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Website reviews

19 March 07

Sites looking at the more lighthearted side of the law

by Iain Nisbet

Dumb Laws

www.dumblaws.com

This is the obvious place to start. As far as I am aware, this was the first of these sites to spring into existence and though it has often been copied, it has never been bettered. Its exhaustive research efforts have uncovered a comedy goldmine of peculiar, eccentric and just downright bizarre laws (mostly from the USA) to tickle your funny bones. You know the sort of thing I mean: “Did you know that in Vermont women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth?” Obviously, this was a serious social issue in Vermont at some stage and provides a powerful argument for the utility of a system of desuetude.

You could spend a happy lunch hour just trawling through the many, many ridiculous laws enacted by legislatures who clearly had too much time on their hands (MSPs beware). However, do be sure not to neglect the suite of other dumb(whatever).com sites. My personal favourite is www.dumbcriminals.com. With the media full of stories of cold hearted criminal masterminds cocking a snook at the police and legal system in general, it’s sort of heartwarming to remember that there are also criminals who will provide their driver’s licence to the owner of the store they are robbing, in order to prove that they are indeed old enough to drink the alcohol they wished to steal!

Law Ha Ha!

www.lawhaha.com

This is a very good site with a great collection of amusing material, including a lot of law school stories (not all of which are strictly legal, and many of which are probably illegal). There’s also Weird Legal News, which is a little like Hector MacQueen’s Scots Law News (www.law.ed.ac.uk/sln) except with all of the serious comment and insights removed, leaving just the stuff about the Naked Rambler and MSPs trying to burn down hotels. It covers everything from priceless patent applications to mirthful motions (including one calling for the court to order a fistfight between the parties).

The jewel in the crown is the Strange Judicial Opinions section (yes, you can submit your own examples). Let me assure you that these really are worth a read – especially anything by Judge Kent who successful walks that fine line between disdainfully condescending and acerbically patronising. There also appear to be a disturbingly large number of judges in the USA who regard their judicial office as little more than an opportunity to audition for American Idol – what other excuse is there for issuing an opinion in rhyming couplets? It rather reminds me of the Lord Chancellor in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe: “His series of judgments in F sharp minor, given andante in six-eight time, are among the most remarkable effects ever produced in a Court of Chancery. He is, perhaps, the only living instance of a judge whose decrees have received the honour of a double encore.”

Legal Humour

www.legalhumour.com

This is a Canadian website which boasts that it contains no lawyer jokes! What it does contain is a series of mildly amusing articles written by a Canadian lawyer making wry observations on various facets of legal practice. Those of you who have ever worked in debt recovery will, for example, raise a smile at the “Show you the Money?” article (http://digbig.com/4rqab).

The Courthouse section includes some funny quotes from the bench and a whole section in tribute to the late, great Lord Denning, whose gems include the following famous statement: “None of those cases has any application to a ticket which is issued by an automatic machine. The customer pays his money and gets a ticket. He cannot refuse it. He cannot get his money back. He may protest to the machine, even swear at it; but it will remain unmoved.”

It also contains a number of humorous legal cartoons from Juris Comics (www.juriscomic.com) and Stu’s Views.

Stu’s Views

www.stus.com

Very, very funny legal themed cartoons drawn by real life entertainment lawyer Stu Rees. The site helpfully categorises the cartoons by theme, so you can find just the cartoon for your field of law.

Merton Lawyer Jokes

http://paul.merton.ox.ac.uk/work/lawyer-jokes.html

Not the Paul Merton, but the Merton College, Oxford comedy website, if you must read some lawyer jokes.