This compendium of Legal Quotes was first published at gGreen.com on March 22, 1995. It was last updated on November 4, 2014. It does not purport to be a list of all the Legal Quotes I have ever heard, just the ones I like. I have even excluded some quotes that gave me pause when they also fell into the trap that suggests lawyers, per se, are dishonest. I welcome additional contributions, and will credit the source of new ones that pass editorial review.
- Gary Green
“bee care full win yew ewes spell checque:?.”
– Pamela Pantsuit
“But the mere truth won’t do. You must have a lawyer.”
– Dr. Allan Woodcourt to the wrongly accused George Rouncewell, in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House
“It could have been prevented. That is the message [to pharmaceutical companies]. Respect us.”
- Juror Derrick Chizer, who voted against Merck in the first Vioxx case to go to trial, who said the 10 like-minded jurors believed a heart attack triggered the Plaintiff’s fatal arrhythmia.
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” (Dick the Butcher to Jack Cade in Henry VI, Part 2 (1592) act 4, sc. 2. – Shakespeare’s misquoted implication that lawyers stand in the way of tyranny.)
- W. Shakespeare (1564-1616)
“I shall not rest until every German sees that it is a shameful thing to be a lawyer.”
“We love lawyers. If there weren’t any lawyers, there wouldn’t be any jokes!”
-Click and Clack
“The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
“Where law ends, tyranny begins.”
- William Pitt
“…Freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heros have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith.”
– Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address (1801)
“For 500 years the West patented six killer applications that set it apart. The first to download them was Japan. Over the last century, one Asian country after another has downloaded these killer apps- competition, modern science, the rule of law and private property rights, modern medicine, the consumer society and the work ethic. Those six things are the secret sauce of Western civilization.”
- Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, Civilization: The West and the Rest
“Fiat justitia ruat caelum.”
- Latin phrase meaning “Let justice be done though the heavens fall”; attributed to Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, the father-in-law of Julius Caesar
“Consider the reason of the case, for nothing is law that is not reason.”
- Sir John Powell
“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
-Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
“The jury system has come to stand for all we mean by English justice. The scrutiny of 12 honest jurors provides defendants and plaintiffs alike a safeguard from arbitrary perversion of the law.”
“The one governmental agency that has no ambition.”
- Justice William O. Douglas, on the Supreme Court
“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
- Thomas Jefferson (1788)
“Laws are the sovereigns of sovereigns.”
- Louis XIV
“The pen is mightier than the sword.”
- Edward Bulwer-Lytton
“Life’s real victories must be shared.”
- Former President Bill Clinton on the passing of Former President Nelson Mandela
“There’s always room for a good lawyer.”
- Milas Hale
“A law is valuable not because it is law, but because there is right in it.”
- Henry Ward Beecher
“If you want peace, work for justice”
– Pope Paul VI
“Laws are the very bulkwarks of liberty; they define every man’s rights, and defend the individual liberties of all men.”
- J.G. Holland
“Law is the embodiment of the moral sentiment of the people.”
- William Blackstone
“When you’re up to your nose in shit, keep your mouth shut.”
– Jack Beauregard, played by Henry Fonda. My Name is Nobody.
“Plead the Fifth”.
- Gary Vert
“Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
- Barry Goldwater
“‘Predicting coding algorithms’ are already able to do much of the legal research lawyers do. Before long, ‘there will be many thousands of lawyers out of work,’ one legal expert told Pew. Don’t all weep at once.”
- Rick Newman on the fate of lawyers, in his August 2014 article 28 Jobs Endangered by Technology, viaYahoo Finance
“Whereas the law is passionless, passion must ever sway the heart of man.”
“Every man is enthusiastic at times. One man has enthusiasm for 30 minutes, another man has it for 30 days. But it is the man who has it for 30 years who makes a success in life.”
- Edward B. Butler
“V. The next fpecies of trial is of great antiquity, but much difuted; though ftill in force if the parties chufe to abide by it: I mean the trial by wager of battel. This feems to have owed it’s original to the military fpirit of our anceftors, joined to a fuperftitious frame of mind; it being in the nature of an appeal to providence, under an apprehenfion and hope (however prefumptous and unwarrantable) that heaven would give the victory to him who had the right. The decifion of fuits, by this appeal to the God of battels, is by fome faid to have been invented by the Burgundi, one of the northern or German clans that planted themfelves in Gaul. And it is true, that the firft written injuction of judiciary combats that we meet with, is in the laws of Gundebald, A. D. 501, which are preferved in the Burgundian code. Yet it does not feem to have been merely a local cuftom of this or that particular tribe, but to have been the common ufage of all thofe warlike people from the earlieft times. And it may alfo feem from a paffage in Velleius Paterculus, that the Germans, when firft they became knwon to the Romans, were wont to decide all contefts of right by the fword: for when Quintilius Varus endeavoured to introduce among them the Roman laws and method of trial, it was looked upon (fays the hiftorian) as a “novitas incognitae difciplinae, ut folita armis “decerni, jure terminarentur.” And among the antient Goths in Sweden we find the practice of judiciary duels eftablifhed upon much the fame footing as they formerly were in our own country.”
