For 38 years, the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan has had a law against being “willfully annoying.” Now the law is going to be repealed, because the city attorney has determined that the law is probably unconstitutionally vague and therefore unenforceable.
I’ve no doubt her legal analysis is correct, but I’m also sure that the law was well-intentioned. After all, when you’re dealing with a willfully annoying person it’s just so . . . annoying. I’m guessing the person who came up with the law in the first place had a little brother who tormented them with all kinds of annoying behavior.
Could the law be clarified and saved from unconstitutional vagueness by specifying certain conduct that is deemed per se annoying? I think you would find near-unanimity that certain things are, by definition, willfully annoying. My list of such conduct would include the following:
* Constantly repeating, word for word, everything you say in a sing-song voice
* Repeatedly thrusting things toward your face, with accompanying sound effects
* Deciding to sing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall for an entire three-hour car ride
* Repeatedly kicking the back of the chair in which you’re sitting