[Originally published December 12, 2011.]
It’s been a long semester. At this point we’ve read hundreds of pages of judicial opinions and sat through countless hours of lectures on legal theory and case law, and now we’re down to the wire. Exams are less than a week away, and the way I look at it, we’ve only got two options: we can either buckle down and hit the books harder than we ever have in our entire lives, or else we can attempt to bring about the violent downfall of the institution of rule of law in the United States of America.
And between you, me, and this three-hundred page Crim. Law outline I got from a 2L, that second one just sounds more viable.
Sure we can study. We can go over our notes and take a couple practice tests and pray we get good enough grades to land a sweet summer firm job. But let’s be realistic. How hard is it going to be to understand the complex web of choice-of-law analysis implicated by Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins? Now how hard is it going to be to instigate a bloody nihilistic revolution the primary result of which will be the complete collapse of the federal and state judiciaries and the instantaneous and complete invalidation of four centuries of American law and jurisprudence?
You’re shaking your head.
Let me ask you this: Have you even tried to wrap your mind around the English common law system of easements and servitudes? It’s perverse. It’s the kind of perverse that makes you want close your copy of the Restatement, put the caps back onto your rainbow highlighters, and then proceed to organize a paramilitary overthrow of one of the most democratic and legally equitable societies ever established in the history of humankind.
Seriously—just think about how stressed out you are right now. Now think about how unstressed you’ll be when you’re roasting marshmallows over a bonfire whose flames are fed by the nullified volumes of the United States Supreme Court Reporter.
Now, I figure if we can seize control of the broadcast media first, we can more readily disseminate instructions to comrades and partisan fighters near—hold on. Why are you looking at me like that?
Sure I may be “starting to really freak you out”—but is what I’m saying even half as freaky as the explanation of Coasian theory in our Property casebook? Where’s your sense of adventure and militant, vaguely anarchist anti-patriotism?
You know, H.L. Mencken once said, “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” Note that he did not say, “Every normal man must go ahead and follow through with law school and not dismantle the American polity through armed revolt simply because if he fails his Torts final he’ll probably never be able to get a six-figure associateship and have any hope of paying off his Grad PLUS loans.”
And what would the founding father’s have done, huh? What would James Madison do if he was staring down a four-hour, closed book Constitutional Law final? I mean besides, you know, not writing the Constitution. I like to think he would have just broken down and started destroying stuff rather than confront the reality of his own intellectual inadequacy and poor post-graduate educational decisions.
So who’s with me? Who among you will tear off the manacles of history and cloak yourself in the mantle of noble insurrection against the tyranny of law and the final examination thereof?
Fine. I’ll leave.
But know this—when the streets of Washington are thick with the perfume of cordite and the strains of the Internationale; when the Smithsonian’s tablet of Hammurabi’s Code has been ground into a fine dust whose motes will be contemptuously scattered across the plains, forests, and mountains that separate the Atlantic and Pacific; when the citizens of the new America gaze upon the cracked-egg dome of the defunct capitol building and contemplate the metaphorical spoiled yolk of the sort-of-hard-to-understand laws its legislature previously produced—when these inevitabilities come to pass, you shall be held accountable for your cowardice and collusion with the law school–industrial complex. Know that when the revolution comes, you—all of you!—will be the first against the wall.
Also, please give me back my outlines and rainbow highlighters.