Hairy Situation

–From Jim Brewer, Willamette University College of Law, Date of event: circa 1990

I remember clearly reading and discussing the hairy hand case Hawkins v. McGee in law school. I also remember classmates looking at my own hirsute mitt and wondering if my feelings would be hurt. Fortunately, I’m not the most observant or otherwise perceptive guy, so I didn’t have clue why people were looking at my hands, tittering, and then asking about the value of a hairy hand.

Fortunately (in this time of post-traumatic torts), I finally made the connection this year. My firm works as City Attorneys for a City with brand-new council-chamber robotic cameras for televised hearings on the public access channel. These cameras are in those domes that casinos and grocery stores have, and one of them is directly over the place where I usually doze through the meetings.

Evidently the operator of the robotic camera couldn’t resist zooming the thing straight down onto my hands and leaving the camera there for most of a lengthy land use hearing.

When the Council meeting was broadcast, the City received call after call complaining about the horrible image that cluttered the upper reaches of the cable system. I have reviewed the tape. It is an extreme close-up. And these hands aren’t just matted with hair on their backs (note how I distance myself from the offending extremity). They have long, thick, black locks in two places on each finger. At one point on the tape I’m impatiently tapping a pen on the table, and it looks like a tarantula is performing an indecent act of self-abuse.

When the Court distinguishes between a “perfect hand” and a “hairy hand” what happens to my self-image? You want to talk “genuine hardship?” Even global warming is working against me, since there is virtually no chance I can wear gloves as a fashion statement. I’ve thought about boxing gloves, but typing is so damn hard …

And I think the statute has run for suing that damn contracts prof, too.

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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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