Published On: Mon, Jun 22nd, 2015

Elena Kagan Has Some Fun With Spider-Man Decision


Elena Kagan

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan has shown that it is in fact possible to have some fun with a ruling from America’s highest court. She did so in a ruling in the case Kimble vs Marvel.

The case dealt with the question of whether or not one Stephen Kimble violated a copyright held by Marvel for a toy which sprays webs just like their comic book hero Spider-Man does. Marvel won the case and we won’t bore you with all of the legal technicalities involved in the suit. The important thing was what Justice Kagan put into her opinion which she wrote for the majority.

On the decision that the copyright was not limited by any time frame she wrote, “The parties sent no end date for royalties, apparently contemplating that they would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can).”

“Indeed, [prior case law’s] close relation to a whole web of precedents means that overruling it could threaten others, ” Kagan also wrote.

“What we can decide, we can undecide, ” she said. “But stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: ‘SpiderMan, ’ p. 13 (1962) (‘[I]n this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility’).”

We wonder if Justice Kagan’s eight fellow justices appreciated her efforts. Perhaps it is time for the Supreme Court to do something about its stuffy image. Maybe from now on the president and U.S. Congress will check for a sense of humor when reviewing a nominee for the Supreme Court.

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