Monday, June 14, 2010

It's Not In The Book

This is another one of those: "No... wait. Really?" sort of news pieces that you come across every so often.

It's often said that the United States is a very litigious society - people go to court at the drop of a hat, spurred by the hope of a jackpot at the end of a lawsuit against a deep-pocketed corporation or person. It's already more or less an article of faith that winning the lottery makes one a magnet for lawsuits. But less often spoken of is how we've also become a very legalistic society - more so when we think that we're on the correct side of the law - but still, we tend to follow the letter of the law to it's illogical conclusions.

[California s]tate law says that if spouses are convicted of murdering or attempting to murder their husband or wife, they are not entitled to reap any financial benefits during divorce proceedings. But if they hire someone else to do the dirty deed for them, their victims' assets are not protected.
Seriously? Someone looked at California state law, and said to themselves, "Well, when the legislature passed this law, they didn't specifically say that if you hire someone to kill your spouse and then your spouse divorces you, the fact that you tried to have them rubbed out should disqualify you from an automatic 50 percent share, so they obviously didn't intend for that to be the case." Actually, given the fact that a new state law is being written to close precisely this loophole, it seems that a LOT of someones, some with law degrees said the same thing.

If you ever want to set a stereotypical Conservative off, mentioning the words "judicial activism" should pretty much do it. But I don't think that even the most die-hard constructionist thinks that lumping people who tried to pay to kill a spouse with people who tried to do the deed themselves constitutes unacceptable legislating from the bench, if they've put even a moment's thought into it. But as long as we have a general legal culture that makes the quest for loopholes into a de facto legal system of its own, our laws are going to grow more and more cumbersome. And people will continue to make themselves rich finding, exploiting and/or closing the gap between letter and sensibility.

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