Johnny Cochran, RIP


Dead at 67 of a brain tumor whose reality even the tireless post-relativist could not deny. Say what you will about him, he never failed to put on a show, proved you don't have to be from Philly to be as sharp as a Philadelphia lawyer, and was the most flamboyant ambassador our age of uncertainty is likely to find.

NEXT: Pissed Off

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I hope every lawyer immediately follows the great example that Cochran just set.

  2. Damn, thoreau, you beat me to it… i was gonna say, it’s a start.

  3. Cochran was a brilliant trial attorney who mopped the floor with Marcia Clark, et al.

  4. A shameless opportunist, blablahblah.

    Perhaps true, but he’s exactly what I’d want in a defense attorney. ESPECIALLY if I was innocent!

  5. I still remember Clark going into detail with Furman about his career, laying it on thick about what a great cop he was, etc., and opening the door for the defense to attack his character. This was after a motion in limine had suppressed this very same information. This in turn fed into the defense’s claim that the evidence was planted (something that was quite believable in L.A.). Clark did a number of rather stupid things in the trial and Cochran, et al. seized on those oppurtunities and exploited them to their advantage.

  6. I’ll echo rob. Guilty or innocent, I want that man in my corner.

    I also echo thoreau. No offense Gary. Actually, forget I said that last part.

  7. Mo,

    People are such hypocrites about attorneys. 🙂


    My favorite story about Clark is what happened after the mistrial of the cases concerning the Menendez brothers.

    Clark is ordered by her boss to use the services of a jury selection firm; Clark resists but eventually gives in. They draw up a mock jury in Phoenix which they feel will represent the real jury (it turns out to be remarkably similar re: demographics, etc.). Clark does the voir dire of this mock jury, presents an opening, some direct and cross and a closing. Uniformily the mock jury states that they she is a bitch. Clark ignores this information and acts before the real jury as she did the mock jury; the real jury dislikes her as much as the mock jury did.

  8. Yeah, Gunnels, but now that lying worthless piece of shit has bought the farm and Missie Clark is still alive. Guess who laughs last?

    And by the way, nobody wants to hear anything about the hype/hoax of the century, I mean, really man, that’s soooo 1990ies.

  9. Blunt,

    Marcia Clark’s reputation was severely undermined due to the outcome of that case. This was the second case that the prosecutor’s office had fucked up (the Menendez mistrial being the first).

    As to the outcome of the case, it was the right outcome. The prosecution never demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that O.J. was indeed guilty. My gut feeling is that he was guilty, but reasonable doubt exists to overcome that gut feeling.

  10. If the pupils don’t dilate, you must cremate!

  11. The prosecution never demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that O.J. was indeed guilty.

    You mean other than the DNA?

  12. thoreau,

    The idea that the DNA was planted was successfully placed in the minds of the jury (note that not long after the O.J. Simpson case the Rampart Division’s shenanigans was unearthed, so its not like such a suspicion was unwarranted – there had always been stories of race related police and prosecutor misconduct afte all). Just because you have that sort of evidence doesn’t mean it wasn’t planted, the chain of evidence wasn’t corrupted, etc. Plus there is the fact that the prosecution did an incredibly poor job of teaching the jury about DNA evidence. At the time I was working in a botany and plant pathology lab and the folks knowledgeable about genetics, PCR, etc. in that lab were of one mind: the prosecution was doing a shitty job with the DNA evidence.

    You can have all sorts of evidence at hand, but if it is presented sloppily, in a manner that seems underhanded, etc., you can easily lose a case.

  13. People who didn’t pay attention to the trial always come back to the DNA evidence, yet in the end it proved of little of import. The jury focused on two things (as post verdict interviews demonstrated): O.J.’s efforts to put on the glove and Cochran’s closing where he repeated over and over again the famous line about the glove. This focus, BTW, was dictated by the prosecution’s own stupidity: they’re the ones who eventually wanted to demonstrate that the glove did indeed fit (Cochran and crew suckered the prosecution into this desire, BTW).

    No, the verdict was a perfect illustration of the beyond a reasonable doubt burden of proof and how it should work.

  14. thoreau,

    And let’s note that out of the what, one hundred and sixty-eight freed prisoners from death row due to the Innocence Project, one of the most important factors that lead to the initial conviction was police or prosecutor misconduct.

  15. Gary-

    Cops certainly do frame people. But they don’t go after rich and famous people. They know better than to go after the people who call the shots. They act out their sadistic tendencies on people who can’t fight back.

