On Saturday, September 23, 2017, Thomas Prol, Esq., Partner at Laddey, Clark & Ryan moderated a legal education program regarding controversial Supreme Court decisions at the NJ Law Center from 9am-12pm. The program featured remarks by Simon Tam, the lead singer of the rock group “The Slants,” and his attorney before the U.S. Supreme Court in Matal v. Tam.
Tam recently won a landmark decision at the US Supreme Court under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. He successfully fought to trademark his rock band’s name which was previously denied as disparaging speech. The case raised questions about the government’s efforts to police names that may be offensive to one group or another, and struck down governmental intrusion in defining disparaging speech in the trademark review processes.
Tam said he chose the name to make fun of a word that had been used as a slur against Asians, and thereby to “drain” it of any derogatory impact. The Supreme Court struck down the part of the trademark law that called for US Patent and Trademark Office staff to make assessments about whether speech is offensive or not, stating, “[w]e now hold that this provision violates the Free Speech Clause of the 1st Amendment…It offends a bedrock 1st Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend the First Amendment.”
Following the keynote address from Tam, Thomas Prol hosted Tam’s counsel, Rutgers Law School Dean Ron Chen, and other notable attorneys for a round table discussion regarding some of the most important cases of the nation’s history, asking: “Did the Court get it right or wrong?”
Licensed to practice law in both New Jersey and New York, Prol is admitted before numerous federal courts including the US Supreme Court. Prol is a graduate of NY Law School and holds a Master of Public Health and a Bachelor’s degree from Emory University. Prior to law school, he worked as an environmental scientist and enforcement officer for the US Environmental Protection Agency. Prol also served two years as a volunteer in the US Peace Corps in Nepal and has held internships with the US Attorney’s Office (EDNY), the NYC Commission on Human Rights, CNN and the Carter Presidential Center.