Steve Baird reports on an unusual event that provided unusual clarity: Remarks by the Chief Justice, John Roberts, concerning the review of trademark law cases by the Supreme Court:
It’s not every day you’re presented with the unique opportunity of seeing and hearing the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court live in your own backyard, thanks very much Caleb!
Tuesday was that day, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. was here in Minneapolis for the 2018 Stein Lecture at the University of Minnesota’s Northrup Auditorium, as the Star Tribune reported. . .
Others reporting on this event don’t appear to care about trademarks as much as we do, so this may be the only place you’ll learn about Justice Roberts’ remarks relating to trademarks. . .
As you can imagine, knowing the vast body of legal subject matter confronted by the Supreme Court, clearly my ears perked up in hearing Justice Roberts utter the word “trademark” five times!
Whose wouldn’t? I mean whose ears among the ears of people whose eyes are reading these words? Have I made myself clear?
Anyway, here’s the payoff (I inserted the paragraph breaks here so it’s easier to read, but I think they also makes sense — these were, after all, oral remarks) from Justice Roberts:
When I was practicing law, this is a speech I gave a lot of times, because I was not an expert in any area of the law. I like to think of myself as somebody who was good arguing in a particular court, in the Supreme Court, and so I’d have to, you know, convince someone who comes in with an important trademark case, who could hire the world’s leading expert in trademark law, or me.
And, I would tell them, look, the Supreme Court does not think your case is a big deal for trademark law. It thinks your case is a big deal for how regulations relate to the statute, how particular provisions in the statute should be read. So, you need somebody who, you know, can look at it in that broader perspective that the justices do.
And you know, I would say, half of the time, they would say, well, I actually want somebody who knows something about trademark law, and that was understandable, but, then it would be, and, you know, they would get there in front of the Court, and they’re too expert in trademark law, and the justices just aren’t that interested in a lot of those nuances, and sometimes they would just be speaking over each other.
Hard to believe! Not. And this is true of most Circuit judges too.
Fact is, trademark law, judges — much less justices — are not all much into you. Proceed accordingly.