Like Day Follows Night, Meet Caylee’s Law

Via Josh Blackmon, it appears that the genius of crowdsource is pushing at  Change.org for, ta da, a new law named after Caylee Anthony.  Because bizarre, outlier events demand a new law?  Nah, because every time a child dies, no matter how bizarre the circumstance, society must prevent it from ever happening again.  Because no new bizarre event will take the life of another child if we pass a law named after the last one.

There are more than 50,000 votes signatures on the petition already in support of this notion:


I’m writing to propose that a new law be put into effect making it a felony for a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker to not notify law enforcement of the death of their child, accidental or otherwise, within 1 hour of said death being discovered. This way there will be no more cases like Casey Anthony’s in the courts, and no more innocent children will have to go without justice.


Also, make it a felony for a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker to not notify law enforcement of the disappearance of a child within 24 hours, so proper steps can be taken to find that child before it’s too late.


Called “Black Swan” laws, even in cursory form, Josh notes some faults:


1 Hour! And if someone tells the police on the 61st minute, they go to jail. 24 hours! What about a sleepover in the woods?

On a more serious note, if a parent was inclined to murder her child, would fear of a prosecution under this law stop her?  Would the sentence be death plus a year?

This compulsion to avenge a tragedy involving a child by crafting yet another law to deal with a situation already fully covered (as in murder) has produced a basic rule that any law named after a dead child is invariably a bad exercise of legislative fiat.  It’s not the intended consequences I fear, but the unintended ones. And there are always unintended ones. 

Josh calls this the Ted Frank Rule (for which Josh links to himself, something he does an awful lot), because he first heard of it when Ted reiterated the rule that’ the rest of us (Ted included) have discussed for years.  He bolsters his opposition by


express[ing] skepticism of any law named after the victim of a crime–these laws are “poor public policy enacted by legislators who confuse voting against a law with voting against an innocent person.” Who would vote against Caylee?


All good reasons to think this another terribly misguided law, and indeed, it is.  Plenty of room for mischief and little hope of serving any real purpose.  No, this law would not have “saved” Caylee Anthony, no matter what happened to her.

But it can happen. 

This is a huge promotional opportunity for politicians across the country, to grab all those folks feeling disaffected by the verdict and make a run for their hearts, if not their minds.  While Josh makes good, solid, rational points, he misses the mark.  This isn’t about an appeal to reason, but an appeal to emotion. 

Are legislators so stupid as to believe that enactment of this misguided law will accomplish anything?  Well, no doubt some are. There’s no intelligence test required for election to office.  But others will know that this is just pandering, and will do so with gusto.

And the champions of Caylee’s Law will be the heroes of many, and raise vast funds for re-election, even though they will be a shoo-in.  And will go on to higher office.  And will have statues of them erected in the village square.  Because no one could possibly be against Caylee Anthony.

I predict a run on stop watches for parents. You can never be too careful.

H/T Walter Olson

13 comments on “Like Day Follows Night, Meet Caylee’s Law

  1. Alex Bunin

    Maybe they should call it “Nancy Grace’s Law” since it honors her show more than it protects any child.

  2. George Wallace

    Beyond the problems you and others have already identified, I see two more:

    First, the petition specifically urges the President and Congress to create “a federal offense” in Caylee’s name. Even if the law represented wise policy, why add this to the already overreaching list of Federal crimes?

    Second — and excuse me if I am showing some naiveté as a non-criminal practitioner — if we postulate a Medea or other parental child-killer, wouldn’t a reporting mandate potentially run afoul of the Fifth Amendment? “Failure to drop big, prompt, self-incriminating hints that might lead us to look into and discover your foul deeds will only make it worse for you.”

    Somewhere, down that road so famously paved with good intentions, the devil is still dancing.

  3. MJR

    The petition calls for a federal law creating these two felonies. I could see some state legislatures getting on board with something like this but what would be the jurisdictional hook/inter-state commerce connection that would make this an acceptable federal law?

  4. Jerry

    As soon as you mention a child victim in a law, all common sense goes right out the window with the dishwater.

  5. Eddie

    As Gideon wrote on his blog a while back, quoting CT State Rep. Peter Tercyak, “We won’t be robbed of our liberties at gun point. We will freely give them up one at a time to solve one problem at a time with our hearts being tugged by one truly horrible story at a time.”

    Wonder how long before we get wind of politician X proposing this very important new piece of legislation?

  6. Catherine Mulcahey

    How about a law making it a federal capital offense to be Casey Anthony? That would accomplish what these folks really want to do.

  7. Anne

    Got this press release first thing today, or was it last thing yesterday? Nothing like “viral” legislation. Wow.

  8. Jill Propst

    And of course, contrary to the stated intent of the proposed law, creating a new felony for not reporting a death will hardly ensure that there are “no more cases like Casey Anthony’s in the courts.” Wouldn’t it have the opposite effect? And why is it so terrible to have cases in the courts? Because jurors don’t always do what the masses want? Perish the thought.

    I propose a new federal law prohibiting accidental drowning. Now THAT would have saved Caylee.

  9. Lee Keller King

    Bad facts make bad law. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that, as suggested, many of our lily livered legislators would have a difficult time voting against such a bill. Such is the making of law in the 21st Century.

    But, as Jerry Pournelle says, despair is a sin.

  10. Jonathan Edelstein

    Hey, it could be worse. How about Caylee’s Law v2.0: “If a child goes missing, a parent fails to make a report within 24 hours and the child is later found dead, a rebuttable presumption exists that the parent murdered the child.”

  11. mglickman

    Senator Nancy Jones in MD is proposing a bill like this. Only difference is 24 hours is stretched to a “short period of time.”

  12. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, if I may? Damn it Alex B., I’m pretty sure that the N.G word was not used for a reason.

    Now that we all have had time to get the puke out of our mouths – Whupp!
    “Get your N.G. Bobble Head timers”
    *Worlds first 59 minute & 23 Hour Timers. Baby sitter special. Vote Quimmby! Thanks.

    On a serious note. RIP lil Caylee.

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