-“A description of the “great antiquity” of “the trial by wager of battle” from Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, Volume III, p. 337 (1768)
“A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.”
- early-19th century proverb found in Henry Kett’s The flowers of wit, or a choice collection of bon mots (1814)
“All bad precedents begin with justifiable measures.”
- Julius Ceasar – Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae, J.T. Ramsey ed (1984)
“The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right…”
- Judge Learned Hand
“I think the first duty of society is justice.”
– Alexander Hamilton
“Tremble, all ye oppressors of the world!
- Richard Price
“Remember always that all of us…are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.”
- Clarence Darrow
“A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations…is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism.”
- Abraham Lincoln
“When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.”
“Beware the smoke screen!”
- Gary Vert
“Right… is the child of law.”
- Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
“I wholly disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
- S.G. Tallentyre, The Friends of Voltaire (1906)
“Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.”
- Abraham Lincoln
“Argument weak; speak loudly!”
- a handwritten note by Theodore Roosevelt in the margins of one of his speeches
“When it wishes anything done which is really serious, it collects twelve of the ordinary men standing round. The same thing was done, if I remember right, by the Founder of Christianity.”
- G. K. Chesterton, speaking of society.
“By obliging men to turn their attention to other affairs than their own, it rubs off that private selfishness which is the rust of society.”
- de Tocqueville on jury service
“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
“An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation.”
- Chief Justice John Marshall
“Take to the study of the law. Possession is nine points of it, which thou hast of me. Self-possession is the tenth . . .”
- R.D. Blackmore, Lorna Doone
“Come now, and let us reason together . . .”
- The Song of Solomon – Isaiah
The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes has been devoted to the attainment of trial by jury. It should be the creed of our political faith.
-Thomas Jefferson First Inaugural Address 1801
“There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”
-Washington Irving (1783-1859)
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”
– Author Unknown
“Very few souls are saved after the first five minutes of the sermon.”
– Mark Twain
“The law is reason free from passion.”
SIR EDWARD COKE (1552-1634)
“Reason is the life of the law; nay, the common law itself is nothing else but reason…The law, which is perfection of reason.”
– First Institute 
“For a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique tutissimum refugium.”
– Third Institute 
“The house of everyone is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defense against injury and violence as for his repose.”
– Semayne’s Case. 5 Report 91
“They [corporations] cannot commit treason, nor be outlawed nor excommunicate, for they have no souls.”
– Case of Sutton’s Hospital. 10 Report 32
“Learn to do right; seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
– The Song of Solomon – Isaiah 1:17
“The Seventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: ‘In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.’”
“Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh.
-Shakespeare: Hamlet III, i, 162
“Lincoln’s image is sometimes invoked as a model for lawyer advertising, with his advertising having been the feature of at least one recent television campaign for legal services. Other times, he, obviously, is advanced as the highest example of professionalism. He is probably an excellent illustration of the ability of a lawyer in that era to combine aspects of commercialism, competence and dignity in the practice of law.”
-American Bar Association, Commission on Advertising, Lawyer Advertising at the Crossroads: Professional Policy Considerations 31-32 (1995).
“our reason is our law.”
-Milton: Paradise Lost, bk. IX, l. 652
“The sleep of reason produces monsters [El sueño de la razón produce monstruos].”
- Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes: Los Caprichos . Plate 43¹
“Education is what you get by reading the fine print; experience is what you get if you don’t read it.”
- from The Furrow, Volume 119, Issue 6
Judge: “Is there any reason you could not serve as a juror on this case?”
Juror: “I don’t want to be away from my job that long.”
Judge: “Can’t they do without you at work?”
Juror: “Certainly, but I don’t want them to know it.”
- from The Furrow, Volume 119, Issue 6
“Man is a reasoning animal.”
-Lucius Annaeus Seneca: Epistles, 41,8
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
– Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), abolitionist, orator and columnist for The Liberator, in a speech before the Massachusetts Antislavery Society in 1852.
