WASHINGTON, February 22, 2015 − Napoleon. George Washington. Mother Teresa. Frank Sinatra. Mickey Mantle. Adolph Hitler – all these proper names are instantly recognizable and all invoke memories, associations and feeling.
Throughout generations, the mere mention of some names triggers memory banks and emotional links.
Some people’s names are famous because their surnames become readily identifiable laws. This is because governments, societies, victims and others have long sought to ensure that legal concepts are not just remembered, but identified with a specific name associated with a given notion or concept.
For example, Major Edward A. Murphy, Jr. did not always get things wrong. Nonethless, Murphy’s law is ascribed to him: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Circus legend P.T. Barnum had a law named after him: Barnum’s Law says: You will never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
Laurence J. Peter had a key business management axiom named after him. The Peter Principle observes that Every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.
Delta Willis is responsible for positing Delta’s Law: There are three sides to every story.
Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, in 1906, formulated Pareto’s Principle: The 80-20 Rule. His idea was based on a mathematical formula that described the unequal distribution of wealth in Italy, offering the observation that twenty percent of the people owned eighty percent of the wealth. Over time, others have applied his idea in a slightly different but similar manner:
- 80% of results come from 20% of the efforts
- 80% of usage is by 20% of users
- 80% of revenue comes from 20% of customers
- 80% of complaints come from 20% of customers
In the hard sciences, research scientists frequently honor their own by attaching their names to “laws,” typically when some idea, principle or formula is discovered and requires a name to identify it.
Albert Einstein had two such laws named after him: The General and the Special Theories of Relativity.
Paul Erdos may hold the distinction of having more “laws” named after him than anyone − a total of nine. An asterisk must be appended, however, as all of them are held with others with who he worked in the field of mathematics.
Joseph-Louis Lagrange and Pierre-Simon Laplace then might be the winners, as they tied for the most laws named after them alone: each had eight such laws attributed to them in the fields of mathematics, astrophysics, physics, probability theory, and statistical mathematics.
In the area of criminal law, families of victims who desire to memorialize what happened to their loved one as well as attempting to prevent future tragedies sometimes propose laws to address those specific wrongs.
Currently, dozens of state and federal laws are named for children who were harmed or who died way too soon. Megan’s Law, Jessica’s Law, The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, Kendra’s Law, Leandra’s Law, three Jacob’s Laws and at least three Laura’s Laws are several examples.
In 1977, Kristen Modafferi, age 18, disappeared. Because she was an adult, her family could not use any of the nation’s child-kidnapping resources to try to find her. Their efforts to rectify this situation resulted in Kristen’s Law, enacted in 2000, which created a National Center for Missing Adults.
Named after the famous AIDS victim, young Ryan White, the 1990 Ryan White Care Act brought significant and important changes to the quality and availability of care for patients with HIV and AIDS.
The acquittal of Casey Anthony in Florida in the death of her daughter brought massive outrage in Florida and at least 25 other states, resulting in numerous versions of laws that require parents to report missing or dead children. These versions of the original Caylee’s Law propose that such failures would be a felony.
Many legal and political observers believe that laws named after crime victims and dead people are usually a bad idea and that, if passed, they often prove to be bad laws, reasoning that such laws are proposed and enacted more on the basis of emotion than reason.
Ilya Somin, in her 2011 column “Criminal Law, Political Ignorance,” wrote:
“It seems likely that political ignorance is an important part of the story here. The public sees the high-profile case, and has a knee-jerk desire to ‘do something about it.’ Most voters don’t realize how rare such cases are, and also know very little about the potential downsides of proposals like these… For their part, politicians hungry for votes and activists hungry for media attention are more than willing to cater to the public’s demands.”
Following a terrible tragedy, it is clearly much more emotionally satisfying to demand decisive action to save a child like Caylee Anthony than to hold back because there may be nothing that can be done.
As is the case with victim-named laws, those who draft or create laws often find those laws named after them.
Former President George Bush signed tax changes in 2001 and 2003. He later said he wished the tax laws did not bear his name. Nonetheless, they will be forever remembered as the Bush Tax Cuts.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 was perhaps the most far-reaching overhaul of financial institutions since the Great Depression. Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts will always be remembered for it, even if their first names are not.
Although probably less than one percent of college students know about Robert T. Stafford, many benefit from his work. The former Vermont Senator’s colleagues respected his efforts on higher education reform and thus named the Stafford Loan after him. This low-cost federal loan program was created as part of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and allows college students a much-needed financing option for tuition.
Like politicians, celebrities sometimes have laws named after them.
Snooki and her Jersey Shore cast seriously upset local New Jersey residents, so they proposed The Snookiville Law. The law gave local officials more power over the specifics of and the financing for filming reality shows in their neighborhoods, including the requirement that production crews pay for the additional police needed for crowd control.
The Britney Law, passed in California in 2008, came after the injured chanteuse needed to be escorted into a hospital because photographers and onlookers were blocking the entrance. A 20-yard “personal safety bubble” was established by that law.
The Tim Tebow Law, enacted in South Carolina, came from the football player’s efforts on behalf of home-schooled children. Now, home-schooled children can participate in extra-curricular activities at public schools, whereas before this Equal Access to Interscholastic Activities was passed, they would not have been allowed to do so.
Some laws are named to honor individuals.
Lilly Ledbetter, a plant manager at Goodyear, sued the company for sex discrimination in its pay practices. She lost her case. Because of the unfairness of the result, federal legislation was ultimately passed to address this issue, becoming known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
Finally, some laws are popularly (if unofficially) named to mock the individual or individuals associated with the legislation. For example, Obamacare is, of course, the Republican-coined handle for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the healthcare act that President Obama lobbied for and got passed in 2010.
Have an idea? Invent something? Become kidnapped or killed? Champion a cause? Just like laws, you can put a name on your brainchild−something that will make it readily identifiable and understandable.
For example, I created “Textarudo,” a cartoon character designed to bring a message about the dangers of Texting and Driving. I’m hoping there will someday be a Textarudo Law that bans and severely punishes texting while driving as well as other distracted activity conducted behind the wheel.
For more details, see www.textarudo.com.
Jessica Lane “The Name Game” in American Horror Story
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on http://www.completeaccidentbook.com and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order
Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website http://www.textarudo.com and “like” the concept on the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/textarudo.