Article 25

Archive for September, 2013|Monthly archive page

Ask an Unemployed Lawyer

In Uncategorized on 09/20/2013 at 5:42 pm


Hunting and Napping and So Forth

By U.L.

Dear U.L.,

I recently read the Cincinnati Park Board rules as set out in the Cincinnati Municipal Code. I’m curious about how the application of reasonable restrictions on time, place and manner of activities for safeguarding the public applied. How is it possible that rules such as “No person may lie upon any bench or ledge on park property” and “Park Board shall promulgate a form of permitted hunting that will permit the legal use and discharge of weapons” can be considered reasonable? It’s safe for people with lethal weaponry to get a permit and hunt but not safe to take a nap on a bench?


Dear Confused:

This is a learning opportunity: the kind of stuff that goes through the mind of a judge or magistrate when hearing a pro se litigant. You think they’re all worried about truth and justice and stuff, because of TV, but if she’s paying attention to you at all, this is closer to it …

 What would possess you to waste a perfectly good day reading park board rules? Of all the things to find “curious,” why this? Do you really think there is a conspiracy to arrest people who are napping because they interfere with the people blazing away at the crows and squirrels with semi-automatic weapons? I am but a jurist; I can’t possibly give you what you really need.

Even though I’m not sure what you’re asking, Confused, your genuine frustration at the absurdity of the human condition inspires me, and deserves a response. So, let’s throw a few things on the proverbial wall and see what sticks.

Time, place and manner

 We’re big on manners in the Please City. In 1956, Cincinnati passed a law making it illegal for three or more people to hang out in public “and there conduct themselves in a manner annoying to persons passing by.”

One or two people could be annoying as hell, but three or more, that’s just too damn annoying.

 Well, the Ohio Supreme Court, in a close vote, upheld the Cincinnati statute. It wasn’t until a 1971 SCOTUS decision, Coates v. Cincinnati, on another close vote, that the law was found too vague to pass constitutional muster.

 I find this amusing: The legal rationale by the Ohio Supreme Court in upholding the law.

 “The word ‘annoying’ is a widely used and well understood word. It is not necessary to guess its meaning. ‘Annoying’ is the present participle of the transitive verb ‘annoy,’ which means to trouble, to vex, to impede, to incommode, to provoke, to harass or to irritate.”

 So, there you have it. Constitutionality via Synonyms. So much for your reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on your freedom to speak or assemble.

 We live in a world of legal fictions. This is reality: Today, two people who violently hate each other and represent constituents who would favor forced sterilization of the opposing side – John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi – both came together to agree that it would be a good idea to bomb the shit out of another country to teach them to stop killing their own people.

 Also today I see a federal jury awarded $250,000 in damages, with more punitive damages to come, to a black employee who was offended when a black boss used the N-word, essentially declaring that  the use of certain words is a strict liability offense, no matter the context.

 Our society values consumers and will not tolerate the offense of another potential consumer, not on constitutional grounds, but on commercial grounds. People who sleep on park benches are not consumers, and are not good role models for young consumers. They’re … annoying.

Your country ain’t your blood

 Remember the movie The Godfather, Part II? Wherein a young Vito Corleone, played almost entirely in Italian by that guy from the Ben Stiller movies, brings the neighborhood together by doing “favors” for everyone?

 Well, that’s kinda how 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development Corp.) works.

You see, your local government cannot afford to take care of itself, what with having to buy the Bengals a new $10 million scoreboard and stuff. And that’s why the relationship between business and government becomes so important.

 Business can focus on stuff like cleaning and making downtown more attractive to consumers (thus, more business) without having to worry about pesky things like constitutions or democratic process or disparate interests.

 And of course the parks board is going to go along with their efforts – why wouldn’t they? And the gun thing, well, gun owners have their rights too, dammit, and laws have to be often rewritten to accommodate changes in other laws, or to allow for deer clearings, etc.

 The dog park at Washington Park is currently scoring a 4.5 (out of 5) on Yelp, based on 43 reviews. People love Washington Park.

 And what’s wrong with that? We all live lives of quiet desperation, feeding our various addictions and  idolizing our largely unconscious gods.

 And people today can’t relax by just sitting on a bench and feeding the pigeons. They need to be productive, be it time with the dog, time with the kids, yoga, art performances, etc. Washington Park answers this desire in a grand way.

 And who could have done a better job of providing a place that today’s consumer desires than the business community? Give credit where it’s due.

 Never take the advice of an Unemployed Lawyer. Always consult with an attorney for any legal advice in your situation. If, however, you want to ask, write to