Butterflies are Free in Pacific Grove, CA

monarch butterfly

In Pacific Grove, California, under a city ordinance, tourist monarch butterflies have a right to “peaceful occupancy” during their annual convention there.

Even if the butterflies are swarming one’s home, interfering with occupancy and use, they can only be removed to another location on application to the police. Here’s the ordinance:

11.48.010 Interference With Prohibited.

It is declared to be unlawful for any person to molest or interfere with, in any way, the peaceful occupancy of the monarch butterflies on their annual visit to the city of Pacific Grove, and during the entire time they remain within the corporate limits of the city, in whatever spot they may choose to stop in, provided, however, that if said butterflies should at any time swarm in, upon or near the private dwelling house or other buildings of a citizen of the city of Pacific Grove in such a way as to interfere with the occupancy and use of said dwelling and/or other buildings, that said butterflies may be removed, if possible, to another location upon the application of said citizen to the chief of police.

You can see it coming. A massive class action asserting equal protection claims on behalf of other bugs similarly situated under rapidly descending rolled-up newspapers and clouds of poison gas.

Seriously though, it’s a good law. Every year, monarch butterflies take up residence in Pacific Grove as part of their migration south. They winter in Mexico, after traveling 2500 miles, the only insect to accomplish such a feat. Pretty impressive.

— City of Pacific Grove, CA Ord. 210 N.S. §§ 8-3060, 1952. Thanks to Lihwei Lin.


Famous Wacky Law Exposed as Not-So-Wacky


Don't tie a giraffe - or any other animal - to a lamp post in Vermont.

Have you ever read about that “bizarre” Vermont statute that prohibits tying giraffes to lamp posts? I’ve seen references to it in books and in far too many forwarded emails.

When David Tartter came across it, he had a novel idea: he actually looked it up. Guess what he found? The statute prohibits tying any animal to a lamp post. While giraffes technically are included, it’s doubtful the law would have assumed its legendary “wacky” status if it were reported as a statute that prohibited tying, say, dogs to lamp posts.

Here’s the actual statute:

A person who wilfully and maliciously breaks the glass about a street lamp or gaslight, or a lamp or gaslight in the grounds about a public building, or, without authority, lights such a lamp or gaslight or extinguishes the same when lighted, or in any manner interferes therewith, or injures any part of the fixtures supporting such lamp or gaslight, or defaces the same by painting or posting notices thereon, or fastens a horse or animal thereto, shall be imprisoned not more than three months or fined not more than $50.00, or both.

13 V.S.A. section 3785

If anyone discovers other legal humor mythbusters, please send them in.

— Thanks to David Tartter.


What’s Next? No Splitting Hairs?

law bans tongue splittingFrom University of Illinois law librarian Paul D. Callister came news of an Illinois law, House Bill 3086, that would amend the Illinois Criminal Code to ban the “splitting of tongues” except by licensed physicians or dentists and then “only if there is a therapeutic or clinical procedure for performing the procedure.”

What is “tongue-splitting”? Pretty much what it sounds and looks like. According to the statutory definition, it “means the cutting of a human tongue into 2 or more parts.” Why this procedure is so popular that legal sanctions are required to prevent its apparently rampant medically unnecessary use is mysterious. Seems understandable the legislature wouldn’t want people cutting other people’s tongues into parts unless there was a “therapeutic or clinical” need for it. On the other hand, citizens arguably have a constitutional liberty interest in splitting their tongues just for the heck of it (assuming they’re competent and sober when the procedure is performed).

Paul wryly observed that “[a]pparently, politicians may still speak with forked-tongues, but it is illegal to facilitate the practice among the general population without proper licensing and establishing medical necessity.”

— Illinois House Bill 3086.

California Ordinance Bans “Boobie Pillows”

California law banning boobie pillows

Not a "boobie pillow" (Lawhaha.com is family friendly.)

Patrick Strader reports that he came upon this California ordinance banning “boobie pillows” accidentally, while searching under “B” in the code index for something more mundane–“Bills of Lading” or perhaps “Boards or Commissions.” Of course, he had to stop and look it up.

9.12.010 Public sales of articles depicting female breasts.

A. Finding of Fact Leading to Enactment.

Residents of the county have petitioned the board of supervisors of the county to prevent persons who display, sell or offer to sell upholstered or stuffed articles depicting, simulating or caricaturing female breasts from vending such articles at sites adjacent to and near county highways. …

The petitioners have represented, and the board of supervisors finds, that (unlike indecent and vulgar displays in movies, newspapers, television and other places, the offensiveness of which can be prevented or controlled by turning off the set, canceling a subscription, declining to purchase, or nonattendance) the hawking of those articles named by its vendor and sold as “boobies pillows” along the public highways is a species of indecency and vulgarity which cannot be ignored or controlled by passersby, which assails the eyes and minds of all who are required to use county highways, and which should be barred and controlled for the peace, safety and welfare of the unincorporated areas of the county.

B. Display and Sale Banned Within One Thousand (1,000) Feet of Highways.

No vendor shall vend stuffed articles depicting the female breasts (sold as “boobie pillows”) within one thousand (1,000) feet of any county highway.

C. Regulation of Display More Than One Thousand (1,000) Feet from Highways.

No vendor shall vend stuffed articles depicting the female breasts (sold as “boobie pillows”) anywhere in the unincorporated area of the county unless: [elaborate conditions are enumerated]

Violations are a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than five hundred dollar ($500.00) or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than ninety (90) days, or both. Each day of violation constitutes a separate offense. Residents can now sleep easily.

Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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