Carpenter's Pun Problem

Coming to a law review near you.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a blockbuster Fourth Amendment case, Carpenter v. United States, at some point in the next few weeks. Although the case hasn't been released, it's not too early to point out a major difficulty that articles, student notes, and other writings will enounter with it: Carpenter is somewhat absurdly conducive to bad article title puns.

I've noted this problem before with Katz v. United States, the Supreme Court's 1967 decision on the Fourth Amendment. Back in 2014, I called for Fourth Amendment authors to stop cat-based title puns. I noted just a few examples of then-recent article titles:

  • Is The Court Allergic To Katz? Problems Posed By New Methods Of Electronic Surveillance To The "Reasonable-Expectation-Of-Privacy" Test

  • Florida v. Jardines: Dogs, Katz, Trespass And The Fourth Amendment

  • Katz On A Hot Tin Roof: Saving The Fourth Amendment From Commercial Conditioning By Reviving Voluntariness In Disclosures To Third Parties

  • It's Raining Katz And Jones: The Implications Of United States v. Jones–A Case Of Sound And Fury

  • Herding Katz: GPS Tracking And Society's Expectations Of Privacy In The 21st Century

  • United States v. Jones: Does Katz Still Have Nine Lives?

  • Katz Cradle: Holding On To Fourth Amendment Parity In An Age Of Evolving Electronic Communication

If you think the Katz situation was out of hand, it's going to reach crisis levels with Carpenter. A carpenter builds and repairs wooden objects and stuctures. Whatever the Supreme Court says in Carpenter, there will be dozens if not hundreds of lumber and carpentry puns guaranteed to come out of the woodwork emerge for use in article titles. And that's in addition to references of songs from the music group The Carpenters.

I noted a few possibilities back in June when cert was granted:

  • The Supreme Court Nails It: Why Carpenter v. United States Is Correct

  • Back to the Woodshed: What the Supreme Court Missed in Carpenter

  • Building a Better Fourth Amendment in Carpenter

And others added a few more in this thread, among others, including

  • Putting a Nail in the Coffin of the Third Party Doctrne

  • We've Only Just Begun Restoring the Fourth Amendment

  • Metadata and Warrants: (They Long to be) Close to You

There are even websites with carpentry puns, so you don't have to think up your own. Although it's so easy that you don't need outside help.

I don't expect I can stop this expected tsunami of Carpenter puns. But maybe I can slow it down just a bit by pointing out to law review authors, and especially to student note writers, that your Carpenter pun may not be as original or as funny as you think. Along those lines, I invite readers to preempt those titles by offering their own in the comment thread.

It's voluntary, of course. But I wood appreciate it.


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  1. I predict that the authors will think they are being particularly original with Carpenter puns by invoking The Carpenters, which is not original (as noted above).

    On that note, and to be particularly tasteless, “The Supreme Court’s Emaciated View of Privacy in Carpenter”

  2. Maybe they will hammer out a compromise.

  3. Well, hopefully the court will never grant cert to a case named Plumber v. United States.

    1. That case would send the law right down the toiilet!

  4. With this article, you’re just punting the problem.

  5. Orin routs carpenter puns — film at 11.

  6. The Carpenter decision will leave us really screwed.

    I doubt the justices will be on the level.

    But the reasoning will be convoluted — no plane speaking there. The readers will just have to saw through it.

  7. Properly framed, carpenter puns might hit the nail on the head. I must say, I’m pretty floored, and I hope there’s not a ceiling to these carpentry puns. Don’t be a square and let these puns level out.

  8. In case of a divided decision — Carpenter Splinters Court

    1. Well played.

    2. Nicely done.

    3. Very good, but think I like “Carpenter Splinters Bench” just a little bit more.

  9. If the law-review authors can’t put their bad jokes in the *titles* of their articles, they’ll end up putting the bad jokes in the articles themselves, in the sense of the articles themselves being bad jokes.

    But let’s stop inflicting puns on each other, we’re only hurting each other.

  10. Academics really need to get beat up a little bit more often. This pun shit was rampant in CS as well.

    1. It is everywhere. I recall a memo I read in the late 90s from the brigade commander reminding us that the use of puns in official correspondence was unprofessional. People were using them in intelligence reports.

  11. “bad article title puns”

    This is a bad opinion.

    No pun is bad. Puns are in fact the best humor.

    1. Never meet a pun I didn’t like, and that’s my punditry for today.

  12. Orin ought to be disbarred for this. And not rebar’d.

  13. the Carpenters sell records, but what about Carpenter’s cell records?

    Also – building a case on Carpenter

  14. the Carpenters sell records, but what about Carpenter’s cell records?

    Also – building a case on Carpenter

  15. You’ve put you’re finger on the reason there is violence in the world.

  16. Carp Enter: Recent Developments on Searches of Fish Domiciles

    1. I’ll take your comment as just a fluke.

  17. The incentive to use catchy titles is too strong. They won’t go away. Heck, I know at least one tenured professor who says it’s better to come up with a paper after thinking of a catchy title, rather than do the research and then title the paper. Swears it helps the acceptance rate.

  18. Prof. Kerr needs to stop nudging law review authors to write differently, or people will start calling him Orin Otherwords.

  19. Carpenter, the decision everyone saw coming.

  20. If I were Carpenter, and you were Brady…

  21. Carpenter calls government on the carpet.

  22. Reporters pick their own ‘pun’ishment.

  23. If only the case had involved a motion for jointer…

  24. Awls well that ends well.

    1. Caselaw precedent augers well for the government’s position.

  25. Rainy days and Supreme Court case puns always get me down.

  26. “Carpenter: Building a Scaffold for the Fourth Amendment”

    Works, albeit in an exaggerated manner, whichever way the decision comes down.

  27. Will the decision be “structurally” sound?

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