration of Independence” as a title search in HeinOnline will yield several articles.
Visit the National Archives website to view images of the Declaration of Independence and to read a brief history of this document. The original is housed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. You can also view a 1998 video of then members of the Supreme Court reading the complete text.
The law library will be closed on Wednesday, July 4 in observance of Independence Day. Enjoy the fireworks!
As each president has since 1996, President Obama proclaimed February as National African American History Month. This year’s theme is “Black Women in American Culture and History.” In honor of this celebration, below are the names of a few of the African American women who have been pioneers in the legal profession:
Viloette M. Anderson First African American woman lawyer to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court (1926)
Jane M. Bolin FirstAfrican American graduate of Yale Law School (1931) and the first to become a judge (1939)
Lani Guinier First tenured African American woman professor at Harvard Law School (1998)
Amalya Kearse First African American woman appointed to a United States Court of Appeals (1979)
Constance B. Motley First African American woman appointed to the Federal Judiciary (1966)
Charlotte E. Ray First African American woman to become an attorney (1872)
To learn more about National African American History Month, please visit the Library of Congress website here.
George Washington’s Birthday? President’s Day? In Virginia, the third Monday in February is officially designated as “George Washington Day.” VA. CODE ANN § 2.2-3300 (2011).
But no rest for weary law students. Classes are in session, and the law library will operate with regular hours.
Forty-five years ago, the Supreme Court struck down state prohibition of interracial marriage. At the time, 16 states had laws outlawing marriage between a man and a woman of different races (many more had prohibited interracial marriage at some period before repealing these statues).
In Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S.1, 12 (1967), the Court unanimously held Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute unconstitutional:
Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. . . . To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.
As reported in the ABA Journal, a new documentary about the Loving case, The Loving Story, will premier on HBO today.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Punxsutawney Phil is not merely a celebrity groundhog, he’s a trademark that needs protection. A trademark search on TESS—the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System—reveals that “Punxsutawney Phil” is a trademark owned by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Inc.
Jeff Lundy, a member of the club’s “Inner Circle” since 1990, is also the attorney responsible for sending out cease and desist letters to those who attempt to misappropriate Phil’s trademark. While Lundy’s practice involves more than protecting this woodchuck’s mark, according to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Phil is definitely his “No. 1 client.” In an interview, Lundy said: “Some lawyers have the opportunity to argue before the United States Supreme Court . . . . But only one represents Punxsutawney Phil.”
Happy Groundhog Day!
On Monday, January 16, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Law Library will have limited hours: noon-10:00 PM. The Reference Office will be closed.
In 1983, fifteen years after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, President Ronald Reagan signed the King Holiday Bill into law. The holiday was first observed in January, 1986. It took another 17 years for every state to recognize the holiday. In 1994, the holiday was designated a day of service under the direction of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
For resources about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visit the King Center Website.