Legal News Roundup: Maine Bans Alcohol Content Display, Michigan Woman Arrested for 37 Year Old Prison Break

Some quirky legal news made headlines this week, serving as a reminder that the American legal system regularly dabbles in the bizarre aspects of every day life.  From a questionable Maine beer law to a geography textbook victory for Koreans in Virginia, this week’s American legal landscape provides some interesting, and occasionally humorous, stories to keep an eye on.

Maine to Enforce Questionable Ban on Disclosing Beer Alcohol Content

A few weeks ago, the Maine Liquor and Lottery Commission began enforcing a dead-letter law that forbids restaurants, bars, and breweries from informing consumers of the alcohol content of beers on the menu.  The law, passed in 1937, reads that no business shall post... any advertisement of a malt liquor including a label which shall refer in any manner to the alcohol strength of the malt liquor manufacturer, sold or distributed by such licensee or used in any advertisement or label such words as “full strength,” “extra strength,” “high test,” “high proof,” “pre-war strength,” or similar words or phrases which would indicate or suggest alcoholic content.”  The broad language of the law prevents sellers of alcohol from offering any sort of indication regarding the strength and alcohol content.

Maine regulators justified the decision to suddenly enforce an 80 year-old law that has been ignored for decades by stating concerns that listing beer strength encourages over-serving and underage drinking – apparently believing that patrons, particularly younger ones, will seek out strong beers and create risk of over-intoxication.  Although some drinkers may indeed seek out strong beers, it seems like the decision to enforce the law will cause more harm than good.  Alcohol content is typically displayed to ensure consumers are aware of the effect the beer will have – many craft beers have significantly higher alcohol content than widely distributed brands, and a consumer ignorant of that fact may unknowingly over-consume thinking that all beers are created equal. 

Aside from questioning the logic behind the Maine law, it is easy to question the legality at it appears the rule directly contradicts with the Supreme Court’s decision in Rubin v Coors Brewing CompanyIn Ruben, the Supreme Court directly rejected a law that prohibited the alcohol content on beer labels.  Some Maine lawmakers have already taken steps to repeal the legislation, which would likely lose a challenge in court should it remain on the books.

Virginia Korean Community Scores Geography Victory

Virginia legislators recently passed a new bill that mandated teachers, text books, and other educational institutions to note that the Sea of Japan is also known as the East Sea.  Unknown to most of America, the name Sea of Japan is a source of great consternation among Koreans because the name came about during a period of Japanese colonial rule.

Virginia’s Korean population, which outnumbers its Japanese population 82,000 to 19,000, undertook an aggressive lobbying campaign to pass the law.  As the bill passed the Virginia House, hundreds of Koreans gathered around the capital to cheer their legal victory.  Although the Sea of Japan / East Sea is over 7,000 miles away from Virginia, the state’s Korean population counts the geographical mandate as a significant victory for their country and culture.

Woman Finally Arrested after 1977 Prison Escape

A woman police identified as Judy Lynn Hayman was arrested last week in San Diego on charges of escaping from a Michigan prison in 1977.  Hayman, who escaped 8 months into an 18 – 24 month sentence for attempted robbery, has been living on the lam for 37 years before a Michigan police officer tracked her down using fingerprint records while on desk duty due to snowy weather.

San Diego police determined Hayman’s identity by matching her eyes and fingerprints to a decades old mug shot of Hayman.  The alleged Hayman, who identifies herself as Jamie Lewis, is contesting the identification, and pled not guilty to being a fugitive at her arraignment hearing.  Next week an identify hearing will determine if Lewis is Hayman.  If so, Hayman faces extradition to Michigan and a ruling from the Michigan Parole Board to determine how long she will be imprisoned.  The Hayman story is proof that the law never forgets, even small time crimes committed close to four decades ago.

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