Students Involved v. Sarah Davies (in her official capacity)
323 U.Va 125 (2019)
Calamaro, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Shmazzle, C.J., Ranzini, Elicegui, Luk, and Schmid, JJ. join.
Justice Calamaro delivered the opinion of the Court
There are times when a case comes across the docket that defines a generation. These generation defining moments, such as Students v. Eight Cartons of “Firehouse” Submarine Sandwiches, More or Less (68 COPA 976 (2018)) or Students v. Simpson Thatcher Hats (67 COPA 553 (2017)), shaped our Law School society for better or for worse. This is one of those cases. The opportunity and ability of a person, without regard to race, creed, orientation of any kind, gender, religion, or ability, to answer the holiest call of nature in the privacy of a bathroom stall is a right without equal in the American, indeed even the human, experience. The case before us addresses that issue head on, and our great Court of Petty Appeals must rule on it fairly and without prejudice, a monumental task attempted only by a handful of courts in the past.
Before the Court is a class-action suit brought by student plaintiffs against the administration of the Law School, stating that they have “failed to provide adequate privacy protections in every bathroom on the School premises.” Specifically, the bathroom stall doors have giant cracks around the frame, otherwise known as “sight lines.” These sight lines, the plaintiffs argue, infringe on their privacy, and make for extremely awkward interactions when one student is trying to deposit their “natural packages” while another student walks in and makes eye contact with the first student. Although the administration has not responded to these charges, we can assume their two arguments in failing to secure privacy for the students involve monetary hardship as well as the “benefit” of using stall door sight lines to determine which stalls are occupied and which are empty.
Despite the School’s defenses, we as a Court unanimously hold that the School administration has committed a gross violation of privacy, as well as a gross violation of privacy, by not utilizing readily available sight line covers, and uphold the trial court’s remedy of installing them by the end of the semester. It is well known that everyone poops, and the Court today holds that this great institution of humanity be honored by completion of this remedy in a swift and timely manner.
Infringement of privacy
Since the dawn of humanity, the need for privacy has separated us from the wild animals of nature. Privacy in the privy has long been an especially treasured right, and was heightened at the invention of the toilet and floating ballcock by Thomas Crapper. Who among us hasn’t sought out a private space to cry after a particularly tough cold call and found the bathroom stalls to be inadequate due to the massive sight lines in the doors? Our Founding Fathers knew this was a struggle worth protecting and sought to immortalize that protection in the Fourth Amendment, which states “the right of the people… to sit in their outhouses in peace.”
Although the term “outhouses” has been constant cause for concern and strife in the lower courts, the Court of Petty Appeals affirms today that the term rightfully refers to all forms of bathrooms, including the stalls within. Indeed, outhouses were the first stalls, and even during our founding, cracks in the outhouse doors were avoided at all costs. It wasn’t until the beginning of the twentieth century when stall doors were manufactured en masse that sight lines were widened. This, of course, was meant to cut costs by literally cutting corners. To this the Court says no more!
It is this Court’s view that, although sight lines in the doors help others determine which stalls are open as the defense argues, this is not enough of a benefit to offset the harm caused to those inside. Instead, we see sight lines as a blatant attempt to cut costs for the School by providing doors that only minimally protect the privacy of those doing their duty inside. The Founding Fathers knew that these rights were not equal, and that the rights of the one inside the stall far outweighed the rights of the bathroom newcomer. Indeed, we see this in the Federalist Papers when Paul Revere famously wrote in response to Hamilton’s suggestion of building outhouse doors with larger sight lines, “One goes on land, two out to sea, and all should be done in privacy.”
It is clear to the Court that the University of Virginia School of Law, founded by our nation’s Founding Father, an avid user of outhouses, has lost its way. These stalls would have been unacceptable then and remain unacceptable now. The Constitution could not be clearer on this topic, and the Justices are all in agreement on the prohibition of sight lines in bathroom stalls.
The defense states that procuring sight line covers would come at great expense and hardship. However, a cursory look at Amazon shows that a single set of sight line covers is only $34.99. Although this Court is not privy to the number of privies in the School, a quick back-of-the-envelope math shows that, even if there are 100 stalls, the cost would only be $3499 to procure these covers. The Court will not rule on whether to include installation costs, but it can safely state that this is a reasonable cost for the School to incur in order to save students from the awkward experience of making eye contact with an interviewer while sitting on a porcelain throne.
Thus, the Court upholds the lower court’s ruling against the School, and order them to order sight line covers. It is our duty to preserve the last truly private space in this cold world that the Constitution sought to protect, so that we may do our duty in peace. This is what the Founding Fathers would have wanted, and is now what the American people demand.