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 comprises 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student Body of UVa Law v. Slackers of the Faculty of UVa Law1
178 U.Va. 924
ZABLOCKI, J., delivered the opinion of the Court following an emergency hearing convened abroad,2 in which GOLDMAN, C.J., and VANDERMEULEN, J., joined. MALKOWSKI, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. JANI, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
JUSTICE ZABLOCKI delivered the opinion of the Court.
Despite its diverse interests, current activities (i.e. ways of destressing from the prolonged torture that is exams), and future career paths (ahem, grades needed to see what these might be—to quote one not-even-particularly-anxious 1L, “I need my grades in order to submit job apps for next summer. Or is the magic of K-Don really that limitless?”), the Student Body is united in angst resulting not from actual fall semester grades,3 but rather from the apparently endless wait for said grades to post on SIS.4 Having given the matter much thought over the many weeks that have passed since the end of finals, the Student Body therefore has decided to bring suit on grounds of (1) failure to fulfill contractual obligations, (2) inhumane treatment in violation of any convention on human rights, and (3), because it is more or less a default claim in any complaint that comes before the Court of Petty Appeals, intentional infliction of emotional distress.
First, the bargain between the Student Body and the Faculty is pretty clear. In consideration for the dozens of millions of tuition dollars the Student Body pays each year—or, more accurately, the dozens of millions of dollars of debt the Student Body accrues each year—the Student Body not only is relieved of the heavy, heavy burden of having a soul,5 these being held in abeyance by Uncle Sam for the foreseeable future,6 it is taught and assessed by a Faculty of mostly pretty stellar legal scholars.7 While the individual members of the Student Body would welcome personalized thoughts regarding course performance in lieu of mere comparison to fellow members of the Student Body, the Student Body long ago conceded that letter grades are a more efficient means of issuing this assessment. However, the emphasis on efficiency was clearly never intended to be one-sided; i.e., it was never intended to benefit solely the Faculty such that the Faculty might choose to enjoy the holiday season so cruelly denied the Student Body and then, in the ensuing weeks, kick back recovering from all those arduous parties (as the Student Body remains hung up on exams) before hastily assigning everybody B+’s with a smattering of A-’s and B’s, maybe even an A+ or, heaven forbid, a B-. Any interpretation by the Faculty in line with such is clearly in bad faith, and any action in accordance with such interpretation is a breach of contract. The evidence presented not allowing for any other explanation,8 the Court has no choice but to find breach of contract by the Faculty, or, in the alternative, bad faith in forming said contract and then accepting really rather horrendous sums of money from the already impecunious Student Body without any intent to issue timely assessments as reasonably expected.
The second claim brought by the Student Body reflects the perils of tardiness particularly neatly. You see, not only is inhumane treatment a claim with merit, it is a claim the Student Body had opportunity to study in greater detail over the many, many, many weeks of winter vacation. In particular, learning about the comparatively frivolous claims which succeed before the EU Court of Human Rights in a J-term which may well be graded before fall semester grades are all posted9 inspired this claim. Without further ado or analysis of U.S. law regarding violation of human rights—torture is banned pretty much everywhere, and obvi making a bunch of high strung students10 wait, oh, over a month for a single grade is torture—this Court finds that the Faculty has violated the Student Body’s basic human rights. Maybe this knowledge is limited to normal humans,11 but quick life lesson: the whole point of an endurance contest—such as finals—is that at the end (because yes, there is an end), there is some measurable satisfaction, even if it is only identifiable conclusion of the contest allowing participants to know that they have survived.12
With respect to the Student Body’s third claim of IIED, obviously the Faculty’s inaction is intentional, obviously it’s extreme if it’s not just 1Ls who are upset, this Court is outraged,13 and it’s all the Faculty’s fault. A few days in which to move on from first semester grades, be it by coming to terms with lousy ones and mourning futures no longer possible,14 or by celebrating that one A- in a sea of B+’s, is only an unreasonable request from the standpoint of gosh, that’s really so very little to ask after beasting through weeks of finals and then weeks of anxious waiting before resuming months of tedious studying and then doing it all over again.
On the matter of damages, the Student Body will never be able to relive Winter Break 2017-18 and celebrate whatever holidays in truly peaceful fashion. It is impossible to assign a numerical value to such lost experiences; therefore, this Court has no choice but to award equity in the form of A’s for all. With regard to this award, all parties hereto shall be bound by a gag order in order that the firms don’t realize we’re not all little geniuses.
Blah blah it is so ordered.
JUSTICE MALKOWSKI, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.
I join nearly all of my colleague’s insightful opinion. I write separately to note the inaccuracy of the claim that the entire Student Body is relieved of the burden of a soul as part of its agreement with the Faculty. As has been pointed out to her periodically since a 2005 episode of South Park, this Justice (and similarly situated redheads) has never actually been in possession of a soul of which to be relieved.