“Woe to those who enact unjust statutes and who write oppressive decrees,
depriving the needy of judgment and robbing my peoples’ poor of their
rights, making widows their plunder, and orphans their prey.”
– Isaiah 10:1-2.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal,
or acts to improve the lot of others,
or strikes out against injustice,
he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”
– Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968, American Attorney General, Senator)
“About half the practice of a decent lawyer consists in telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop.”
– Elihu Root
“[The law] is a jealous mistress, and requires a long and constant courtship. It is not to be won by trifling favors, but by lavish homage.”
The Value and Importance of Legal Studies
– Joseph Story, (1779-1845)
“All the sovereigns who have chosen to govern by their own authority, and to direct society instead of obeying its directions, have destroyed or enfeebled the institution of the jury. The Tudor monarchs sent to prison jurors who refused to convict, and Napoleon caused them to be selected by his agents.”
“The institution of the jury, if confined to criminal causes, is always in danger; but when once it is introduced into civil proceedings, it defies the aggressions of time and man. If it had been as easy to remove the jury from the customs as from the laws of England, it would have perished under the Tudors, and the civil jury did in reality at that period save the liberties of England.”
– de Tocqueville on civil jury trials
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
– origin unknown; attributed to several sources but made especially popular by Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review
“Statistician. A person who draws a mathematically precise line between an unwarranted assumption and a foregone conclusion.”
- author unknown
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The law is the last result of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the public.”
– Samuel Johnson
“It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have frequently been forged in controversies involving not very nice people.”
– Justice Felix Frankfurter, dissenting, United States v. Rabinowitz (1950)
“I used to say that, as Solicitor General, I made three arguments of every case. First came the one that I planned–as I thought, logical, coherent, complete. Second was the one actually presented–interrupted, incoherent, disjointed, disappointing. The third was the utterly devastating argument that I thought of after going to bed that night.”
– Robert H. Jackson, Advocacy Before the Supreme Court (1951)
“Judicial reform is no sport for the short-winded.”
– Arthur T. Vanderbilt
“To be a successful contingency attorney requires three things: 1). Accept only good cases; 2). Settle the good cases; and 3). Try the rest.”
- Gary Vert
“And do as adversaries do in law -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
– William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew – Act 1 Scene 2
“It usually takes three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
– Mark Twain
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
– Mark Twain
“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
– President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1952
“What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow; that is the whole Law: the rest is interpretation.”
– Hillel (30 B.C.- 10.A.D.) Source: Talm
Seek justice for all . . . Champion the cause of those who deserve redress for injury to personal property . . . Promote the public good through concerted efforts to secure safe products, a safe work place, a clean environment, and quality healthcare . . . Further the rule of law in a civil justice system, and protect the rights of the accused . . . Advance the common law and the finest traditions of jurisprudence . . . and uphold the honor and dignity of the legal profession and the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity.
– Mission Statement – Association of Trial Lawyers of America
“He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: . . . For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:”
- List of Colonists’ Grievances against King George III, Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
“The law must have the last word.”
– French President Jacques Chirac in response to rioters in France November 6, 2005
“The study of law is sublime, and its practice vulgar.”
– Oscar Wilde
“No man is above the law and no man below it.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
“Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually also recognize the voice of justice.”
– Alexander Solzhenitsyn
“Simple is good.”
– Jim Henson
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – – deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth – – persistent, persuasive, unrealistic.”
- John F. Kennedy
“As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end.”
– Adlai Ewing Stevenson
“It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.”
– Voltaire, Zadig, 1747
“Our defense is not in our armaments, nor in science, nor in going underground. Our defense is in law and order.”
– Albert Einstein
“Unkindness has no remedy at law.”
– Thomas Fuller (1654 – 1734) comp., Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, 5402, 1732.
“The precepts of the law are these: to live honestly, to injure no one, and to give everyone his due.” Justinian I (482/483-565).
– Justinian Code, A.D. 533.
“There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” Moses (14th Century B.C.).
– Exodus 12:49
“They that make laws must not break them.”
– John Ray (1628 – 1705). Comp., A Collection of English Proverbs, p. 166, 1678.
“Ignorance of the law excuses no man, not that all men know the law, but ’tis an excuse every man will plead and no man can tell how to confute him.”
– John Selden (1584 – 1654). “LAW” (2), Table Talk, 1689, ed. Frederick Pollock, 1927.
“Possession is nine-tenths of the law. Lord Mansfield (1705 – 1793).
– Corporation of Kingston – upon – Hull v. Horner, 1774.
