The Rule of Law: A Fourth of July Meditation

By Dylan Erwin

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s an entire day dedicated to BBQ, pyrotechnics, and patriotism. This year, as with every year since I dove headfirst into the uncharted waters of American jurisprudence, I found myself meditating on the eternal concept of the Rule of Law – one of those “law school” phrases, like “reasonable man” and “think like a lawyer” that law professors chant like a mantra. My first memory of hearing about the Rule of Law was back in 2011 during law school convocation. I’m sitting in the Bell Courtroom at the University of Oklahoma, listening to the parade of speakers welcoming the class of 2014. Each speaker offers his or her own unique bit of advice. “The United States is a democracy,” the speaker says. “We aren’t a monarchy. In a monarchy, you are governed by a king or a queen – a monarch. In a democracy, you are governed by the Rule of Law. As attorneys, it will be your job to protect and defend that Rule of Law.” Let’s take this speaker’s analogy a step further. In the United States, the Rule of Law is king. In Arthurian legend, knights are tasked with protecting the king and the realm. In other words, my speaker at convocation was telling me I’m a lawyer-knight, tasked with felling all enemies that threaten my king, the Rule of Law.

But, I digress. During my time as an attorney, I have been in almost constant contact with the Rule of Law, this faceless monarch that lords over all American citizens. Just as any monarchy has a few “dud” rulers (I won’t name names, but if I did I’d definitely single you out, King John…you literally plotted with the King of France to overthrow your brother when he was fighting in the crusades), the Rule of Law can also get…interesting. In the spirit of democracy and patriotism, I present ten of the most “interesting” laws in Oklahoma history – a few of which are still on the books in one form or another. Some of these laws may be found in statute, and some of these laws may found in city codes around the state; but, all of these laws are presented for entertainment purposes only.

1. Women are forbidden from doing their own hair without being licensed by the state.

2. Fish may not be contained in fishbowls while on a public bus.

3. It is illegal to have the hind legs of farm animals inside your boots.

4. Anyone arrested for soliciting a prostitute must have their name and picture shown on television.

5. It is illegal to own more than two adult cats.

6. You may not open a soda bottle without the supervision of a licensed engineer.

7. It is illegal to wash your clothes in a birdbath.

8. Cars must be tethered outside of public buildings.

9. Dogs must have a permit signed by the mayor in order to congregate in groups of three or more on private property.

10. It is illegal for the owner of a bar to allow anyone inside to simulate deviant acts on a buffalo.

*Special thanks to Casey Gray who, aside from being an amazing oil and gas attorney, is also a stellar research assistant. I hope you all had a safe and happy Fourth of July, and that you’re reading this blog post with all ten fingers intact. Until next time, see ya in the funny papers.

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