Roach v. Mooch, et. al.
18 U.Va 453 (2017)
Today, we consider a vitriolic dispute amongst members of both the student body and the faculty. This dispute causes us to consider not only the world of linguistics, but also standing, the competence of this court to hear certain cases, and our jurisdiction over various parties.
If this Court were some sort of children’s TV show, we might be inclined to humorously note that “the word of the day is ‘brooch.’” Apparently, this word, referring to a piece of jewelry that no one has worn in about 200 years, has caused quite the stir at UVa Law. The plaintiffs in this case are a group of students at UVa Law who have petitioned this Court to offer an official interpretation of the pronunciation of the word ‘brooch.’ They have sued the faculty and administrators at the school in an attempt to bind all professors to our official interpretation. Defendants have claimed a variety of defenses, all centering around our power or jurisdiction to hear such a case.
Plaintiffs allege in their complaint that, over the past few weeks of the semester, there have been a variety of cases in several classes involving a brooch. The trouble appears to emanate from Professor Ferzan’s Evidence class. Plaintiffs state that, while discussing a case about a brooch, Professor Ferzan stated explicitly that the only possible pronunciation was the pronunciation that rhymes with “roach” (hereinafter, the Roach Interpretation). Plaintiffs allege that other professors, upon hearing Ferzan’s emphatic advocacy for the Roach Interpretation, began pushing a contrary pronunciation; namely, those professors claim that brooch rhymes with “mooch” (hereinafter, the Mooch Interpretation). Still further professors claimed that both the Mooch and Roach Interpretations could be valid. In particular, Professor Doran claimed that either could be used, although one was more common with the proletariat.
Plaintiffs in this case have asked us to settle this dispute once and for all, in a manner binding upon all parties in the Law School. They filed the original action in this Court, despite our preference to exercise appellate jurisdiction only; however, contrary to defendants’ claims otherwise, we certainly have original jurisdiction over suits (see Petty Rule of Jurisdiction 1: “We hear what we want.”). In addition, for a case as important as this one, we do not see the purpose of having a lower court decide this case incorrectly in the first place just so that we can rectify the decision later. Finally, we don’t really have a lot going on in our docket now that the insider trading suits against the Sec. Reg. professors have been finalized, so we’re happy to hear this case.
Defendants first argue that plaintiffs do not have standing to bring this case. They argue that professors disagree on various topics all of the time because it’s simply a part of academia. Defendants cite as an example the fact that Professors Hellman and Prakash disagree as to whether Corinne is on the Bachelor for love or just to promote her acting career; the defendants claim that certainly a dispute such as that does not give rise to an injury that can be resolved by this Court, and certainly not an injury to students.
Defendants’ argument is misguided. There may be such an academic or professorial dispute that does not deserve this Court’s intervention, but certainly this issue is not such a dispute. Professors on both sides of the argument have explicitly invoked this Court’s attention and have mentioned one another as parties to this issue. By involving such students and explicitly saying that one professor or another is wrong, the defendants (and one plaintiff) have involved the students enough to the point where they have suffered an injury, and therefore, have standing to bring the suit.
Certain parties claim that this Court is not competent to hear this suit, and relatedly, this Court does not have jurisdiction to entertain such a suit. The second question is easily answered. This Court has jurisdiction to review “any and all decisions, conflicts, and disputes that arise involving, either directly, indirectly, or tangentially, the Law School or its students.” Defendants cannot seriously argue that this dispute arises independently from the Law School given that its faculty are the ones engaged in this argument. Defendants, especially Professor Doran, may argue that this jurisdiction is too broad and wide-spread but that argument is not properly presented for this Court. Indeed, such a question of jurisdictional breadth is properly submitted to the legislature for determination of the proper scope, although we should warn defendants that several members of this Court serve as members of the legislature.
Professor Doran and defendants argue that we are not a court of competent jurisdiction to hear such a case. First of all, no. That’s just insulting. We don’t go around calling people incompetent; we expect the same courtesy from others. Secondly, what kind of strategy is it to call the judges incompetent? We have never in our history found ourselves incompetent. See CoPA v. Student Affairs, 20 U.Va 16 566 (2017) (“Actually, I think we can assign alcohol permits quite well, thank you very little.”).
This argument seems to hinge on the idea that there is some other Court that is competent to hear such a dispute; however, defendants seem unable to name a single court able to entertain such a dispute. They simply say that no court can hear such a case, and therefore, we are not able to hear it. Such an assertion is baseless, both in case law and statute. See Obergefell v. Hodges, 32 U.Va 231 (2016) (“Seriously? It’s the 21st century. How are people still arguing this? Love is love.”).
Having dispensed with all of defendants’ procedural arguments, we turn to the issue at hand: whether the Roach or the Mooch Interpretation shall be Supreme. Ordinarily, we are reticent to enter the field of prescriptive linguistics; we feel that the expression of individuals should normally be the default rule of pronunciation. Nevertheless, we are appalled by the blatant disregard for normal pronunciation rules that the supporters of the Mooch Interpretation advocate, and therefore rule in favor of the Roach Interpretation.
We have yet to see a single piece of independent evidence that supports the Mooch Interpretation and we are surprised that anyone chooses to use such a strange pronunciation. We find that the natural, historical, and linguistically pleasing choice is the Roach Interpretation. Therefore, we reject the Mooch Interpretation and henceforth ban all professors, students, administrators, admitted students, townies, and people in Section D from ever pronouncing “brooch” as rhyming with Mooch. Any violations of this order shall be considered contempt of this Court, resulting in a punishment up to and including grading a four-hour, open book, spaghetti-to-the-wall exam. Please don’t test us.
It is so ordered.
ANGELOTTI, J., concurring in the judgment.
I really like Professor Doran and his classes, especially ERISA, because retirement security is one of the most important things (except for employee benefits for top executives). However, no one really says “brooch” rhyming with “mooch.” That’s as silly as suggesting that securities laws are too lax and that government regulation is always good. Which it isn’t. See Dean Mahoney’s book. I love that book. Do you think I can get a signed copy?
Anyway, I agree with Professor Ferzan. Professor Doran, I still love your class! Can you teach a class on golden parachutes?
1 We do not address this claim by Professor Doran, as we have been presented with no evidence as to its veracity.
2 Namely, Professor Ferzan.
3 There is no conflict of interest here. All conflicts of interest are petty, and all petty things fall under our jurisdiction.
4 Other than “some people say it.”