Legal Issues

The Arbiter: Sorority Suspended; Network Sued

I was on The Ingraham Angle on Fox News for Laura Ingram’s “The Arbiter” segment. The first case is about a sorority that was suspended for making their members “study too much” and the second case is about a family suing a TV network for showing their Christmas card photo in a movie.


INGRAHAM: It’s time for The Arbiter.

Yes, court is in session, where two attorneys argue a case and then I make a final ruling. And this is a really big gavel. It’s bigger than Nancy’s.

Joining me now is Gayle Trotter, attorney and spokeswoman for the Judicial Crisis Network, and Debbie Hines, former prosecutor. Thank you both for being here tonight, it’s great to have you both on.

This is a really interesting case. Our first case, a Latina sorority at UVA was suspended — I’m thinking, was it drinking? They were suspended after the school said they were hazing members. Not the alcohol thing, not by beating them, but by requiring the would-be sorority sisters to study for more than 25 hours a week.

The sorority is fighting back, and they launched a federal lawsuit against the university for violating its First Amendment rights. Those are the facts, Gayle. There is an operative state statute which we’ll put up on the screen. And in part, it said it shall be unlawful to haze so as to cause bodily injury any student, any college or university. Any person found guilty will be guilty of a class one misdemeanor. And for the purposes of the statute, it includes intentionally endangering the health or safety of a student or students or inflicting bodily injury on a student or students in connection with the purpose of the initiation, it goes on and on, but that is the operative language. So?

GAYLE TROTTER, ATTORNEY: I’m a proud graduate of Mr. Jefferson’s University of Virginia.

INGRAHAM: I am, too, law school, but not undergrad.

TROTTER: And I think that this case is a complete embarrassment to UVA. We are talking about that anti-hazing statute, and it doesn’t apply, it is not even close in this case, because it talks about instances where a student organization endangers the health or safety of a student. And for any UVA administrator to say that studying 25 hours a week when you are a college student endangers the health or safety of a student, is just inconceivable. And it’s unbelievable that any administrator in this situation would think that. And if so, then they clearly did not study enough when they went to college, or they wouldn’t indulge in this rank stupidity.

INGRAHAM: I needed someone to make me study 25 hours a week. Debbie?

DEBBIE HINES, ATTORNEY: OK, so I didn’t go to UVA, but I am a proud member of a sorority, of a college sorority. And so what I would say is, although my personal opinions are different, if I were representing UVA is it is kind of a case of 90 percent — 99 percent versus one percent, so meaning, I think in 99 percent of the cases, there wouldn’t be any emotional or mental or any physical harm — there’s obviously not going to be any physical harm as opposed to emotional.

INGRAHAM: Exhaustion?

HINES: No. But I will say that there are students who have emotional or mental issues that are attending college, for which that maybe this requirement would be an endangerment to their well-being. Obviously, for the vast majority of students, it wouldn’t be, but the university has an obligation and a duty to protect all of its students, not just the vast majority.

INGRAHAM: Hazing means to recklessly or intentionally endanger the health of these pledges. Rebuttal?

TROTTER: Clearly studying is what you are college to do. And if you were a full-time employee, you would be working at least 40 hours a week, and even if you take into account that you’re going to class, if you add that to 25 hours of studying, that is way under —

INGRAHAM: Debbie, your response?

HINES: I’m not saying that it’s excessive, and I agree with that. If you’re computing it out, it comes out to less than four hours a week. But what I’m saying is there are students who come from high school environments where it’s an unstructured environment, and it is unstructured for that reason, that some of them can’t cope.

INGRAHAM: So my ruling in this case, and I have to say it is not even close, is for Ms. Trotter. But there could be kids who don’t want to study, and for them it’s painful. But that’s not reckless or intentional infliction of bodily harm on the health and safety. I don’t think I’d make that case.

On to the next case, though, it is a fa-la-la lawsuit. A California family is suing Lifetime Network after it used their holiday card in a Christmas movie without permission that an actor in that move put up the picture and made this comment. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please don’t put those up, they ruin the whole aesthetic of the place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think them. They are festive.



INGRAHAM: Well, and the photo is in the background, I guess you see, it is an ugly picture. What is the deal, Gayle?

TROTTER: If it was your family and a rich, powerful corporation was targeting you in this way, not only do they not have a legal right to have that prominently and conspicuously displayed in their movies, but they also make this disparaging comment about this beautiful family with a mother, a father, a child. And they had no right to include that, and certainly it was disparaging of the family.

INGRAHAM: Debbie, real quick?

HINES: But all of it hinges on whether there is an expectation of privacy. And we’ve already found out that privacy differs everywhere. So I think that if it was something that was on social media and that’s how Lifetime found it, it’s not really any expectation of privacy that this family has. So they would just be clear out of luck.

INGRAHAM: Ruling, Debbie wins that one, because I believe that was on one of the social media websites. I think the expectation of privacy diminished. But we need to know more, and they will find out more in the case argument it to, whether it was on Snapfish or Shutterfly, and the operative language of those internal contracts matter. But right now, I give it to Debbie. Great segment, you guys, thanks so much.