Each week, the Center highlights obscure legal cases from across the country in the Jester's Courtroom.Ê These tales are truly "stranger than fiction."Ê Some of them are disturbing; most are comical.Ê All are our light-hearted way of pointing out a legal system run amok.
However, wild and wacky tales are not confined to the nation's courtrooms.Ê With the holiday season upon us, we saw an opportunity to expand on the light-heartedness of the Jester's Courtroom and share with you some of these lunacies from the past couple of weeks.
On December 16, the Associated Press reported that school officials at Valley College in Los Angeles, California, recently set a 4 mph speed limit on campus for, get this, wheelchairs.Ê (We weren't aware wheelchairs on campus could go faster than 4 mph.)Ê The reasoning behind the new rule according to the school's Vice President of Administration, Tom Jacobsmeyer, "It's a safety issue, pure and simple."Ê Apparently, Jacobsmeyer proposed the "speed limit" after seeing a student nearly get run over by a woman "going very fast" in her wheelchair.Ê While campus officials plan to administer warnings to first-time offenders, chronic speeders face citation, suspension or even expulsion.Ê We're curious to see how Valley College administrators plan to enforce this new "safety" measure.ÊÊ Will student fees be used to install radar cameras?ÊÊ Better yet, Jester's Courtroom readers stay tuned as some trial lawyer somewhere has got to be scheming up an argument to slap on Valley College -- maybe the tried and true Americans with Disabilities Act.ÊÊ
Hollywood Hit Job
Chrissie Hynde, the leader of the '80s pop group The Pretenders, caused quite a stir this month when she claimed that multinational corporations "are destroying the planet" during an interview with Pulse magazine.Ê Sounding very Soprano-like, Hynde stated, "The last resort is for someone to go in and actually take these guys out. Maybe it will have to be an out-and-out assassination. When no one will listen anymore, then individuals have to take the law into their own hands and it can get very ugly. When some people decide to run the world for their own economic interests, then someone has to take them out."Ê This isn't the first time Hynde's emotions have gotten the better of her.Ê In 1989, when asked what people should do to help animals, she suggested they "petrol-bomb McDonald's."Ê Wait, we have more.Ê In March of 2000, Hynde and three of her PETA cohorts were arrested for slashing leather coats at a Gap in New York City.Ê Corporate CEOs beware -- following her petrol-bomb remarks, some lunatic actually tried it.Ê
A Cold Solution to Pollution
Purportedly in an effort to comply with the federal Clean Air Act, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in California has devised a plan that will leave many of the Central Valley's 3.5 million residents out in the cold by banning wood-burning fireplaces and stoves.Ê If approved, the new regulations would affect approximately 500,000 households that currently have traditional wood-burning fireplaces and stoves.Ê Residents of such households are up in arms as they depend on the warm blaze during the Valley's cold winters to save on energy costs -- which, by the way, have skyrocketed in the state over the past several years.Ê Considering the unemployment rate is currently as high as 30 percent in some parts of the Valley, it sounds like residents there have a lot of long, cold winters ahead.Ê At least the environmentalists are happy.
Ever since Congress passed a water conservation law that required toilets to meet a strict 1.6-gallon-per-flush standard, many people have been unhappy with the flush.Ê (You have to admit, there's nothing worse than a low-powered flush after a long think session.)Ê But thanks to new technology the toilet industry calls "pressure assisted flushing systems," more than 3.5 million households and offices are now equipped with flushers that can "suck a cat down."Ê This, according to a front-page, above-the-fold article in the December 18 edition of the Wall Street Journal.Ê (It must be a slow news week.)Ê These pressure assisted flushers retail for about $200.Ê But before you holiday shoppers get too excited, there is a downside.Ê The units are extremely noisy, and if users flush while sitting, they will reportedly shake, rattle and roll.Ê One lady intimately familiar with the toilets said, "The whole flushing thing is like a hurricane."Ê A Pennsylvania plumber claims that after he installed the equipment for one of his clients, she ended up in the emergency room.Ê Apparently, she had reached back and flushed before getting off the pot.Ê "She thought the thing was exploding," the plumber said.Ê "She fell off the toilet and right into the tub," breaking her knee cap.Ê At least the conservationists are happy.
Release the Prisoners
Several of the nation's governors and state legislators this year have gotten creative in their efforts to deal with state budget fiascos.Ê While most of the "fixes" have been fiascos in and of themselves, the latest by Governor Paul Patton (D-KY) is down right criminal.Ê The Washington Post this week reported that Patton ordered the release of 567 prisoners, most of whom are convicted drug traffickers, drug users and thieves, from Kentucky's correctional facilities to avert a $6 million deficit in the state's corrections budget.Ê According to the Kentucky Corrections Department, at least 90 of these individuals now out on the prowl have additional charges pending against them in other counties or states.Ê Bluegrass residents can take solace in the fact that none of the convicted felons are "sex-offenders, four-time drunk drivers or those deemed to be violent or seriously mentally ill."Ê However, it may be wise to lock your doors and remind your children not to take "candy" from strangers this holiday season.
There are many more stories where these came from, but we hope we've provided you with enough to make for good conversation at your holiday cocktail parties. From everyone at the Center, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!Ê Be safe, it's crazy out there.December 19, 2002