    I’m perfectly willing to believe that Marcia Clark gave an awful presentation. I’m just not willing to believe that a bunch of cops got together and decided to frame a rich and famous guy.

  16. Now, some folks might argue it was unfair or unethical for O.J. to get this sort of defense, yet the fact is that the government still outspent the O.J. defense team, had all sorts of resources and smart lawyers at its disposal, etc. Indeed, this is one of the few cases where there is some parity in resources between a defendant and the prosecuting government authority. In the end, the government failed to prove the burden before it, and thus O.J. was acquitted.

  17. thoreau,

    But they don’t go after rich and famous people.

    Are you sure of that? I can think of a famous and rich attorney out of California where the cops/prosecutors clearly tried to frame him as a drug smuggler. His story is detailed in the PBS documentary Snitch.

    And of course the point is that the local culture where the trial took place was used to tales of police and prosecutor misconduct, so it wasn’t a far stretch for the jury to accept that as a possibility. This was only enhanced after Mark Furman exploded on the stand.

  18. If Clark hadn’t stupidly opened the door by building up Furman, then Furman’s background as a racist, etc. wouldn’t have been admissable. This was just one of the many instances where Clark shot herself in the foot.

  19. Once Furman exploded that planted a seed in the head of the jury that the prosecution was being dishonest with him. Clark made the classic mistake of not alleviating any negative character attributes of a witness by allowing them to come out on direct. It was just one of her many classic blunders. She even realized that it was a blunder and that’s one of the reasons she spent so much of her closing apologizing to the jury for putting Furman on the stand. If you spend a good portion of your closing apologizing to the jury you know you are deep fucking shit.

  20. …dishonest with them.

  21. Since the case is now a decade in the past, I can no longer tell you why I think this way, but I’m convinced the LAPD tried to frame a guilty man. Dumbasses.

    If we can’t have a criminal justice system that will actively investigate and prosecute official misconduct, then the second best result is to let the guilty go free, to show the government that we won’t tolerate such shit.

    In the best of situations, O.J. would be behind bars, and so would a few dozen members of the LAPD, Coroner’s office, and D.A.’s office. Bunch of fuck-ups, to a man.

  22. Am I the only adult American who did not watch any of the O.J. trial? I am more sure every day that I am a freak beyond help.

    My brother who tends bar said that Johnny Cochran was a good tipper. That should offset the bad stuff, right?

  23. You know, I wouldn’t be at all shocked if the OJ case was deliberately bungled.

    We can’t send rich and famous people to prison for long stints. That’s the way the world works.

    (Yes, I know, Martha Stewart was sent to prison, but she spent a few months in a prison that offered yoga classes. While got to do yoga, poor people caught with drugs have to fight to avoid being killed or raped.)

  24. I wouldn’t be at all shocked if the OJ case was deliberately bungled.

    Thoreau, let’s not give people too much credit. The simplest explanation is usually correct.

  25. thoreau,

    Well, the O.J. case isn’t the only one that the prosecutor’s office bungled. How the fuck the Menendez brothers got a mistrial the first time around has always boggled me and can only be attributed to prosecutor arrogance.

  26. In a statement, O.J. Simpson said he will not rest until he finds his lawyer’s real killer.

    (Too soon?)

  27. O.J. was last seen searching near the eighteenth fairway.

  28. Every lawyer that I’ve ever discussed the case with thinks that the OJ verdict was fair.

    Given the experiences I’ve had with lawyers, this just reinforces my belief that OJ was guilty.

    Trust me, you’d feel the same way if you’d been dragged kicking and screaming to visit a sociopath who happened to share 23 chromosomes with you, because the lawyers thought it was fair. And if you found out that one this sociopath’s illicit business partners was a government lawyer. And if the court appointed a lawyer (guardian ad litem) to represent you, but the guardian decided to side with the sociopath (against your explict instructions) and send your mother the bill. And if the same thing happened again a few years later with a different guardian ad litem. And if as an adult you tried to give a bad grade to a kid with a powerful lawyer for a parent and got shot down.

    I say kill every one of the fuckers. If I weren’t afraid of prison I’d gladly kill as many as possible.

  29. His “lawyer’s real killer?” He he he.

  30. thoreau has officially gone off the deep end.

  31. If you’re in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and a lawyer, and you only have 2 bullets in your gun, what do you do?

    Shoot the lawyer twice, just to be sure.

    What’s the difference between a dead lawyer in the middle of the road and a dead skunk in the middle of the road?

    Nobody turns around to run the skunk over again.

    What do you call a lawyer with his feeding tube removed?

