Class of 2021 v. Davies
918 U.Va. 34 (2019)
VanderMeulen, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Schmalzl, and Jani JJ., joined. Jani, J., filed a concurring opinion. Hopkin, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Malkowski, J., joined.
Chief Justice VanderMeulen delivered the opinion of the Court.
“Cookies and coffee are the birthright of every student of the law.” This maxim, as old as the petty common law itself, is alternatively attributed to Lord Blackstone, Chief Justice Haden, and Lisa. Whatever its origin, it is the north star of this Court’s cookie-and-coffee jurisprudence, which must today examine whether the end of the free WB coffee constitutes a deprivation of the 1Ls’ right to due process.
Members of the UVA Law Class of 2021 brought this case as a class action. In their complaint before the Court of Petty Claims, plaintiffs alleged the facts as follows: Beginning in August of 2018, the Law School administration (represented in this suit by Dean Sarah Davies) began setting out coffee “of notable quality” alongside real half-and-half and warm cookies on Friday around 11:30 a.m. This program of coffee and cookies was especially for the 1Ls, who—in a sign of their coddling—all apparently ended class by 11:30 a.m. on Fridays, but was also enjoyed by a phalanx of greedy upperclassmen unfortunate enough to have classes on Fridays. Now, the class claims, the deal has apparently been altered. Instead of cookies with hot coffee and real, creamy half-and-half, plaintiffs are left with . . . just delicious warm cookies, left to scavenge for coffee elsewhere in the Law School.
Plaintiffs allege that the Law School administration’s decision to remove the coffee from the cookies and coffee extravaganza without a hearing violates their right to due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. They seek a return of the coffee and damages for last week’s shock. Presiding at the Court of Petty Claims, Judge Ferzan ruled in favor of Dean Davies’s motion to dismiss, declaring that good coffee and real, honest half-and-half, “while sublime” was not “something to which plaintiffs are entitled.” She added—tangentially but characteristically—that students should “really consider reading the cases more closely” and “stop listening to Doran about how to pronounce ‘brooch.’” Plaintiffs filed a timely appeal.
This Court’s due process jurisprudence can be traced back to the famed case of Class of 1896 v. Rotunda Fire, 96 U.Va. 219 (1895). There, in denying plaintiffs’ claim for damages against the “diabolical inferno” that “consumed the UVA Rotunda and several students’ limbs in the process of rescuing the bust of John B. Minor” in October of that year, the Court held that students’ due process has been violated only when they have suffered an “irreparable loss.” Id. at 217. See also Goluboff v. Thieves, 778 U.Va. 439 (2015) (denying Dean’s claim against “vagabonds” who stole the RFK bust because “we’re pretty sure if we ask, the Kennedy people will send us another.”).
The theme of our jurisprudence has been optimistic, declaring reparable the loss of, among other things: the Clark Hall murals; a student’s GPA; dignity at 3 at Three; three-day weekends; the sense of boundless optimism that precedes 1L year; and the sushi from ScoCo. Last year alone, we held that there could be no due process claim against the administration for the unceremonious destruction of the ash trees on the lawn (Huse v. Michael, 914 U.Va. 223), against journals for being totally useless (Pittman v. The Whole Journal Concept, Really, 916 U.Va. 879), or against GNR for not playing “Mr. Brightside” once (Grill v. Chandler, 916 U.Va. 910).
Theoretically, if an “irreparable loss” ever did occur, some sort of perfunctory, sham hearing would be necessary to deprive students of their rights. See Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970); SBA v. Davies, 755 U.Va. 111 (2016) (“Okay, now that we’ve had a hearing, you still can’t have the keg back.”). But ruling as we do, we needn’t reach that question today.
In light of this consistent jurisprudence, we have little difficulty in holding that plaintiffs have failed to make out a claim for deprivation of due process. They have not suffered the sort of “irreparable loss” this Court requires to earn damages or an injunction against the administration. We concede that the coffee and real, honest-to-God, no-imitation, pure half-and-half were delicious. We even admit to waiting outside Professor Kordana’s room clamoring for the coffee and cookies’ arrival and complaining loudly when they were late, oh yes. And we do not renounce Blackstone’s/Chief Justice Haden’s/Lisa’s famous maxim. Coffee—albeit of far inferior quality and accompanied by woefully inadequate “cream”—may be found throughout the Law School.
But we invoke the Doctrine of Crotchetiness in denying plaintiffs’ claim. See, e.g., Abraham v. Kordana, 711 U.Va. 307 (1997) (“No, Kevin, that is where I sit.”). We members of the Classes of 2019 and 2020 had none of this no-class-past-11:30-on-Fridays business, much less cookies and coffee. These pampered punks can suffer through less-than-satisfactory library coffee and the horror of powdered cream like the rest of us. It builds character, like the look of disappointment in Professor Ferzan’s eyes during a cold call, or the realization that, actually, no one found your “comment” in class insightful.
If Dean Davies decides to bring back the coffee, we will, as always, salute her benevolent judgment. But we will not order it. The lower court’s order granting defendant’s motion to dismiss is affirmed.
It is so ordered.
Justice Jani, concurring.
I join my learned colleague’s opinion in full, writing separately only to note that I, a Darden student, never benefitted from the WB cookies and coffee. At Darden, we mostly do mature Darden things that don’t involve silly non-Darden things like cookies, which are the realm of the K-JD youths who inhabit this law school, not Darden. At Darden, we study serious Darden concepts and learn how to be disrupters and influencers; no one at Darden would think of complaining about something as silly as losing access to coffee, of which we have plenty at Darden. Besides, the Darden coffee is much more mature and worldly than the Law School coffee, which is delivered by people who don’t even have MBAs. Darden.
Justice Hopkin, concurring in the judgment.
I write separately from Chief Justice VanderMeulen’s judgment not because of the excellent legal analysis. Instead, I wanted to spend 250 words on one specific message: Screw the ungrateful little shits. The complaint is about no longer receiving as high quality of goods as they received last semester. Regardless of any legal doctrine (see Petty Rule of Civil Procedure1: “We do what we want.”), I am using my personal grievance about the situation as a dispositive reason to write separately.
You see, dear reader, Professor Schragger would reschedule his Urban Law class (consisting mostly of 3Ls) on Fridays whenever he wanted to “be a media darling.” Halfway through this ordeal, there would always be a cacophony of activity right outside the door. We later learned that this noise was the 1Ls gathering for their free coffee and desserts at the end of their week. That’s right—their week ended before noon on Fridays without exception. If this doesn’t enrage you, then you must be a 1L.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from growing up under the Boomer Generation, it’s that things should only get worse for younger generations. Furthermore, the blame for this, much like the housing crisis and the existence of avocado toast, should be placed firmly on that younger generation. 1Ls shouldn’t be benefiting from a better schedule. Moreover, they shouldn’t be rewarded with a gourmet meal for enduring such an easier Friday schedule.
This Court has no idea whether rainbow sprinkle cookies are being served to this class because the Court wouldn’t be caught dead in the Law School on a Friday, but the rage from sitting in Professor Bonnie’s Crim Law class at 5:15 p.m. on a Friday has not lessened over time.