Court of Petty Appeals: Class of 2020 v. Law School Canon

The Court of Petty Appeals is the highest appellate jurisdiction court at UVa Law. The Court has the power to review any and all decisions, conflicts, and disputes that arise involving, either directly, indirectly, or tangentially, the Law School or its students. The Court is composed of four associate justices and one Chief Justice. Opinions shall be released periodically and only in the official court reporter: the Virginia Law Weekly. Please email a brief summary of any and all conflicts to

Class of 2020 v. Law School Canon, 502 U.Va. 626 (2017)

VANDERMEULEN, J., announced the judgment of the Court in an opinion joined by GOLDMAN, C.J., and HALL and ZABLOCKI, JJ.

The case at bar comes to us on appeal from a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss granted by Judge Kendrick in the lower court. It presents a novel issue of law: may the 1L class, mired in the intractable wilderness of the canonical 1L cases, earn an injunction against the teaching of generations of law school wisdom, in particular, what is known as the “1L canon”? Judge Kendrick granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, made to her on behalf of the faculty by Professor Bonnie, who couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to teach Faulkner, Cunningham, or any of the rest of those weird British cases he uses to teach mens rea.1 In recognition of the Goluboff Suggestion, we note that our jurisdiction over this matter is clear, as it concerns students and faculty of the Law School, and we affirm the court below.

The petitioners, the Class of 2020, apparently already weary of parsing 18th century language2 and reading the phrase “to wit,” base their effort to bar the teaching of legendary pre-1960 cases on a series of claims, each more tenuous than the last. First come the usual suspects: the Eighth Amendment, which they surely do not yet understand (not that they will even after Con Law, lol), and the tort of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (does anyone other than Professor White actually get what this is?). Next are a blizzard of legal and equitable claims so dizzying that this Court is led to believe that some overzealous 1L has been doing too much outside reading3: unconscionability (yeah, right), substantive due process (talk to me when you’ve read Glucksberg), trover (wut), and, most bafflingly, the Rule of Capture based on that “pernicious and incorrigible” fox case. The Court doesn’t even know how to respond to that.

Despite the labyrinthine catastrophe of ill-wrought and contradictory claims made by the petitioners’ representatives in their effort to escape the venerable precedents of their legal ancestors, their claim can be summed up by two sentences from their initial complaint: “The traditional law school canon no longer serves any discernible purpose. It is provincial, outmoded, and, to wit, totally f*cking lame.”4 While this Court is not unsympathetic to the pleas of the Law School’s newest denizens, we feel compelled to affirm Judge Kendrick’s order. Make no mistake: this Court could, of course, enjoin the teaching of the 1L canon and rid North Grounds of Pennoyer v. Neff’s maddening opaqueness for all time.5 We frequently exercise our plenary equitable power to prohibit those activities deemed hostile to the continued functioning of the Law School. See Sitting at Standing Desks v. Standing at Standing Desks, 340 U.Va. 712 (“Sitting at standing desks is hereby absolutely forbidden. What the fuck is wrong with you guys?”) and Class of 2019 v. 1L Professors, 312 U.Va. 600 (2017) (“Nobody wants to see their professors at the Rec. That’s gross.”) But why would we act to deprive these bright-eyed, eager 1Ls of the wisdom of ages past? This Court’s members all read these cases,6 and the years since 1L have blessed us with the sagacity and sophistication to truly appreciate the multi-faceted and timeless wisdom that they alone can . . . lol jk. I don’t remember anything about Pennoyer other than the phrase “quasi in rem,”7 and despite the apparent lesson of Lucy v. Zehmer, several members of this Court regularly engage in attempted real estate transactions while inebriated only to later attempt to renege.8 

Nevertheless, both petitioners and respondents fail to grasp the 1L canon’s most essential quality: law students have shitty senses of humor, and without the common bonds of the 1L canon, we would lose a massive chunk of our already-paltry joke material. In order for the members of the Class of 2020 to be fully accepted as members of the community, they, too, must find themselves consumed by self-loathing when, months from now, they make a bad joke about feeling like the horse in Bailey v. West or craft a lousy pun about the scales in Palsgraf. It’s what it means to be a law student. Left bereft of the 1L canon, we would have only the professors and softball to unite us in humor, and, let’s be honest, most of the professors aren’t that funny.9

No, it will not do. This Court has long held to the idea that a thriving law school humor scene is at the heart of what it means to go to UVa. See SBA v. Libel, 342 U.Va. 116 (2017) (“No, A.J., we won’t make Libel stop making fun of you.”) With the fragile state of the humor-dependent lawyerly psyche in mind, this court affirms the holding of the lower court, and orders dismissed petitioners’ claims. Have fun reading Erie, bitchez.

JANI, J., concurring

I join in full the opinion of my colleague Justice VanderMeulen. I write this concurring opinion only to respond to his pernicious accusations. While my learned colleague and erstwhile sectionmate is technically correct that I failed to read Pennoyer, Lucy, and every Torts case prior to Thanksgiving, he knows perfectly well that the fault for that failure lies entirely with my supreme and unmatched dedication to Legal Research and Writing. I doubt Joe Fore has ever seen such an exemplary memorandum of law! In response to Justice VanderMeulen’s libelous accusation of drunk transacting, I would like to remind him that plying fellow students with hard liquor and then inquiring about their family’s foreign real property holdings is ethically questionable and beneath the dignity of this court. 


1 Just wait ‘til you get to the insanity defense, seriously.
2 And sometimes earlier; thanks for making us read that 15th century Thorns Case, Professor Abraham, I’ve been super careful about bush-trimming ever since.
3 Color us surprised.
4 The Petty Court notes its appreciation of the 1Ls' talented weaving of pretentious law school language with pointed profanity.
5 See Rule of Petty Procedure #1: We do what we want.
6 With one exception; see Jani, J., concurring.
7 Sorry, Professor Woolhandler, it wasn't you, it was me.
8 Looking' at you again, Justice Jani.
9 It's true, don't @ me.