    A good start.

    What’s the difference between a wedding and a lawyer’s funeral?

    People cry at the wedding.

  32. Gary, I went off the deep end the day that my lawyer (that’s right, my lawyer) ordered me to visit my sociopath father, and told me that if I didn’t do it I could be put in a mental hospital as an out of control youth.

    Believe it or not, though, for a while I thought about going to law school so I could fight those fuckers on their own terms. I’m proud to say that I eventually abandoned that goal and devoted my life to the pursuit of scientific knowledge.

  33. thoreau,

    A lawyer and a cop saved me from my abusive father and his family (keep in mind that my case was one of the worst cases of child abuse this country had seen in the 1970s). Does that mean I think that every lawyer and every cop are saints? Nope. But it certainly means that lawyers aren’t always the horrible monsters you treat them as.

  34. Don’t screw with me. My lawyer can kick your lawyer’s ass.

  35. thoreau,

    BTW, I find your attitude to be decidedly anti-libertarian and about as distburbing as some of the shit we’ve seen out of posters like BillyRay. And people call me a fanatic.

  36. thoreau,

    BTW, if you are interested, I am more than willing to e-mail you details of my case, etc.

    I’m sorry for your troubles, but you’re overreaction is not warranted.

  37. OK, to calm down for a moment, there are good lawyers who do good things. And I recognize that every system will feature some bad apples.

    The thing is that some systems minimize the harm done by the bad apples, while other systems act in the interests of the bad apples.

  38. My lawyer can kick your lawyer’s ass.

    Reminds me of a joke that my friends and I had in middle school.

    One of us would come up to the other acting all tough and say “I’m big, I’m tough, I’m dumb, and I’m ugly, and I’m going to kick your ass! Whatcha gonna do about it?” The other guy, acting like a wimp, would say “I’ve got a lawyer!” Then the tough guy would run away scared.

  39. thoreau,

    And can you tell us whether the legal profession falls into the former or latter of these categories?

  40. GG,

    I am not sure if I am qualified to enter this discussion as the only abuse I endured as a teen was self abuse….

    No, the verdict was a perfect illustration of the beyond a reasonable doubt burden of proof and how it should work.

    That last clause is dead wrong. The prosecution had the following facts:
    1. Gloves were found at the scene and at OJ’s place
    2. Pictures of OJ wearing similar gloves when he worked for NBC.
    3. There was a unique stitching error on the gloves, which was present on the gloves in the picture as well as the glove in the crime scene.

    This third fact, which would show beyond any doubt that the gloves were OJ’s was not allowed to be presented to the jury. Which forced the prosecution to try other means to show that they were OJ’s gloves. And we all know how that turned out.

    The OJ case is a perfect example of how our current system gets the dumbest jurors that can be found and then hides evidence from them in the belief that they are too dumb to interpret it correctly.

  41. Gary, I think you know what my stance is on that question: The law serves the interests of the bad apples.

    Although I guess it depends on how narrowly you construe the term “bad apple.” If a bad apple is only somebody who violates the law then the legal profession may very well do a good job of managing its bad apples. I mean, there’s an entire legal specialty devoted to locking up those who violate the law.

    I guess you could even argue that it’s not the lawyers who are bad, it’s the clients. “Lawyers don’t sue people, clients do!” But the difference between a gun and a lawyer is that the gun is not a willing participant in a bad deed, while lawyers are willing participants in a lot of sleazy things.

    An illustrative anecdote: My mother was injured on the job. Her employer and the employer’s insurer dragged their feet on providing adequate physical therapy. My mother couldn’t find a lawyer who would help her. Why? Because she didn’t want to claim that she was permanently disabled and seek a huge settlement. She just wanted more physical therapy and a few months’ salary. No lawyer would touch it because the sums involved were too small.

    But if she had tried to claim that she was permanently disabled, well, they would have been all over it. We’re talking about a huge settlement. Lawyers would be all over it, even if the claim was bogus. And you don’t have to be a lawyer to have encountered a bogus disability claim that results in a settlement, or at least government benefits. All you need is a lazy cousin, or some volunteer experience in social services.

    Now the lawyers are admittedly acting rationally in that they seek the most profitable cases, and it would be tempting to end your analysis there. But lawyers who take on dubious disability cases need to recognize that they are helping perpetrate fraud.

    I don’t know what the solution is. In my mother’s case she eventually did go back to work and is fine now. My point is that if she hadn’t been interested in recovering and had been willing to exagerate her injuries she could have found a lawyer willing to take her case and push for some kind of settlement. But she just wanted some compensation for injuries and help getting back to work faster.