“The success of any legal system is measured by its fidelity to the universal ideal of justice.” Earl Warren (1891 – 1974). “The Law and the Future,”
– Fortune Magazine, November 1955.
“Lawyers with a weakness for seeing the merits of the other side end up being employed by neither.”
– Richard J. Barnet (1929 – 2004). Roots of War. 3.3, 1971.
(Latin): The law is not concerned with trifles.
The more laws, the less justice.
Where the law is uncertain, there is no law.
(Spanish): One lawyer makes work for another.
(German): A lawyer and a wagon wheel must be well greased.
“It is unwise to pay too much but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money. When you pay too little you sometimes lose everything because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common sense law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It can’t be done.”
– John Ruskin
“When law and nature collide, nature usually wins.”
– Forrest Reynolds, June 1, 2012, on discussing the verdict in the John Edwards case
“Lawyers are just like physicians; what one says the other contradicts.
“One thing I have learned from this experience is that it is hard to keep an audience attentive and involved with a “speech,” but it’s easy if you tell a story that involves your listeners and inspires them with a memorable moral.”
- Jim M. Perdue
“He is no lawyer who cannot take two sides.”
“You get a reasonable doubt for a reasonable price.”
-Criminal attorney’s saying
“Lawyers help those who help themselves.”
“It is true that, of the people of my Gracious Prince here, some out of all offices and faculties must be executed: clerics, electoral councilors and doctors, city officials, court assessors, several of whom Your Grace knows. There are law students to be arrested. … The notary of our Church consistory, a very learned man, was yesterday arrested and put to the torture. In a word, a third part of the city is surely involved. The richest, most attractive, most prominent of the clergy are already executed. … I have seen put to death children of seven, promising students of ten, twelve, fourteen, and fifteen.”
-A Letter from Würzburg (1629), reprinted in Witchcraft in Europe 400-1700 353-54 (Alan Charles Kors and Edward Peters eds., University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001)
“Lawyers are a learned class of very ignorant men.”
-Erasmus, Dutch philosopher and theologian
“I am not afraid of lawyers as I used to be. They are lambs in wolves’ clothing.”
-Edna St. Vincent Millay
“If you laid all of our laws end to end, there would be no end.”
“‘Curio vult advisari,’ as the lawyers say; which means, ‘Let us have another glass, and then we can think about it.'”
- R.D. Blackmore, Lorna Doone
[Curia advisari vult is a Latin legal term meaning “the court wishes to consider the matter” (literally, “the court wishes to be advised”), a term reserving judgment until some subsequent day. It often appears in case reports, abbreviated as “Cur. adv. vult”, or sometimes “c.a.v.” or “CAV”, when the bench takes time for deliberation after hearing counsel’s submissions.]
“Law is the second oldest profession.”
“Thus tis we say though quite uncivil, A cunning lawyer beats the devil!”
-Early American Rhyme
“Sometimes a man who deserves to be looked upon because he is a fool is despised only because he is a lawyer.”
“May you have a lawsuit in which you know you are right.”
-Spanish Gypsy curse
“He that loves the law will get his fill of it.”
“There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.”
-Michel de Montaigne
“He wastes his tears who weeps before the judge.”
“That one hundred and fifty lawyers should do business together ought not to be expected.”
-Thomas Jefferson (referring to the U.S. Congress)
“Love all men – except lawyers.”
“Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice”
– Proverbs 13:10
“I, Lucius Titus, have written this my testament without any lawyer, following my own natural reason rather than excessive and miserable diligence.”
-The will of a citizen of Rome
“They do tricks even I can’t figure out.”
“If it weren’t for the lawyers we wouldn’t need them.”
-William Jennings Bryan
“Great management decisions make themselves”
“The very definition of a good award is that it gives dissatisfaction to both parties.”
– Goodman C. Sayers
“Our holding will be spelled out with some specificity in the pages which follow but briefly stated it is this: the prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.”
– Earl Warren, Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966)
“The power of a sonorous phrase to command uncritical acceptance has often been encountered in the law.”
– Calvert Magruder, “Mental and Emotional Disturbance in the Law of Torts,” 49 Harvard -Law Review 1033, 1033 (1936)
“I left law school more than 40 years ago, and I still have that dream – and not infrequently.”
– Paul Kelly on anxiety-producing exams
Judge: Are you trying to show contempt for the court?
Flower Bell Lee [played by Mae West]: No, I’m doing my best to hide it.
