Poetry in Commotion: Katko v. Briney and the Bards of First-Year Torts
Andrew Jay McClurg
University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
June 25, 2010
Oregon Law Review, Vol. 74, 1995
University of Memphis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 31
A classroom incident involving Katko v. Briney, the famous Iowa “spring-gun case,” started the author thinking about the suffocating environment legal education imposes on original expression.
Law school offers virtually no outlets for creativity, which is curious given the substantial reservoir of brain power collected in law schools and the fact that good lawyers must be creative thinkers. Students generally have only two avenues for expressing themselves within the institutional framework: their classroom comments and their written products.
Many law professors like to believe they foster a dynamic, vibrant classroom learning environment, but it is easy to confuse a successful bag of teaching tricks with vibrancy. True vibrancy requires risk-taking, spontaneity, inconsistency in presentation, and a relaxed freedom to speak openly — but these ingredients are missing from most law school classes.
The author’s one-percent solution (a mere footnote to a brainstorm) was to require his Torts students to compose poetry instead of case briefs about Katko, with surprising, satisfying results. The students’ poems make up much of the article.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26
Date posted: June 26, 2010 ; Last revised: October 15, 2012