Suzy Spikes — America’s Favorite Little Litigator

“We live in a hideously unjust society where the only thing anyone cares about is oppressing precious, innocent children.” — Suzanne Marie Spikes

So proclaimed 11-year-old Suzy Spikes immediately before her parents imposed sentence in Spikes v. Spikes, Case No. 1,094,908, in which Suzy was charged with 48 counts of Bad Attitude with Intent to Act Like a Teenager. Just another day in the life of poor Suzy Spikes.

Check out Suzy’s world by clicking on the links below (or just scroll down). Make sure you’re well-insured and keep your lawyer’s number handy:

Sentencing Suzy ★ ★ ★ ★ (1998 Drama) Litigious adolescent defends herself against battery charges involving misplaced Monopoly game piece.

Suzy Assumes the Risk ★ ★ ★ ★ (1998 Action) Litigious adolescent engages in hijinks on the soccer field while coaches seek to avoid tort liability.

Suzy’s Re-dress ★ ★ ★ ★ (1999 Noir) Litigious adolescent crusades against school dress code on behalf of garment-oppressed youth.

Suzy’s Breach ★ ★ ★ ★ (2000 Comedy) Litigious adolescent fights for free speech against media conglomerate bent on making her pay for magazine subscription.

Suzy’s Soulmate ★ ★ ★ ★ (2001 Romance) Litigious adolescent struggles to find love, only to lose it over a contract dispute.

Suzy Spikes appeared in five Harmless Error columns, all of which found her using the law to fight for childhood freedom from tyranny wherever it raised its ugly head, which basically was anywhere Suzy went. Suzy, modeled after my own strong-willed daughter, was the ultimate champion of children’s rights, especially her own.

A sitcom pitch for the “The Legal Life of Suzy Spikes” impressed a certain well-known executive producer of a popular cable network devoted to the younger set, but did not materialize. Perhaps the fear of Suzy coming to life and suing everyone for misappropriating her celebrity right of publicity scared off the honchos. (Note to entertainment execs: Multimillion dollar television and movie deals can be easily negotiated on simply by using the Contact link found at the top of every page.)

Sentencing Suzy

Originally appeared in the February 1998 issue of the ABA Journal.

Harmless Error - A Truly Minority View on the Law

Sentencing Suzy


Children have an almost instinctive sense of the law. This no doubt derives from their pervasive experience with the adversarial system, which begins at birth.

By the time she is able to walk, the average child has been enjoined more than 200,000 times. Every movement, every reflex, every instinct is met with injunction: “No! Don’t bite. Don’t touch. No! No! Don’t hit. Don’t pull. Spit that out. No!” Not surprisingly, children develop excellent legal problem solving skills, from which lawyers can learn.

Consider the case of Suzy Spikes. Suzy is a precocious preadolescent girl who is close friends with my daughter, Caitlin. They play together when Suzy is not busy preparing for hearings in juvenile court. Suzy has taught Caitlin many lessons about life, most of which concern how to beat the rap.

During a recent neighborhood gathering, Suzy added a new twist to a popular childhood game. “Combat Monopoly” became an instant hit until the EMTs arrived to remove Suzy’s deed to Baltic Avenue from Billy Johnson’s nostrils.

Suzy received a speedy trial for this offense from her parents, Art and June Spikes, before whom she has successfully argued hundreds of cases. However, in this case her defense was hampered by an evidentiary ruling to “Not say even one word while I’m speaking to you, young lady.” The sentencing phase of her proceeding provides valuable lessons for lawyers:

An accused has the right to speak in mitigation of punishment. Suzy asserts she’s an innocent victim of the system and recounts her wounded childhood.

She reminds the judges that she’s always been their “precious little puddin’” and “snuggly-wuggly-bug.” She extolls the many months of patience she showed during her mother’s pregnancy and asks for the same consideration. In summation, she attempts to bribe the judges. Her allocution, though impassioned, leaves the judges unmoved.

A prior record can prejudice the accused. In response, Mrs. Spikes raises Suzy’s recent convictions on 23 counts of Negligent Failure To Make Bed, 47 counts of Willful Annoyance and 1,205 counts of Bad Attitude with Intent to Act Like A Teenager, a felony.

