Carpenter's Pun Problem

Coming to a law review near you.


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.