On Sunday, Jess Errico watched her North Carolina Tar Heels snuff out the Cinderella run of the No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s Peacocks to set up a semifinal matchup with their archrival — the Duke Blue Devils.
A day later, the first-year University of North Carolina law school student realized she was in trouble. The Final Four game — the first time the Tar Heels and Blue Devils will face off in the NCAA tournament — was scheduled for Saturday, right before Errico and about 200 of her peers had to turn in the capstone project for their legal writing class. The assignment is worth 65 percent of their grade.
Errico, 26, told The Washington Post that she thought about getting the assignment done ahead of time or simply emailing her professor to ask for more time. Then, she had an idea: She would argue for a delay using the very lessons her professors had been teaching throughout the year.
For the rest of her motion, first reported by the Charlotte Observer, Errico spelled the private university 10 miles to the northeast of UNC as “Dook,” a common Tar Heel jab at their in-state rivals.
Her argument: The course syllabus allowed for extensions when “something wild” happens during the school year, with the syllabus citing “2 weeks of snow days” as an example. Errico suggests Saturday’s Final Four game is just such an occasion.
“Like two weeks of snow days, a Dook and UNC matchup in the NCAA tournament has never occurred. Despite both men’s basketball teams having played a combined 334 NCAA tournament games with a combined total of 34 Final Four appearances, the North Carolina rivals have never faced off with advancement to the NCAA championship game on the table.”
Her classmate joined in on the fun by filing an “amicus curiae” brief in support of Errico’s motion. In it, second-year student Adam Gillette simply included a two-frame “Mad Men” meme related to the upcoming game.
One of Errico’s professors, Rachel Gurvich, described the arguments as “extremely persuasive.” A day after receiving Errico’s motion, Gurvich met with the associate dean for academic affairs and the seven other professors who teach the course. They unanimously decided to grant her request.
The result came down in a ruling from “The Court” the next day. The “judges” of “the courts of law and basketball” were granting her motion by extending the students’ deadline 48 hours to Tuesday night, three days after the game against Duke and 24 hours after the NCAA championship.
Separating the paragraphs in the order: a series of three basketball dots.
As Errico put it, she sent a tongue-in-cheek request, and her professors “gave it right back.”
Errico told The Post she knows being a lawyer is a serious business — that’s why she decided to become one. After graduating from North Carolina State University in 2019 with a double major in mechanical and aerospace engineering and then working two years as an engineer, she craved advocacy work.
Lawyers are often dealing with “the worst days of other people’s lives,” she said.
That makes it especially important to inject levity when you can, she added. This week, she saw a chance to do so and took it.
“I’m tickled that other people find it humorous and are laughing,” Errico said.
Mission accomplished, at least according to her professors.
“This whole thing has brought a whole lot of happiness to a whole lot of people,” Gurvich said in a tweet. “Our students are learning about advocacy AND they basically just manifested joy out of nothing. Being able to say yes to them has made me smile all day.”
Gurvich added a postscript: “And now [Errico] is a legend.”