Prof Seeks Jurisdiction Over Cell Phone During Civ Pro Exam

–From Dan Harayda, Massachusetts School of Law, Date of event: Fall 2003

This is funny in retrospect and became the stuff of legend at Massachusetts School of Law. It was during our first final of the first year: Civil Procedure. We all knew it was going to be a hard test.

At the beginning of exam, the professor made it quite clear that all cell-phones must be turned off. Less than a half-hour into the test, a phone started to ring, then stopped. About 10 seconds later it began to ring again. Everyone was looking to the back where the sound was coming from, including the professor, who looked mad.

Then it rang again! This time the prof says, “Check and turn off your phones! I’ll give everyone five minutes extra on the final.” He made it clear that he definitely DID NOT want to hear that phone ring again.

With everyone checking their bags, the same ring-tone starts again. So the phone has gone off at least four times now. You would think everyone would have finally checked and turned off their phones, but about a minute later it rings again. By this time, the professor is pacing the room trying to pinpoint the sound. He yells (and I mean yells) that if he finds out whose cell-phone that is, not only are they failing his final, but they will sit in front of the disciplinary board. He hovered in the area, just waiting for it to ring. He was ready to pounce. Luckily the cell-phone did not ring again. I am sure if it had, the professor would have kept his promise and failed that student.

Looking back I always wondered how that student did on the final. I know it would have scared me stiff. I do know that several students complained and blamed their grade on the test on the ringing.

I wondered if one of those people was the owner of the infamous ringing phone!

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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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