A First: A Comic-Strip Brief

Comic Strip BriefThanks to Lawahaha.com friend Bob Van Voris of Bloomberg News for sending along a true first: an amicus brief filed in a complex intellectual property dispute in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York comprising only comic strip panels.

(You can get a taste by clicking on the expandable thumbnail, but this gem deserves to be read in full.)

Limited by the court to filing a brief of five pages, Bob Kohn took out his frustration by deciding to simplify the complex arguments in comic book form.

The brief is made up largely of a cartoon-bubble conversation between a man and woman (Kohn and his daughter, according to other sources) in which the man starts out struggling “to explain why supply & demand does not operate normally in the pricing of e-books.” Fortunately–because remember he only has five pages–the woman catches on very quickly, becoming an instant expert in federal antitrust law.

Even so, and despite Kohn’s valiant, creative efforts, his principal concern proved accurate: it’s hard to articulate complex antitrust arguments such as horizontal, predatory and marginal pricing in five pages, regardless of the expression-medium. Maybe he should have just borrowed from Charles Schulz and expressed a simple “Good grief!”

The comic book/federal appellate brief ends with this colloquy:

“You should have been a lawyer,” says the male character.

“Nope. Not for me.”

“Why not?”

“I’m a novelist and it’s impossible to tell a complex story in only five pages.”

Excellent try though. Even if Kohn’s side loses, not all is lost. Maybe Marvel Comics will pick up the tale and create a new series, “Amici Man.”

More details about the underlying case and Kohn’s motivations can be found in this ABA Journal article.

Brief of Bob Kohn as Amicus Curiae, U.S. v. Apple, Inc., Civ. Action No. 12-CV-2826 (DLC), S.D.N.Y., Sept. 4, 2012. Thanks to Bob Van Voris.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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