At this point, a baggie falls out of Suzy’s pocket and a pending charge of Unlawful Possession of Jolly Ranchers is added. Suzy objects to the introduction of this character evidence. Her objection is overruled, but she has preserved grounds for an appeal.

Never antagonize the court during sentencing. When pitiful sobbing fails to bring mercy, Suzy switches tactics to aggressive advocacy. She denounces the “corrupt judges of this kangaroo court” for their perceived inability to “never possibly know in a million years” the pressures faced by eleven-year-old girls.

To emphasize her point, she throws up on the carpet. This error in trial strategy results in a stiff upward adjustment under mandatory sentencing guidelines recently adopted by the Spikes household. Suzy is currently due to be released from her room in her junior year of college.

In future columns, we will continue tracking this interesting case through appeal, Suzy’s adolescence, first date, sixteenth birthday and hard time in the penitentiary.

Suzy Assumes the Risk

Originally appeared in the September 1998 issue of the ABA Journal.

Harmless Error - A Truly Minority View on the Law

Suzy Assumes the Risk


Suzy Spikes is joining a soccer team and the insurance industry is jittery. Suzy is my daughter’s litigious, histrionic and some might say irretrievably delinquent 11-year-old pal. You might recall the last time we checked in on her she was vigorously appealing her home detention for unlawful insertion of a Monopoly game piece into a neighbor’s nasal cavity (Feb. ‘98).

Insurers of the La Petite Soccer League agreed to let Suzy play only if she signed a strict code of conduct and exculpatory agreement. Since Suzy has been banned from every sports team in the state except the “Juvie Detention Center Fightin’ Tigers,” Art and June Spikes felt they had no choice but to acquiesce. The agreement should prove useful to lawyers confronted with other high risk situations involving dangerous animals, psychiatric patients or preadolescent girls:

Airtight Liability Agreement

The La Petite Soccer League (“La Petite”) and Suzanne Marie Spikes (“Probationer”) enter into this binding agreement, in consideration of which La Petite grants Probationer the privilege of participating in its soccer program and Probationer forfeits all of her legal rights:

1. Lawsuits conflict with the La Petite values of team spirit and cooperation and are forbidden by league rules. Probationer assumes the risk of any and all perceived injustices, feelings of persecution, preteen angst, gripes and grievances of any kind. To show her good faith, she shall dismiss her age discrimination claim against the Teeny Tiny College for Pixie Knowledge for making her take a nap when she was seven years old.

2. Probationer shall not share her views on the legal rights of children within 300 yards of La Petite.

3. Probationer shall be conclusively presumed to be the sole proximate cause of any physical injury, mental distress, casualty loss, vandalism, hostage situation or attorney’s fees occurring while she is on La Petite premises. La Petite shall be indemnified for all such losses.

4. Rulings by referees during league play are final and unappealable. Contrary to Probationer’s assertion, there are no “inalienable rights” in a soccer game. There are no rights at all. All rulings shall be accepted with a happy face and without verbally or physically assaulting the referees.

5. Probationer shall not aim soccer kicks at sensitive body parts of players, referees and especially coaches. In the likely event Probationer is expelled from a game, she shall not incite the crowd with chants of “Free Suzy Spikes” as occurred last summer at the Sock ‘Em, Chop ‘Em Karate Academy.

6. Probationer consents to random searches of her lunch box for her favorite snacks: Psycho-Amp Cola, Hunka-Chunka-Choco Chip Frisbees and Jetstream Sugar Bars.

Signed and Sealed this incredibly stressful day of September, 1998. (Against my will. Suzy.)

Postscript. League play got underway and Caitlin reports Suzy is excelling as a team leader. She scored four goals in a game last week, one of them legal. Her persuasive advocacy and hunger strike persuaded the coaches to change the team name from Daisy Girls to Marauding Femmes. She’s made lots of new friends, especially among the security guards. Her sports agent even bought her a new bike.

Suzy’s Re-dress

Originally appeared in the October 1999 issue of the ABA Journal.

Harmless Error - A Truly Minority View on the Law

Suzy’s Re-dress


My daughter’s litigiously delinquent pal, Suzy Spikes, just turned 13, causing concern in the neighborhood over the effect of adolescence on Suzy’s already temperamental nature.

