Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Sitting up in the lifeguard stand here at the pool, I realized that I had not eaten all day, so I grabbed a late night sandwich. Now, everyone needs to wait thirty minutes before jumping back into the water.
While you're waiting, here is another of the favorite jokes here at the lifeguard stand.
Two lawyers are walking down the street when a beautiful blonde cuts between them. The first lawyer says to his friend, "Boy, would I like to screw her." The second lawyer says, "Out of what?"
So, I was thinking about the one thing that I foolishly omitted from the review. The best of the courtroom lines, in my estimation (no, I am not talking about the "...two utes"), is at the end of the examination of the grit guy, Vinny says, "I got no more use for this guy."
Every trial lawyer, whether they want to admit it or not, wants to be able to use those words after tearing up a witness. They want to have the balls to say it, even when they know that the jury will hate them (more) for doing it. They want to reach into the soul of the witness, then rip it out by saying, "I got no more use for this guy."
My Cousin Vinny is a great movie because Vincent Gambini says and does many of the things that all lawyers wish they could get away with. And he does get away with it because he is charming, and a little bit weird, and prepared for trial.
We here at the Pool give My Cousin Vinny four life rings (out of four).
Sunday, April 23, 2006
The Pantheon of Legal Movies would not be complete without "My Cousin Vinny." It is a great story becuase it is so real, and so damned funny.
Vincent Gambini learns about discovery, exculpatory evidence, and the Alabama Criminal Code in the run-up to the trial. He learns all of this by spending long hours reading documents sent over by Mr. Trotter, the District Attorney, interviewing witnesses, and going to the scene of the crime. Perry Mason did this, but without the same flair. Matlock did this, but with better suits.
The problem with putting this movie in the Pantheon of Legal Movies (from the perspective of law professors) is that they would like to think that they would just start talking and the jury would say, "Oh, the defendants are obviously not guilty. Professor Smithers is just sooo smart." But the reality is that Vinny busted his ass to get ready for the big show, and the preparation paid off. And sometimes, when you are looking at the seemingly idiotic picture of tire tracks, you have an epiphany. Sometimes, the witness with the least promise becomes the nail in the Government's coffin. Unfortunately, not all witnesses look like Ms. Mona Lisa Vito.
As an aside, I have had clients come to me, after an arrest for something that they did not do (because Defendants are never guilty of anything other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time). They always ask if I can just get the case dismissed.
Judge: "Counselor, how does your client plead?"
Me: "Your honor, he says that it was all a misunderstanding."
DA: "He's right, your honor. Our bad."
Judge: "Well then, case dismissed."
And to think that we lawyers spent all of that time and money going to law school when all we have to do is say that it was just a big misunderstanding. Why even have a lawyer? Anyone can say it was a misunderstanding. Oh, wait, maybe we can't do this because there is stuff called evidence, because there are things like police reports, and witness statements, and criminal complaints.
Sometimes you have to hit the State where it lives, and to be aggressive with their witnesses. Sometimes, the witnesses have been induced to testify (in exchange for a lesser sentence) and this can carry the day for the Defendant. Sometimes, the witnesses just didn't see what they thought that they saw. And sometimes, the Government's case is just a house of cards.
Fun Fact: Lane Smith, who played DA Jim Trotter, III also played Fred Turner in the excellent "Gideon's Trumpet." The late Fred Turner was the folksy lawyer from Panama City, Florida that was appointed to represent Clarence Gideon following the Supreme Court of the United States' review of his appeal. Fred Turner later became a judge in the Circuit Court in Panama City. He was a great left-handed golfer, like my father, and was a friend of mine. Judge Turner always joked that his grave marker would say, "Here Lies Gideon's Lawyer."
Saturday, April 22, 2006
PERRY MASON IS THE GREATEST!
Every lawyer in the modern era owes a debt of gratitude to Perry Mason.
If a lawyer tells you that he or she didn't get the Law Jones because of Perry Mason, they are flat out lying to you.
Which brings me to the final joke for your Orthodox Easter Celebration:
Q: How can you tell when your lawyer is lying to you?
A: His lips are moving.
One of the Funniest Things that Ever Happened to Me
One of the things that first became apparent to me in law school was the ability to parlay acceptance into one of the country's ABA Accredited Law Schools as a tool to get a date. In fact, that is one of the liberties taken by law students of the less-fair sex to meet chicks.
