About Harmless Error

McClurg’s popular legal humor column, Harmless Error: A Truly Minority View on the Law, ran monthly on the Obiter Dicta page of the American Bar Association Journal, the official magazine of the American legal profession, from September 1997 to December 2001 for a total of fifty columns. Browse all Harmless Error columns.

Harmless Error tackled a wide variety of both pressing and purely ridiculous issues from a legal point of view most frequently described as “twisted.” Sampling of reader praise.

Harmless Error Highlights

• Historical retakes on classic cases such as Palsgraf v. Long Island R.R. Co. and Hadley v. Baxendale (Palsgraf Uncovered and Hadley’s Reprise).

• Lawsuits against and by Santa Claus (Santa Suit and Santa Strikes Back).

• Harry Potter’s tortious victimization at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Hogwarts Torts).

• A reimagining of the lyrics to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album from John Lennon’s legal point of view (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah).

• Chin shots to monopolistic industries like managed health care (Heal Thy Self), insurance companies (Insurance Deterrence), and the cable industry (Cable Cartel).

• Legal protection for the heart (Cupid’s Covenant, My Phony Valentine).

• And, of course, the dramatic struggles of America’s favorite little litigator, Suzy Spikes, as she fought oppression by The Man. (Sentencing Suzy, Suzy Assumes the Risk, Suzy’s Re-dress, Suzy’s Breach, Suzy’s Soulmate). Read more About Suzy Spikes.

All Harmless Error Columns

1. On Shelley’s Case
(Oct. 1997)
26. Say What?
(Nov. 1999)
2. 100 % Guarantee
(Nov. 1997)
27. Tot Tech
(Dec. 1999)
3. Please, Mr. Postman
(Dec. 1997)
28. Santa Suit
(Jan. 2000)
4. The Comma
(Jan. 1998)
29. Cupid’s Covenant
(Feb. 2000)
5. Sentencing Suzy
(Feb. 1998)
30. Cable Cartel
(Mar. 2000)
6. Perpetually Clueless
(Mar. 1998)
31. Cellular Rights
(May 2000)
7. Matter of Form
(Apr. 1998)
32. Ruff Justice
(June 2000)
8. Dog Daze
(May 1998)
33. eLawrealcheep.com
(July 2000)
9. Canned Sincerity
(June 1998)
34. Suzy’s Breach
(Aug. 2000)
10. Hadley’s Reprise
(July 1998)
35. Campaign Refinancing
(Sept. 2000)
11. Hep Catalogs
(Aug. 1998)
36. Rocket Science
(Oct. 2000)
12. Suzy Assumes the Risk
(Sept. 1998)
37. Hogwarts Torts
(Nov. 2000)
13. Agreeing to Disagree
(Oct. 1998)
38. Really Intellectual Property
(Dec. 2000)
14. Conquering Renters’ Blues
(Nov. 1998)
39. Palsgraf Uncovered
(Jan. 2001)
15. Fowl Play
(Dec. 1998)
40. My Phony Valentine
(Feb. 2001)
16. Legal Hoopholes
(Jan. 1999)
41. Insurance Deterrence
(Mar. 2001)
17. Hold Your Fire
(Feb. 1999)
42. Suzy’s Soulmate
(Apr. 2001)
18. Accidents Happen
(Mar. 1999)
43. Hair Piece
(May 2001)
19. Short Subjects
(Apr. 1999)
44. Reference Work
(June 2001)
20. Frequent Crier Miles
(May 1999)
45. Bad Law
(July 2001)
21. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
(June 1999)
46. The© Controversy
(Aug. 2001)
22. Contract Sports
(July 1999)
47. Oil Fume
(Sept. 2001)
23. Hiring Squeeze
(Aug. 1999)
48. For Children’s Sake
(Oct. 2001)
24. Heal Thy Self
(Sept. 1999)
49. Return to Vendor
(Nov. 2001)
25. Suzy’s Re-dress
(Oct. 1999)
50. Santa Strikes Back
(Dec. 2001)

Reader Praise for Harmless Error

“I was laughing so hard people near my office thought I was crying.” — Sherry Cooper

“I have to tell you that in 38 years of perusing the ABA Journal I never have laughed as much as I did when I read your item on Canned Sincerity. I was laughing so hard that tears came to my eyes.” — Joe Frank

“Beyond superb, beyond funny … absolutely, positively, stupendously magnificent!” — Sheldon Finkelstein

“Laughed myself silly.” — Denise Sangster

“Your Hep Catalogs piece in the ABA Journal is the funniest thing I have come across in ages. I laughed until I cried. Thanks for brightening my day!” — Kent Schneider

“You are the Dave Barry of our profession.” — Charles R. Crawford

“It has been a long time since I read anything as funny. Thanks for the laughter.” — Cooka Hillebrand

“It’s a rainy cold Sunday … No one else is in the office and it’s a good thing because I am howling with laughter. This column is your best ever!” — Dianne Dailey

“I loved your piece on A Civil Action. I read much of it aloud to my Civil Procedure class. They howled.” — Gerry Hess

“When I receive the ABA Journal the first thing I always flip to is Harmless Error. I am a third-year law student and I have been religiously reading Harmless Error since I began law school. Keep up the humor! In the law we definitely need to see the lighter side.” — Erin Eckert

“The Rule Against Perpetuities moved me to tears on more than one occasion while a law student, but your column actually moved me to tears of hysterical laughter. Thanks for the welcome break from the insanity.” — Michelle Katz

“Just read your article in the ABA Journal!!! I laughed so hard—the best laugh I’ve had all summer!” — Deborah K. Comini

“I am an attorney who has been practicing for almost 20 years. Your article was hilarious. What a great way to start my day. Thanks!” — Barbara Burnett

“Your article regarding the mailbox rule was hysterical.” — J.L. Kessler

“You’ve really got a gift for writing in a way that slides right through the brain and goes straight to the funny bone. Thanks for all the giggles.” — Jacquie Brennan

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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