    I think it’s a nice example of how the system rewards bad behavior and the lawyers who help perpetrate it. Maybe the lawyers are decent people responding rationally to perverse incentives. Whatever the case may be, the system is messed up.

  42. Gimme Back My Dog,

    Actually, the prosecution didn’t need to go through the whole courtroom demonstration with the gloves; they had plenty of evidence by which to convict the guy, but they failed to use that evidence properly. The jury isn’t supposed to make the case for the prosecution, the prosecution is.


    The law serves the interests of the bad apples.

    Got any empirical evidence to back up that claim?

    But the difference between a gun and a lawyer is that the gun is not a willing participant in a bad deed, while lawyers are willing participants in a lot of sleazy things.

    Our system requires representation in criminal trials and allows for it in civil trials.

    No lawyer would touch it because the sums involved were too small.

    Most law schools have some sort of pro bono clinic she could have gone to.

    Anyway, I am sure there are lawyers who would take on dubious claims and there are lawyers who would not. You haven’t given me any reason to believe that the former outweighs the latter.

  43. thoreau,

    I think most folks don’t understand that we have an adversarial system in the U.S. and that attorneys are required to zealously and diligently represent their clients.

  44. I think lawyers get a bad rap because we as a culture don’t really believe in concepts like “innocent until proven guilty.”

  45. Gary-

    In regard to my complaint about how people with dubious complaints can find eager lawyers: The problem isn’t that they are entitled to their day in court. I’m fine with that. The problem is that the expected (statistical average) payoff for representing them can be greater than the expected payoff for representing people with more meritorious claims.

    By all means, give the frauds their day in court, but it would be nice if the average payoff for representing a person with a bogus claim was at least as high as the average payoff for representing a person with a real claim. The problem, of course, is that “I can’t ever work again” is a dubious claim (almost anybody besides Terry Schiavo can do at least some kind of work if they try hard enough) but the payoff will be large. OTOH, “I can work in a few months, I just need a small payment to hold me over plus some therapy” is frequently true, but the reward is small.

    I don’t know what the solution is. But I do know that:

    1) People regularly collect large settlements on the premise that they’ll never be able to work again, yet…
    2) Most people, if they really try, can work again in some capacity. Maybe not to the same extent as before, but certainly they can work. There’s nothing wrong with compensating for the difference between what they’ll earn vs. what they could have earned, but I’m always skeptical when I read in the paper that somebody is getting a settlement premised on the notion that his future income will be zero. Dammit, go find some sort of job!

  46. thoreau,

    My suggestion is that if an attorney offers you such a deal is that you report him/her to your state ethics body.

    Anyway, I would simply appreciate that you stop contemplating my death. 🙂

  47. Resolved: In any thread with more than 15 comments, at least half of them — including several in a row — will be from Gary.

  48. I thought Johnnie’s Chewbacca Defense was brilliant. He was a very principled man and a blessing to humanity. God love Johnnie Cockring.

    “Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, you must now decide whether to reverse the decision for my client. I know he seems guilty, but ladies and gentlemen… [pulling down a diagram of Chewbacca] This is Chewbacca. Now think about that for one moment?that does not make sense. Why am I talking about Chewbacca when a man’s life is on the line? Why? I’ll tell you why: I don’t know. It does not make sense. If Chewbacca does not make sense, you must acquit!
    [pulling a monkey out of his pocket] Here, look at the monkey. Look at the silly monkey! [one juror’s head explodes]”

  49. Twba,

    I, too, have never watched or followed the OJ trial.

  50. Dear Mr. Dog,
    My Dad spent forty five years in the needle trades, and assures me what you said about the gloves is rubbish.Even relatively ancient machines can be adjusted to produce the “unique” stitching error you claim.Further, no upscale chain would accept gloves with a 15% shrinkage rate, let alone re-order them.

  51. Gary and Thoreau,

    the whole issue can be broken down with a classic “SAT” style if/then probability statement.

    If all laywers are people, and some people are dishonest scumbags, It is probable that…

    ..some lawyers are dishonest scumbags.
    The reverse is also probably true.

    Unfortunately for Thoreau, he keeps finding scumbags.

    With the OJ case, even though I and many others think he did it, it is plausible that he might not have. There was no murder weapon, no witnesses, and a possibility of police negligence.

    A better example of “celebrity justice” (although it has nothing to do with Cochran)would be the Jayson Williams debacle.

