This blog post should have been called “The World of Harry Potter: Child’s Dream or Oppressive Police State” because it’s the original title of the blog post I was going to write with my dear friend Shane. I got the news earlier this week that Shane is no longer with us. I wanted to finally publish this blog post in his honor. While originally we thought about writing a paper together, we then settled on doing a blog post for my blog. I would have much rather enjoyed writing and collaborating on this with him. That being said, I want to talk a little bit about our friendship and how Harry Potter brought us together, and then share some excerpts from our many Harry Potter related conversations.
So, Shane and I became friends when we were law clerks together. At first, Shane was just another clerk that I talked to occasionally, until two fateful days in January 2021.
The first fateful day in January
As law clerks, our job is to learn everything about each of these cases — the parties, the facts, the procedural history, and be well-versed in the motions filed in the case. One Friday in January, we had a case that was “not going forward” because one of the attorneys had covid. Naturally, I put the case aside and didn’t prep it, only to find out the night before the case was going forward, that the parties are not going to postpone and will appear in court the next day.
So naturally, 12 hours before these attorneys come into our courtroom, I’m panicking. But, it’s my job to solve problems and make my judge’s life as easy as possible, so I put on my detective hat. And dear reader, if I could explain to you, how INSANE of a night I was having, and how I was literally able to connect dots from having absolutely nothing to finally putting it all together, damn, I’m still so impressed with myself.
But then, I ran into a snag. There was a document that I couldn’t find anywhere, until I realized, “Oh shit, Shane’s judge issued this order.” So I messaged Shane, on Teams, at 2 am, sounding completely unhinged. I asked him to go into his judge’s shared drive and send me a specific order from this specific day from this specific case. Thinking he wouldn’t respond until the morning, I put my phone away. But then… I hear a ping. And those of you who have Teams, know the sound I’m talking about. It’s Shane, and he says: “Hang on a second.” and 5 minutes later he sent me the exact document I needed. I was like, MY HERO.
All of the next week, I sang Shane’s praises about how he came through, and also clearly didn’t mind that I sounded completely unhinged in my message to him. Thus began our friendship, until the second fateful day in January…
A second fateful day in January
All the judges had to vote on which magistrate was going to be “promoted” to be an associate judge, and we, as the law clerks, had to stay late to “collect and drop off their secret ballot.” On this lovely Wednesday, I was going to be able to go home at 4:45, but-for this “secret vote,” which means I would have to stay till 7, which was NOT the vibe.
My judge was on the 8th floor, and Shane’s was on the 9th. In our huge law clerk group chat, Shane said, “I’m staying late anyway, so I’ll collect all the ballots from the 9th floor.” Me, realizing an opportunity when I saw one, messaged Shane: “Heeeyyy, so, how much would you hate me if I asked you to pick up our floor ballots too?” and Shane, being the kind person he always was, graciously agreed (and said he wouldn’t hate me). Shane proceeded to message the entire law clerk group chat and say, “I’m doing both 8th and 9th floor, so if anyone else needs me to do theirs, let me know!” to which someone asked, “How did you get roped into that?” And he replied, “I just do whatever Sandhya tells me to do.”
Now, to be clear, that wasn’t the only reason I became friends with him — I don’t only become friends with people because they listen to me (though let’s be real, I’m right 99.99% of the time) — but I knew that Shane was great and I wanted him around.
That became a running joke between us, “I just always listen to Sandhya” and “The trick to get through life is to listen to what Sandhya says.”
And then, we became fast friends. We bonded over our shared love for meditation, the fact that oftentimes we unintentionally meal skip (oops), and he concocted the nickname “Sweet Sandy” for me after I bought him lunch after he was stuck with a late night jury trial. And then, our friendship began. The biggest link of our friendship was Harry Potter. We talked about the books constantly, and he told me that he had never watched the Harry Potter movies! Obviously, I took great personal offense to this, and I told him, “you need to watch the Harry Potter movies, and you need to live-message me while you do that.” And so, the next 4 days, Shane went home from work, put on Harry Potter, and we proceeded to text throughout the evening.
A lot of our conversations were loopholes and questions we just couldn’t seem to answer. Perhaps we’d be able to answer them if we reread the books again, or if we actually spent time to think about it, because I’m sure that a lot of the answers to these questions are out there. But, the mystery of these answers kept our conversations alive, and let’s be real, was the highlight of our days at the Courthouse.
I thought I would share some of those excerpts below.
If I were to publish this with Shane, then I think we would have included possible solutions or actual analysis about how overly oppressive the wizarding world actually is. Without Shane, I didn’t feel confident enough in his voice to write it on my own. So instead, here we go:
Excerpts from our many Harry Potter Conversations
- Why can’t “reparo” fix a broken bone?
- Sectumsempra basically killed draco but apparently, snape used it on james and marauders all the time
- What are the parallels between the marauders map and the real world, like is this a tracking chip type of situation?
- There’s no physical trespass like a GPS chip, the map just like knows where you are. But it does seem severe and persuasive
- But it’s also “pacing back and forth in dumbledores office”
- Is your footprint private?