Fortunately, most of the new locks, guard dogs and lawyers on retainer proved unnecessary. Apart from a few hundred histrionic outbursts, three Officer Needs Assistance calls and a minor incident in which Suzy bound Billy Johnson with electrical cord until he conceded she was the nicest girl in the seventh grade, Suzy’s adjustment to teen status has gone surprisingly smoothly.

Until last week, when her middle school imposed a new uniform dress code. On the first day, school officials determined Suzy’s outfit was out of compliance. In response to being sent home, Suzy organized a demonstration in the parking lot in which mobs of seventh-grade girls chanted “No ex post facto plaid” and sang “We Shall Overcome Hunter Green” until administrators reluctantly granted Suzy a hearing.

Principal Geeker represented the school. Suzy appeared pro se. It was a mismatch.

Q. Suzy, you have the uniform dress code in front of you. Show me where it says students are permitted to wear leopard-print tights.

A. Doesn’t say you can’t.

Q. Platform combat boots?

A. Doesn’t say you can’t.

Q. Faux rabbit fur scarf?

A. I stand by my previous answers. If the dorks who wrote this hideously unfair and stupid dress code wanted to outlaw my everyday wear, they should have said so. How was I supposed to know?

Q. It just so happens I’m the dork who wrote this hideously unfair and stupid dress code.

A. Then I should inform you that anything you say can and will be used against you. This state has strict laws protecting children.

Q. Sigh.

Suzy’s case consisted of the testimony of several other adolescent girls who swore under oath they would literally “die” if they couldn’t wear their new $50 teeshirts from Abercrombie & Fitch. Then came Suzy’s turn to examine the principal.

Q. Tell me, Principal Geeker, if that’s your real name, with all the problems facing our schools, why did you decide to dedicate your career to ruining the life of an innocent 13-year-old child?

A. I assure you the purpose of the dress code was not to ruin your life.

Q. Lies! Distortion!

A. Suzy, please.

Q. Objection! Badgering counsel. How can I possibly be expected to defend myself when every move I make I get tormented by The Man?

A. Overruled.

Q. Fine. Send me to the electric chair.

A. Sigh.

Suzy’s closing argument was compelling. She made an impassioned plea for liberty, individuality and Doc Martens, cried real tears, threw up on the vice principal, and threatened a class action on behalf of all similarly situated hormonally impaired and garment-oppressed 13-year-olds. Principal Geeker has called in sick for three weeks, so disposition remains pending.

Suzy’s Breach

Originally appeared in the August 2000 issue of the ABA Journal.

Harmless Error - A Truly Minority View on the Law

Suzy’s Breach


The last time we checked in on Suzy Spikes, my daughter’s litigiously delinquent pal, she was defending herself in a school dress code proceeding. Fortunately, the matter settled.

Suzy agreed not to throw up on school officials during future closing arguments. In return, the dress code was amended to recognize a fundamental right to wear fake tattoos, Mocha Latte nail polish and any outfit evoking the parental response, “Over my dead body.”

Suzy’s latest legal dispute began when she ordered a subscription to Zipgirl magazine. Zipgirl focuses on the issues most vital to today’s adolescent girls: boys and looking good. Reliable teen sources inform me they would actually die without important articles like “Hottie or Soulmate: How To Tell For Sure” and “Britney Spears’ Tips for Keeping Your Belly Button Exposed 24-7.”

Suzy neglected to pay for the subscription, which led to a contentious correspondence exchange pitting a large media conglomerate against 13-year-old Suzy. The inequality in this match-up became quickly apparent:

Dear Ms. Spikes:

You ordered Zipgirl magazine and asked us to bill you. This is your 40th bill. Please sit down right now and take care of this obligation. Act today and receive Zipgirl’s exclusive and very short bonus issue, “Wisdom From Dawson’s Creek.”

Harold Butts, Account Manager

Dear Mr. BUTTS (ha, ha):

You have a lot of nerve trying to charge me for your crummy magazine. I should bill you for the time I waste reading it. In case you didn’t know, I have a lot better things to do than read. Your bills are hurting the environment. Stop sending them or I will report you to Greenpeace.

Yours very truly,
Suzy Spikes

p.s. “How To Get Him To Notice You” was a joke. It didn’t even mention the most obvious ways, like spray painting your name on his locker or hitting him in the head with a stapler.