  52. Gary,

    I agree that most people don’t really believe in the “presumption of innocence until proven guilty” anymore. An accusation alone is enough. The thinking is “why would someone say it if it’s not true?” especially if the accusation is sustantiated by an “honorable, trustworthy”institution like the police dept.

  53. If I’m ever in hell and accused of a crime, I would definitely look him up.

  54. “You have the right to an attorney. If you hire Johnnie Cochran, I’ll kill you!”

    I wonder how many lawyers would give an arm to get a line like that in a major Hollywood movie.

  55. Wasn’t a case just heard in the SCOTUS that involved Jonnny Cochran and his restraining order against a guy from saying anything bad about Cochran in a public setting? I hope it continues to go forward.

  56. I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned it yet, but ‘Outrage’ by Vinnie Bugliosi (manson lawyer) skewers the prosecution on how they couldn’t possibly have done a worse job. Goes into great detail about everything. Interesting for general informational purposes even if your not all about the OJ trial after a decade.

  57. The Great Ape,

    There are a number of books that rip the prosecution a new asshole. Marcia Clark tries to defend some of her bone-headed manuevres in her book, but the effort is unconvincing.

  58. Prosecuted (persecuted?) Lenny Bruce…

    Helped spring O.J. Simpson…

    Smoke a turd in hell, you bastard.

  59. In the wake of the death of Latasha Harlins, in the wake of the Koon, Briseno and Wind acquittals, in the wake of Darryl Gates’ long and troubled history with the black community in Los Angeles, in the wake of the crime lab’s blunders with the physical evidence, in the wake of the revelations about Mark Fuhrman’s apparent racism, indeed, in the wake of all this, I don’t think there was any way that jury was going to convict Simpson.

    …Of course, that doesn’t mean prosecutors did a good job.

  60. In my experience, the American legal system provides many opportunities for unscrupulous lawyers, moreso than say for mechanical engineers. The world of law (and legal wrangling) is very subjective. Negotiating a settlement or acting in loco parentis is quite different than designing an HVAC system. I suspect people know this and the profession attracts more than the usual share of shady characters. I also suspect something in legal training enhancees the inherent human skill of justifying one’s behaviors. In my own small social circle, I do not know any overtly sleazy attorneys… but I know several that are not shy about bending the rules well past my comfort zone. I also find some attorney acquaintances, well, rather annoying. Apparently, legal training makes one think he or she is a master of every body of human knowledge. In the end, I think of lawyers as a necessary but unpleasant commodity I must buy on occasion… much like a foul-smelling salve for a skin condition. I buy the best available, use it with trepidation and hope like Hell is works quickly so I can toss the unused portion in the trash.

  61. “My suggestion is that if an attorney offers you such a[n unethical] deal is that you report him/her to your state ethics body.”

    Haha! Gunnels, you slay me.

    QFMC cos. V

  62. If all laywers are people, and some people are dishonest scumbags, It is probable that…

    Isn’t the first part of that statement somewhat dubious? 😉

    Unfortunately for Thoreau, he keeps finding scumbags

    99% of lawyers give the other 1% a bad name.

    My suggestion is that if an attorney offers you such a[n unethical] deal is that you report him/her to your state ethics body

    Well, it’s not like they come out and say “You have to trump up your injury for me to take your case.” But if people who want only a modest settlement (just enough to get by until they can work) have a hard time finding decent representation, and people who trump up their injuries (“I can’t work ever again…”) keep getting represented and winning settlements, well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out something is crooked.

    And you don’t need to be a tort lawyer to be familiar with cases where somebody got money on a dubious claim of disability. All you need to have is a lazy cousin or some experience volunteering in social services.

  63. Thoreau,

    You are a scientist.;)

    I used to play soccer with a Law School club team, and they were mostly decent people. I wonder if, like many other systems, there is level of abuse and dishonesty that that wears down otherwise honest people.

  64. >And people call me a fanatic.

    No we don’t. We call you Mr. Bart.

  65. Twba, wellfellow, db.

    I never watched or followed the OJ trial either.

    Except maybe a 15-second excerpt on CNN because they had some female criminologist on the stand who was kinda hot, or anyway cute.

  66. I tend to belive the American legal system, like the American public school system, is effed up with perverse incentives.

    I believe there are good lawyers and good public school teachers, but they tend to do good more in spite of the system than because of it.

  67. “I think of lawyers as a necessary but unpleasant commodity I must buy on occasion… much like a foul-smelling salve for a skin condition. I buy the best available, use it with trepidation and hope like Hell is works quickly so I can toss the unused portion in the trash.”

