December 07, 2005

File Under: Things Sure Have Changed Since We Got Kicked Out of School

An eighth grader in Stronghurst, IL has been removed from school and faces criminal charges for compiling a list of people he found "annoying."

When I was a lad, there was no need to keep a list, as such a document would have included the entire student body, all the teachers and administrators, the government, the clergy, the police, the Boy Scouts of America, the Masons (yes, Masons, especially you) and indeed most of the population of the earth, with very few exceptions that would only serve to draw attention to the general rule.

An actual list would have been superfluous and impractical: thus was it easy enough to guess, but difficult to prove, the depths of my misanthropy. This is how you avoid Zero Tolerance attacks. Think big.

(via Overlawyered.)

UPDATE: also via Overlawyered:

File Under: On the Other Hand, Things Haven't Changed Much at All Since We Used to Have a Job

Two secretaries at the Atlantic City school district will share a $450,000 jackpot for having the good fortune to hear an administrator use the phrase "ride 'em hard and put 'em away wet." You can't win if you don't play.

Posted by Dr. Frank at December 7, 2005 11:32 PM | TrackBack

frank, you have a keen knack for finding news tidbits that enrage me. is it safe to do or say anything these days? lawyers are destroying this country. luke black.

Posted by: luke black at December 8, 2005 04:17 AM

Should we blmae the lawyers, the people who bring these suits, the idiots who agree to these settlements that encourage the next person to file suit, or the juries who award rediculous sums that cause people to think that $450,000 settlements are a good idea? You can't fight human nature (the lawyers/plaintiffs) or even so much human ignorance (the juries), you can only put in place a system that doesn't expose its weaknesses to such a degree.

There's such a simple solution that doesn't involve setting arbitrary limits on awards; just give all punitive damages to charity. I mean, it's reasonable to expect to be reimburssed for any damages suffered by somebody else's act, but why should you have any claim to money that is being taken strictly to punish that person? This would be especially effective in ending frivolous law suits if the charity was chosen by an indpendant party of some kind or even if it was not.

Posted by: josh at December 8, 2005 01:24 PM

Man, much as I would like $450,000 myself, I don't know how I would live with myself, being so stupid that I didn't know "rode 'em hard and put 'em away wet" was a phrase having to do with horses.

It's like those dumbasses who were offended by the word "niggardly".

Posted by: Duncan at December 8, 2005 04:02 PM

My guess on this one is that it may be less a "we win the lottery" situation, and more a "we despise our boss, and he finally screwed up enough for us to nail him" situation. Despite this one law suit, we all know that people use all kinds of language at work that other people may find iffy or possibly offensive, but if coworkers or bosses/employees are generally getting along, no one files a law suit over it. They may mention it to each other, but that's as far as it goes.

On all these news snippets, my personal experience with the occasional news story about something I really know well is that the article always gets at least a few things dead wrong. So I'd read the report on this kind of thing with a big grain of salt (kind of like the McD's coffee-spill lawsuit).

Posted by: Nick at December 8, 2005 04:34 PM

I'm sure you're right, Nick, and this guy might have been a rotten guy. But the fact remains that "rode hard and put away wet" was deemed actionable to the extent that this kind of settlement was deemed a bargain by the lawyers involved, and that's crazy any way you slice it. Not to mention the fact that in the process, a school district is deprived of half a million dollars that might have been more usefully allocated. (Technically, the school has to cough up $150,000 of it, with the insurance handling the rest, if I read the article right; but if Rural Metaphor Protection Insurance works in the usual way it'll mean higher rates, right? Is that the way we want our education budgets allocated?) Something seems out of whack.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at December 8, 2005 04:51 PM


I guess my response was as much to luke's "lawyers are destroying this country" comment as to your original post and the article. On the face of it, I agree, the comment isn't worth $450,000 in damages. But this all happened over 3 years ago. According to the article, the 2 people who filed suit first wrote a letter to the Asst. Superintendent (the one who made the comment), which I think is a perfectly reasonable thing to do if you're really offended by something your boss does. Then the article says that he apologized, the District "hired an outside attorney to investigate, but that probe inadvertently lapsed."

Well what the hell does that mean? The investigating attorney's dog ate his notes? Maybe what really pissed these two people off, in addition to any problems directly with the Asst. Superintendent, is that the District told them they took the issue seriously and then blew the whole thing off. Maybe they sued because it looked like there actually was a systemic problem with the District ignoring the issue entirely, or lieing to its employees. The suit doesn't appear to have been their first, or even second, choice in dealing with their boss.

If the District was so certain of prevailing in court, they could have just gone ahead and said, "Sue us." But maybe they wanted to settle to avoid the discovery process, which would have revealed certain elected School Board members emailing each other saying, "Yeah, we told those two girls we'd investigate -- tell that lawyer we hired not to work too hard, then drop it after a few months. By then the girls will have calmed down."

Obviously, this is all pure speculation on my part. Maybe something else I can't even imagine is going on. But unless someone has a lot more info on this than is in the article, I don't think it counts as evidence of the "trial lawyers are ruining America" "o tempora, o mores" stuff that's so popular these days. The reporter's story seems to have some big details missing, and I'd be pretty surprised if there wasn't more here than just that one phrase. And if the phrase isn't worth $450,000, keeping the elected School Board members' dirty laundry from being aired in public probably would be.

Oh, and on the other news piece: when I was in high school, a friend of mine and I decided to come up with a list of people we wanted to "trash" (pick up and put into a school trash can). The idea was to post a list without any explanation -- just the people's names -- and then start trashing people. Pretty mysterious and sinister, huh? Given that the 2 of us geeks would have had a hard time putting a full trash bag into a trash can at the time, this was a pretty substanceless fantasy on our part. We did end up posting a list, but we never did the "trashing" part. After a couple days, someone took this odd list with 5 names down and we never reposted it. For those couple of days, though, we sure felt menacing...

The worst thing we ever ended up doing was conspiring to get a couple of freshmen to believe our "summaries" of various Shakespeare plays -- e.g. "Othello, the Moor of Venice" was about land reclamation and the evil developer, Iago; "Measure for Measure" is about converting to the metric system. The freshmen caught on, even though we found selections from the plays to support our "summaries -- then,when we told them the actual plot of "Macbeth" they wouldn't believe us!

There it is, my big confession -- I was a fantasy teenage trasher, and an actual Shakespeare deceiver. I guess I'll expect some HSA guys to stop by my house to lock me up for my extensive record as a geeky terrorizer. Wish me luck!

Posted by: Nick at December 8, 2005 06:38 PM

Lawyers are not the problem. They only study and play by the ground rules which legislators make up for society.

It's legislators - the people whose job it is to make new laws all day long - who are creating these confusing, contradictory, marginally Constitutional and overbroad rules that the rest of us have to live with.

They have put so many qualifications, exemptions, conditions, and restrictions on rights that are supposed to be inalienable and unabridged, that, really, we almost may as well not even have a Constitution anymore.

Posted by: Aryamehr University at December 9, 2005 12:11 AM

My favorite was a case that was floating through the Oklahoma Civil Court when I was a paralegal there in the mid 1990's. A man who was incarcerated in the prison system there was a member of the "Church of Harley Davidson," and so he sued the state for forty thousand dollars because he said that he needed a Harley Davidson motorcycle parked inside of his cell so that he could use it as a worship alter (I understand that it was laughed out of court eventually).

Posted by: David Cummings at December 11, 2005 01:51 AM