The people mentioned in law school textbook cases are real! I
realized that so far in my legal education I have never thought about people in
textbook cases as real. I stumbled upon this realization while externing for a judge.
I have been working on a case file for a little while and the other day I
saw the attorneys and clients that were named in the case file. I connected the names that I had been reading
on paper to actual faces. At that moment I realized I had never thought about people mentioned in cases as actual
living, breathing creatures. I was actually a little weirded out that the names
in the case had bodies that went with them.
As a 1L I was extremely focused on learning the black letter law, or whatever we
were supposed to get out of cases, but seriously how did I overlook the fact
that cases are about real people. They always seemed like made up people and situations that professors created as perfect
teaching devices. In my defense some of the tort cases are so ridiculous it is hard to imagine that actual people were
involved. When having an out-of-class discussion about the lady-that-thought-god-took-over-the-wheel-of-the-batmobile-she-was-in-and-allowed-it-to-fly,
someone joked that it was obvious she was insane because she thought the batmobile
could fly, and it’s well known that batman does not have those kinds of
powers. At no point of that joking discussion did I stop to think that batmobile lady actually existed and
struggled with these issues. In class we
all laughed about the case and used it as a learning device to learn mental
disabilities and what constitutes the reasonable person, but that was all the
case meant to me. And how about Palsgraf. Everybody knows Palsgraf, but there are a few things that make it unreal. First, who carries fireworks onto a
train? Second, it is really random that
the fireworks would fall onto the tracks causing them to go off and hurt poor Mrs.
Palsgraf in the distance. To make the
case even more unreal, the YouTube Lego version of the events of Palsgraf has a huge beam falling on her
head and causing her head to pop off. I
was so stuck focusing on the law of the case and the funny events that brought
about the case, that I forgot that it actually happened to someone.
Not until this recent realization did I connect these case people to actually human
beings. To make things worse, I have
always thought of the characters in television shows as real living people and
not just actresses/actors playing a role. I was devastated when George died on Grey’s Anatomy. It took me days to recover, and still makes
me a little sad to talk about it. However, out of his role of George that actor is walking around
perfectly fine carrying on life as usually. I have an extreme emotional connection to television characters; however
until recently I never connected human emotions to textbook cases that actually
do involve real people.
Next time I read a case I will probably forget that the people mentioned are real,
but it was cool to think about for a little while.