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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Laws of Mardi Gras


Today, on March 4, 2014, the Mardi Gras festival is occurring across the state border in Louisiana.  For any of our neighbors interested in the laws applicable to their celebration, for any Houston residents planning to travel to New Orleans to join in, or far anyone simply interested in the law as it relates to Mardi Gras, the following legal resources may be of interest:

Mardi Gras is a state holiday in parts of Louisiana as per La. Rev. Stat. § 1:55(A)(3).

To celebrate Mardi Gras, the normal rule against wearing festival masks in public is waived by La. Rev. Stat. § 14:313(C)(2) (except for sex offenders).  Setting up ladders to get a better view of passing parades is permissible, but for the first time this year ladders must remain at least six feet from the curb and may not be chained together to reserve sitting room; to find out more, read Chapter 34 of the New Orleans Municipal Code, the entirety of which is devoted to regulating the Mardi Gras celebration.

Anyone hoping to catch beads thrown from parade floats should be aware that under Louisiana law (specifically La. Rev. Stat. § 9:2796) parade spectators assume most of the risk of being struck by thrown trinkets during the Mardi Gras parade; if you attend, please remember what others have already written by keeping an eye out for flying bags of beads[1] or painted coconuts[2]. 

A few legal references for canon lawyers: while most Christian denominations have their own Lenten schedules and observances, the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans is based on the French Catholic tradition under which eating meat was prohibited from Ash Wednesday until Easter; Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday,” was the settlers of New Orleans’ last change to eat meat for forty days (not counting Sundays).  Today, this practice is governed by §§ 1249-1253 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.  In New Orleans, and the rest of the United States, the discretionary authority of § 1253 was invoked to permit the eating of meat during most of Lent as per Parts 12 and 13 of a 1966 Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence.

And finally, for those attending the Mardi Gras celebration, please remember §§ 54-403 through 54-407 of the New Orleans Municipal Code and celebrate responsibly.


[1] See Isidore v. Victory Club, Inc., 2005-0291 (La. App. 4 Cir. 11/30/05); 923 So.2d 747.

[2] See Pierre v. Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Inc., 2004-0752 (La. App. 4 Cir. 9/29/04); 885 So.2d 1261, Brown v. Lee, 04-1302 (La. App. 4 Cir. 4/5/06); 929 So.2d 775, and Palmer v. Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Inc., 2009-0751 (La. App. 4 Cir. 3/1/10); 63 So.3d 131.

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