They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and one lawyer tested that notion last week when he filed a five-page cartoon as his amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The amicus brief was written by Bob Kohn, an expert in music licensing law and chairman of RoyaltyShare, Inc. The brief was filed in response to a proposed settlement offer in a lawsuit initiated by the U.S Justice Department, against Apple, Inc. and five additional publishers. Apple and the other publishers were accused of illegally colluding to set prices for electronic books. Kohn’s brief argues (rather, illustrates) that since Amazon sold e-books below marginal cost, horizontal price fixing here is legal as it countervails Amazon’s predatory pricing, and creates a more efficient market. As Kohn believes the Justice Department’s conclusions are not reasonable, the court cannot hold the settlement to be in the public interest.
Kohn conceived of this unusual brief after he was given permission to file an amicus brief with the court by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, who limited him to five pages, instead of the usual twenty-five page limit allowed by local rules. The brief includes a coversheet and table of authorities, with citations made in the margins of the cartoon’s panels- no Bluebook formatting, though. You can read the entirety of the brief here, note the proper use of 1” margins and 12-point font; Kohn took pains to ensure his cartoonish brief complied with court rules. No word yet on whether the the court was persuaded by Kohn's artistic interpretation of the law.
If you’re interested in finding out if Kohn’s more traditional forms of legal writing are as clear and engaging as his brief, check out his book, Kohn on Music Licensing, available at the O’Quinn Law Library (KF 3035.K64 2010).