– Mae West and W.C. Fields, My Little Chickadee (screenplay), 1940, quoted in The Wit and Wisdom of Mae West 51 (Joseph Weintraub ed. 1970)
“A cent or a pepper corn, in legal estimation, would constitute a valuable consideration.”
– Nicholas Emery, Whitney v. Stearns, 16 Me. 394, 397 (1839)
“But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal-there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United State or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honorable court which you serve. Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal.”
– Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird 218 (1960)
“It is not enough to say, that in the opinion of the court, the damages are too high and that we would have given much less. It is the judgment of the jury, and not the judgment of the court, which is to assess the damages in actions for personal torts and injuries….The damages, therefore, must be so excessive as to strike mankind, at first blush, as being beyond all measure, unreasonable and outrageous, and such as manifestly show the jury to have been actuated by passion, partiality, prejudice, or corruption. In short, the damages must be flagrantly outrageous and extravagant, or the court cannot undertake to draw the line; for they have no standard by which to ascertain the excess.”
– James Kent, Coleman v. Southwick, 9 Johns. 45, 51-52 (N.Y. 1818)
“More truly characteristic of dissent is a dignity, an elevation, of mood and thought and phrase. Deep conviction and warm feeling are saying their last say with knowledge that the cause is lost. The voice of the majority may be that of force triumphant, content with the plaudits of the hour, and recking little of the morrow. The dissenter speaks to the future, and his voice is pitched to a key that will carry through the years.”
– Benjamin N. Cardozo, Law and Literature 36 (1931)
It shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universitis [sic], Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.
– Act of Mar. 13, 1925, ch. 27, § 1, 1925 Tenn. Pub. Acts 50, 50-51
“A grand jury would ‘indict a ham sandwich,’ if that’s what you wanted.”
- Tom Wolfe (quoting New York State chief judge Sol Wachtler) in The Bonfire of the Vanities
“If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lecturers, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightment and culture to the human mind.”
– Clarence S. Darrow, Speech at Scopes Trial, Dayton, Tenn., 13 July 1925, in The World’s Most Famous Court Trial 87 (1925)
“Those who want the Government to regulate matters of the mind and spirit are like men who are so afraid of being murdered that they commit suicide to avoid assassination.”
– Harry S. Truman, Address at the National Archives, Washington, D.C., 15 Dec., 1952, in Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1952-53, at 1077, 1079 (1966)
“Since the earliest days philosophers have dreamed of a country where the mind and spirit of man would be free; where there would be no limits to inquiry; where men would be free to explore the unknown and to challenge the most deeply rooted beliefs and principles. Our First Amendment was a bold effort to adopt this principle – to establish a country with no legal restrictions of any kind upon the subjects people could investigate, discuss and deny. The Framers knew, better perhaps than we do today, the risks they were taking. They knew that free speech might be the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny. With this knowledge they still believed that the ultimate happiness and security of a nation lies in its ability to explore, to change, to grow and ceaselessly to adapt itself to new knowledge born of inquiry free from any kind of governmental control over the mind and spirit of man. Loyalty comes from love of good government, not fear of a bad one.”
– Hugo L. Black, “The Bill of Rights,” 35 New York University Law Review 865, 880-81 (1960)
“The issue of a cause rarely depends upon a speech and is but seldom even affected by it. But there is never a cause contested, the result of which is not mainly dependent upon the skill with which the advocate conducts his cross-examination.”
. . .
“A good advocate should be a good actor. The most cautious cross-examiner will often elicit a damaging answer. Now is the time for the greatest self-control. If you show by your face how the answer hurt, you may lose your case by that one point alone. How often one sees the cross-examiner fairly staggered by such an answer. He pauses, perhaps blushes, and after he has allowed the answer to have its full effect, finally regains his self-possession, but seldom his control of the witness…..”
– “Francis Wellman” “The Art of Cross-Examination (1903, 1904)”
“The practice of law is a busyness.”
“We can imagine . . . no better way to counter a flag-burner’s message than by saluting the flag that burns. . . We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”
– William J. Brennan, Jr. Texas v. Johnson, 109 S. Ct. 2533, 2547-48 (1989)
“It is a pleasant world we live in, sir, a very pleasant world. There are bad people in it, Mr. Richard, but if there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.”
– Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop
“You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free.”
- Clarence S. Darrow, Address to jury, Communist Trial, 1920, in Attorney for the Damned 121, 140 (Arthur Weinberg ed. 1957)
“And I honor the man who is willing to sink
Half his present repute for the freedom to think,
And, when he has thought, be his cause strong or weak,
Will risk t’ other half for the freedom to speak.”
