Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Doctrine of Laches Lives!

The Supremes will not hear the appeal of the native American group that appealed the decision of the Court of Appeals for Wahsington DC upholding the opinion of US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that the doctrine of laches barred this 1992 lawsuit seeking to cancel the Washington Redskins' Trademark as "offensive" to native Americans.  The Redskins trademark has been in continuous use  since 1933.

Laches are not potato pancakes.

Laches is the equitable principle that says, in the immortal words of Travis Bickle: "you looking at me?"  It means: if you're going to go to court, GO TO COURT.   Don't wait.    Or as I was saying to a colleague the other day over my epic burrito, Vigilantibus non dormientibus √¶quitas subvenit.  Which means something in Latin.

Back in the good old days, even before I was a young Bad Lawyer, there were courts of equity and courts of law.  Equity courts (Bankruptcy being a vestigial example, at least pre-code) handled requests for writs, injunctions and estate matters.  Decisions from courts of equity were not supposed to have import as precedent, as opposed to law courts.  The distinction does not exist both "courts" being merged under the modern rules of procedure.  

The doctrine of laches operates as the broader principle that persons who may have a claim, or standing to challenge a legal usage in court are not to "sleep on their rights."  You snooze, you lose.

For more :  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/16/AR2009111601298.html?hpid=moreheadlines


  1. Harjo v. Pro-Football Inc. cert. denied