Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lake Wobegon, Texas

It's really more common than you might think.
I mean, didn't Garrison Keillor teach us that "all children are above average"?  Doesn't every kid get an award just for showing up?  And isn't there probably an award for not showing up?
I mean, if I call the dog "stupid," it might harm her self-esteem f'rgodssake.
Look, I understand what mistreatment can do.  My clients, far too many of them, are products of homes where demeaning and psychological abuse would be considered one of the better afternoons.  There's something, and more than a little, to be said for letting kids know that they're special, that they're loved, that they're worthy.
What they're not is entitled.
Because they're ours and they're loved, we may give them what we can.  We may cover the cost of college if we can.  We may give them a car and help out with the down payment on the mortgage (OK, I'm showing my age).
But they aren't mostly just owed.
And at some point we want them to grow up.
Because it turns out that some children aren't above average.  Kinda by definition.
And there's no shame in that.  Or there shouldn't be.
Take law school.
Most law students were pretty successful college students.  The ones at the bottom of their college classes probably didn't get in.
But half of all law students will be in the bottom half of their law school class.  Half of them.  And for most of those folks, that'll be an unusual experience.  They have, as I say, pretty much all been top-drawer successful before.
Look to your left.  Look to your right.  One of you will be out on your ass before the year is over.
So went the Paper Chase mantra.  (I don't know, I didn't go to law school at one of the Ivies; or even one of the perennials.  More like one of the cacti.  But I digress.)
Ah, but even now, these things happen. Just ask Karla Ford and Jonathan Chan, plaintiffs.
Yep.  Ford and Chan flunked out of law school, their awesomeness insufficiently rewarded by the rules of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.  Those rules require first year law students to maintain a C average, a GPA of 2.0.  Ford and Chan got Ds in Shelley Smith's Contracts class.  And since they apparently didn't do well enough in their other classes to offset that D (a single B would have done it), well, easy come, easy go.
Don't let the door hit your ass on your way out.
OK, not so easy go for Ford and Chan, who, as I said, are now plaintiffs Ford and Chan.  Because they were devastated, shamed, disgraced.
Monica Rhor in the Houston Chronicle:
"When you believe that you are doing fairly well and you get a grade you feel you don't deserve, it's devastating," said Ford, 27, who has bachelor's and master's degrees in administration of justice from TSU. "There is a lot of embarrassment and shame. It took a toll."
Chan, 26, said he was also stunned by the low grade, and recoiled at the thought of telling his family.
"Coming from an Asian family, failing is a tough thing to bring up," said Chan, who has a bachelor's degree in administration and marketing from the University of Houston. "The only words I can think of are shameful and disgraceful."
Devastated, shamed, and disgraced perhaps, but certainly not cowed.  Because they knew it wasn't their fault.  Being from Lake Wobegon and all. 
And if it wasn't because their work was subpar, and it couldn't have been because, after all, as Ford said, she believed she was "doing fairly well." And if she believed it, then it must have been so.  Well, like I say, if it wasn't their fault, then they must be victims of misconduct.
And if there's one thing they apparently learned in the first year of law school, it's that when you've been wronged, the courts will protect you.
* * * * *
If they learned in the first year of law school "that when you've been wronged, the courts will protect you," they deserve to flunk out.  It's not true.
Oh, sure, sometimes, maybe.  But not all the time.  Not regularly.  Ask, for instance, William Barnes.  Or Lily Ledbetter. Or William Marbury or Dred Scott or Homer Plessy or . . . . Hell, you get the idea.

* * * * *
Anyway, they found an actual lawyer.  And they sued.  They sued the school (actually, the Board of Regents).  And they sued Shelley Smith who gave them each a D.
 Chan & Ford Complaint
Because of course they're above average.  Being from Lake Wobegon and all.
Or the Neverland.
Except, you might remember, those places don't exist.


  1. I would never hire you to be my lawyer. You did not consider all the facts in this case. One of which is that the school refused to let them see their graded exams. This wasn't just about a bad grade. There is probably more going on here, than meets the eye. But it takes a good legal mind to entertain that possibility, which you do not have.

  2. I suffer the slings and arrows. And must be content not to have you as a client. Sigh.

    But, and for whatever it's worth, these are blog posts, not legal briefs.