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Old 04-03-2004, 12:36 PM
Nobody Nobody is offline
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Limits on making laws

Other than laws that are unconstitutional, either at a state or federal level, or laws that deny people civil rights, are there any other limits that law makers have to take into account when making laws, ordinances, regulations, etc.?

For example, say that the city council, for whatever reason, all got high on speed, or suffered strokes, or whatever, passed an ordinance that stated that all home owners must leave out a pumpkin on their front porch or be fined $100, could anybody challenge in court as being an absurd and very bizarre law? Or could it be challenged on other grounds? Or could it be challenged at all? (OK, yes, all laws can be challenged if you want to get technical, but I think you know what I'm asking)

Or, lets saw that Oregon passes a law that all cars must be occupied by 2 people, or else the driver will be ticketed. Now, driving is always described as a privilege, not a right, so is there any legal challenge that could work against a law like that? I know that since we have an initiative process, we could override such a law ourselves, but I'm still curious about this from a legal standpoint.

Thanks.
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Old 04-03-2004, 02:12 PM
ParentalAdvisory ParentalAdvisory is offline
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Gosh, I would hope so! But the city of Chicago has already done this with gun control and other various laws and ordinances, so maybe not? I doubt they all suffered strokes, but the use of drugs... Sorry, save that for the pit.
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Old 04-03-2004, 02:48 PM
Squink Squink is offline
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Cecil on pointless legislative hijinx: Did a state legislature once pass a law saying pi equals 3?
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Old 04-03-2004, 03:11 PM
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Thanks, I'll check it out.
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Old 04-03-2004, 06:24 PM
Otto Otto is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Master Control
For example, say that the city council, for whatever reason, all got high on speed, or suffered strokes, or whatever, passed an ordinance that stated that all home owners must leave out a pumpkin on their front porch or be fined $100, could anybody challenge in court as being an absurd and very bizarre law? Or could it be challenged on other grounds? Or could it be challenged at all? (OK, yes, all laws can be challenged if you want to get technical, but I think you know what I'm asking)
Perhaps the answer depends on the authority under which the city council passes the law? Is it supposed to be an exercise of police power, a measure to protect public health, what? The law could be subject to challenge that the council lacked the power to enact it or that it cinflicts with some other state law or public policy.

Quote:
Or, lets saw that Oregon passes a law that all cars must be occupied by 2 people, or else the driver will be ticketed. Now, driving is always described as a privilege, not a right, so is there any legal challenge that could work against a law like that? I know that since we have an initiative process, we could override such a law ourselves, but I'm still curious about this from a legal standpoint.
I could see a challenge to this one as interfering with Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce (especially if it covered trucks hauling cargo) or the constitutional right to travel.

Of course I'm talking out of my ass here, but no one else is stepping up.

Thanks.[/QUOTE]
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Old 04-03-2004, 07:14 PM
Kalt Kalt is offline
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There are all sorts of abstract way a law can be void, but they're all going to stem from the constitution.

If a law is overbroad or too vague, it will be unconstitutional for lack of due process (by not giving proper notice as to who is covered by the law or what actions are actually prohibited).

Laws dealing with fundamental rights or suspect classes have to meet a certain level of scrutiny. Constitutional law books are written on this subject. It's quite complex, to say the least. All laws must be rational to be constitutional. A law saying everyone must have a pumkin on his or her lawn for no valid reason is most likely unconstitutional (also may violate the first amendment as well).
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Old 04-03-2004, 07:42 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalt
All laws must be rational to be constitutional.
1. Cite, please. What provision of the U.S. Constitution are you relying upon for this proposition?

2. Assuming it is correct, what standard of review do the courts use to determine the rationality of an impugned law? I.e. - in which cases do they substitute their view of a law's rationality for that of the legislature?
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Old 04-03-2004, 08:04 PM
Opus1 Opus1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Piper
1. Cite, please. What provision of the U.S. Constitution are you relying upon for this proposition?

2. Assuming it is correct, what standard of review do the courts use to determine the rationality of an impugned law? I.e. - in which cases do they substitute their view of a law's rationality for that of the legislature?
Nothing explicit in the Constitution, but read any SCOTUS decision on a challenged law. E.g., Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 US 528. (1973). The Court's standard of review is known as "rational basis." Keep in mind, "rational" does not mean perfect, or right, or even entirely logical. See Williamson v. Lee Optical and Nebbia v. New York for cases in which the SCOTUS upheld pretty shoddy laws.

