The dumbest laws of all time?

Okay, this might well be one of my crazier ideas, but I think it’s crazy enough to work and possibly get a wider readership than I’ve had in the past. And it fits in oh-so-perfectly with what has become one of the regular topics of my blog, that being our justice system (whether DAs, judges, or law enforcement).

The feature I have in mind is a countdown of the dumbest laws of modern times (probably a top 50, maybe a top 100 or even a top 200 depending on what exactly comes up). Just to thin the field somewhat, I’m going to limit what I consider for the feature. I have the following qualifications in mind, but they are by no means set in stone right now:

  • The law in question must have been on the books at some point after 1911. (I just picked a year, just to have a cutoff somewhere.)
  • The law must have actually been passed and written into the books, even if it was then either repealed, ruled unconstitutional, expired, or otherwise nullified.
  • Laws currently on the books today are eligible; the laws under consideration need not have been repealed or nullified.
  • Laws at any level of government (national, state, county, city) are eligible. I may lump similar but not identical laws together into one listing, such as juvenile curfew laws, but I may list some of these laws twice if certain jurisdictions add parts I consider to be especially dumb.
  • There are no restrictions on the type of law such as civil or criminal. However, it must be an actual law passed by a legislative body and not merely a regulatory agency rule. So, as much as I’d love to feature a few of them (heck, a lot of them), FCC, FAA, FDA, etc regulations don’t qualify. Maybe another time, though.
  • As “dumb” is a rather subjective criterion, I’m open to outside input. This feature need not necessarily fit just what I personally consider to be a “dumb” law; I’m willing to consider the political climate surrounding it, the intent behind the law, as well as the actual reasons why the law didn’t work in practice. If anyone would like to volunteer to be part of the “think tank” that decides what makes the cut, drop me a line.
  • I’m a bit divided on what countries to include. I’m leaning strongly toward making it US-only, maybe including Canada as well. If I make it international, it’s difficult to figure out where to draw the line. If I were to allow the laws of, say, Singapore, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, China, Egypt, Sudan, and many others that they could easily dominate the list. On the other hand, I don’t want to appear overly US-centric, so if the US-only first round is a success, I may do a ¬†feature for “the rest of the world” as a followup, but even that will have to be limited somehow.

Some of them are going to be obvious (I risk losing credibility if I don’t include Prohibiton somewhere in a top 100). Some of them, much less so.

I’m planning to make this a series of posts to start in mid- to late March, with the final post on 2011 April 1. Yes, April Fool’s Day. But this is not an April Fool’s joke, by any means.