Spiderman attends "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" Be Amazing Day Volunteer Day at I.S. 145 Joseph Pulitzer on April 25, 2014 in the Queens borough of New York City.
Mike Pont—Getty Images
By Maya Rhodan
June 22, 2015

A Supreme Court justice cited an unusual source in a decision handed down Monday: Spider-Man.

With all eyes on the nation’s highest court over upcoming decisions gay marriage and Obamacare, the reference was a rare moment of levity from Justice Elena Kagan.

The reference came in her decision on Kimble v. Marvel, in which the court declined to overrule decades-old precedent that kept patent-holders from collecting royalties after a patent expires. In her opinion, Kagan noted the principle of stare decisis, which holds that court’s should hesitate to overturn their own precedents.

The quote comes not from a legal expert, of course, but from Uncle Ben, who is trying to guide a young Peter Parker to use his superpowers wisely in Amazing Fantasy No. 15, the comic which features the first appearance of Spider-Man. Supreme Court justices also have superpowers, but they come from a Senate confirmation vote, not a radioactive spider bite.

In her opinion, Kagan also quoted the 1967 Spider-Man TV show theme song: “The parties set no end date for royalties, apparently contemplating that they would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can).”

Read the full opinion here.

 

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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