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Christmas and other holidays

Mark Steyn revisits the subject of Kinder Surprise eggs, the chocolate-wrapped toys popular in much of the rest of the world but forbidden under a distinctive U.S. law which bans the “embedding of non-nutritive items” in confectionery. According to the Department of Homeland Security, border agents confiscated more than 25,000 of the prohibited treats in more than 2,000 seizures during one recent year. Earlier here (Steyn: “The real choking hazard is the vise-like grip of government”), here, etc.

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Two of my enduring interests — excessive government regulation and the quest for truly scrumptious cinnamon buns — intersect here in a single story from Denmark. [Guardian]:

…scientists have now discovered that too much of the most commonly used type of cinnamon, cassia, can cause liver damage thanks to high levels of coumarin, a natural ingredient found in the spice.

The EU has accordingly decreed that coumarin levels must be kept below 50 mg per kg in “traditional” or “seasonal” foodstuffs eaten only occasionally, and 15 mg per kg in everyday “fine baked goods.”

Last month, the Danish food authority ruled that the nation’s famous cinnamon swirls were neither traditional nor seasonal, thus limiting the quantity of cinnamon that bakers are allowed to use, placing the pastry at risk – and sparking a national outcry that could be dubbed the great Danish bake strop.

The president of the Danish Bakers’ Association, Hardy Christensen, said: “We’ve been making bread and cakes with cinnamon for 200 years. Then suddenly the government says these pastries are not traditional? I have been a baker for 43 years and never come across anything like this – it’s crazy. Using lower amounts of the spice will change the distinctive flavour and produce less tasty pastries. Normally, we do as we’re told by the government and say OK, but now it’s time to take a stand. Enough is enough.”

Meanwhile: Anonymous informant shuts down school bus cookie lady in Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen, Minn. [MPR, AP]

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XmasTreeWarnings
“I guess you can never be too careful with your Christmas lights.” — @doctorwes

A few other highlights of Overlawyered Christmas coverage past:

  • Claim: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” promotes bullying [2011]
  • “Cease this shouting!” cried Grinch, “From all Yule din desist!” But he’d Moved To The Nuisance and so, case dismissed [Art Carden 2010, original link]
  • “Law firm offers divorce vouchers for Christmas” [U.K., 2009]
  • Under the Christmas tree? Authorities penalize child care center in North Carolina after discovering plastic soldier figures on the premises, “reflect stereotyping and violence.” [2001]
  • “As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A male/female balance in the workforce is being sought…….The two turtle doves’… romance during working hours could not be condoned. The positions are therefore eliminated.” ["Restructuring at the North Pole," 1999]

Organizers at a church in Neath, Wales don’t mind rules requiring the donkey-riding Mary in a childrens’ Nativity play to be wearing a crash helmet, or as the case may be “riding hat.” They say the eight-year-old’s costuming can readily be arranged to conceal the anachronistic headgear during the Christmas procession. No word on whether, as at petting zoos, participants coming in contact with the animal will need to apply hand sanitizer before proceeding. Critics term the rule “‘elf – ‘n’ – safety.” [BBC, Telegraph]

I have a nomination over at Cato at Liberty.

Whence Congress enacted and President Obama signed the NOEL law (Naughtiness Obliteration and Elimination Law of 2012):

…(1) Imposes a naughtiness “fee” of $50 upon each American child for every documented instance of their “naughtiness.” Revenues from this “fee” are to support the Federal Nice Fund (FNF), a newly created fund for public-works projects in NOEL-compliant states. (NOEL, § 3(a).)…

(4) To ensure full compliance, the NOEL bars any “person, group, or agency” that receives “funding, or any benefit from the federal government” from making a “material naughtiness determination” contrary to rules promulgated by the NRB, with the consequence of such a contrary determination being withdrawal of the federal funding and/or other benefit. (Id., § 22(z)(12)(F)(vii)(¥)(‰) (LOL)(¿)(?)(D).)…

Relax. It’s not real (yet). It’s just Prof. Kyle Graham’s constitutional law exam holiday card.

Genealogy note

by Walter Olson on October 31, 2013

On Hallowe’en I often recall my ancestor Lydia Gilbert of Windsor, Ct., convicted of witchcraft in 1654 and probably executed (accounts here, here). Three years earlier Henry Stiles had been killed by an apparently accidental discharge of the firearm of neighbor Thomas Allyn, and three years later Lydia was charged with being the true cause of this misadventure. In modern American law we might call that third-party liability. And from a few years ago, a durable favorite post: “Toronto schools: Halloween insensitive to witches.”

October 14 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 14, 2013

  • “Kerr received a 37-page temporary restraining order last Friday which seeks to shut down her [too-popular] haunted house.” [Silver Spring, MD; ABC News]
  • Blockbuster “60 Minutes” on the federal Social Security disability program, if you haven’t seen it yet [CBS; Chris Edwards, Tad DeHaven at Cato; ABA Journal on Kentucky lawyer and more]
  • Chevron complaint against attorney Donziger over Ecuador shenanigans reaches trial Tuesday [Daniel Fisher] More: Michael Goldhaber, American Lawyer (“A Dickensian Cheat Sheet”);
  • Ombudsman on South Dakota Indian foster care case: NPR “reporters and producers tried to push the story beyond the proof that they had. I don’t know why.” [NPR ombudsman]
  • In America we use lawyers for that: “Rabbis Arrested in Plot to Kidnap, Torture Husbands to Force Divorce” [WSJ, CNN] From 1845, a British judge’s exquisitely arch observations on the then state of divorce law [Sasha Volokh]
  • “Salvage company that lost $600M sunken ship case must pay $1M to Spain for ‘abusive litigation’” [ABA Journal]
  • How Canada lost gun freedom [Pierre Lemieux, Liberty and Law]