    Jose just got my vote for Best Analogy of the Day with that one.

  68. thoreau,

    The problem is that you have yet to lay out any empirical evidence to demonstrate your claim.


    My in-laws are both engineers (one works for NASA and the other for the U.S. military). They both talk about how ubiqitous shady crap is in private engineering firms selling goods, etc. to the government. I don’t believe the legal profession is any more shady than any other profession on average.


    Isn’t one of the more rampant problems in the scientific community scientists plugging their names onto peer reviewed articles they had nothing to do with? My wife says that this is a common and disturbing trend in the biological sciences. And we haven’t even gotten into the problems associated with “bought science”; namely where scientists create results for their employers.

    I don’t think any profession is immune from ethical lapses, and you’ve given me no reason to believe that lawyers are any worse than doctors, scientists, plumbers, morticians, etc.

  69. If the casket doesn’t fit, you must acquit.

  70. “I don’t believe the legal profession is any more shady than any other profession on average.”

    Perhaps not, but at least the other professions are generally doing something productive (i.e. creating wealth), whereas the legal profession is generally just shuffling around the wealth created by those other professions, while siphoning off a healthy chunk for itself.

    In fact, there’s a huge incentive to keep shuffling wealth forever because the more shuffling there is, the more siphoning lawyers can do, until all the wealth available to transfer in any decision ends up in the pockets of lawyers. But how do you do that? Well first, you get those making the laws (who just happened to be mostly lawyers) to make the laws so complex and unprincipled that nobody can understand it and any result can be justified. This makes virtually every decision essentially arbitrary, meaning that those adjudicating the law (yep, you guessed it, more lawyers!) can be sure to keep the game fair by spreading the wealth siphoning around so no one lawyer feels too left out and starts doing something really dangerous like agitating for change.

    In this way, cases can not only be litigated forever, with appeals and remands to deal with all sorts of minutia covered by an incomprehensible law, but there’s the added benefit that nobody knows what the law requires of them before this interminable litigation. Keeping everyone in the dark before hand is an essential part of this game, because lawyers know that smart people can adapt their strategies to fit most any clearly understood rules, and this would greatly undermine the lawyers’ ability to extract their tribute. But, as it is, they can get you coming and going: First they soak you upfront for advice in your ultimately futile attempt to comply with all the laws, regulations and duties (that they made impenetrable in the first place, recall). Then, after you’ve been taken for as much as they think prudent (they wouldn’t want you to realize what’s up and stop buying the upfront package!), they nail you at the back end when you necessarily fail to comply (and you will) with said laws, regulations and duties.

    Now, you might be tempted to blame your original lawyer for giving you shitty advice, but really, it’s not her fault. After all, remember that any decision can be justified by way of the vague, mushy headed, legalese doublespeak that is the language of the law. Therefore, her opinion was as valid (which is to say as meaningless) an interpretation as the alternative that is now coming round to bite you in the ass. Don’t forget these lawyers are sharp folks, there is no way to win, and better yet, because they control the laws, you can’t even refuse to play.

  71. Brian Courts,

    The legal profession does help to create wealth in a number of ways; for example, in aiding parties in proper contract formation. It also helps to preserve wealth by helping parties draw up proper testamentary devices. Your conspiratorial claims don’t hold water from my experience.

  72. This is no doubt a minority view, but I think that *both* the criminal jury that acquitted Simpson and the civil jury that found him responsible for the murder were acting reasonably. It’s not just that the civil jury had additional evidence before it, but also that the law rightly distinguishes between the “preponderance of the evidence” necessary for civil liability and the proof of “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” necessary for a criminal conviction. The latter is a very difficult standard to meet, and was intended to be so.

  73. Gary.. are you married?

  74. Sarah,


  75. 😐

  76. Brian,

    Interesting post, I agree with you redarding the needless complexity of law both necessitating the use of lawyers in every sitution (from business standpoint, law compliance is a huge cost burden, as it’s near impossible for a lay person to do it alone), and allowing cases to be argued ad infinitum. I doubt that the bulk of lawyers would wittingly be part of, or even aware of any conspiracy. Not that they’d need to be for it to work.

