Must Barney Die? A Legal Opinion

Have you ever had a time when you wanted to just snap from the stress? I have. And I did. What I did next was fun.

Category: diary

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I’ve had a lot of stressful situations in my life. On of the more stressful was the finals period for the first semester of law school. What I love about most of law school is the lack of real homework, and the entire grade riding on the final. But nothing is more stressful than being left to your own devices. The first-semester Legal Research professor was a smart ass, and my break point was on the paper that was due in his class. I decided to give him a dose of his own medicine.

Around midnight before the paper was due, I was frantically doing the last edit. The basic fact pattern was the sister of a dog owner was dog (named Bonkers) sitting for a golden retriever who attacks a trick-or-treater in a Barney outfit. Barney was Bonker’s favorite toy, and when he saw the larger size he just couldn’t control himself. The matter was one of strict liability, as the mens rea of the animal is irrelevant.

I decided to write a second paper to argue the point that mens rea was relevant, and that we all owe Bonkers for saving humanity. Moreover, I turned it in under a fake exam number…which meant that the professor graded it. The reasoning went something like this.

Bonkers Saves Humanity

Bonkers was not an ordinary dog. He was a part of a secret society of dogs, sworn to the protection of a clueless humanity against supernatural threats. We had a myriad of supernatural threats. One of them was Barney.

This night, Bonkers’ owner sent him to her sister’s house. While there, he saw his arch nemesis Barney appear at the door. Switching immediate to action, Bonkers bolted for the blunt Barney and struck him in the midsection. The two fell onto the porch.

Bonker’s started tearing into Barney, only to discover that the evil demon spawned of hell had consumed a child. The mission to destroy Barney shifted immediately to a rescue operation. Bonkers clawed and chewed through Barney to save the poor child inside. Then the human tried to pull Bonkers off, only forcing him to redouble his efforts.

What I did in this paper was bypass the strict liability and argue that Bonkers’ mens rea was important. Bonkers did us a favor by attacking Barney because Barney must die. I cited to bogus federal and state court holdings. One federal holding did actually exist, but oddly enough not related to dogs or supernatural warfare against purple dinosaurs.

The paper was oddly therapeutic at the time, though perhaps maybe not as funny in the retelling. As some professors were known to pull key books from the shelves to teach the students the importance of not procrastinating, I felt that giving an extra paper was fine.

I graduated law school a semester early. In the days leading up to that last set of finals, I told the professor. He remembered the story and did actually enjoy the reading. He rightly guessed it was a bogus paper and did not actually grade it.

Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to snap? What did you do?

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Photo Credit: A pumpkin dreams of Halloween (Prestonbot/Flickr CC BY 2.0.)