Tragedies

It’s easy to just race through the case reading each night and abstract everything. I imagine this is an issue (maybe a greater one) for practicing attorneys as well, but as a law student, it’s far too simple to get so wrapped up in the conceptual framework I’m meant to be absorbing that I lose sight of the fact that every single one of these cases involves real people suffering real tragedies (excepting toolbags like the law student trying to make a quick buck by suing a publishing company). Thinking of the parties not as people who have lived and died and suffered and rejoiced, but as P and D makes it easy to get through cases, but difficult to recall the human aspect.

That issue is magnified in Civil Procedure. So many of the cases I read for Civ Pro are meant merely to illuminate some arcane (or vital) aspect of the Federal Rules: cases dismissed before trial for lack of material fact, cases lost on a failure to observe some minor aspect of the discovery process, cases won on technicalities. The Rules take precedence, and thus the people fade into the background.

Every now and then, however, I’m reminded of just how important and devastating some of these decisions of semantics and technicalities can be, usually when I realize that I’m reading a case about an event I know, or remember, or have studied in another context. I read a case today about Len Bias, the University of Maryland standout forward who died of a cocaine overdose shortly after being drafted #2 overall by the Celtics. His parents lost their case against his agent because of a failure on their counsel’s part to show sufficient evidence proving they had a case worthy of going to trial. The rule is simple enough to remember: be specific in addressing issues of material fact. But suddenly I think of how devastated Bias’ parents must have been to find that they could not get restitution for the death of their son, simply because of a rule of legal procedure.

It’s sobering, but good for me. I come from a field devoted to producing, in writing, the emotions and lives and experiences of individuals. I need to remember to carry that forward in law.

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