LAW AND ALL HALLOWS’ EVE

Halloween can be a catalyst for unique lawsuits.  A 2011 article in the New York State Bar Association Journal, titled Case Law from the Crypt: The Law of Halloween summarizes some of these strange cases.

In one case, the plaintiff alleged that a neighbor’s holiday decorations—which included an “‘Insane Asylum’ directional sign pointed towards the plaintiff’s house” and a tombstone referencing the plaintiff— were “defamatory, harassing, and caused emotional distress.” In addition to claims involving Halloween decorations, other cases have involved injury to persons or property and provocative costumes in the workplace.

In her book, Halloween Law, Law Professor Victoria Sutton calls Justice Scalia the “father of Halloween Law.”  During oral argument in Central Virginia Community College v. Katz, 546 U.S. 356 (2006), held on October 31, 2005, a light bulb exploded loudly.  This led to the following exchange:

Justice Scalia: Light bulb went out.

Chief Justice Roberts: It’s a trick they play on new justices all the time.

Justice Scalia:  Happy Halloween.

Justice Ginsburg:  That’s the idea

Justice Roberts:  Take your time.

Justice Scalia:  We’re even more in the dark now than before.

Listen to the Oral Argument on Oyez.org here (explosion at 42:59).

Happy Halloween!!

 

OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ: IT’S THE FIRST MONDAY IN OCTOBER

Since 1916, the Supreme Court’s Term has begun each year on the first Monday in October. 28 U.S.C. § 2.  Supreme Court terms are therefore called the “October Term” followed by the year (e.g. October Term 2013). Why the first October Monday?

Under the Judiciary Act of 1789 (1 Stat. 73) the Court sat for two sessions, one beginning the “first Monday of August,” the second the “first Monday of February.” Congress subsequently altered the Court’s term a number of times:

  • 1801   Two Terms, began the first Mondays in June and December (2 Stat.89)
  • 1802   One Term, began the first Monday in February (2 Stat.156)
  • 1826   One Term, began the second Monday in January (4 Stat.160)
  • 1844   One Term, began the second Monday in December (5 Stat.676)
  • 1873   One Term, began the second Monday of October (17 Stat.419)

In 1916, Congress passed H.R. 15158 (39 Stat. 726) which amended the judicial code to, in part, fix the start of the Court’s term to the first Monday in October. According to both the applicable House and Senate Committee Reports, the purpose of changing the term start date was “to shorten the vacation and give the court an extra week when the weather is favorable to work.” H. R. Rep. No. 794 at 1 (1916), S. Rep. No. 775 at 1 (1916).

For more information about the Court’s docket, including oral argument dates, consult the Supreme Court WebsiteScotusblog is another very useful source to keep up to date on cases before the Court.