Note that in cases involving fundamental rights, higher standards like "intermediate scrutiny" and "strict scrutiny" are used. But at a minimum, all laws must be rational.
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Old 04-03-2004, 09:49 PM
Dewey Cheatem Undhow Dewey Cheatem Undhow is offline
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Opus, the rational basis test (as well as the others you mention) only apply to equal protection challenges. It is the distinction made by the law between two classes of people that must be rational, not the substance of the law itself. The "all people must put out pumpkins" law, for example, would not be evaluated under the rational basis test because it makes no distinctions -- it applies to all citizens uniformly.

However, an "all homeowners must put out pumpkins" law would have the homeowner/nonhomeowner distinction evaluated under rational basis, but not the substantive provision mandating pumpkins.
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Old 04-04-2004, 12:30 AM
Princhester Princhester is offline
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For interest's sake, in Australia (and I believe England) the Federal and State parliaments can (leaving aside specific constitutional restrictions) only make laws for the peace, order and good government of Australia or the State in question. Does that mean that you can challenge a "pumpkin on the porch" law as being not for the peace, order and good government of Australia because it is clearly totally dumbass? Nope, because the only body considered to be qualified to decide whether a law is for the peace, order and good government of Australia is the parliament in question, so if they passed it, it is by definition for peace, order and good government.
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Old 04-04-2004, 03:05 AM
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Cool, a perspective from another country.

Actually, what prompted me to ask this question, was an April Fools joke that ran on a radio station that said that there was a law passed, that when transporting a pet, or pets, in a car, the driver, or owner, must secure it/them in special animal restraints that cost around $20, or else the police will issue a ticket for $150 and take the animal(s), and only return it/them when the owner shows proof of buying the restraint(s).

Although it was just a joke, it seemed to me that if the legislature wanted to, it probably could pass such a law, and that got me thinking of other laws I've heard about, real laws, that seemed totaly absurd, and I wondered, aside from laws that are unconstitutional or violate civil rights, are the any limits on what laws/ordiances can be passed?

And so far, although somewhat mixed, it seems that there aren't any.
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Old 04-04-2004, 09:18 AM
cabdude cabdude is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Master Control
Cool, a perspective from another country.

Actually, what prompted me to ask this question, was an April Fools joke that ran on a radio station that said that there was a law passed, that when transporting a pet, or pets, in a car, the driver, or owner, must secure it/them in special animal restraints that cost around $20, or else the police will issue a ticket for $150 and take the animal(s), and only return it/them when the owner shows proof of buying the restraint(s).

Although it was just a joke, it seemed to me that if the legislature wanted to, it probably could pass such a law, and that got me thinking of other laws I've heard about, real laws, that seemed totaly absurd, and I wondered, aside from laws that are unconstitutional or violate civil rights, are the any limits on what laws/ordiances can be passed?

And so far, although somewhat mixed, it seems that there aren't any.
It raises a point that has always interested me - what if the government passed a law that was objectionable i.e., anti-semitic laws in Nazi Germany. What is there to prevent such a thing happening? Are citizens obliged to ignore or disobey certain laws, or have the right to do so? What's to stop the government raising taxes as high as they like?

Please tell me there is some limit to a government's power in a democracy.
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Old 04-04-2004, 02:06 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Opus, the rational basis test (as well as the others you mention) only apply to equal protection challenges
A statement that is incorrect as a matter of law. Rational basis is also used to test for violations of due process rights. Thus, a pumpkin law would undergo scrutiny to see if it was intended to further a legitimate governmental purpose, and whether or not the solution propounded arguably can be said to relate rationally to that purpose. If these two prongs cannot be met, then the law is unconstitutional as violative of due process. This assumes that no fundamental right is violated by the pumpkin law.

So the original statement by Kalt, inelegantly put, is nevertheless in its most basic sense correct. One can suppose that a law not infringing in any way upon life, liberty or property does not have to be "rational," but such a law is rare.

Dewey Cheatem Undhow, you've made that incorrect assertion more than once, by my recollection. I should think by now you'd remember that the Fourteenth Amendment has another clause regarding individual rights.
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