– James Russell Lowell, “A Fable for Critics,” 1848, in Complete Poetical Works of James Russell Lowell 114, 136 (Horace E. Scudder ed. 1925)
“The wisest thing to do with a fool is to encourage him to hire a hall and discourse to his fellow-citizens. Nothing chills nonsense like exposure to the air.”
– Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government in the United States 38 (1908)
“That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”
– Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, § 12, in Federal and State Constitutions 7:3812, 3814 (Francis N. Thorpe ed. 1909)
“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
– A.J. Liebling, “The Wayward Press: Do you belong in Journalism?” New Yorker, 14 May 1960, at 105, 109
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” 16 Apr. 1963, in Why We Can’t Wait 77, 79 (1964)
“We disclaim altogether any jurisdiction in the courts of the United States upon the subject of divorce, or for the allowance of alimony.”
– James M. Wayne, Barber v. Barber, 62 U.S. (21 How.) 582, 584 (1858)
“That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred.”
– Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, § 11, in Federal and State Constitutions 7:3812, 3814 (Francis N. Thorpe ed. 1909)
“Where there is Hunger, Law is not regarded; and where Law is not regarded, there will be Hunger.”
– Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1755, in Papers of Benjamin Franklin 5:472 (Leonard W. Labaree ed. 1962)
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse in any country. If it were, the laws would lose their effect, because it can always be pretended.”
– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Andre Limozin, 22 Dec. 1787, in Papers of Thomas Jefferson 12:451 (Julian P. Boyd ed. 1955)
“I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.”
– Ulysses S. Grant, First Inaugural Address, 4 Mar. 1869, in Messages and Papers of the Presidents 7:6, 6 (James D. Richardson ed. 1898)
“Never fear the want of business. A man who qualifies himself well for his calling never fails of employment in it.”
– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peter Carr, 22 June 1792, in Writings of Thomas Jefferson 6:92 (Paul L. Ford ed. 1895)
“Our profession is good, if practiced in the spirit of it; it is damnable fraud and iniquity when its true spirit is supplied by a spirit of mischief-making and money catching.”
– Daniel Webster, Letter to James Hervey Bingham, 19 Jan. 1806, in Papers of Daniel Webster: Legal Papers 1.69
[When advised not to become a lawyer because the profession was overcrowded:] “There is always room at the top.”
– Daniel Webster, quoted in Edward Latham, Famous Sayings and Their Authors 65 (1904)
“Whatever their failings as a class may be, and however likely to lose their immortal souls, lawyers do not generally lose papers.”
– Arthur Train, “Hocus-Pocus,” in Tut, Tut! Mr. Tutt 119, 120 (1923)
“Look well to the right of you, look well to the left of you, for one of you three won’t be here next year.”
– Edward H. Warren, quoted in W. Barton Leach, “Look Well to the Right…,” 58 Harvard Law Review 1137, 1138 (1945)
On one occasion a student made a curiously inept response to a question from Professor Warren. “The Bull” roared at him, “You will never make a lawyer. You might just as well pack up your books now and leave the school.” The student rose, gathered his notebooks, and started to leave, pausing only to say in full voice, “I accept your suggestion, Sir, but I do not propose to leave without giving myself the pleasure of telling you to go plumb straight to Hell.” “Sit down, Sir, sit down,” said “The Bull.” “Your response makes it clear that my judgment was too hasty.”
– Joseph N. Welch, “Edward Henry Warren,” 58 Harvard Law Review 1134, 1136 (1945)
“They have a proverb here [in London], which I do not know how to account for ; – in speaking of a difficult point, they say, it would puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer*.”
– “A Humorous Description of the Manners and Fashions of London; in a Letter from a Citizen of America to his Correspondent in Philadelphia,” 2 Columbian Magazine 181, 182 (1788) *This is the earliest known usage of the phrase Philadelphia lawyer to mean “a shrewd lawyer expert in legal technicalities.” This term may have been inspired by Philadelphia attorney Andrew Hamilton’s successful defense of John Peter Zenger in a New York court in 1735.
Searching for quotations on lawyers, I found this on your site:
“They have a proverb here [in London], which I do not know how to account for ; – in speaking of a difficult point, they say, it would puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer*.”
- “A Humorous Description of the Manners and Fashions of London; in a Letter from a Citizen of America to his Correspondent in Philadelphia,” 2 Columbian Magazine 181, 182 (1788) *This is the earliest known usage of the phrase Philadelphia lawyer to mean “a shrewd lawyer expert in legal technicalities.” This term may have been inspired by Philadelphia attorney Andrew Hamilton’s successful defense of John Peter Zenger in a New York court in 1735.
