5th Circuit, Benchslaps, Civil Rights, Ridiculousness, Texas

Benchslap of the Day: Shouldn’t Cheerleaders Know How to Spell?

We've got spirt! Yes we do! We've got spirt! How about you?

Give me an S! Give me a T! Give me an F! Give me a U! What does that spell? STFU!

Just in case you’re not aware, cheerleading is a pretty big deal in Texas. Everyone wants to be a cheerleader because it has some awesome perks. Cheerleaders get the rare privilege of ruling the school while they parade around spreading “spirt” throughout the halls. Cheerleaders hope and pray that they’ll land a football stud who will be their ticket out of town to work at the downtown dollar store.

And last, but certainly not least, alumnae cheerleader moms get to live vicariously through their daughters. And sometimes when former cheerleader moms don’t get what they want, they’ll — Fight! Fight! Fight with all their might! — sue over it.

Girls in my high school used to call each other names and claim Title IX sexual harassment and retaliation all the time. It was no big deal….

We received some tips about an awesome opinion that came down yesterday from the Fifth Circuit, on appeal from the District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Straight from the kick-off, Judge Jerry E. Smith laid down the law:

Reduced to its essentials, this is nothing more than a dispute, fueled by a disgruntled cheerleader mom, over whether her daughter should have made the squad. It is a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court.

Now, what happened here was that the plaintiff, Samantha Sanches, a high school junior, was a member of the Creekview High School’s cheerleading squad in Texas. One of the senior cheerleaders discovered that Sanches was dating her ex-boyfriend, so she did what any wildly jealous high school cheerleader would do: she called Sanches a “ho.”

That made mommie dearest, Liz Laningham, spiral into a NO WIRE HANGERS, EVER fit of rage. Laningham emailed the coach, demanding that the current junior cheerleaders, including her daughter, be allowed to skip tryouts and get automatic spots on the varsity squad.

In the end, Sanches didn’t make the team. Oh, Lawd, the horror! The travesty! (Full disclosure: I was a cheerleader in middle school. My high school lamely didn’t have a football team, and thus, it didn’t have a cheerleading squad. I’m allowed to think all of this cheerleading garbage is dumb.)

The only solution was to get the best lawyers that money could buy. So mommie dearest hired Biglaw attorneys Harry Jones and Jessica Brown Wilson of Littler Mendelson to take on the case. The cause of action, as mentioned above, was Title IX sexual harassment and retaliation, along with a host of other civil rights claims.

After mutually consenting to allow Magistrate Judge Paul Stickney to render a final decision, the Littler Mendelson team of lawyers filed a motion with the district court to vacate the summary judgment rendered. That motion was denied, and Sanches appealed in a manner most unbecoming for a cheerleader à la U-G-L-Y! You ain’t got no alibi! You ugly! Hey, hey, you ugly!

In the last footnote of the opinion, Judge Smith went to town on Littler Mendelson’s attorneys, proving that even judges know some in-your-face cheers:

Usually we do not comment on technical and grammatical errors, because anyone can make such an occasional mistake, but here the miscues are so egregious and obvious that an average fourth grader would have avoided most of them. For example, the word “principals” should have been “principles.” The word “vacatur” is misspelled. The subject and verb are not in agreement in one of the sentences, which has a singular subject (“incompetence”) and a plural verb (“are”). Magistrate Judge Stickney is referred to as “it” instead of “he” and is called a “magistrate” instead of a “magistrate judge.” And finally, the sentence containing the word “incompetence” makes no sense as a matter of standard English prose, so it is not reasonably possible to understand the thought, if any, that is being conveyed. It is ironic that the term “incompetence” is used here, because the only thing that is incompetent is the passage itself.

And in cheerleading terms, what Judge Smith said amounted to: We’re up! You really do suck! We fight! We’re right! We really shut you up! Go Fifth Circuit!

It seems that even Littler Mendelson attorneys need to obsess over the small stuff, like proofreading. In sum, high school cheerleaders are stupid, but their lawyers are apparently stupid(er).

(hidden for your protection)

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