As I pointed out early this week, the Conrad Black trial has little or no intersection with IP, but I could not resist posting about Neil Steinberg’s column in yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times. Steinberg spent a day observing the Black trial and provided his impressions of the jury system and Judge St. Eve. Two of his observations were particularly interesting. First, he found the trial very boring. As IP lawyers and particularly patent lawyers, this is something we have to struggle with. Making technology analysis and damages interesting is a difficult job and keeping jurors who only see a portion of the litigation proceedings awake and attentive can be difficult.
Second, Steinberg notes that "pay all that money to lawyers for a reason." I would like to believe he meant because of the immense skill involved, but I am afraid it is because of how boring and complex he found the trial.
Finally, my wife, who clerked for Judge St. Eve, assures me that I will not suffer Steinberg’s potato peeler fate when I say that while Judge St. Eve is very attractive, her most important judicial attributes are her intellect and her kind, but strong command of her courtroom. Here is a brief quote from Steinberg’s column:
"Oh dear." Spoken by a pal in Judge Amy St. Eve’s courtroom. There is not enough tedium in our daily lives, apparently, so we are visiting a trial revolving around complex issues of accountancy.
I wish the limits of journalistic candor allowed me to explain the meaning of that "oh dear," uttered as the jury returns to the courtroom after lunch.
The contrast could not be more stark, between Lord Conrad Black, the grandiose publishing patrician, in his deep blue, subtly pinstriped bespoke suit, and the floral burst of middle American casualness sitting heavily in judgment. It was as if a line waiting for corn dogs and cotton candy at Great America had somehow blundered into a state funeral.
Sitting in court, I scour the language, searching for terms that adequately describe the colors the jury are wearing. Canary yellow. Soft bubble gum pink. Bright blue. Muddy teal. Electric poached salmon. Two women wear an identical shade of aircraft-landing paddle green.
And those are the easy ones. One lady has on what I finally decide is tiger print. A man sports what appears to be big polka dots on olive green.
A trial is also going on. The testimony centers around "Generally Accepted Accounting Standards" and overhead projections with titles such as "Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 57."
And hell is typically envisioned with flames. …
After an hour I am ready to chew off my leg to escape. I would here launch into a tribute to the pixie good looks of Judge St. Eve — I’m sure that the occasional glance in her direction is all that keeps some forced to be here from slipping into madness — were it not for the certainty that my wife would calmly set down the paper, reach over to the kitchen drawer, remove a potato peeler and then skin me alive with it.
Three thoughts, which came as I fled the courtroom, a drowning man breaking the surface and filling his lungs with sweet, sweet air.
1) The cynical assumption is that these working-class Americans will throw Black into prison for the crime of being rich. Perhaps true, perhaps a snooty, unfair insult to the average American, considering that we managed, in our waddling, oafish way, to invent computers, land on the moon and kick the Germans out of France.
2) They pay all that money to lawyers for a reason.
3) Whatever you are doing today, even if you are kneeling in muck, gathering crushed aluminum cans and tossing them into a shopping cart to sell later, count your blessings. You could be in court.