1L Gunners v. Everyone Else
939 U. Va. 111 (2019)
ELICEGUI, J. announced the opinion of the Court in which the rest of the bench joined.
As happens every year, the brand-new 1Ls have been running around the school for a week, finding their favorite study spots, surviving their first cold calls, and bonding with their section friends. When left unattended, though, this year's crop of 1Ls developed a complex. They began to think that they rule the school. Well, that comes to a stop today.
This morning, three 1Ls—Sally Sue, Mike Matthews, and Hank Hayden—filed a lawsuit alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress and unlawful conversion. Over the last week, the three 1Ls of Section F have developed a morning routine. Sue arrives at school first and puts her stuff down in the conference room across from the bookstore (prime studying territory—arguably the best study spot in the school, since the room has its own thermostat). Sue then goes to grab a coffee and chat with Mandy. Some days she even gets a chocolate chip muffin or a scone.
While Sue gets her caffeine and sugar fix, Matthews and Hayden arrive in the conference room and settle in. When Sue gets back, the three brand-new section besties begin discussing the reading from last night, trying to get down the intricacies of Pennoyer v. Neff and in rem jurisdiction. This has become a comforting, cozy routine that allows the friends to catch up on section gossip from the day before and work on learning the complexities of doctrine.
This morning, though, Sue arrived at school as usual to find her conference room occupied by a group of strangers. A group of tan, beautiful, and a little chubby-looking people were lounging around feasting on Bodo's Bagels, downing iced coffee, and laughing loudly. Sue was flabbergasted. Who were these creatures and where did they come from?! These were the 3Ls of Section Z, tan from spending all of August deep in vacation mode and a little bit chubbier from all of the steaks their law firms had fed them this summer. The 3Ls were here to reclaim their territory.
Sue worked up her courage and walked into the conference room, explaining to the occupants that she and her friends have occupied this room every morning for the past WEEK. Did these interlopers not understand that 1L is the hardest year and that they need this space to focus and do their ten pages of Civ Pro reading? The 3Ls looked at Sue and laughed. "Get outta here," said Riley Rivers. "Talk to me when you have thirty pages of Sec Reg reading that you're never going to do.” The rest of the 3Ls cracked up, and Sue ran out of the room in tears.
Sue, Matthews, and Hayden reconvened in ScoCo and decided to seek recourse in the school's best forum for addressing wrongs—the Court of Petty Problems. The plaintiffs allege intentional infliction of emotional distress and unlawful conversion. They seek a temporary injunction to prevent the 3Ls from taking over their conference room.
At the lower court, the Court of Petty Problems, the brand-new 1L Judge Elaine Cruz granted the preliminary injunction for the plaintiffs. According to Judge Cruz, the 1Ls showed a likelihood of success on the merits because 1Ls have a cognizable right over the conference room, gained by occupying it for the last week, and the 3Ls violated that right by taking over the conference room and laughing at Sue. The 3Ls immediately appealed the decision to this illustrious body, the Court of Petty Appeals. The appeal stated, "We don't really feel like writing a full brief, but someone needs to put the 1Ls back in their place."
Although the 3Ls' brief did not comply with the Petty Rules of Civil Procedure and did not really lay out any arguments per se, this Court will hear the appeal and restore order across the Law School. As a Senior Associate Justice 3L, I am not particularly in a mood to do any work, but someone has to address the fact that the kindergarteners have taken over the school study spaces. I did not want to spend my first class of 3L doing justice instead of paying attention in class—I would much rather spend that time on Twitter. But, c'est la vie, something must be done. Thus, the temporary injunction issued by the lower court is hereby overturned and this court grants summary judgment in favor of the defendants because, under Petty Rule of Civil Procedure One, “we do what we want.” The 1Ls have not pled any cognizable harms for which redress may be granted and have not shown a likelihood of success on the merits.
In order to grant a preliminary injunction, the lower Court of Petty Problems must find: (1) a likelihood of success on the merits, (2) the plaintiffs face a substantial threat of harm or injury without the injunction, (3) the threat is immediate, (4) the balance of harms weighs in favor of the plaintiffs, (5) there is no other available remedy, and (6) granting the injunction serves the public interest. Hungry Students v. SBA, 86 Va. 456 (2004) (granting a preliminary injunction against SBA that required SBA to provide more than two pizzas at the Thursday Social because people are hungry). According to Judge Cruz, all of these conditions were met. Whether that is so is a question of law and will be reviewed de novo. Judge Cruz misapplied the law because she ignored a basic rule of Petty Law, which will be underscored explicitly today: 1Ls lose.
The plaintiffs cannot succeed on the merits for several reasons. First, 1Ls lose. The court acknowledges that 1Ls may win when they are right, but the court assumes 1Ls will misapply the law, and therefore places a higher burden of proof on 1Ls to make good legal arguments. The plaintiffs in this case do not meet that burden.
The plaintiffs cannot show that the 3Ls inflicted emotional distress on them because they cannot prove causation. Additionally, emotional distress is a harm within the risk of attending law school. When you pay your first tuition bill or get your first student loan disbursement, you experience shocks that are designed to prepare you for the fact that law school is emotionally stressful. When you experience your first cold call, that experience reinforces the emotional rollercoaster that is law school. How else would we prepare 1Ls for their first finals? Law students may not recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress from other law students because the emotional distress should be expected.
Additionally, the plaintiffs cannot demonstrate unlawful conversion because the 3Ls have a much stronger claim to the conference room. The court takes judicial notice of the fact that this group of 3Ls uses the conference room in question frequently. As an Associate Senior Justice, I have walked past that room on my way to buy Diet Coke from the Bookstore and I have seen all of them. That is enough of a basis to conclude that the 3Ls are there a lot. Therefore, they have a better claim to the room.
In conclusion, the 3Ls are back, baby. We rule the school and everyone else better prepare themselves. 1Ls lose and all cases from here on out will proceed from the presumption that 1Ls are wrong. This is the first of petty applications of this new rule, but I'm sure it won't be the last.
It is so ordered.