You’re Not Going to Believe This

 I know it’s been a long week, but recall if you can that on Monday, I warned you there would come a time when I would be unable to resist an opportunity to go lowbrow.  I never thought I would be tested this soon.  Ladies and gentlemen, I fail that test today.

I offer you the case of Thomas Tramaglini, Superintendent (now on paid leave) of Kenilworth Public Schools in Kenilworth, New Jersey.  Mr. Tramaglini was arrested while taking an early morning run on the track of the Holmdel High School late last week.  Holmdel High School is in a neighboring school district, a short distance from Mr. Tramaglini’s home.  If you’ve had occasion to review your district’s GKD (Local) policy lately, you are probably surprised this was even an issue because most Texas schools have policy language specifically stating that prior approval is not required for nonschool use of outdoor, unlocked recreational facilities like tracks and playgrounds.

Mr. Tramaglini was not arrested based on his use of the track for exercise purposes, however.  He was arrested based on his use of the track for toileting purposes.  It seems the Holmdel High School staff and student-athletes had come to expect to find human feces on or near their track on an almost daily basis.  So they did what any of us would do – set up surveillance.  Superintendent Tramaglini was identified as the phantom in question and arrested.

Dawg Readers, we are not here to judge. We’re here to have a great time exploring the legal issues a scenario like this presents. As I mulled this hard luck tale over with my fellow lawyers around the firm, it became clear to me that each of us sees our own work in this story.  For example, Oscar Treviño, who handles lots of business and contracts matters, expressed concern that an incident like this may void the warranty on the track.  Jamie Turner, who practices primarily in the area of special education, turned first to the DSM-5 for diagnosis (she’s leaning toward oppositional defiant disorder).  Doug Brock’s governance take was that this was done in the interest of cost-cutting – natural fertilizer.  Personally, I wonder whether an argument can be made that this is expressive conduct.

Jokes aside, Mr. Tramaglini was charged with lewdness, littering, and defecating in public under New Jersey law.  In Texas, he would likely avoid a lewdness charge because Public Lewdness under Penal Code Section 21.07 involves sexual conduct or contact, but he could potentially be charged with Disorderly Conduct for the exposure of his anus in a public place.  The criminal implications of serial defecation under Texas law largely depend on the mental state of the person doing the serial defecating, however.

Proving an individual’s mental state is a tricky thing.  In order to truly understand what dark place Mr. Tramaglini must have been in to want to do this, though, I suspect it probably requires a fellow superintendent’s perspective. One Texas superintendent views Mr. Tramaglini as the real victim in this story: clearly, the Holmdel High School should have provided restrooms at their track for use by individuals like this man, who was clearly a “defecathlete.”