The Supreme Court vs Sci Fi Supervillainy

Never is there a time of year more important to people in robes than June, when the Supreme Court releases most, if not all, of its decisions.

Sure, Lebowski Fest is pretty important to the robe-bearing set, but those guys usually aren’t the best at telling what time of day it is, let alone the year. Now, ask them about a White Russian and you’ll get an essay that would have Adam Smith scambling to relabel his treatise as pamphlets.

Since the Supreme Court of this land is apparently staffed exclusively by college freshmen, the majority of their decisions are announced days before they head off to summer break.

A sudden aside: Do you think they hang out over the summer? Whatever your political beliefs I think as a nation we can all agree that is a pool party no one would want to attend.

True to their judicial procrastination, the Supreme Court judges spent this week doing the one thing we all assumed they do every day of the year: making decisions on the big cases.

And while the Court this year has touched on some of the biggest issues facing our country (race, the right to vote, marriage laws) one particular case stuck out amongst all the legalese, political maneuvering and watching countless TV pundits frantically looking through briefs trying to find the decision.

The case? Association for Molecular Pathology v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Sounds like a real page-turner, right?

In this case The Association of Molecular Pathology (a group that I’m certain throws a barn burner of a Christmas party) was arguing that it was able to patent a segment of the human genome and therefore should be able to use said patent to sue other people trying to use their product.

Now, the human genome is vast and has taken decades to map, information which we are just now beginning to understand. The Association of Molecular Pathology’s case involved the BRCA genes, which can be used to test for the potential to develop breast cancer.

The Association’s argument was that, since they were the people that pinpointed the genes, they should be able to patent said genes.

The current Supreme Court (AKA The Roberts Court, AKA The Power Nine, AKA Antonin Scalia and the Wailers) has been a conservative, pro-business affair through and through. But using that trademark unpredictability that can take a Plessy v Ferguson and turn it into a Brown v Board of Education, the Supreme Court sided AGAINST The Association of Molecular Pathology and said a DNA segment is a product of nature, therefore you cannot patent it just because you isolated it.

And THAT is the first time in at least a decade that our government has not taken another step toward science fiction supervillainy.

In the 21st century it seemed like the United States has moved inexorably toward being the bad guy in a James Bond movie. In 13 years we’ve acquired a private army of countless mercenaries (called defense contractors), limitless domestic spying programs (called PRISM, for some reason) and a flying army of murder death-bot drones (which politicians call … actually they don’t hide that one, they just say drones).

Mercenary army, pervasive spying and flying death bots; it was beginning to look like we were only a few years away from our own volcano fortress.

But then lo and behold the United States Supreme Court came to the rescue, saying that no, you can’t file a patent for our very genetic structure.

Not only did the justices come down on the side of … humanity … it was a unanimous decision! This was such an important decision that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, inventor of the doily-as-neckerchief, agreed with Antonin Scalia, a man I am 100 percent certain has, at some point in his life, kicked a puppy.

And what else have the defenders of the Constitution been up to this June?

Case: Maryland v. King. The Court decided DNA evidence can be collected from anyone arrested for probable cause of a felony, regardless of the result of a criminal trial.

Maybe it will be nice living in a volcano … I?hated winter anyway.

Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or