- Magical creatures are limited because they aren’t allowed to use a wand, the implication being that magic is possible without a wand it just isn’t very potent or extensive
- Why doesn’t everyone just make sure they get painted before they die?
- There’s a spell that fixes a room back to how it was whenever, but we can’t fix an ear
- How come Hermione fixes Harry’s glasses every year… but can’t like, fix his eyes??
- How the hell can you regrow an arm but not fix astigmatism?
We spent a lot of time complaining about the wizarding criminal justice system and questions about wizard law in general. I still want to write a paper on this. If I ever do, Shane will be in my acknowledgments.
- What is with the surveillance state that knows the moment you use magic outside of school? “6:43pm. You used a patronus charm in the presence of a muggle”
- Legal standards for a muggle in the wizard world and vice versa?
- “Just snatch him and take him to the ministry for wizard style trial and then off to azkaban”
- Wizard trials? Bias? Bringing muggles in would have a hard time focusing on the trial
- How does the ministry catch anyone at all to put them in azkaban? Can’t they just apparate out?
- Step 1: expelliarmus, grab the wand
- Magic handcuffs? Pepper spray?
- How do you know immediately exactly when and where and which wand used an unforgivable curse and yet couldn’t just find voldemort and the death eaters – how are they avoiding detection?
- How messed up azkaban is – we don’t send you to prison, we make sure it is the most hellish experience ever that will eventually make your mind mush. Never had a wrongful conviction? “Of sorry, we got the wrong guy, you’re free to go” prisoner: *drooling*
- The criminal justice system is all punitive and no rehabilitative at all
- No mention of appeals or post-conviction process – magic world is so unprogressive
- “You can’t occlumate without the requisite occlumens rea”
- This was our true legal nerdiness showing.
- Is the actus reus always the waving of your wand? And the mens rea being the saying/thinking of the spell?
- “For any magical crime you need the spell and the wand wave. Intention is satisfied with the intention to cast the spell, it doesn’t matter if you intended how it turned out” – Shane
- Can a jury infer you’re the one who cast the spell by the circumstances if no one said a spell out loud and there was no visible wand waving?
- What is the wizarding council actually called for – is it equivalent to a grand jury proceeding?
- Do you need a warrant to do that thing where they make your wand show the last spell it cast?
- Who signs the warrants? A pen moving by itself in the office?
- You can’t just be looking at another person’s wand history without probable cause, that shit’s private. We all cast some weird spells sometimes when ones around don’t be putting me out there like that
- When you commit crimes as an animagus, you’d be persecuted as a human right?
- Depends on whether you refuse to change back for the proceedings
- Me: “Imagine being sirius and chilling as a dog, lift my paw and take the oath”
- Shane: “Nah don’t take the oath, plead the fifth!”
- What law do they use??
- We concluded it’s probably a foundation of English Common law that has developed under wizarding principles and has sometimes been superseded by statute
- We haven’t even considered civil law!! They gotta have negligence right? Everyone’s shooting magic sparks around all the time, there’s gotta be disputes over who owes who how much money for someone’s pet being turned into a plan by accident
- The weasleys probably have so many citations
- Judgment against their house
- And their store – bankruptcy proceeding
- The weasleys probably have so many citations
- Wizarding law secured transactions
- In a series of conversations, I told Shane that I hate the British (it’s in my blood), but I love Secured Transactions
- Shane told me very clearly that it is entirely okay to hate his grandma (who is British) but it is not okay to like Secured Transactions hahahah
- Can I accio a marble from the other side of the planet into a dude standing in front of me? In self defense of course. Like we’re gods over here, aren’t we violating the first law of thermodynamics?
- What else do you think is on the ENTIRE ministry’s docket that day? No one in the gallery but a DV is bound to walk in
- The OWLSATS (Wizards going to law school)
- “You can fire them but you can’t banish them from the grounds” – dumbledore #lawyered
- “But my decrees!”
- “Every one of you was searched” – surveillance state
The most recent loophole was when I texted him in full caps on December 8, 2022: “I HAVE A QUESTION. COULDN’T PEOPLE JUST TRANSFIGURE THINGS INTO MONEY AND GOLD AND RUIN THE ECONOMY? But I guess Flamel couldn’t do it”
Shane excitedly responded (despite the fact that I gave zero context whatsoever) “Yeah they’re super dodgy about that one right! Like they never explain how they avoid counterfeit or anything. And why gold would be so special it’s any different physically from transfiguring anything else. The public deserves to know”
Me: “Do you think there’s a ‘precious metals’ exception or something?”
Shane: “made by who??” and that is an answer I still couldn’t tell you.
An Ode to Shane
These are just some of the many many Harry Potter related conversations we had. Shane was one of my favorite people, and I’m really heartbroken over the news that he’s no longer with us. You’ll forever be in my heart and I’m honored to have known you and shared something we both love.
I’m going to miss you Shane, and I hope you know that in the past year that we’ve been friends, you made an immense difference in my life, and I know for a fact that you were a shining star in so many others’ as well.
With all my love, forever and always,