Lawful Evil

By skepticlawyer

Via Jacques Chester, in the realm of ‘you can’t possibly make this up’, here’s a decision of the US 7th Circuit.

Most of the time, I think that all the lawyer jokes out there are unfair. That said, as a lawyer, I’m prepared to take the rap because (a) lawyers tell lawyer jokes too and (b) I find lawyer jokes funny. So do most lawyers. It can be very disarming, having a professional one is all set to excoriate come out with a line of self-deprecating patter, yes? Sometimes, however, the jokes are richly deserved. In the following case, it appears that an entire US appellate court is, if not a joke, well on the way to becoming one. So are all the lawyers who appeared before it in this… case.

The case in question is about Dungeons & Dragons. And no, I don’t understand either.

Predictably, I used to play Dungeons & Dragons in high school. Just as predictably, I didn’t lose my virginity until I stopped. It’s an established fact that Dungeons & Dragons is a bigger threat to human reproduction than all the gay marriages in the world.

But I did not know until this day that D&D could also pose a security risk. A Wisconsin prisoner, Kevin T. Singer, sued Wisconsin’s Waupun Correctional Institution after the guards confiscated his D&D materials.

Why did the prison guards take away this guy’s D&D paraphernalia? I’ll let Judge John Tinder of the Seventh Circuit explain:

Waupun’s long-serving Disruptive Group Coordinator, Captain Bruce Muraski, received an anonymous letter from an inmate. The letter expressed concern that Singer and three other inmates were forming a D&D gang and were trying to recruit others to join by passing around their D&D publications and touting the “rush” they got from playing the game. Muraski, Waupun’s expert on gang activity, decided to heed the letter’s advice and “check into this gang before it gets out of hand.”

A gang? A gang that needs to be checked? I’ve never been to prison, but I have watched Oz. I’m forced to believe one of two things: (a) any D&D “gang” member would find themselves tossing salads faster than you can say “saving throw against horrific prison justice … fails,” or (b) if you could beat up the D&D kids in your high school, then you can go to Wisconsin, commit violent crimes with impunity, get sent to prison and live like a God.

Singer sued the prison for violating his First Amendment rights. The district court ruled for the correctional facility on summary judgment, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed.

Does that mean we get to hear the Seventh Circuit argue that D&D is gang-like? Yes it does. Will that be hilarious? More fun than hacking through an encampment of goblins with a dwarven ax of immolation…

As they say, read the whole thing.

UPDATE: (ADMIN DEM: Who knew I was a teenage gang-star?! In MY* day we were just being recruited by witches…)

*Disclosure: somewhere in the dusty vaults of the 7.30 Report there is a long-forgotten television debate on the “dangers” of D&D involving a teenage gamer DEM and a Gold Coast evangelist who wanted to ban spooky spaghetti for its occult imagery. (According to SL it was last seen in a UQ Criminology module on “Moral Panics” and made her laugh like a drain.)


  1. Posted February 6, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I was never a gamer, but I am gamer compatible. (My house in Canberra used to be a regular meeting place for gamers, my housemate was terribly keen.)

    But the post just made me laugh lots. It falls into the You Guys Just Don’t Get It category. (Repeat after me: harmless catharsis is good.)

  2. kvd
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I agree with the courts – and in fact I find all games to be corrupting. Took me years to recover from my childhood knowledge gained from Monopoly that it was more profitable in the latter stages of the game to just sit in jail collecting rents than doing any honest work.

    And then almost three years into marriage before discovering my wife’s ability to insert up to nine blanks in a game of Scrabble – a trick taught her by her Royal Navy officer father (MBE) – and executed without the slightest blink;)

  3. Posted February 6, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Demonstrable idiots. Makes you wonder what else they’ve screwed up on – both the domain “expert” and the court.

    Perhaps the legal fraternity in the US can change “There was this judge in Ireland….” jokes to “There was this Seventh Circuit judge….”

  4. desipis
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I saw this a while back, and as someone who still plays, it was a bit of a head desk moment. If anything, I think that pen&paper role playing games (such as D&D) would be beneficial to the rehabilitation process (adhering to rules, working together, consequences for actions, etc). I also think it could have positive benefits for children too.

    That said, I can see the point that it’s not really the place for the court to second guess the decision of prison officials; not on the word of (ex)prisoners anyway.

  5. Posted February 6, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Any idea where the anti-D&D letter originally came from? Perhaps someone of the “Harry Potter should be banned because it encourages satanism” brigade?

    I’m sure there are some prisoner clubs, prayer groups perhaps, that being religious in nature, could attract the accusation of being inherently prone to causing conflict between groups, with lots of evidence from history – more likely to leave to bands with mutual and indeed violent antipathy than a game of DandD.

  6. Posted February 6, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Umm… looks like my guilty secret is out. If you’d like to laugh REALLY hard, do go over the fold to read the UPDATE I’ve now added to SL’s post.

  7. Posted February 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    NB: ‘Read the whole thing’ takes you off blog, while ‘read more’ will keep you here… and make you laugh uncontrollably.

  8. Movius
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Nobody does unintentional humour quite like Jack Chick.

  9. Posted February 6, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    kvd: I bet she can do it on a triple word score, too.

  10. kvd
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    SL – yes and quite galling. Years past now, but I told her the result would be our kids with reduced vocabulary, but more than handy at chess.

  11. Posted February 7, 2011 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    DEM: Thanks for making it even funnier.

  12. Jacques Chester
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    That reminds me, I and my friends in the middle of a fiendishly complex roleplaying plot created by our long time GM. I should post the dozens of clues and see if SL Bloggers & Regulars United can work out what the devil is going on, because I am bloody stumped.

  13. Sweeney
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    My guess is that the prophetic masterpiece ‘Mazes and Monsters’ was brought into evidence.
    It clearly shows that Satan had his paws all over Dungeons & Dragons. Obviously D&D was responsible for turning nerdy Arab youths into al-Qaeda and we know what happened next …

  14. Posted February 7, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I also think that this ruling is ludicrous, but I don’t think you can go very far in protest can you, because prisoners don’t have any rights of free association, kind of by definition.

    I also like the tragic irony of being a dungeon master in an actual dungeon.

  15. Posted February 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Well, you couldn’t have a decent game of D&D in parliamentary party rooms – too many lawful evil players, neutral evil and chaotic evils, not enough chaotic goods and lawful goods to balance. (Oh the fun to be had figuring out the alignments of parties and fanctions… )

    But yes, DEMs additions… so much like those films about the evil dope fiend.

  16. Posted February 7, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] 🙂

    I fancied myself as Chaotic Good but, as I get older, I am less keen on Chaos. A cliche, I know.

  17. Posted February 8, 2011 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    Sad but true confession: when I was developing the characters for my second novel, I found using AD&D alignments for them was a useful exercise. The number of chaotic neutrals in evidence did become worrying after a while …

  18. Posted February 8, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    [email protected] I have long suspected that Raymond Feist gamed Magician. The whole story is going one way and then it just shifts — that is where he threw a triple ‘6’.

  19. Posted February 9, 2011 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    [email protected] Quite. I tend to “turn my brain off and enjoy” with novels, I was youngish when I read it, and even I noticed on my first read.

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