Dear Ms. Spikes:

We are in receipt of your recent correspondence. If you do not remit the amount due within 14 days, we will have no choice but to refer this matter to our legal department.

Harold Butts

Dear Mr. Butts:

Ooh, like I’m really scared.

Yours very truly,
Suzy Spikes

Dear Ms. Spikes:

You are in breach of your subscription contract. Take appropriate steps immediately to avoid legal action.

Jean Babbleton, Attorney

Dear Ms. Babbleton:

You broke the contract! Because I am the victim of frequent threats to be to grounded for life if I do not change my ways, I read and relied on “10 Ways To A Whole New You.” Despite following all ten suggestions, I have spent three of the last four months in my room.

I’m sure Sam Donaldson would be very interested to hear about how your mean company likes to pick on precious, innocent children.

Yours very truly,
Suzy Spikes

Dear Ms. Spikes:

Keep the magazines.

MediaGiant, Inc.

Unappeased, Suzy kept writing letters until MediaGiant agreed to give her a free lifetime subscription and send an affidavit to her parents accepting sole responsibility for Suzy’s recent misbehavior.

Suzy’s Soulmate

Originally appeared in the April 2001 issue of the ABA Journal.

Harmless Error - A Truly Minority View on the Law

Suzy’s Soulmate


Good news and bad news for supporters of Suzy Spikes, my daughter’s litigious, delinquent pal. The good news is that 13-year-old Suzy found romance. The bad news is that, like most events in Suzy’s life, it threatens to become another landmark case.

It all started when some girls at The Gap teased Suzy for being the only person in the 8th grade who hadn’t found a soulmate. Determined Suzy decided she would find a soulmate that very day, and also that she would file false police reports against the girls who teased her.

Bless her heart. Poor Suzy was baffled when her romantic instincts failed on the first attempt:

Suzy: Hey, you. That’s right. I’m talking to you.

Boy: Yeah.

Suzy: Wanna be my soulmate?

Boy: Can’t. Already have one.

Suzy: Your loss. Anyways, you dress like a dork.

Suzy turned next to her neighbor, Billy Johnson, much to everyone’s surprise. It seems like just yesterday Suzy was threatening to report Billy to the EPA for being an environmental hazard. In fact, it was just yesterday.

But they managed to negotiate a deal whereby Billy agreed to be Suzy’s soulmate in return for Suzy agreeing to quit libeling him in her neighborhood newsletter, The Spikes Report. Always careful to protect her rights, Suzy drafted the following agreement which she made Billy sign:

Suzy’s Soulmate Agreement

I, Billy Johnson, agree to be Suzy Spikes’ soulmate for a period not to exceed the second Suzy says to get out of her face. Since I would rather die than embarrass Suzy for picking a crummy soulmate, I will strictly follow Zipgirl magazine’s Super-Six Soulmate Tips:

1. Communicate honestly. Zipgirl says honest communication leads to happy and successful relationships. Therefore, I will always admit Suzy is right.

2. Be sensitive. Because I couldn’t bear the thought of lovable, adorable Suzy suffering feelings of rejection, I will never turn down her requests to hand over my allowance.

3. Heal old baggage. I hereby release all claims against Suzy for the time she accidentally jammed Baltic Avenue up my nose in Combat Monopoly, and for burying me in the sandbox with only a straw sticking out when we were four, and for tricking me into paying her $14 for a pop-top she said was Britney Spears’ belly-button ring, and for …

4. Don’t be needy. When Suzy and I fight, which Zipgirl says is normal, I will not be needy by yelling for my parents or medical attention.

5. Show them you care. I will call Suzy’s probation officer and tell him it was me who spray-painted “Suzy Rules” on the 8th-grade lockers and that Suzy is just an innocent victim of a patriarchal society. When I get to the juvie detention center, I will destroy all three drawers of Suzy’s records.

6. Be a great date. If we go out in public, I will keep my head down and walk 30 feet behind Suzy, unless we’re at The Gap and some girls start teasing her for not having a soulmate.

Signed: Billy Johnson

Suzy and Billy actually got along for a while—about four minutes—until Suzy accused Billy of breaking her heart, as well as the agreement, by refusing to clean her room. Suzy was last seen downloading breach of contract forms off the Internet.

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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