Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

Marvel Lawyers Argue Mutants Are Not Human

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

“Mutants. Since the discovery of their existence they have been regarded with fear, suspicion, often hatred. Across the planet, debate rages. Are mutants the next link in the evolutionary chain or simply a new species of humanity fighting for their share of the world? Either way it is a historical fact: Sharing the world has never been humanity’s defining attribute.”   – Professor X

Due to an interesting quirk with trade tariffs, Marvel found itself having to take the stance that the X-Men and other mutants are not human. Toys that are imported into the United States are taxed higher (12% versus 6.8%) if the toys are classified as “dolls” – which are toys that represent humans. In order to save some money, Marvel found itself arguing the position that toys like Wolverine are “representing animals or other non-human creatures (for example, robots and monsters).”

“While fictional characters in the Marvel Universe — the heroes at least — typically argue a position that says mutants and humans are not really different, and should be afforded the same rights, in the real world the company’s position is somewhat contrary.

In the non-fictional world, our world, Marvel is taking the position that mutants are not humans at all. But this isn’t an ideological or a moral stance. Instead, it is a financial one. Toys manufactured in other countries and imported into the US are subject to taxes, but those taxes are lower if the toys represent non-human characters.”


California Man Fears Murder Charges After Killing Two Sasquatches

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Plumas County CA  Google Maps

A California hunter is fearing for his livelihood after killing a mother Sasquatch and one of her children on a desolate road. According to web rumors culled by, the man is worried that the killing violates his California hunting license which strictly regulates what can and cannot be killed. Bigfoot is nowhere to be found on the list of animals appropriate to kill. Furthermore, new DNA evidence about the elusive Bigfoot could prove the animals to be partially human which could open him up to murder charges.

The story is that a hunter in Plumas County, CA was threatened by a female Bigfoot, old enough to have gray hair. She was, according to him, blocking the road and making gestures that made him feel threatened, so he got out of his vehicle and shot her.

Then he says there were two young Sasquatches in the forest nearby, obviously upset by the female’s death. The hunter is reported to have shot and killed one of them.

The story continues that there were two other hunters with him. One became hysterical and they took away the rifle and wouldn’t let him shoot the third Bigfoot.

Trial of the century?

[Bigfoot Sightings]

Rabbis Condemn Dog To Death By Stoning

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Recently, a dog in Jerusalem got uppity and entered the courts and would not leave. This prompted some judges to remember that they had cursed a lawyer 20 years early to have his spirit enter a dog, because in traditional Judaism dogs are impure creatures. Naturally, they issued a verdict that the lawyer dog should be stoned to death. Luckily for the dog, it escaped before its sentence could be carried out.

“A Jewish rabbinical court condemned to death by stoning a stray dog it feared was the reincarnation of a lawyer who insulted its judges, reports say.

The dog entered the Jerusalem financial court several weeks ago and would not leave, reports Israeli website Ynet.

It reminded a judge of a curse passed on a now deceased secular lawyer about 20 years ago, when judges bid his spirit to enter the body of a dog.

The animal is said to have escaped before the sentence was carried out.”


The Case of Sir Thomas Grantham’s Monster

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Imagine you were far away from home and you found a monster. Not a metaphor, but a genuine, grotesque oddity.

What would you do with it?

I have in my possession a copy of Modern Reports: Or Select Cases, Adjudged In The Courts Of King’s Bench, Chancery, Common Pleas And Exchequer. Volume The Third, printed in Dublin in the year 1794. Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can read along at home.  This volume includes:

“A Collection of several Special Cases adjudged in the Court of King Bench in the last Years of the Reign of Charles the Second in the Reign of King James the Second and in the first and second Years of King William and Queen Mary. Together with the Resolutions and Judgments thereupon.”

Don’t worry; this is not an English history lesson, all you need to know from this paragraph is that this book covers legals cases from roughly the 1680’s – 1691. While doing some research I came across Case 81: Sir Thomas Grantham’s Case.  But, before we get into the details of the case – who was Sir Thomas Grantham?

Sir Thomas Grantham was your typical bad-ass 17th century British naval commander. He was an English tobacco trader and naval officer, commander of the naval fleet of the British East India Company. In 1676 he helped put down Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia, and in 1684 he put down another insurrection in Bombay. He helped build forts and was made Admiral and knighted by King Charles II. Oh yeah, and he wrote a book about his adventures called An Historical Account of Some Memorable Actions, Particularly in Virginia; Also Against the Admiral of Algier, and in the East Indies: Perform’d for the Service of his Prince and Country. Also available due to the magic of the internet!



