November 12, 2014

Law-Inspired Haiku From Some Future Law and Poetry Scholars at Emory School of Law

As a followup to a post about Supreme Court Haiku and the current ABA-sponsored Supreme Court Haiku Contest for Law Students (open until November 15), I've invited Professor Julie Seaman of the Emory School of Law to present a selection of the haiku created by some of her constitutional law, evidence, and free speech students. I think they're a clever and talented group, and their poems have pith. I like pith.

A few weeks ago, and seemingly out of the blue, legal haikus were suddenly everywhere.  A former student slipped a flyer under my door announcing a Supreme Court haiku contest for law students, sponsored by the American Bar Association.  A sticky note attached to the flyer said, “I thought you’d like to share this with your classes!  Apparently the ABA shares your love of legal haiku.”  A few days later, someone on the conlawprofs listserv shared a link to the Supreme Court Haiku website (, a remarkably clever and delightful collection of which I’d thus far been unaware. 

Why did my student give me the flyer?  Because last semester, after trying my hand at legal haikus on a Facebook dare, I announced to my con law class that they could win free passes for writing haikus about the reading assignments.  Before each class, I would choose my favorite submission and post it on the powerpoint slides for the class; its author would be entitled to an extra free pass to be used as he or she wished during the semester.

The contest was a big hit with the students.  Some students were quite prolific.  Many of the haikus were funny and creative.  I continued the call for haikus this fall in evidence and free speech.  Several students have told me that boiling the cases or rules down to seventeen syllables helps them learn the material – imagine: actual pedagogical value!  But even if the exercise is pedagogically irrelevant, it sure is fun to read the submissions.  Here are some highlights: 

DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services

Oh poor little Josh
State said they would care for him
No prison no help

Colin Peterson

Buck v. Bell

Can Carrie have kids?
She encumbers the state's funds!
She had due process.

Josh Karr

Troxel v. Granville

Child can’t see grandma
Mom has the right to deny
the visitation

Zoya Kovalenko

Cruzan v. Director, MO Dept of Health

Nancy is brain-dead
Her parents grieve, with no choice
But to watch her lie

Ashleigh McClure
NYC Transit Auth. v. Beazer

On that methadone
TA says I can’t work here
Upheld . . . unemployed

Stephanie Grossinger

Railway Express Agcy v. New York

It is a health risk,
To have car advertisements.
Deal with it, locals!

Rebecca Sussman

Korematsu v. United States

Refusing Orders?
Not So Fast, Korematsu.
Jail Time for You, Sir.

Caroline Geiser
Tiers of scrutiny

defers, but not for suspect

Jordan Kragten
Craig v. Boren

So now my girlfriend
Can’t buy us three-two’s either?
Equality bites.

Mike McClain

United States v. Virginia

Stonewall is glaring
Shenandoah is playing
RAH Virginia Mil!

Rebecca Sussman

Skinner v. Oklahoma

Embezzlement: theft,
very similar but one
sterilizes you.

Alison Murphy

Moral turpitude
Cannot deprive criminals
Of life’s greatest gift

Meg McNulty

Watts v. US

Watts threatened the Chief,
But such clear hyperbole
Is protected speech.

Rebecca Hall

New York v. Ferber

If porn depicts kids,
value is de minimus.
The statute survives.

Joe Bearden

Trial of Sir Walter Raleigh

Raleigh’s ghost lingers . . .
“What matter how the head lie,
So the heart be right?”

Rebecca Sussman

Rule 804(a)

Forgetful? Stubborn?
Sick? Privileged? Dead? Then you are...

Graham Burkhalter
Admissions Doctrine

Wait! Statements I make
are not considered hearsay?
I’m done talking now.

Josh Karr

I will sit silent
If asked if I read today
Tacit Admission

Brad Verona
Frye Test

Frye test rests on
these Elitists assumptions. 
Jurors can be smart!
Rebecca Sussman

The creativity bled over into other student communications.  One day the air conditioning was not working in the classroom.  After class, this message (from student Chris Roth) was in my inbox:

It is so damn warm
Please turn on the A/C now
Because it is hot

Another day I received this in an email before class (from student Ned Dutton):

I’m leaving early,
But please don’t be offended.
It’s an interview.

One day I canceled a reading assignment and received this (from student Rebecca Sussman, whom I must say has discovered a genuine gift for haiku):

A sigh of relief, 
Gonna ignore that reading.
Hello, sweet Netflix!

Ms. Sussman also apologized for an absence this way:

The class glared at me!
Rude, loud coughing wouldn't end!
I hate bronchitis.

Leading up to the review session, student Caroline Geiser sent this:

7 more classes
and then we have exams?!? Shit. 
Jesus take the wheel.

And finally, on the final (from student Jordan Kragten):

law was tough, but Professor
Seaman was great.  Thanks!

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