1L Lectures Family on Erie Doctrine at Thanksgiving Dinner, Family is Horrified

La Cañada Flintridge, CA—SDOC first-year student Will Dougherty did not plan to return home on Thanksgiving. With exams coming up, he could not afford to waste several hours by hate-watching the Cowboys, drinking with the family, and getting into insufferable political arguments. Unfortunately, Dougherty’s parents gave  him an “early Christmas gift” and surprised him with airplane tickets home for the Thanksgiving weekend.

Dougherty spent 30 minutes outlining for Civil Procedure on Thanksgiving morning, but the day took a sour turn when his older brother Carl walked in with a beer, and demanded he “loosen up a bit” to watch the depressing annual tradition that is Detroit Lions football.

Dougherty wanted to resume outlining at 11:15, but then some high school friends gave him the hotline bling, saying he “had to play Fallout 4.” Four hours later, Dougherty got a call from his mother telling him dinner would start at 5, and she was “very disappointed” he wasn’t home yet. Upon return, Carl and Uncle Mike immediately accosted our SDOC brother. They lured him downstairs with pumpkin IPAs and the promise of watching Cam Newton stiff-arm Greg Hardy at some point. By the time Carolina improved to 11-0, more family had arrived and Dougherty had achieved the perfect buzz. All seemed well on this magically unproductive Thanksgiving.

After quickly showering to look presentable for Grandma D and Aunt Sheila, both of whom flew in from Cleveland, Dougherty had no time to outline the Erie Doctrine before dinner. Then the feast started in earnest. Turkey was consumed, wine was shared, and all were sufficiently merry. Dougherty mostly listened as family members discussed ISIS, Vladimir Putin’s hairline, Aunt Josephine’s new baby twins, and Johnny Manziel’s self-destructive behavior.

All was fine until Uncle Mike said that Manziel “wouldn’t be able to handle the Lake Erie winds anyways.” Like a match striking firewood, the mention of “Erie” sparked Dougherty , who immediately let loose an Erie Doctrine tirade his family will not soon forget.

“Have any of you even heard about the Erie Doctrine? It’s a REALLY BIG DEAL! I should have been studying this earlier today, but NO. You all had to be social and waste the time I could have spent reviewing why Swift v. Tyson set a bad precedent by allowing corporations to remove cases with diverse parties to federal courts, where relevant state laws were ignored in favor of common law that heavily favored corporations. Then Erie Railroad v. Tompkins came along and changed the game! When the plaintiff tried to remove his case to federal courts without invoking Pennsylvania liability laws that sought to limit his grounds for recovery, Justice Brandeis said, ‘No, you have to respect states’ rights as established in the Constitution, unless the case is a federal question.’ And that ruling enabled the outcome determinative test seen in Guaranty Trust Co. v. York.”

Everyone stared at Dougherty in stunned silence as their jaws dropped to the floor. After fifty seconds of uncomfortable silence, Carl disgustedly remarked, “I remember when you were a cool guy, Will. Law school has turned you into a monster.”

Dougherty can currently be found doing Joinder E & E problems in his childhood bedroom.


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