What will result in justice: for two disputants to go into a court of law with lawyers representing each side, or for two disputants to go before a rabbi? To answer this question, Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua told this story: A wolf once killed a deer, but before it could eat the deer, a lion came along and took the deer from the wolf. Seeking justice, the wolf asked a fox to judge the dispute. The wolf claimed that he deserved the deer because he had killed it, but the lion claimed that he deserved the deer because he was the king of the jungle. The fox said that the only reasonable solution was to divide the deer, giving the wolf and the lion an equal share. However, when the fox divided the deer, it was not in equal halves, so the fox took a big bite of the larger half. Now the other half was bigger than the first half, so the fox took a big bite out of it, making the first half bigger than the second half. This continued until the fox had eaten the deer, leaving only bones for the wolf and the lion. A court of law is often like the fox: By the time the lawsuit is settled and the lawyers have received their payment, nothing is left for the disputants.
Pope John XXIII used to tell this joke about lawyers: St. Peter once noticed that there were some unsavory characters in Heaven, and after investigating, he discovered that a breach had been made in the wall separating Heaven from Hell. Therefore, he visited Satan, and the two agreed that they would take turns maintaining the wall. St. Peter would maintain the wall the first year, Satan the next, and so on. The two even signed a legal contract to that effect. The first year, things went fine; St. Peter maintained the wall, and no breaches were made in it. However, the second year, St. Peter again noticed some unsavory characters in Heaven, and he discovered that another breach had been made in the wall. Immediately, St. Peter visited Satan, denounced him for not living up to his part of the contract, and said that he was going to sue. Satan laughed, saying, “I’m not worried. Do you think you’ll find even one clever lawyer in Heaven?”
A case appeared before the Noda B’Yehudah in which an elegantly dressed man and a roughly dressed man pleaded. The roughly dressed man claimed that he was a rich man traveling far from home and friends and that the elegantly dressed man was his wagon driver, but that his wagon driver had robbed him and exchanged clothes with him. The elegantly dressed man denied ever having been a wagon driver. The Noda B’Yehudah said that he would think about the case, then he would give them his judgment the next morning. The next morning, the two men arrived at the Noda B’Yehudah’s house and sat outside as they waited for him, but they were ignored as the Noda B’Yehudah went about his business. Suddenly, the Noda B’Yehudah opened his door and ordered, “Wagon driver, come here!” The elegantly dressed man immediately stood up.
Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan was reputed to be a saint. Once he was called to be a character witness at a trial for one of his students, who had been falsely accused. The lawyer for the defense stood up and began to tell the court a story that was told about Rabbi Kagan. He said that once a thief had been in the rabbi’s house when the rabbi came home early. The thief grabbed some of the rabbi’s property and ran away, but the rabbi said, “I hereby renounce all my property,” so that the thief would not be guilty of breaking one of God’s commandments. Hearing this, the judge skeptically asked, “And do you believe this story?” The lawyer replied, “I don’t know that I believe this story, but I do know that such stories are not told about you and me.”
At the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, much odd evidence was seriously and legally considered. For example, if an accused person was unable to correctly say the Lord’s Prayer, this was considered evidence that the accused person was a witch. Also, spectral evidence was seriously considered, as when men testified that the specter of an accused woman had visited them when they were home in bed. In addition, the accused persons were stripped and searched (by members of the same sex) for the mark of the devil — a small red circle, usually found near the genitals.
F.E. Smith, later Lord Birkenhead (1872-1930), once cross examined a boy who claimed that his arm had been crippled in an accident. He asked the boy, “Will you show me just how high you can lift your arm?” The boy raised his arm a little. F.E. then said, “Thank you, and now will you show me just how high you could lift it before the accident?” The boy then raised his arm high over his head. Case closed.
A Scottish judge named Lord Eskgrove once castigated in court the murderer of a soldier: “And not only did you murder him, whereby he was bereaved of his life, but you did thrust, or push, or pierce, or project, or propel the lethal weapon through the belly-band of his regimental breeches, which were His Majesty’s.”
Toler, who later became Chief Lord Justice in England, was once asked to contribute a shilling to the burial of a lawyer. Reaching into his pocket for some money, he gave it to the solicitor, saying, “Only a shilling to bury a lawyer? Here is a guinea; go and bury one and twenty of them.”
Art Linkletter occasionally ad-libbed during his career as a broadcaster. During an on-site radio program, the sound of sirens was heard, so Mr. Linkletter informed the audience, “There goes an ambulance — followed by a carload of lawyers.” The local bar association was not amused.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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