Court of Petty Appeals: Unnamed Gunner v. Section D

VanderMeulen, C.J., announced the opinion of the Court, in which Jani and Ranzini, JJ., joined. Hopkin, J., filed a concurring opinion in which Schmalzl, J., joined.



Chief Justice VanderMeulen, for the Court.


As the new term begins, this Petty Court finds itself once again beset by petitions to solve the most pressing questions facing UVa Law.[1] But before we resolve once and for all these vexing conflicts, we must once more address the issue that most plagues this Court’s docket: the lamentable prevalence of gunning in the Law School. Seasoned denizens of this Law School will find the uncontested facts of this case grimly familiar. As 1L classes began last Wednesday, the erstwhile eager and energetic members of the Class of 2021’s Section D found themselves enjoying a delightful Criminal Law lecture from Professor Anne Coughlin.[2] Spritely and blissfully ignorant of their coming doom via the difference between common-law and MPC mens rea standards or *shudder* inchoate offenses, respondent Section D members were looking forward to lunch—as they should, the poor dears.

Respondent Section D alleges—and petitioner Gunner does not contest—that with three minutes remaining in their first class, Professor Coughlin asked if anyone had any questions. At that moment, petitioner raised his hand confidently. Announcing that he had “been doing a little reading this summer” that “caused [him] to reexamine the way [he] look[s] at the notion of free will and its relationship with culpability and punishment generally,” he “wondered if [Professor Coughlin] might comment on . . . ” from this point none of petitioner’s colleagues can recall his comments, due both to their stupor-inducing boringness and the infuriatingly self-satisfied way in which petitioner said "canard.”[3] Professor Coughlin, looking defeated but unable to crush the lad’s spirit this early in the semester, mustered an abnormally dispirited “good for you” before dutifully providing her perspective on the question and thereby holding all the class’s attendees three minutes over time. She later joined the case as amicus curiae for respondents alongside Section I, who were also subjected to the outrageous, audacious show of gunning.

Respondents filed suit as soon as they got out of Torts that afternoon, excited to have learned from Professor Duffy about the concept of “damages.” They have, according to their refreshingly candid brief, “no idea what [they are] doing,” but know that they’ve been harmed and want redress. The case comes to us on appeal from the Court of Petty Claims, where Judge K-Don granted summary judgment for Section D, awarding the section the sum all three years of Gunner’s tuition as compensation, and we now affirm with additur because this shit pisses us off.


             Respondents have had, to this point, just five days of legal education, so it is to be expected that their brief is less than clear regarding their exact legal theory, but we really don’t like gunning so we’re just gonna go with it.[4] This Court’s precedents may be all over the map on such issues as massage chairs, K-cups, and disputes about proper Snack Office snack selection, but we have been crystal clear that gunning is detestable and indeed sanctionable. See, e.g., Foster, et al. v. Jeffries, 804 U.Va. 401, 412 (2016) (affirming an injunction against a group Professor Jeffries called “nefarious and know-nothing nitpickers.”); Kennedy v. Ribble, 118 U.Va. 716, 733 (1950) (“We get it, Bobby, seriously. You don’t have to give a speech EVERY CLASS PERIOD.”); Three Unnamed Roguish Brutes v. Lile, 21 U.Va. 13, 15 (1873) (“We find despickable and unbecoming the rogues’ irritating pontification.”). Indeed, these cases and their progeny make clear that there exists a presumption of damages for gunning so long as it can be proved the gunner acted with “actual annoyingness.” Abraham v. Generations of Torts Students, 487 U.Va. 83, 86 (2008) (“Where a student acts with such pretense as to seriously be a little prick, the law requires no accounting of actual harms to those alleging injury by the student’s gunning.”) (opinion of Liu, J.).


Petitioner here fails to defeat respondents’ summary judgment motion because, in addition to failing to show there exists a genuine factual dispute, he’s super annoying. In his brief before this Court, petitioner claims his questions “were of the highest philosophical value, pedagogically designed to challenge—nay, present an affront to—[his] fellow students’ most dearly held beliefs with the hope of provoking genuine conversation.” He also notes that he considers it his personal responsibility “to weed out pockets of bourgeois and reactionary thinking among the student body, especially as it relates to the canard of free will.” It goes on like this for, like, 26 pages and (other than some bizarre but delightful citations to Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day) reeeeeeally sucks. This Court generally urges the lower courts to exercise caution in declaring the presumption of damages that comes along with “actual annoyingness,” and lower court judges have struggled to apply the standard, but dammit Judge K-Don, well done, you did a fantastic job applying that standard here. Spot on, seriously. This sort of gunning is, to quote Justice Holmes, “the fucking worst,” and it must stop.

The concurrence is a bit wishy-washy,[5] but the Court does not blame Justices Hopkin and Schmalzl for protecting their 1Ls. The Court wishes it could have confidence that few 1Ls could be so annoying as the petitioner in this case, but, alas, long experience has not taught us to doubt the infuriating self-satisfaction of law students.


Judge K-Don’s award of damages to the plaintiffs was judicious and eminently reasonable. Too reasonable. We’re doubling it, because we can do that.[6] The word “additur” came to our minds and it’s like we never saw the disappointment in Professor Abraham’s eyes after our Torts exams. Judge K-Don’s judgment is affirmed, and the award of damages is doubled. Let this be a warning to all the gunners lurking in the Class of 2021: when that pretentious quote from a treatise you read once comes to mind; when you come up with a hypo you think is super on-point but isn’t; when you get a hankerin’ to compare the case at issue with some previous case no one asked about, just stop.

It is so ordered.


Hopkin, J., concurring.

            While I concur with the Court’s overall argument, I write to clarify that a similar case could arise where I would be forced to decide matters in a completely opposite fashion.  This is not just because of my allegiance to Justice Kennedy, as the Court slyly alludes to in its salty footnote.

            For instance, I do not want the citizens of UVa Law to study in fear during exam season.  This Court has often proclaimed that fall exam season officially starts after the hangover following PILA Auction has concluded and ends after you drunkenly make out with a 1L at Trinity following the last exam period.  Any actions taken during this period can be rightfully attributed to “exam-time crazies” if the student meets the Court’s other qualifications—mostly, if we like you.[7]

Furthermore, since I am a Peer Advisor during my leisure time off the Court, any comments made by my 1Ls will be defended as they are my ducklings.


[1] For the last time, 3Ls, we will take no position on the oft-asked question, “Wait, was that Joby or Joe Fore?”

[2] Professor Coughlin is a friend of this Court and we salute her and Gary with utmost reverence as we prepare for this year’s battle against the Virginia Animal Law Society’s know-nothing speciesism. #ImWiththeToad.

[3] Note to all students: this is one of those words (like “pedantic”) that cannot be used unpretentiously.

[4] See Petty Rule of Civil Procedure 1: “We do what we want.”

[5] Unsurprising given the honorable justices’ known affinity for that rascal Justice Kennedy.

[6] See Id.

[7] The best way to never be called out by the Court is to attend editing sessions on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. in SL 279.