Court of Petty Appeals: Class of 2021 v. Doe

Class of 2021 v. Doe 

903 U.Va. 12 (2018)


VanderMeulen, C. J., delivered the opinion of the unanimous Court. Schmalzl, J., filed a concurring opinion.


Chief Justice VanderMeulen delivered the opinion of the Court.

A bright-eyed, smiling young woman laden with heavy textbooks reserves a room on the second floor of the Law Library on a Saturday morning. She sets up her laptop and her books, readies her PowerPoint, and starts writing her equations on the . . . wait a second . . . equations? Smiling?? Is that a . . . chemistry book?!

That’s right, folks: they’re back. Once more, the undergrads of UVA are making felt their presence in our quaint northern outpost. Before you know it, we’ll be inundated with sorority sweatshirts, Roots-to-go, and Juuling in the library.[1] Fortunately, forward-looking plaintiffs have brought the issue before this Court, which is determined to act to protect the Law School.

The instant dispute reads like so many others: appellants Sarah-Jane Lorenzo ’21 and Jacob Jones ’21, representing the Class of 2021, found themselves in the library last Saturday morning[2] grappling with vexing questions about proximate cause. As they approached the doors of the Mason Room, they saw a brown-haired, glasses-clad woman occupying a seat at the long table in the center of the room. According to appellants’ brief, they immediately realized something was amiss when they saw the woman’s PowerPoint was entitled, “DNA Repair and Genomic Instability: Cells, Tissues, and Mechanisms of Disease.” While appellants’ brief admits they “have no idea what’s going on in any of [their] classes” and “couldn’t tell a railroad turntable from rum-ship explosion,” they insist that what they saw “had nothing to do with law ’cause it was, like, numbers and stuff.” Appellants allege this occupation of the Mason Room constituted false imprisonment and a violation of their property right to access Law School facilities. They argue for a categorical ruling barring undergrads from using Law School spaces.

In the court below, appellee Dane Joe—whose identity has been shielded for fear of threats to her person—moved to dismiss plaintiffs’ suit, arguing it failed to state a claim upon which petty relief could be granted. Judge Davies granted the motion, ruling for appellee that appellants had failed to state a claim in their complaint. Appellants timely appealed and we granted them a hearing. We now, shockingly, reverse.


First, we address appellee’s motion to dismiss. Petty Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5)[3] allows for dismissal of a plaintiff’s suit if the pleading fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.[4] In reviewing a granted motion to dismiss, this Court views all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Davies v. SBA, 718 U.Va. 221 (2015) (“The keg is not, as defendant contends, ‘without any redeeming value whatsoever.’ It has at least a teentsy-weentsy bit of redeeming value! The lower court is reversed.”) Here, the lower court held appellants’ false imprisonment claim “completely without merit because they were not imprisoned.” Appellants contend being locked out of the Mason Room counts as imprisonment, and also note that they endured “excruciating mental imprisonment” at being reminded of their inferiority in the hard sciences.

As for the property claim, appellants present a novel claim in their petition, arguing that law students should have a unique right to enter Law School premises, including a right to exclude undergrads from those premises. Appellants claim the Law School’s 1974 move from Main Grounds to North Grounds established a unique “stick” in the proverbial bundle that Professor Doran so adores. They propose that any Law School student, faculty member, or staff member should have the right to exclude from Law School premises any “Obvious Undergrad.” Judge Davies dismissed this claim as well, holding there is “no such thing” as an “Obvious Undergrad.”


We’ll be honest: These claims are pretty weak sauce. Normally, for a claim of false imprisonment, we require a showing of, well, “imprisonment.” See, e.g., Section A v. Verkerke, 810 U.Va. 445 (2017) (“You were stuck in that exam room for how many hours??”). Perhaps, in some circumstances, anguish alone might do. See, e.g., Malkowski v. Cohen, 811 U.Va. 907 (2017) (“Though the door was technically open, appellant’s inability to escape discussion of securities violations in a Professional Responsibility course rendered her sufficiently imprisoned to state a claim.”) Never have we held that plaintiffs were falsely imprisoned for a mere inability to enter the premises of the Law School.

Nonetheless, here we must reverse the lower court. Appellants’ claim may be a bit, eh, creative, but the damage done to them is real. By occupying the space reserved for law students, Doe locked Lorenzo and Jones out of space to which they had a lawful right. By covering the white board with her accursed and befuddling equations, Doe imprisoned appellants in the confines of their own inferiority. That must count for something. And besides, Doe is an undergrad. Is there any more proud a boast than that we are a government “not of laws, but of men”? Were we to allow Doe to stand on equal footing before the law, would that law even be petty?

Similarly, appellants’ property law claim must be reinstated. We declare categorically that denizens of the Law School have the right to exclude “Obvious Undergrads” from any study premise, library table, or coffee-machine line within the School of Law. Contrary to Judge Davies’ holding below, we find that there is such a thing as an “Obvious Undergrad.” Telltale signs include open display of Greek letters; Main Grounds student-organization laptop stickers; math and science textbooks; picture books (!); vaping in the library[5]; untrodden spirit; and “’Potle” bowls, as these despicable cads call Chipotle. Law School denizens are urged to use caution: this right to exclude applies only to OBVIOUS undergrads. If the sneaky lads and lasses manage to disguise their undiminished souls and chemistry homework, they must be allowed to remain.


Stay vigilant, Law Schoolers! The invasion is upon us. Left unchecked, our way of life is at risk. Some undergrads, we assume, are good people. But they are not us. And lurking among them is an even greater threat: Darden students disguised as undergrads. Make no mistake: we will grant no safe harbor to these invaders. The lower court’s holding is reversed, and appellants’ complaint is restored.

It is so ordered.

Schmalzl, J., concurring.

I join the Court’s thorough opinion in full, but write separately to note what I think is a glaring omission from the Court’s decision: the snacks and the coffee. Undergrads who occupy study rooms are bad, yes. No one would deny this. But what about the ones who take snacks! Is there anything more sacred to us than snacks and coffee? And these children come north and just take them. It’s disgusting. And by ignoring the threat posed to law students’ ongoing ability to be adequately fed and sugared, the Court kicks the can down the road once more, leaving for others a threat it should address itself.

On this basis, I object.

[1] The Court once witnessed an undergrad vaping “surreptitiously” on the second floor. She looked like a teapot, vapor streaming slowly out of her nostrils. All hail Queen Davies and the benevolent SEC-028.

[2] The Court takes no position on whether plaintiffs violated this Court’s anti-Gunning injunction, but we’re going to keep an eye on these lads, don’t you worry.

[3] Yeah, that’s right, 5. We do what we want.

[4] This standard should be familiar to anyone who paid attention in Civ Pro, aka that one weird kid with the UVA undergrad ring and no one else.

[5] Sorry, Shanna.