Saturday, February 11, 2012

Suit Without Briefs

At the remove of nearly 40 years, I can still regard myself the beneficiary of an extended and leisurely college education, though such a privilege appears in many instances overrated.

In one of the  week's odder news reports, Louis Helmburg III of Marshall University in West Virginia is suing Alpha Tau Omega and fraternity member Travis Hughes, claiming he suffered injuries at a party in 2011 after the allegedly drunken Hughes attempted to fire a bottle rocket from his anus. "Instead of launching, the bottle rocket blew up in the defendant's rectum, and this startled the plaintiff and caused him to jump back," and fall off the deck, the lawsuit contends.

(Don't try this unless you've been to college)

The real legal case here, and the opportunity for a genuine case-based educational moment, is not Helmburg the Third's rather unimaginative injury suit so much as Hughes's potentially landmark contract of breeches suit. First, the suit would necessarily be brought in the absence of any briefs to file. And second, in order to ascertain the evidence in the case, the plaintiff would have to stick his head up his ass, where it has evidently been before now.

The 'kicker' in an alcohol molecule

The creed of the fraternity reads, in part, that "Alpha Tau Omega holds before the young men of the country an ideal and something greater than a mere intellectual ideal." Leaving aside for the moment what could be "mere" in an intellectual ideal, clearly both these young men have more than met the credal demands of the fraternity. One wonders, for example, whether Hughes knows the Latin for "rectum."

Any mere intellectual ideal has been left in their considerable fraternal dust. My suspicion is that they are not students of the sciences, in which case they would have understood the potential chemical interactions between ingestion of ethanol, ignition of an organic compound, and fractile properties of glass.

No, I suspect they were studying something arcane, like "management" or "organizational leadership," the sorts of academic programs that invite consumer fraud suits down upon the heads of offending institutions. But in either case, I don't see a career in jurisprudence in the making.  

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