I do not want to mislead. Law school is not all voices raised in song, despite the disproportionate number of blog posts I have devoted to that activity. Much of the time, you must sit quietly and read a casebook. But every once in a while, an opportunity for singing presents itself. And sometimes, you can get extra credit for it.
Professor Len Niehoff‘s Evidence class features a case every year that involves a mom, her bad-ass boyfriend, and her badder-ass daughter, Jaylene. To get a sense of the milieu, one need only read the second sentence of the facts section of the opinion, in which the authoring judge describes the boyfriend thusly: "He was nice sober, nasty drunk." United States v. James, 169 F. 3d 1210, 1211 (9th Cir. 1999) (en banc). I am unable to recall ever reading a similar descriptive phrase in any other opinion in my nearly 20 years as a lawyer. And I’m frankly sad that I don’t think it’s likely I’ll ever find a way to quote and cite to that phrase in a brief, no matter how much pro bono work I manage to squeeze in.
In any event, what with the drinking and violence and colorful, tortured family relationships, the case is, all in all, crying out to be made into a country & western song. And every year, Professor Niehoff challenges his class to do just that. Prior to this year, though, exactly one student took him up on his offer, penning some accomplished lyrics, although without musical accompaniment. (Which is not to criticize, mind you. I’d be hard pressed to come up with a limerick, let alone an entire song.) This year, then, Professor Niehoff was pretty astonished to get submissions from the class that quadrupled the lifetime tally: one lyric fragment; one full set of lyrics; and two complete songs, with words and music and a willingness to perform. (One of the songs is wholly original, while another is a riff on Kenny Rogers’s "The Gambler." Which is fair use! See, e.g., Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569 (1994). May I suggest that next year, someone use Dolly Parton’s Jolene as a jumping-off point? Near homophones, and Jolene herself was pretty bad-ass.)
Bottom-line, there’s a disconcerting amount of creativity and talent evidenced in the following clip. Enjoy:
And I am hopeful the future will bring additional video of class activities from Professor Niehoff, including the watermelon-stabbing, the Coke-Pepsi taste test, and the cross-classroom beach-ball race.
-Dean Z. Assistant Dean for Admissions and Special Counsel for Professional Strategies