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Warner/Chappell Music continues to demand and collect royalties for public performance of the ditty, although its melody was first published more than 120 years ago and the familiar celebratory words have been sung to it for more than a century. A new lawsuit seeks a judicial ruling that the song is in the public domain and asks a return of wrongfully collected royalties. [The Hollywood Reporter via Mike Masnick, TechDirt]

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From the archives:

  • Christmas in legalese: “…Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the woodburning caloric apparatus…” [1999] And see TaxProf (“Claus thereafter immediately began to fill the stockings of the minor children… (Said items did not, however, constitute ‘gifts’ to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)”)
  • Yuletide in old England less jolly given health and safety adjustments [2007, 2009]
  • Santa’s extra helper might be a witness in case of litigation, and other items from the legal-Claus file [2005]
  • Gingerbread and chestnut-roasting hazards [2002]
  • “Law firm offers divorce vouchers for Christmas” [2009]
  • Does “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” promote bullying? [2011]
  • “Cease this shouting!” cried Grinch, “From all Yule din desist!” But he’d Moved To The Nuisance and so, case dismissed [Art Carden, Forbes on Whoville externalities] [2010]

Among ways to add to the festive atmosphere: sign-in and sign-out sheets, monitors hired to look out for slip-inducing bead spills, and rules against letting supervisors or employees pour drinks. [Melissa Landry, The Hay Ride] Earlier on Mardi Gras liability here (tossed coconuts), here (floats), here (King cake figurine), and here (flasher’s-remorse cases.

From the archives:

  • Christmas in legalese: “…Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the woodburning caloric apparatus… ” [1999]
  • California lawyer using Prop 65 bounty-hunting statute goes after silver dragées found on some gingerbread houses [2005; more on gingerbread (and chestnut-roasting) hazards, 2002]
  • Yuletide in old England less jolly given health and safety adjustments [2007, 2009]
  • Santa’s extra helper might be a witness in case of litigation, and other items from the legal-Claus file [2005]
  • “Law firm offers divorce vouchers for Christmas” [2009]
  • Unable to cope with CPSIA testing rules, charity will discontinue donating handcrafted wood toys [2010]
  • “Cease this shouting!” cried Grinch, “From all Yule din desist!” But he’d Moved To The Nuisance and so, case dismissed [Art Carden, Forbes on Whoville externalities] [2010]

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Miracle on 34th St.

by Walter Olson on December 18, 2011

The holiday Hollywood chestnut gets a medico-legal analysis from Steven Buckingham at Abnormal Use.

A Christmas torts final exam

by Walter Olson on December 11, 2011

From Kyle Graham, guest blogging at Concurring Opinions.

No wonder a Long Island University professor thinks so: the Christmas ditty spins a grim account of name-calling and game-exclusion and then gives it all an inappropriately “happy” conclusion, thus distracting us from the need for massive therapeutic and social intervention. [KDKA](& Althouse)

P.S. And let’s not even get into “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “known as the Christmas Date Rape Song” [Ann Althouse]

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Via John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum, Abraham Lincoln’s famous Notes for a Law Lecture:

I am not an accomplished lawyer. I find quite as much material for a lecture in those points wherein I have failed, as in those wherein I have been moderately successful. The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day. Never let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever piece of business you have in hand, before stopping, do all the labor pertaining to it which can then be done. When you bring a common-law suit, if you have the facts for doing so, write the declaration at once. If a law point be involved, examine the books, and note the authority you rely on upon the declaration itself, where you are sure to find it when wanted. The same of defenses and pleas. In business not likely to be litigated, — ordinary collection cases, foreclosures, partitions, and the like, — make all examinations of titles, and note them, and even draft orders and decrees in advance. This course has a triple advantage; it avoids omissions and neglect, saves your labor when once done, performs the labor out of court when you have leisure, rather than in court when you have not. Extemporaneous speaking should be practised and cultivated. It is the lawyer’s avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a speech. And yet there is not a more fatal error to young lawyers than relying too much on speech-making. If any one, upon his rare powers of speaking, shall claim an exemption from the drudgery of the law, his case is a failure in advance.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds in search of defects in titles, whereon to stir up strife, and put money in his pocket? A moral tone ought to be infused into the profession which should drive such men out of it.

The matter of fees is important, far beyond the mere question of bread and butter involved. Properly attended to, fuller justice is done to both lawyer and client. An exorbitant fee should never be claimed. As a general rule never take your whole fee in advance, nor any more than a small retainer. When fully paid beforehand, you are more than a common mortal if you can feel the same interest in the case, as if something was still in prospect for you, as well as for your client. And when you lack interest in the case the job will very likely lack skill and diligence in the performance. Settle the amount of fee and take a note in advance. Then you will feel that you are working for something, and you are sure to do your work faithfully and well. Never sell a fee note — at least not before the consideration service is performed. It leads to negligence and dishonesty — negligence by losing interest in the case, and dishonesty in refusing to refund when you have allowed the consideration to fail.

There is a vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest. I say vague, because when we consider to what extent confidence and honors are reposed in and conferred upon lawyers by the people, it appears improbable that their impression of dishonesty is very distinct and vivid. Yet the impression is common, almost universal. Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief — resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation, rather than one in the choosing of which you do, in advance, consent to be a knave.

(see also post of four years ago, when we quoted excerpts)

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Christmas break

by Walter Olson on December 23, 2010

I might post a little next week, but for now I’m going to take a break to enjoy the holiday, and I expect heavier fare will probably wait until the New Year. Enjoy the Christmas season!

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December 23 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 23, 2010

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