Unfettered Dumbery at UCLAW


I just got wind of a brewing controversy over at UCLA Law School involving this year's Moot Court problem. A detailed, up-to-date commentary is available here. Briefly, the Moot Court hypothetical centers around a Mexican illegal immigrant child molester named "El Guapo," and all other fictitious names in the fact pattern (including the names of judges, INS agents, and geographic locations) are named after popular brands of liquor. This was an ass-headed move on the part of the Moot Court Board.

My theory on offensive humor is that it's fine, in fact desirable, as long as the humorous content is sufficient and the offensiveness makes sense in the context of the humor. Here, by all appearances, the decision to call the Defendant "El Guapo" and to name things after alcohol appears to be devoid of any humorous context whatsoever. And while I don't believe the liquor-based nomenclature was an intentional attempt to draw a connection between Latinos and booze, absent some other explanation it certainly invites the sort of outrage that the Moot Court board has suffered at the hands of La Raza and other students. Indeed, the liquor names may have been innocuous standing alone, but use of "El Guapo" casts suspicion on the hypo's other feeble attempts at humor.

Furthermore, the overall context of the asinine non-humor is the Moot Court Program at UCLA Law School, a prestigious, highly institutionalized student activity at a nationally recognized law school. The UCLA Law Review's Sopranos-based write on packet was stupid enough without adding the specter of racial insensitivity to the mix.

To be clear, I'm not saying that the Moot Court Board should face any official retribution from the school. I just think that surprisingly little thought went into such an important aspect of the law school, and I would hope that UCLA had more to offer. Offensive I can handle. Dumb is just dumb.


A further annoyance that this sort of nonsense creates: A lot of students use moot court briefs and writing competition entries as writing samples. I can't imagine many students will want to send writing samples to judges and firms that include parties named after liquor brands. That means students who want to use these briefs will have to go through and re-name all of the parties. Not the end of the world, but obnoxious nonetheless.

We have a similar problem with annoying names in Columbia's writing programs. One of my legal writing essays had parties named after Battlestar Galactica characters. My moot court's parties were all characters from The Matrix. Fortunately, the Law Review writing competition just had parties named after Law Review editors.

I actually DID that Moot Court problem. What's really sad is that I didn't even realize there was a problem. Didn't notice a single one of the alcoholic names; not even Dr. Corona and Judge Beefeater. Is that colorblindness or just stupidity?

Anyway, they replaced the Fact Pattern pretty quickly. Now Petitioner is 'Damion David' and he hails from the State of Utopia. So there's no concern with sample writing.

The one, feeble thing in Moot Court's defense is that El Guapo is the villain in the Three Amigos.

Anyway, the Transfer Write-on Competition this fall had Mr. Wilson slaughtering Dennis the Mennis. It was kind of cool. Or it would've been if we didn't have to analyze a difficult AEDPA jurisdiction issue.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on October 30, 2006 4:51 PM.

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