Thursday, July 15, 2010

Evanston City Code

Having recently moved to Evanston, Illinois, I thought it would be wise to take a look at the city code. After all, ignorantia juris non excusat. Here are a couple of notable ordinances.

It shall be the duty of all persons in the city, when called upon by the chief of police or any member of the police department, to promptly aid and assist him in the execution of his police duties. Any person who shall neglect or refuse to give such aid and assistance shall be punished as provided in section 1-4-1 of this code.
Hmm. I haven't looked at section 1-4-1 to see what the punishment is, but I'm guessing it is spankings, and that they are personally administered by the Chief. Just part of the job.

More seriously, I find it somewhat remarkable that I can be involuntarily deputized at any time by any police officer.


(B) Seances: It shall be unlawful for any person to hold or give any public or private meetings, gatherings, circle or seance of any kind in the name of spiritualism or of any other religious body, society or denomination, and therein practice or permit to be practiced fraud or deception of any kind.
On the bright side, as long as there is no "deception of any kind," seances are perfectly legal.

And, finally (for now):

It shall be unlawful to write, print, manufacture, utter, circulate, distribute or possess with the intent to utter, circulate or distribute any newspaper, book, magazine, pamphlet, handbill, circular or other written or printed matter containing libelous, defamatory or inflammatory statements designed or intended to incite rioting or to stir up racial or class hatred within the City.
Seems to be unconstitutionally overbroad to me. I can't imagine that it's allowed under the First Amendment to make it a crime to "utter . . . inflammatory statements designed or intended to . . . stir up . . . class hatred." If enforced, this would pretty much outlaw the Democratic Party, right?


It's hard for me to think about "crazy ordinances" without remembering the day I discovered, during my stint as an assistant Minneapolis city attorney, that there was a Minneapolis ordinance outlawing dancing in the streets:
427-240 Dancing in the Street
No person shall dance or engage or participate in any dancing upon any public street or highway in the city; and no person shall provide for, promote or conduct any dance or dancing upon any public street or highway in the city, except at a block party.
Sadly, the ordinance was repealed in 2006.

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