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Class Talkers v. Trash Talkers, 70 U. Va. 482 (2017)
GOLDMAN, C.J., joined by HALL and JANI, JJ.
The Court certifies two classes of individual students regarding the same issue: talking in class. The trial court consolidated both the classes of plaintiffs and defendants together in classes referred to as “Trash Talkers” and “Class Talkers.” Trash talkers were awarded summary judgment in an opinion by Judge Ranzini that stated simply: “Please shut up.” The Class Talkers appealed. Upon appeal, this esteemed Court took the case to resolve this contentious issue once and for all.
The facts are not disputed, are identical in each case, and are as follows:
At various points in class, Class Talkers will audibly and sarcastically make disruptive noises such as signs, snorts, cackles, laughs, and gestures such as nodding their heads vigorously, turning to the students seated next to them to make a comment, and will generally make their approval or disapproval of a statement made by a professor and/or student known by means too numerous to cite in this opinion.
The Trash Talkers are the consolidated complaints by students, professors, faculty, and custodial staff who are “annoyed and offended by the snide comments” or have otherwise “been personally victimized by the Class Talkers.”
The Trash Talkers claim that judgmental noises are a distraction from class to the point where they are effectively barred from meaningful participation.
The Trash Talkers bring these claims under our Doctrine of Decent Behavior.
To decide whether claims fall under the Doctrine of Decent Behavior, we must first decide whether the behavior is “annoying.” Because most of our cases turn on this determination, we have established the Chief Justice Haden’s Annoyance Test: Would a reasonably prudent law student (1) roll their eyes at the behavior, (2) find the behavior in question disruptive, and/or (3)(a) irritating, (3)(b) bothersome, (3)(c) nettlesome, (3)(d) vexing, (3)(e) or any other synonym for the word ‘annoying’ found on Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Furthermore, this Court may deem any behavior annoying. We know it when we see it.1
The Trash Talkers allege that the Class Talkers’ behavior meets every prong of our test, as they unanimously roll their eyes at the defendants and have stated that the behavior impedes their ability to learn and fully participate in class for fear of mockery by the Class Talkers. This Court agrees: This behavior is unequivocally annoying.
Appellants contest that their behavior is involuntary and that by their nature as law students they “have an uncontrollable urge to demonstrate our superior intellect to everyone within our vicinity at all times.”
Appellants have not persuaded the Court that this is an actual ailment. They failed to produce a single doctor’s note stating this particular affliction, Student Affairs does not accommodate for “being an asshole,” and a majority of students at this school have the ability to control offensive outbursts, at least during class time.
Now, for our favorite part: damages.
If one does not feel free to fully participate or learn in class it is as if they did not attend that class at all. Tuition for the 2017-2018 year for a nonresident is $61,300 2 per year (not including books and supplies, rendered useless because what’s the point if you can’t concentrate in class?). The Trash Talkers note that the Class Talkers are more subdued in classes such as Civil Procedure with Professor Nelson and Federal Courts with Professor Jefferies, where all students, even Class Talkers, are too afraid to make sudden movements. Those classes should be subtracted from the total owed to Trash Talkers.
The violation of the Doctrine of Decent Behavior is clear. The Honorable Chief Justice of the Court and the Honorable Associate Justices (oyez!) have even felt mockery and distress from the behavior of the Class Talkers. Though the Appellees didn’t ask for this, we also find the behavior illegal and have written and affirmed our own cease and desist letter to the Class Talkers. In the future, if the Class Talkers are so anxious that they absolutely must say something, we suggest using iMessage like everyone else.
We remand back to Judge Ranzini to calculate the monetary damages because we hate math. Give the Trash Talkers something for IIED, we trust your discretion.
ZABLOCKI, J., concurring in part, concurring in the judgment, and dissenting in part: To the extent the Honorable Chief Justice of the Court and the Honorable Associate Justices are collectively included in the class of Trash Talkers, I dissent. In my personal experience, certain Justices have inflicted injury as Class Talkers in the past (*cough, cough* Jani, J.). With respect to our Honorable Chief Justice’s judgment, however, I concur: SHUT THE F*** UP, EVERYONE.
VANDERMEULEN, J., dissenting
I agree with my esteemed colleague, THE CHIEF JUSTICE, in nearly all the sentiments expressed by her opinion for the Court. Class Talkers are surely a plague upon all right-thinking people, but are they not protected by the Constitution of these great United States? The emanations and penumbra of the First, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Eighteenth, and Twenty-First Amendments surely protect the right of jerks to be jerks. I would echo what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes beautifully wrote in the seminal Buck v. Bell: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Does not the security of our glorious nation rely upon the freedom of individuals? See Korematsu v. United States; Cf. Minersville School District v. Gobitis, rightfully restricting Jehovah’s Witnesses from handing out handbills. (“National unity is the basis of national security. To deny the legislature the right to select appropriate means for its attainment presents a totally different order of problem from that of the propriety of subordinating the possible ugliness of littered streets to the free expression opinion through handbills.”) Lochner v. United States guides this court’s jurisprudence. If New York bakers cannot be forced to work fewer than 80 hours per week, can gunnery 1Ls be forced to shut their pieholes? I am forced to conclude, with great reliance upon stare decisis, that they cannot.
1 Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (Stewart, J., concurring).