Serving up Seasonal Pedagogy this Thanksgiving

If you are a fan of “seasonal pedagogy” like me, then you’re always looking for creative ways to interject holiday fun into your classroom. This Thanksgiving, “feast” your eyes on the interesting, Thanksgiving-themed cases below:

The Man who Sued Thanksgiving: In Riches v. Thanksgiving, et al., a federal prisoner proceeding pro se brought suit against “Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, Mayflower Movers, Pilgrim Pride, Turkey Hill, Black Friday, Corn on the Cob, [and] the Cleveland Indians” on the ground that Thanksgiving (and apparently, everything even loosely associated with it) “offend[ed] him” and also violated the separation of Church and State. No. C 07-6108, 2007 WL 4591385, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 28, 2007). As a result, he sought the trivial sum of $100 million in damages as well as a “restraining order against the celebration of Thanksgiving holidays.” Id. Thankfully (bad pun intended), the court dismissed his claim because the long list of defendants either could not be sued or were private entities not acting under the color of state law. Id.

No cranberry sauce for you: In Austin, Nicholls, & Co. v. Barberio, 246 S.W. 703 (Tex. Civ. App. 1922), a buyer asked that an order of cranberries be shipped “in time for November trade” and sued the seller for damages when they failed to arrive on time.

Thank Responsibly: In State of New Jersey v. Thomas, 372 N.J. Super. 29, 33 (Super. Ct. 2002), the court upheld the constitutionality of sobriety roadblocks on Thanksgiving Eve, which was described as a “time of increased alcohol consumption . . . greater potential for impaired motorists . .  . [and] significant numbers of DWI arrests.”

The Strange Case of the Tom Turkey Tariff: In WWRD U.S., LLC v. United States, 211 F. Supp. 3d 1365, 1367–68 (Ct. Int’l Trade 2017), an importer argued that holiday-themed dinnerware featuring, inter alia, an image of “regal tom turkey” encircled by “nuts, fruits, berries, and vegetables” is duty-free under subheading 9817.95.01 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the U.S. (“HTSUS”), which covers “utilitarian articles of a kind used in the home in the performance of specific religious or cultural ritual celebrations for religious or cultural holidays, or religious festive occasions . . .” After engaging in a detailed interpretative analysis of that provision, the U.S. Court of International Trade ultimately determined that Thanksgiving dinner does not constitute a “specific cultural ritual celebration” within the meaning of the HTSUS. Id. at 1373. Thus, the Tom Turkey dinnerware was sadly, not duty-free.

Black Friday Bankruptcy: In Dwyer v. Duffy, 426 F.3d 1041, 1043 (9th Cir. 2005), Patricia Dwyer filed for bankruptcy and received a notice stating that the last day an objection could be filed was November 29, 2002 — the day after Thanksgiving. So when Dwyer’s ex-husband, Vincent Duffy, filed an objection on the Monday after Thanksgiving, Dwyer moved to dismiss it as untimely. Id. The bankruptcy court granted her motion, concluding that the day after Thanksgiving is not a “legal holiday.” Id. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit disagreed, reasoning that Rule 9006 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure defines a “legal holiday” as “any other day appointed as a holiday . . . by the state in which the court is held.” Id. Because Section 135 of the California Civil Procedure Code listed the day after Thanksgiving as a “judicial holiday” on which California courts would be closed, the Ninth Circuit held that “for the California courts’ purpose, the terms ‘holiday” and ‘judicial holiday’ are interchangeable.” Id. Therefore, “the day after Thanksgiving . . . is a ‘legal holiday’ under Bankruptcy Rule 9006 for bankruptcy practitioners” in California. Id.

Do you interject seasonal pedagogy in your classroom? Share your good ideas at And happy Thanksgiving from the TeachLawBetter Team!  

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