If an “s” looking like an “f” makes you want to punch something, here is the modern “translation”.

Sir Thomas Grantham’s Case
He bought a monster in the Indies, which was a man of that country, who had the perfect shape of a child growing out of his breast as an excrescency, all but the head. This man he brought hither, and exposed to the sight of the people for profit. The Indian turned Christian and was baptized, and was detained from his master.

The master brought a homine replegiando.

The sheriff returned, that he had replevied the body, but did not say, the body in which Sir Thomas claimed a property; where-upon he was ordered to amend his return.

And then the Court of Common Pleas bailed him

Enough history and legal jargon; what does this actually mean? Well apparently old Sir Thomas was travelling around the East Indies, trading and putting down rebellions, when he came across a man with a perfectly formed child’s body growing out of his chest – minus the head. I am having a hard time visualizing this. Did it have arms and legs? I am having strong Quato flashbacks right now. Sir Thomas decided to supplement his Admiral’s income and start his own private one-show circus around England.

Then one day, the man converted to christianity and was baptized, and Sir Thomas had him taken away. It doesn’t really say who took away the man, but I am thinking that there is a connection between the conversion and the taking. Not to be outdone, Grantham dropped a writ of de homine replegiando in the court. Homine replegiando is latin for “replevying of a man” and was used to regain possession of property, goods, or services wrongfully taken or detained; it was also regularly used to protect parental rights.  The sheriff replieved the man and then the Court of Common Pleas bailed him out from custody of the sheriff and returned him to Sir Thomas Grantham.

I should note that my knowledge of English common law is limited to what Google can tell me, so I may be interpreting this passage completely wrong. However, it seems to me that Sir Grantham got his “monster” back and I can only imagine that he continued his circus act around the country.

The Strange Case of Life Violating Copyright

Friday, March 25th, 2011

As many of you may remember, last year J. Craig Venter and his team created the first synthetic life form by replacing the genetic code of the bacterium Mycoplasma capricolum with DNA that they created themselves. In order to create and identify thier own DNA, they composed it from two quotes. One quote was from Richard Feynman (and was actually misquoted), and the second quote was from James Joyce’s A Potrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Not long after this announcement Venter received a cease and desist letter from the Joyce estate claiming violation of fair use. So now there is a situation where life was created using information that falls under copyright and is faced with a cease and desist letter. Does this mean that the life must be destroyed? The bacterium has already reproduced and is a viable life form.

“Which brings to mind the question…are we now nearing a point where copyright law can result in the retraction of a life form?”

It will be interesting to see where this case ends up.

[Forbes via Tor]

Fortune Telling Legalized In Maryland

Friday, June 11th, 2010


A Maryland court has struck down a county law that barred fortune telling as a violation of free speech. Just as I foresaw in the espers of time!

Judge Clayton Greene Jr., who wrote the court’s opinion, concluded that while fortune-tellers may sometimes deceive their customers, it’s not up to the court to pass judgment on the validity or value of their soothsaying.

“If Montgomery County is concerned that fortune-tellers will engage in fraudulent conduct, the county can enforce fraud laws in the event that fraud occurs,” Greene wrote in the majority opinion.

The suit was brought by a man who was denied a business license for his fortune dispensary in 2008.

[Business Week]

The Cat That Talked, Fought For Your Right To Free Speech

Monday, May 17th, 2010

In a list compiling the most famous talking animals, we are introduced to Blackie the Cat, a novelty act in the 1980s in which the titular feline would meow “I love you” and “I want my mama.”

However, after the bright lights of variety shows like “That’s Incredible” faded, the cat and his owners took to the Georgia streets to make a buck. Shortly after, Blackie’s speech became a first amendment flash point.

After some complaints from locals, police informed Carl that he would need to get a business license in order to keep up Blackie’s street show. Carl paid the $50 fee for a license, but something about it rubbed him the wrong way.

So Carl sued the city of Augusta, under the pretense that the city’s business license code mentions many types of occupations that require a license, but a talking cat show was not one of them. But that wasn’t the only issue Carl had –he also claimed the city was infringing on Blackie’s First Amendment Right to Free Speech.

Carl lost his case, but he appealed the ruling until it came before a federal court. The argument was finally closed when three presiding judges declared that the business license ordinance allowed for other, unspecified types of businesses to require a license, which would encompass a talking cat performer.

As for the First Amendment violation, the courts said the law did not apply because Blackie was not human, and therefore not protected under the Bill of Rights.

Yet another soul crushed under the steel wheels of an oppressive judicial system prejudice to talking cats.