  77. there’s nothing much to learn at all from tv murder trials
    but prosecutors faces and defense attorney styles
    and what a witness looks like when he’s lying through his teeth
    proving perjury needed no tapes so where’s the beef?
    the evidence admissible to television crews
    spin doctored, sliced and diced and skewered daily on the news
    for weeks on end, ubiquitous no matter where you tune
    is bound to be quite dubious and yet since back last june
    the country has sat spellbound in a simpson trial jones
    a broken family’s father spills his grief into our homes
    a dozen pseudo witnesses sold their tales to feed the flame
    a million hours of advertising bankrolling the game
    but worst of all americans, despite that we’ve been warned
    have swallowed so much swill as truth and think that we’re informed.
    and thinking all this edutainment legal evidence
    believing the renditions of this tv farce made sense
    accepting that all reason is on our side of the fence
    have made ourselves the greatest fools, with racial consequence.

  78. Why does the American culture have so many lawyer jokes and so few engineer jokes? The jokes “work” because there is a shared perspective of the legal profession in American society. (See the “Peter Hart Survey”) Is the common view of attorneys wrong or does it reflect a social recognition that lawyers are more sleazy than other professionals?

    A social bias is not empirical evidence, but it can be informative. For example, I think the bias against lazy, incompetent government workers is based on collective experience. Now, I could play “the Gunnels” and demand empirical proof that government bureaucrats are lazier and less competent than private counterparts… but I rather doubt definitive proof exists. Absent this proof, are we to simply dismiss the bias against government workers as unfounded or do we give some weight to public perception?

    While I agree that lawyers can produce work of some economic benefit, I think the net result of American legal system is negative. The sanctity of the contract has been undermined by tort “reform.” The legal costs associated with routine business transactions has increased… a fact easily seen in the length of routine contracts.

    I feel the same way about tax policy. I think it ludicrous for the United States to impose taxes on citizens and businesses so complex that one must consult a bevy of experts to understand what one owes. I think the most efficient economic environment is one where laws (including tax laws) are simple and straightforward. I also favor a system of “loser pays” legal fees to stem the tide of using an attorney to play “win the lotto” against businesses.

    Now, when is someone going to ask Mr. Gunnels how long he has practiced law?

  79. Note that some of the surveys that show Americans have a low opinion of lawyers also show that they make an exception for their own lawyer…

  80. thoreau, would you have preferred your lawyer give you inaccurate advice about the law and the likely repercussions of not following it?

    Like thoreau, most people who are down on lawyers are shooting the messenger.

  81. Jose,

    You’re just telling me that its self-evident based on a fallacious argument from popularity; and I ain’t buying that claim. Cultural attitudes can and often have been flat wrong (look at the current host of crappy ideas that the general populace holds to and you’ll see what I mean). For example, in many societies (historical and contemporary) it was/is a common attitude that Jews control the economic fate of the world, kill children for blood sacrifice, etc.. Based merely on this attitude, would you argue that such ideas are correct? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

  82. Gary-

    I don’t have data on lawyers in the form of “X% of all lawyers violated the ABA ethics guidelines.” But I have some illustrative experiences. In addition to the way my mother couldn’t find a lawyer to take her meritorious case while more dubious disability claims routinely get a payout, consider my work experience: I teach at a private for-profit school and every faculty meeting includes extensive reminders of things to avoid for fear of lawsuits. I blame a certain amount of it on our management, but not all of it can fall on them. I’ve experienced a lawsuit threat myself, and I didn’t do anything unusual. (Nowadays I bend over backwards to make sure it never happens again.)

    And while it’s anecdotal, something must be rotten in the state of Wisconsin when 2 guardians ad litem, at intervals a few years apart, ignored my wishes (i.e. the wishes of their client), gave my sociopath father visitation rights, and threatened to send me to a psych hospital if I didn’t comply. And made my mother pay at least 50% of the bill for their time.

    It’s not like I’ve had one bad experience with a lawyer. I’ve had bad experiences with family lawyers, personal injury litigators (well, my mother did), and whatever specialty goes after college instructors over grading disputes.

    Something doesn’t add up.


    When did I say that I’d prefer bad legal advice to realistic legal advice? I’m not asking for form my own Office of Special Plans here.

  83. thoreau,

    The problem with your GAL claims is that they are exclusively from your perspective; I’d have to see the case file, etc. in order to truly judge the merits of your claim. Furthermore, a GAL need not be an attorney.

    Your mother obviously didn’t look for an attorney to do the work then. Every state has innumerable groups of attornies that do pro bono work, law schools which provide free or very cheap legal services, etc. (indeed, your state bar should be able to provide you such information and much more) The resources are available.

    When I was in graduate school we never discussed such stuff and the one experience I have such an effort ended up with the student getting the grade they deserved – an F.

    For a scientist you ought to know that your slim anecdotal claims won’t impress me. Indeed, in light of your demonstrated bias and irrational attitude toward attorneys, its hard for me to take you seriously on these matters.

