Legalese — Weird Laws

photo courtesy of MorgueFile
photo courtesy of MorgueFile

Like all states, there are still some amusing laws on the books in the State of Georgia, and some of them aren’t even that old.

My favorite, I think, is Official Code of Georgia Annotated 51-6-16 which states, in its entirety: “the seduction of a daughter, unmarried and living with her parent, whether followed by pregnancy or not, shall give a right of action to the father or to the mother if the father is dead, or absent permanently, or refuses to bring an action. No loss of services need be alleged or proved. The seduction is the gist of the action, and in well-defined cases exemplary damages shall be granted.”

In regular English, this means that whether or not she gets pregnant, if you seduce a man’s daughter – even an adult daughter, so long as she is still living at home — he can sue for damages, even if nothing really happened except for the ‘seduction.’  A mother can only sue if the father is dead, gone, or refuses.

Lest this statute seem like a relic that no one uses anymore, in 1993 the Courts recognized its validity in Brayman v. Deloach.  As recently as 1994, the Supreme Court of Georgia was still defining what ‘seduction’ meant.  In Franklin v. Hill, the following was said: “Seduction is defined as the “[a]ct of man enticing woman to have unlawful intercourse with him by means of persuasion, solicitation, promises, bribes, or other means without employment of force.” Black’s Law Dictionary p. 1218 (5th ed. 1979). This court has defined “seduction” as a term substantially similar to “debauchery.” Mosley v. Lynn, 172 Ga. 193, 201, 157 S.E. 450 (1930). ” ‘Seduction, as a civil injury, may generally be defined as the act of a man in inducing a virtuous woman to commit unlawful sexual intercourse with him.’ ” Id. at 201, 203, 157”  Using this logic, if she isn’t a virtuous woman, then it isn’t seduction.

If the sexist nature of this raises your hackles, do not fear.  In Franklin v. Hill, after defining seduction, the Court struck down the statute as violating the equal protection clause – not because it is ridiculous that a parent could sue over the lost virtue of an adult child, but because it only applied to the lost virtue of female children and their fathers.  Presumably, if the statute extended to mothers and sons, it would still be good law.  But, good or bad law, it is still a law on the books in the State of Georgia.

Still, I can’t resist reprinting this beautiful language from Franklin v. Hill used in recounting the history of this statute.  “Rather than seeking to prevent the pregnancy of unwed daughters, the statute was passed to hold men civilly liable for corrupting the morals and compromising the chastity of unmarried women. Passed in 1863 at a time when women and children were the legal property of their husbands or fathers, the statute vindicates the outraged feelings of the father whose daughter’s virtue has been ruined. See Mosley, 172 Ga. at 199, 157 S.E. 450. As Justice Lumpkin explained: Never, so help me God, while I have the honor to occupy a seat upon this bench, will I consent to control the Jury, in the amount of compensation which they may see fit to render a father for the dishonor and disgrace thus cast upon his family; for this atrocious invasion of his household peace. There is nothing like it, since the entrance of Sin and Death into this lower world.”

There are lots of fun, strange laws on the books.  The word “ice” brings up 23 different statutes.  O.C.G.A. 53-4-73 covers the distribution of a heart pacemaker after someone dies. There are two completely different statutes (one in “food and drugs” and one in “animals”) about peafowl.  In case you couldn’t figure out what ‘paint’ was, O.C.G.A. 10-1-120 gives you a lengthy, comprehensive definition.  O.C.G.A. 50-3-72 not only designates the peanut as the official state crop, but locates the peanut monument on the west side of I-75 in Turner County in the City Limits of Ashburn as the official state peanut monument.  (Presumably, the peanut monument in Ashburn on the east side of I-75 was not up to snuff.)  O.C.G.A. 16-12-161 basically says that you can’t remove a body or body parts from a murder scene unless you are a police officer who is working the scene.  (An off duty police officer, then, could not take a finger for his collection.)

The best part of these things, to me, is that each of these laws has a story behind them. What man found his daughter seduced and had no legal course of action against the young rake?  What other peanut monuments were vying for the title?  Who took what body part from a murder scene?  Whatever the story, – someone powerful, or a general public outcry caught the attention of lawmakers and inspired them to champion the new law.  Then, it had to be proposed to a subcommittee, debated and rewritten and voted upon, then the same in the committee, then on the floor of each house of the legislature.  At some point, each of these things were the focus of our state government.  There is no telling how many working hours were spent finally, once and for all, defining what ‘paint’ really is.

This article was written by a lawyer, but should not be considered legal advice in any way, shape, or form.  It is written for general (and generally vague) informational purposes only.  In order to properly evaluate your case, a lawyer must examine all the facts and circumstances that are particular and personal to your situation.  I have not done that here.

About Lori Duff 352 Articles
Lori is the author of the bestselling collection of humor essays, "Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza" currently available exclusively on Amazon. In order to finance her writing habit, she is a practicing lawyer with Jones & Duff, LLC. She is married to Mike Duff, who is a retired DeKalb County Public Safety Officer, and has two amazing children who make cameo embarrassing appearances in her blog posts and who attend Walton County Public Schools. Her legal column, "Legalese", is meant to de-mystify and humanize the Court system. When asked about her writing, Lori says, "Life is too short not to laugh at every available opportunity. My goal is to make myself laugh -- and hopefully you will laugh along with me."

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