Standing at Standing Desk v. Sitting at Standing Desk
26 U.Va. 469 (2017)
GOLDMAN, J. presents the opinion of the Court and is joined unanimously by HADEN, C.J., and ANGELOTTI and PICKUS, JJ. THORNTON, J., recused herself as she has joined the plaintiffs as an avid standing desk user and interested party.
Over the course of the academic school year, this Court receives an overwhelming number of complaints surrounding the appropriate use of standing-desks. The topic becomes especially heated approaching finals, when the library saturates with unruly undergraduates and 3Ls opening the packaging on their evidence textbooks for the first time.
The issue the parties wish us to address is simple: is it ever appropriate or permissible to sit at a standing desk? Ordinarily this Court likes to be challenged by complex and cutting-edge tiffs, and this particular question has an answer so obvious, so uncomplicated, that we had to contact the lawyers for both parties to ask whether the briefs could be best understood if read in a ‘sarcastic voice.’ Mockery aside, our most basic cases are usually handled exclusively by the lower courts but since this issue is one so deeply dividing this school (and Judge DeStefano could not stop laughing long enough for attorneys to present their opening arguments), we hear this case de novo.
The plaintiffs feel adamant that sitting at a desk meant for standing is “the greatest assault on the integrity of this school since the disappearance of the bust of RFK.” Plaintiffs argue that there are far more desks designed for sitting than there are for standing and that defendants wishing to sit should “pick literally any other desk.” The plaintiffs seek damages for pain and suffering inflicted by sitting at desks, such as back pain, butt pain, and emotional pain experienced when plaintiffs failed to meet their hourly standing goal on their Fitbits. During the course of the latest final exam period, it was noted that nearly every day a student was seen using a standing desk inappropriately. Plaintiffs also wish for us to formally announce guidelines for standing-desks etiquette.
The defendants’ argument can be best summarized by the three statements submitted to us in their brief: “We don’t see what the big deal is,” “we just like to piss people off in their time of anguish and anxiety,” and “this is a free country.” Though the Defendants seek the same result (to remove all regulations surrounding the use of desks) they divide themselves into two camps: ones that sit at standing desks using a stool and who immediately stand up when a passerby begins to glare at their offending use, and those who lower the desk to the height of a sitting desk and pull up a chair to the desk, even when other sitting desks are available in the same area of the library.
Despite countless emails by Student Affairs urging students to go to mindfulness classes, the feud between the sitters and standers rages on. It took a turn for the ridiculous when a group of students broke out into “The Rumble” from West Side Story just outside MyLab (it is unconfirmed whether the sitters and standers have formally codified into gangs or whether Libel was taping for their yearly attempt at Above the Law’s Law Revue Video Contest).
Regardless, this Court has made its final decision to explain to a group of college graduates attending a top-tier law school the proper use of a standing desk. We hold, aided by the Merriam-Webster definition of “standing,” that standing desks are meant for individual use, with one or two feet planted on the ground, with the user in an upright position, without aid of a chair. Those who require a chair are invited to use a desk intended for use while sitting. When there is a deficit of standing desks, such as during final exam season, students should still not sit at standing desks. If one gets tired of standing, one may remove themselves to a desk meant for sitting. Further, no individual shall monopolize both a sitting and a standing desk unless the library is particularly barren and no other individual wants use of a standing desk. See Coleman v. Guy with Green Backpack, 5 U.Va. 44 (2016) (“We hereby adopt the standard ‘Don’t be a Jerk.’”).
This Court remands to the lower court to determine damages for injuries suffered by the plaintiffs (try to take this one seriously, J. DeStefano).
HADEN, C.J., concurring.
I join the opinion of the court in full, and I write separately to address an issue that defendants raised but was ultimately not considered by a majority of this Court. Defendants complain about the joinder of Justice Thornton as a plaintiff in this action. Defendants argue that it is improper for her to be a party to this litigation because she works on the Court, and has personal connections that might influence this Court unfairly. That’s a stupid argument.
The defendants’ logic results in a terrible deprivation of justice for all judges on the highest Court. If defendants are correct, then no judges on this Court can ever be plaintiffs in our Petty Jurisdiction. Judges are left without legal recourse, which is a result that cannot be tolerated. Indeed, the reverse situation would also be true, in that judges on this Court could never be sued. Anyone who was wronged by any of these judges would be similarly deprived of justice.
The defendants’ argument is also insulting because it assumes that we, as judges, are unable to be unbiased amongst the parties, regardless of who comprises those parties. This assumption is as wrong as the defendants’ claim that they can sit at standing desks. Rarely is it appropriate in our Petty Jurisdiction for a justice to recuse herself. Indeed, conflicts of interest are typically really petty, so these conflicts are right at home here. I am unconvinced that this case represents one of those rare exceptions to that baseline rule.
As a final administrative matter, my tenure as a member of this Court will soon be coming to an end; the appropriate body will eventually need to name a replacement for me and nominate one of the current justices to take my place as Chief Justice.
Chief Justice Haden has announced his intent to retire in the coming weeks. SBA President A.J. Collins has nominated Judge Merrick Garland for the Chief Justice seat. Senator Catchpole, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has promised to not give Judge Garland a hearing due of President Collins’ lame duck status. Senator Catchpole claims the Law School should let the next President nominate the replacement.