  84. I have made observations about the treatment of women in Muslim culture. The culture of fundamentalist Islam, men may treat women very badly by Western standards. Personally, I think stoning a woman for adultery is wrong… but I’m just touchy that way.

    If one takes your approach, one can challenge my observation on the treatment of women in fundamentalist Islamic culture by asking for empirical evidence that proves Muslim men are misogynists. You can point out (correctly) that one can find men throughout the world who treat women badly. And you can also contend that the popular Western perception of how women are treated in say, Afghanistan, is incorrect. Your same arguments can be used to reject any observation on the characteristics of any group, occupation or culture where one cannot provide definitive scientific proof. Just curious, do you set the bar this high for observations regarding every culture, sub-culture, occupation or group this high?

    Sometimes popular notions about a culture are wrong… and sometimes these notions are grounded in common experience and have a measure of validity. I refer to earlier point. I find lawyers a necessary though generally unpleasant ungent I need to purchase from time to time.

    Finally, I think Thoreau was expressing a deeply felt personal feeling. Those of us who are not attorneys often have discussions that do not involve winning an argument or making a point. I find Thoreau one of those uncommon men who has a deep-seated bias, admits it freely and (I believe) would not run down a lawyer in the street even if he could make a clean getaway. Why, he might even hit the brakes if you were crossing the street.

  85. Jose,

    Just curious, do you set the bar this high for observations regarding every culture, sub-culture, occupation or group this high?

    Yes I do. One of the reasons that we have science and empirical methodologies is to abandon the sort of anecdotal, off the cuff B.S. I’ve witnessed here. As to the whole analogy to Muslim societies issue, its not particularly difficult to make that determination; look at the legal provisions in Muslim societies, take a random sample of individuals from Muslim societies, etc. and you’ll come upon a reasonably accurate answer. In other words, you are distorting my argument.

    Sometimes popular notions about a culture are wrong… and sometimes these notions are grounded in common experience and have a measure of validity.

    And you offer me no way of differentiating the two. I suggest the best way to do so through empiricism. You’ve as yet to give me a reason to abandon that position.

    …would not run down a lawyer in the street even if he could make a clean getaway.

    Despite his statements to the contrary.

  86. Despite his statements to the contrary.


    I would never actually kill a lawyer, even if I thought I wouldn’t get caught. What I wrote a few nights ago was the sort of emotional big talk that comes easily enough when talking about hypotheticals. In real life, if confronted with the chance to wack a few lawyers I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

    Why? Well, even though in my rational mind I know that lawyers are subhuman scum, my conscience is not fully rational and would bother me nonetheless ;->

  87. “I think most folks don’t understand that we have an adversarial system in the U.S. and that attorneys are required to zealously and diligently represent their clients.” So do you offer any empirical evidence to support this opinion?

    “I think lawyers get a bad rap because we as a culture don’t really believe in concepts like ‘innocent until proven guilty.'” So where is the sociological research supporting this point? From where I sit, you are making assertions about American culture which you do not support with data… and it seems only fair to hold you to your own standard.

    The unvarnished truth is that personal experiences shape our view of the world and we all have opinions… most completely unsupported by scientific research. If Thoreau had said that all lawyers were scum-sucking bastards and I can prove it… then I can see smacking him with the empiricism argument. When an apparently sane and decent person is venting about a Shakespearean killing of lawyers, however, I fail see where asking for citations and footnotes really makes much sense.

  88. Jose-

    It’s also worth noting that I moderated my rhetoric quite a bit once I’d vented a little.

    So, just so I understand, am I barred from disliking lawyers until I assemble a suitable data set? What type of data would be deemed suitable?

  89. I think Gunnels has abandoned this thread, Thoreau. Perhaps he did not care for my application of his standards to his earlier quotes? The natural place to look would be criminal data, however, since attorneys are experts in the law, one could reasonably expect that they would be more skilled at avoiding criminal charges than say, plumbers. Many of the actions for which lawyers gain a lousy reputation may not be illegal, but they may be highly suspect. I think it is difficult to generate reliable data on ethical behavior. Is it reasonable to expect a liar to tell the truth about lying? Why waste your time and resources trying to prove lawyers are sleazy when you could direct your resources poking them in the eye? Support public policies that reduce the profit incentive for legal nonsense. Why fret about winning an argument when you can win a battle?

  90. Johnny Cochran was a great individual and a great lawyer.He proved that O.J. was not guilty through the famous glove and through Mark Furman.Rest in peace, dear man and may God Bless you.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.