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Vonnegut makes court appearance – sort of

Kurt Vonnegut‘s 1961 short story “Harrison Bergeron” was cited in a brief filed with the Kansas Supreme Court in a lawsuit over funding of public schools. The story, which appears in Welcome to the Monkey House, is about a future in which the 211th, 212th and 213th Amendments to the US Constitution require hampering anyone’s above-average abilities in some fashion so everyone is equal.

Attorneys arguing that any sort of cap on local taxes for education is unconstitutional used the article as an example of the dangers of forced equality. According to the article, Vonnegut thinks they missed the point because the story is about trying to level out intelligence and talent, not money.

I don’t recall ever citing a literary work in a brief at either the trial or appellate court level. Particularly given the character count and page restrictions on briefs these days, it might take too long to explain the import of the work. Still, if a person were inclined to cite an author in a legal brief, Vonnegut would be a prime candidate.


I still believe that peace and plenty and happiness can be worked out some way. I am a fool.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jailbird

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1 comment to Vonnegut makes court appearance – sort of

  • Nerval from Portugal

    I only read Vonegut’s “Slaughterhouse” something… in my younger years. It impressed me very much, though I can’t remember the first thing about it.