Monday, April 17, 2006

Defense to Charge of Run-On Sentencing: "The Supreme Court Does It"

I assure you that I am still alive, but working on the petition for all the ickle firsties trying to write-on to the journals and family stuff for Easter has sucked up all my time that isn't being spent studying. But, in an effort to do something other than studying, I offer you the following defense to a charge of excessive run-on sentences:1 "The Supreme Court of the United States does it . . . I can too!"

As an example, I offer into Evidence the case of United Drug Co. v. Theodore Rectanus Co.2 (kindly provided by my Trademarks casebook). In that case, the Court kindly summerized the holding of the Court of Appeals in the following sentence:
The Circuit Court of Appeals held that in view of the fact that Rectanus had used the mark for a long period of years in entire ignorance of Mrs. Regis' remedy or of her trade-mark, had expended money in making his mark well known, and had established a considerable though local business under it in Louisville and vicinity, while on the other hand during the same long period Mrs. Regis had done nothing, either by sales agencies or by advertising, to make her medicine or its mark known outside of the New England States, saving sporadic sales in territory adjacent to those States, and had made no effort whatever to extend the trade to Kentucky, she and her successors were bound to know that, misled by their silence and inaction, others might act, as Rectanus and his successors did act, upon the assumption that the field was open, and therefore were estopped to ask for an injunction against the continued use of the mark in Louisville and vicinity by the Rectanus Company.3
Quite the moutful, eh? As if that weren't bad enough, the Court later "succintly" stated its holding, again in a single sentence, thusly:
Mrs. Regis and her firm, having during a long period of years confined their use of the "Rex" mark to a limited territory wholly remote from that in controversy, must be held to have taken the risk that some innocent party might in the meantime hit upon the same mark, apply it to goods of similar character, and expend money and effort in building up a trade under it; and since it appears that Rectanus in good faith, and without notice of any prior use by others, selected and used the "Rex" mark, and by the expenditure of money and effort succeeded in building up a local but valuable trade under it in Louisville and vicinity before petitioner entered that field, so that "Rex" had come to be recognized there as the "trade signature" of Rectanus and of respondent as his successor, petitioner is estopped to set up their continued use of the mark in that territory as an infringement of the Regis trade-mark.4
What a great example of legal writing that is. Remind me to submit a conclusion sentence like that in every piece of legal writing I ever do.

1 Which is an obsession of my Note & Comment editors which is surpassed only by their hatred of the Passive Voice, even if the voice is not passive and the sentence does not "run on" beyond two lines. But I digress.
2 248 U.S. 90 (1918). Incidentally, Rectanus is one of the funniest party names I've seen all year. I mean come on, it has the major part of the word "Rectum" in it, and the word "anus" too. And that is some guy's last name. That guy would have been teased in my elementary school.
3 Id. at 96 (describing the holding of the Sixth Circuit using as many f&*king words as possible).
4 Id. at 103 (are you KIDDING ME?)


At 12:58 PM, Blogger biff said...

Reads like a statute.

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Ivan Ludmer said...

Next time your Note & Comment editors get their panties in a bunch about a sentence like that, you can just tell them it's not a run-on sentence unless it joins two independent clauses together without punctuation this sentence does that and is therefore a run-on. Those didn't and weren't.

Then again, I'm hardly one to be criticizing grammar-naziness, obviously.


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