1L in a bar to Stunning Woman Out of his League: "Hi."
Stunning Woman Out of his League: "Fuck off!"
1L: "Can I buy you a drink?"
SWOL: "Fuck off!"
1L: "I am a lawyer. I work for the well-known firm of Doolittle & Scruem, LLP."
SWOL: "What kind of car do you drive?"
1L: Umm, a BMW?
SWOL: "Let's go back to my place and have sex."
Okay, so it might not be that easy, but still, it doesn't hurt to chum the waters by telling anyone who will listen that you are a lawyer. And having studied men for forty years (becuase I am one), I know that there is no depth to which a man might sink to get a beautiful woman to pay attention to him. That is one of the reasons that men become such exceptional lawyers. Except with lawyers, it's not the beautiful woman, but the judge, or the jury. This is why people loathe lawyers. I also note, at this juncture, that it seems to me that the best lawyers never tell anyone that they are lawyers. They let it come out in conversation.
Woman At Party: "Fuck off!"
Lawyer: "I am a lawyer."
WAP: "Let's go back to my place and have sex."
Notice how the lawyer, in this hypothetical conversation, avoids mentioning his profession. Notice the subtle use of the language that the lawyer has been trained to manipulate, to master. And most importantly, note how the lawyer never uses his profession to his advantage.
But, I digress.
I had graduated from law school, and was studying for the bar exam. Interestingly enough, the Bar Exam has nothing to do with bars, but that is a different post for a different day.
I am with a lovely young woman who is attracted to me because I am an attorney. Or, becuase I had taken the liberty mentioned supra.
We are having lunch, and things are going swimmingly. She looks at me adoringly, I gaze at her, in awe of her beauty. Then, things go spinning out of control when one of her friends walks up to our table and the aforementioned lovely says to her friend, "This is Rob, he is an attorney."
We pick up the dialogue mid-stream:
Me: "How are you, Heather." (Not her real name)
Heather: "I am fine."
Lovely: "Rob is an attorney."
Heather: "Do you like it?"
Me: "I love being a lawyer. It is a great profession that allows me to make money, get chicks and bill clients just for thinking about them while I am in the bathroom." (Actually, sentence number 2 is added here for hyperbolic effect.)
Heather walks away after a brief conversation, and the atmosphere has changed from warm to freezing cold. There is now an 800 pound elephant sitting at the table, and I am at a loss as to how to address the pachyderm.
Finally, after several icy minutes, Lovely says to me, and I am not making this up: "I'm mad at you. You lied to me."
Crap! How the hell did she find out that I hadn't yet taken the Bar Exam?
"Ummm," I say. "Lied about what?"
"You told me that you were an attorney, but you told Heather that you were a LAWYER! Which is it?"
So, I am off the hook, sort of. But this girl is just too damned dumb to go out with. It would be too easy, what with the fact that she was laboring through life with one cut of meat short of a mixed grill.
Some fifteen years later, members of my family that had met the young lady remind me of the story, telling it at the most inopportune of times.
Q: What do lawyers and sperm have in common?
A: They both have a one in a million shot at becoming human.
Q: What is the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?
A: One is a scum sucking bottom feeder, the other is a fish.
Q: What do lawyers use for birth control?
A: Their personalities.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Today, I was in court for a hearing behind just such an ill-prepared lawyer, who talked for about five minutes about the Plaintiff's epidural injections, then stopped and said, "Oh, that was yesterday." That was YESTERDAY? Okay, now I may not be the busiest man in the world. I have time to publish a BLAWG, and I still have NEVER confused one case with another, especially when I had a stack of papers in front of me (N.B., they are called "FILES").
The beauty of the law, without too many exceptions, is that there are not a lot of surprises. You talk to the client, you interview witnesses, you conduct discovery, then you READ IT. Absent a lie here or there, you know what is coming, or you should. There is, plain and simple, no reason to be so far off of the mark. The surprise witnesses of Perry Mason days are just not often seen, or if they are, without the drama.
I would encourage all prospective law students, actual law students, and people who are lawyers to think about this. And to watch this space!
Here, you will learn about stupid things that lawyers and parties say, get movie reviews, and my favorite lawyer jokes. Because hey, if you can't laugh at yourself, then you are...a dope.