Arraigning the Grinch

By Anna-Leigh Firth

Just in time for some “Grinch-mas” holiday fun, our December Question of the Month asked NJC judges to calculate how many laws, ordinances, regulations, etc. the Grinch (or the Whos) violate in Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”


The totals ranged from 25 to, in the solemn jurisprudence of one anonymous judge, “None. We are only bound by the law and we have no idea what conduct Whoville statutes, if any, proscribe or require.”

Others were more eager to indulge in speculation.

Charleston County (South Carolina) Judge Irv Condon would have charged the characters with:

  • Intrusion Upon Seclusion/Invasion of Privacy (Grinch spying on Whos in their homes)
  • Animal Cruelty (Grinch to his dog Max throughout the story)
  • Private Nuisance/Noise Ordinance Violations (Whos singing and playing instruments, disturbing the Grinch’s enjoyment and use of his property)
  • Identity Theft (Grinch stealing Santa’s identity)
  • Breaking and Entering (Grinch into Whos’ homes through the chimney without permission)
  • Larceny (Grinch taking and carrying away Whos’ property, without their consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the Whos of their Christmas gifts and decorations; most likely grand larceny due to the amount of items and their value)
  • Burglary (Grinch enters home occupied by Cindy Lou Who, among other children, with the intent to commit a crime)
  • Conversion (Grinch uses property of the Whos in a manner that is inconsistent with the Whos’ rights in the property)
  • Robbery (Grinch takes candy canes from the children’s person; however, this crime may fail since the children were asleep and he didn’t threaten Cindy Lou Who when she woke up)
  • Destruction of Property (assuming that when the sled started down Mount Crumpit, some personal property of the Whos was destroyed)

Oakland County (Michigan) Judge Ronda Fowlkes Gross and San Juan County (New Mexico) Judge Rena Scott added:

Trespassing, stalking, disorderly conduct, criminal scheme to defraud, assault and battery, harassment, retail fraud, child neglect/abuse, criminal mischief and nuisance, criminal conspiracy, animal poaching, reckless driving, driving without a license, maintaining a house of ill repute, criminal mischief, child endangerment, criminal damage to properties, illegal dumping, disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, improper lamp equipment on vehicle, illegal parking, no-seat-belt violation, speeding, exceeding vehicle load (no Commercial Driver’s License), disturbing the peace, excessive decorations, extortion and bribery.

Although most judges commented on laws the Grinch violated, Kent County (Delaware) Judge Kevin L. Wilson chose to imagine an emergent crime wave in Whoville.

“(T)he weather outside is frightful, so thefts of coats and gloves will be on the rise. The fire is delightful in the post office, so drinking will be on the rise with DUIs and drunk and disorderly conduct keeping the cells … full. With the snow coming down, domestics will be on the rise. In general, the Whos will be breaking laws by the plenty and with no corn for popping, shoplifting will be not stopping.”

Logan County (Colorado) Judge Michael Singer teased that the Whos committed these crimes after the story ends: “Love, forgiveness, and good-will—oh, wait! Those are not crimes! Maybe just singing too loudly the praises of God; thus, disturbing the peace!”

NJC News