Courts & Crime

A beer pong footnote and the art of judicial writing

Beer pong. (Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/MCT)
Beer pong. (Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/MCT) MCT

The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals has now added a new entry to the roster of remarkable judicial footnotes.

It’s about beer pong.

Sounds less analytical, perhaps, than Justice Harlan Fiske Stone’s** famed Footnote 4 to United States v. Carolene Products Co. And unlike Footnote 11 to Brown v. Board of Education, it does not muster an impressive array of social science research.

But in a case that’s all about intoxication and alleged sexual assault, the military court appropriately found it necessary to explain how the game of beer pong works.

In Footnote 1 of the decision in the case United States v. Alejandor Torres, Judge Col. Mark K. Jamison explains that the game...

“starts by pouring beer into ten cups arranged in the shape of a triangle at both ends of a table. Approximately two beers are used in filling each player’s ten cups for one round of play. The object of the game is for the player to throw a ping pong ball into one of the opponent’s cups on the opposite end of the table. If the player is successful and the ping pong ball lands in one of the opponent’s cups, the opponent has to drink the contents of that cup.”

And there is more. The detailed description may seem at first a wry detour, but it ultimately helps the reader understand what happened in this, actually, quite sad case.

** The original version of this story incorrectly attributed the footnote to Justice Robert Jackson.