Passionate Defense of the 'F' Word


| August 6, 2003


Johnny Cochran's got nothing on Colorado Public Defender Eric Vanatta. Last week The Smoking Gun web site released the lawyer's motion to dismiss criminal charges brought against a high school student who swore at an administrator who accused him of smoking in a school bathroom. In defending the student's First Amendment rights, Mr. Vanatta created an argument so brilliant that TSG named it winner of the 2003 legal document of the year award, even though it's only August.

The document conceded that '[a]lthough still offensive to some, fuck is a more commonly used and accepted term in today's twenty-first century society than it was in the past.' Attributing the expletive's proliferation to the popularity of R-rated films, stand up comedy acts, and 'at least 417 song titles containing a member of the Fuck family,' the paper notes that '[c]ounsel knows of no record label or record label executive that has been prosecuted for titling a band, a song or an album' with the F word. To illustrate its overwhelming popularity, the brief compares the 3 most popular variations of the 'F' word to such ideologies as baseball, mom, apple pie, and Freedom of Speech. According to a Google search, the combined expletives garnered approximately 50 million hits, whereas baseball, the next most popular word, turned up about 14 million hits.

After citing several legal cases in which courts have consistently determined that the F word may be used in public places so long as its utterance 'will not cause a violent reaction,' the document concluded that the school adminstrator's professional training put him at low risk of becoming violent when verbally assaulted by the student. Sadly, this brilliant argument will never be tested in court, as the juvenile copped a plea.
-- Erin Ferdinand

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