Legal Opinion from the State's Attorney
An interesting and funny historical, and supposedly true, document: This is the text of the original memo sent by (now veteran Senator) Patrick Leahy. At the time he was State's Attorney in Vermont.
TO: ALL POLICE DEPARTMENTS
FROM: CHITTENDEN COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY PATRICK LEAHY (BURLINGTON)
RE: UNCLOTHED PUBLIC BATHING
DATE: JULY 7, 1971
A number of law enforcement agencies have asked this office to review the time-honored practice of unclothed swimming known colloquially as "skinny-dipping".
I was originally disinclined to slow the crime fighting operation of the Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office long enough to issue a memorandum of such minuscule moment. However I have been reminded that in the past the plethora of paper from this office has included such legal landmarks as my position on the use of sparklers on the Fourth of July (a position hedged with great patriotic fervor) and the validity of upside-down license plates (complete with instructions on how to determine the sobriety of the operator at the time he attached the plate).
With such powerful precedents in mind, I ensconced myself at my family's summer farm near Montpelier during the Fourth of July Weekend and researched the issue.
I began by reviewing the old Norman Rockwell paintings, thoughtfully resurrected by the ACLU, showing such activities allegedly taking place in Vermont (along this line I was unable to confirm or refute the persistent rumor that Vermont's number one politician, Calvin Coolidge, had also engaged in such activity within the borders of this state while subject to Vermont's laws).
I have also discussed -- after grants of immunity -- experiences of this nature enjoyed by some of Vermont's prosecutors, judges, law-enforcement officers and sailboat operators. After checking the Statute of Limitations, I have even reviewed past histories with some of my contemporaries during my teenage years in Montpelier. Also, each member of my office offered to investigate this matter in an undercover manner (so to speak).
It appears that most Vermonters I've talked to have engaged in such scandalous activity at some time in their life (with the exception of a couple I didn't believe who claimed to have done so in May in Vermont).
Times, however, do change. Today such things are apparently allowable in most movies, on Canadian Television, in the National Geographic and Life magazine, but by no means in the pristine rivers and streams of Vermont.
Therefore, to guide any law-enforcement officer so lacking in other criminal matters to investigate, so as to have time to investigate this currently popular subject of skinny-dipping, I offer, in all seriousness, the following guidelines:
1. In public areas (e.g. North Beach in Burlington) and semi-public areas: Nude bathing is not acceptable. In such instances, the officer receiving the complaint should order the person to dress. Failure to stay clothed should result in a summons to court.
2. On private land out of the view of the public: The State has no legitimate interest and swimmers should be left alone.
3. In secluded areas publicly used (e.g. rivers, swimming holes, etc.) If no member of the public present is offended, no disorderly conduct has taken place. If members of the public (e.g. families wishing to use the swimming area) complain, then proceed as in No. 1 above.
Posted November 13, 2015
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