In addition to the damages prescribed above, this Justice proposes that the grading process be treated in the following manner moving forward: fall term grades should be released if at all possible within five business days of New Year’s Day. The Student Body frankly would not like to see them any sooner, as this would imply you didn’t actually read our novella of stream-of-consciousness sentences,15 and this would cause the tenuous illusion of the academic social contract holding our frail bodies together to shatter into a billion pieces.
In the event this is not possible, the Faculty should adopt the policy (hereinafter the “Amtrak System”) of periodically releasing the following unsolicited message: “This semester’s grade anticipation train making stops in panic, anxiety, and identity crisis will be delayed. There will be no estimate of the delay. Information will be provided as it is available but probably never.” In fact, really get into it. Throughout the break, interrupt our sole period of respite to remind us that you have not graded anything yet and in fact have no intention of hurrying things along. Keep us on edge! Send out mysterious announcements via Canvas to the tune of Amtrak’s “This is just an estimate, but we will be very late leaving the station and then likely also be behind the local commuter train the rest of the way. Again, this is just an estimate. Things are probably much worse.” Send out a few emails with the subject line “Grades” but with no content. Consider including an audio file of unintelligible noises that we can spend hours trying to open. Start a rumor that grades HAVE been posted and then watch as days at a time are laid to waste by a whole new strain of anxiety. Take my word for it: law students will LOVE this. We were hoping you would drag out the thrill of exams for as long as possible and frankly live for the excitement.
JUSTICE JANI, dissenting.
Yeah, I’m gonna have to dissent, if only to protect my second-semester grades. Also, it seems like someone’s blood sugar was running a bit high after eating a few too many waffles. Or maybe my Sister Zablocki forgets that in this country we prioritize individual liberty and the right of professors to party. We don’t need this oppressive interference from a Justice, drunk on brioche bread dough and unfluoridated water, issuing rulings from a strange and foreign land.
This claim should be dismissed for lack of standing. The body of glorious and wonderful professors at the Virginia School of Law (vivat in aeternum) is not the entity that sets the due date of grades. This responsibility lies with the Registrar’s Office. This court has already ruled that professors are allowed to party. (See Frightened 1L v. Professor Who Looked at Him at Alley Light) (“Professors are not immune from the urge to drink away the PTSD of seeing the same gunnery, shrill students in their offices every day.”) This court has also granted the protection of the I’m Rich, Bitch doctrine, extended to 3Ls returning from their BigLaw summers, to professors. (Broke 2L v. Professor Johnston) (“You should be so lucky to attend a school at which your professor can publicly bemoan the sale of his ski cottage for a loss. Would you rather go to Georgetown?”). UVa Law’s tax professors are undoubtedly taking advantage of this protection. Therefore, professors cannot be held liable for delaying grades as long as they are permitted to do. Finally, the Code of Conduct for Justices of this august Court should be amended to discourage the overuse of footnotes. I know we were all thinking it.
1 Timely graders seem to be the exception rather than the rule; therefore, defendants shall be referred to as “the Faculty.”
2 So many members of the Classes of 2018, 2019, and 2020 have complained through so many media, the Court has been compelled to write a decision from Ghent, Belgium. From a hostel. From, importantly—though likely only for the Court, always denied such privilege in childhood—the top bunk.
3 And in fact, the Student Body acknowledges that seeing the (maybe?) forthcoming grades will somehow, defying all rules of physics and metaphysics, result in a deeper plunge into despair.
4 This is the system that is supposed to be used to communicate grades to students, in case confusion about how to do so is what’s holding any professors up.
5 Say what you will, soullessness can only be an asset in Big Law.
6 Please, PLEASE no one say it is Uncle Don who has grabbed these now. Life is cruel enough.
7 This Court will name names of those more, ah, terrestrial teachers only if compelled by subpoena, forms for which may not be found on the Court’s website. Although the Court will note that, as always, Professor Mitchell remains a shining beacon for all professorial sort and got his grades out almost before the twelfth day of Christmas.
8 Surprise, surprise, the Faculty failed to even acknowledge the Student Body’s complaint in a timely manner, so the evidence is primarily in the form of absence of grades as of the end of J-term. What do the Faculty do all day??
9 This Court has faith in you, Madame Goré. But even if not, French pastry atones for a multitude of sins.
10 Have you seen any truly easygoing law students? Because this Court hasn’t. Ever.
11 I.e., those not scarred by law school and then also by years of tenure-tracking.
12 Again, this Court KNOWS there might be no satisfaction in the grades received. That’s a case for another day.
13 The person on the bottom bunk probably is, too, at this point.
14 Don’t spend too much time on this—Career Services is that magical.
15 We recognize that the Faculty will likely still not read them, but we’d like you to at least play along.