Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Instapundit (and law professor) Glenn Reynolds is upset that a female law student at the University of Virginia is apparently suing her male torts prof over a touch on the shoulder (a "caress", she claims) which supposedly caused her enormous emotional distress. According to Reynolds, "The 'touch' was part of teaching an old chestnut of a case called Vosburg v. Putney, in which an elementary student kicks another, freakishly inflicts serious injury, and is sued for the severe consequences of a minor wrongful act."

Now, it's perfectly understandable that law professors would be enraged at her cheek; you can practically hear them thinking to themselves, "no, no, no--we're teaching you to do that to other people, for heaven's sake, not to us!". Reynolds advocates "a scorched-earth response to this frivolous lawsuit, ensuring that the student and her lawyer would deeply regret instituting it", and wonders if "law professors around the country will band together and file a class-action suit against the plaintiff and her lawyer, arguing that this frivolous suit endangers the atmosphere in classrooms across America". Boy, that'll show those disrespectful youngsters they still have a thing or two to learn from the old pros!

Personally, I think that Reynolds and his colleagues, in their defensiveness, are missing out on a spectacular pedagogic opportunity. The law is, after all, a practical profession. Doctors train in part by doing; why not lawyers as well? Here's a concrete proposal: On the first day of torts class, every law student in America should be told, "you must pass 'torts' to get a law degree. And we intend to fail every last one of you, unless it would be illegal or financially ruinous for us to do so. One more thing: it is forbidden for any classmate or member of the bar help you pass." The failing grade in torts would stand for each student until that student, by his or her own legal efforts, managed to compel the university, through the courts, to change it.

Not every student will have the necessary creativity, gumption and legal ability to sue his or her way into a passing grade, of course. But then, not everyone has what it takes to be a lawyer....

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