Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why?

question query wonder
Have you ever wondered why things are the way they are?  For instance, at a movie theater which arm rest is yours?  Why do people think that swaying their arm back and forth would change the direction of a bowling ball? Why is it that everyone driving faster than you is considered a raving lunatic and everyone driving slower than you is a moron?  Why is the Lone Ranger called 'Lone' if he always has his Indian friend Tonto with him? Why is it that when we "skate on thin ice", we can "get in hot water"?  Why does caregiver and caretaker mean the same thing?  Is there politics voting november turkey ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?  And finally, why doesn't Winnie the Pooh ever get stung by the bees he messes with?

Yep, sure are a lot of questions out there.  One question that someone asked me the other day is, "Why bother learning how to do legal research?"  I can answer this in three steps. 

  • First, we the people agreed (at one point) to be governed by a set of laws. 
  • Second, if "we" agreed to be governed by a set of laws, don't you think it might be important to know what those laws are?
  • Third, if it's important to know what those laws are, then might it be important to know how/where to find those laws to know what they are and how they are to be applied?   
The answer to all three statements, is, of course, yes, yes and yes.

To see how this all works, this guy came into our law library the other day.  Seems he had been arrested and charged with violating the local graffiti law (i.e. he got caught tagging the wall off a freeway).  Now, he knew (or suspected) that there was a law that applied to tagging and graffiti - but he figured it didn't apply to him.  So, knowing that he did not where to look for these laws, so he came to me - his friendly neighborhood law librarian to help him.  I first went to the local county ordinances, then the city municipal codes and finally handed him the  California Penal code as it related to graffiti.  20 minutes later, fully versed in the law of graffiti, he discovered that 1) there were a bunch of laws prohibiting graffiti and 2) they ALL applied to him. All of them.  Humbled and educated, he went his way and, I suspect, vowed to never tag (or get caught) again.

I suspect, the moral to all of this is that if you don't know where to find something, ask - because odds are your local law librarian has been asked the same question 50 zillion (that's right, a zillion) times and knows what it is you need long before you think you'll need it.  Yeah, we are that good.