Stand By Me

–From McClurg, University of Florida College of Law, Date of event: circa 1980

I decided to add a couple of my own stories from law school in the hope that you—the loyal website visitor—will be stimulated to send in your own stories.

Here’s a Socratic happening that many law students have perhaps dreamed about, but few would dare to implement. It occurred in my last semester of law school at the University of Florida. We were being taught criminal procedure by Professor Gerald Bennett.

Professor Bennett was conducting class in typical Socratic fashion one day when my seatmate and close friend, Mac McCarty, turned to me and whispered: “I’m sick of the Socratic method. If he calls on me I’m going to tell him that if I have anything relevant to say I’ll raise my hand.”

“Yeah, right,” I whispered back.

As fate would have it, at that second, these words boomed across the room: “Mr. McCarty, please state the facts in Betts v. Brady.”

It was all I could do to keep from choking on my laughter. I expected Mac’s bravado to dissolve quickly and sat waiting for him to begin reciting the facts. But he didn’t do it.

“Professor Bennett,” Mac said, “I feel I’ve reached the stage of my law school career where if I have anything relevant to say, I’ll raise my hand.”

As you might imagine, stunned silence and dropped jaws filled the room. We all sat perfectly still waiting for Professor Bennett’s response. Would he explode? Storm out of the room? Throw his casebook at Mac? To his credit, he did none of these things. He said calmly, “Well, Mr. McCarty, the exam is in two weeks. Let’s hope you think of something relevant to say by then.”

Then he looked at me and said, a bit more confrontationally, “Mr. McClurg—the facts of Betts v. Brady.”

A moment of truth had arrived. Should I risk my GPA to back up my best buddy in his act of civil disobedience?

“The petitioner was charged with robbery,” I said. “His request for counsel was denied by the trial court … blah, blah, blah.”

I got a better grade in the course, but always admired Mac for his guts. I don’t recommend his approach, especially to my students.

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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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