There is a much earlier use of “Philadelphia lawyer”. The Gospel of Luke, in KJV, refers to “a certain lawyer” who asked “Who is my neighbor?” [“To whom do I owe a duty of care?”] Other translations say that “the lawyer of Philadelphia” asked this question. The city called Philadelphia in Bible times is the city now known as Amman, Jordan.
I learned this in New Testament Studies at Pacific Lutheran University here in Tacoma, Washington.
Theresa Tilton, Attorney at Law
Luke 10:25-37 (King James Version)
King James Version (KJV)
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
“Let me not be thought as intending anything derogatory to the profession of the law, or to the distinguished members of that illustrious order. Well am I aware that we have in this ancient city innumerable worthy gentlemen, the knights-errant of modern days, who go about redressing wrongs and defending the defenseless, not for the love of filthy lucre, nor the selfish cravings of renown, but merely for the pleasure of doing good. Sooner would I throw this trusty pen into the flames and cork up my ink bottle forever, than infringe even for a nail’s breadth upon the dignity of these truly benevolent champions of the distressed. On the contrary, I allude merely to those caitiff scouts who, in these latter days of evil, infest the skirts of the profession, as did the recreant Cornish knights of yore the honorable order of chivalry, – who under its auspices, commit flagrant wrongs, – who thrive by quibbles, by quirks and chicanery, and like vermin increase the corruption in which they are engendered.”
– Washington Irving, The History of New York 261-62 (1868) (1809)
“A French observer is surprised to hear how often an English or an American lawyer quotes the opinions of others, and how little he alludes to his own; … This abnegation of his own opinion, and this implicit deference to the opinion of his forefathers, which are common to the English and American lawyer, this servitude of thought which he is obliged to profess, necessarily give him more timid habits and more conservative inclinations in England and America than in France.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 1:353 (Francis Bowen trans. 1862) (1835)
“The good judge is not he who does hair-splitting justice to every allegation, but who, aiming at substantial justice, rules something intelligible for the guidance of suitors. The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every side and angle of contingency, and qualifies all his qualifications, but who throws himself on your part so heartily that he can get you out of a scrape.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Power,” The Conduct of Life, 1860, in Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson 6:53, 76 (1904)
“Your law may be perfect, your knowledge of human affairs may be such as to enable you to apply it with wisdom and skill, and yet without individual acquaintance with men, their haunts and habits, the pursuit of the profession becomes difficult, slow, and expensive. A lawyer who does not know men is handicapped.”
– Louis D. Brandeis, Letter to William H. Dunbar, 2 Feb. 1893, in Letters of Louis D. Brandeis 1:108 (Melvin I. Urofsky and David W. Levy eds. 1971)
“Courage is the most important attribute of a lawyer. It is more important than competence or vision. It can never be an elective in any law school. It can never be de-limited, dated or outworn, and it should pervade the heart, the halls of justice and the chambers of the mind.”
– Robert F. Kennedy, Speech at University of San Francisco Law School, San Francisco, 29 Sept. 1962, quoted in Sue G. Hall, The Quotable Robert F. Kennedy 111 (1967)
“One hires lawyers as on hires plumbers, because one wants to keep one’s hands off the beastly drains.”
– Amanda Cross, The Question of Max 61 (1976)
“Send lawyers, guns and money, the shit has hit the fan.”
– Warren Zevon, “Lawyers, Guns and Money’ (song) (1978)
“The lawyers’ contribution to the civilizing of humanity is evidenced in the capacity of lawyers to argue furiously in the courtroom, then sit down as friends over a drink or dinner. This habit is often interpreted by the layman as a mark of their ultimate corruption. In my opinion, it is their greatest moral achievement: It is a characteristic of humane tolerance that is most desperately needed at the present time.”
– John R. Silber, quoted in Wall Street Journal, 16 Mar. 1972, at 14
“Anyone who believes a better day dawns when lawyers are eliminated bears the burden of explaining who will take their place. Who will protect the poor, the injured, the victims of negligence, the victims of racial violence?”
– John J. Curtin, Jr., Remarks to American Bar Association, Atlanta, 13 Aug. 1991, quoted in Time, 26 Aug. 1991, at 54
“Lawyers, Preachers, and Tomtits Eggs, there are more of them hatch’d than come to perfection.”
– Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1734, in Papers of Benjamin Franklin 1:354 (Leonard W. Labaree ed. 1959)
“I should apologize, perhaps, for the style of this bill. I dislike the verbose and intricate style of the English statutes, and in our revised code I endeavored to restore it to the simple one of the ancient statues, in such original bills as I drew in that work. I suppose the reformation has not been acceptable, as it has been little followed. You, however, can easily correct this bill to the taste of my brother lawyers, by making every other word a “said” or “aforesaid,” and saying everything over two or three times, so that nobody but we of the craft can untwist the diction, and find out what it means; and that, too, not so plainly but that we may conscientiously divide one half on each side. Mend it, therefore, in form and substance to the orthodox taste, and make it what it should be; or, if you think it radically wrong, try something else, and let us make a beginning in some way. No matter how wrong, experience will amend it as we go along, and make it effectual in the end.”
– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Joseph C. Cabell, 9 Sept. 1817, in Writings of Thomas Jefferson 17:417-18 (Andrew A. Lipscomb ed. 1904)
“There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content.”
– Fred Rodell, “Goodbye to Law Reviews,” 23 Virginia Law Review 38, 38 (1936)
“Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.”
– Mark Twain, “The Gorky Incident,” 1906, in Mark Twain: Letters From the Earth 155, 156 (Bernard De Voto ed. 1939)
“What we need to do is to stop passing laws. We have enough laws now to govern the world for the next 10,000 years. Every crank who has a foolish notion that he would like to impose upon everybody else hastens to some legislative body and demands that it be graven upon the statutes. Every fanatic who wants to control his neighbor’s conduct is here or at some other legislative body demanding that a law be passed to regulate that neighbor’s conduct.”
– James A. Reed, in 67 Congressional Record 10,708 (1926)
“The government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation, if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right.”
– Chief Justice John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 163 (1803)
See also OBEDIENCE TO LAW 2, OBEDIENCE TO LAW 3
“In the United States, every one is personally interested in enforcing the obedience of the whole community to the law; for as the minority may shortly rally the majority to its principles, it is interested in professing that respect for the decrees of the legislator which it may soon have occasion to claim for its own. However irksome an enactment may be, the citizen of the United States complies with it, not only because it is the work of the majority, but because it is his own, and he regards it as a contract to which he is himself a party. ”
– Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 1:317 (Francis Bowen trans. 1862) (1835)
“As [a citizen] is a “law-maker,” he should not be a “law-breaker,” for he ought to be conscious that every departure from the established ordinances of society is an infraction of his rights. His power can only be maintained by the supremacy of the laws, as in monarchies, the authority of the king is asserted by obedience to his orders. The citizen in lending a cheerful assistance to the ministers of the law, on all occasions, is merely helping to maintain his own power. This feature in particular, distinguishes the citizen from the subject.”
- James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat 83 (1956) (1838)
“A very wise father once remarked, that in the government of his children, he forbade as few things as possible; a wise legislation would do the same. It is folly to make laws on subjects beyond human prerogative, knowing that in the very nature of things they must be set aside. To make laws that man can not and will not obey, serves to bring all law into contempt. It is very important in a republic, that the people should respect the laws, for if we throw them to the winds, what becomes of civil government?”
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Address before 10th National Woman’s rights Convention, New York, May 1860, in History of Woman Suffrage 1:716, 721 (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda J. Gage eds. 1881)
“The words which are criticized as dirty [in James Joyce’s Ulysses] are old Saxon words known to almost all men and, I venture, to many women, and are such words as would be naturally and habitually used, I believe, by the types of folk whose life, physical, and mental, Joyce is seeking to describe. In respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of his characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season spring.”
- John M. Woolsey, United States v. One Book Called “Ulysses,” 5 F. Supp. 182, 183-84 (S.D.N.Y. 1933)
[Standard for obscenity:]” Whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest.”
- William J. Brennan, Jr. Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476, 489 (1957)
“I have reached the conclusion . . . that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments criminal laws in this area [obscenity] are constitutionally limited to hard-core pornography. I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know if when I see it; and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”
- Potter Stewart, Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964) (concurring)
“The First Amendment guarantees liberty of human expression in order to preserve in our Nation what Mr. Justice Holmes called a “free trade in ideas.” To that end, the Constitution protects more than just a man’s freedom to say or write or publish what he wants. It secures as well the liberty of each man to decide for himself what he will read and to what he will listen. The Constitution guarantees, in short, a society of free choice.”
- Potter Stewart, Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U.S. 629, 649 (1968) (concurring)
“The term “f—–g pigs” in the context in which it was used referred not to copulation of porcine animals but was rather a highly insulting epithet directed to the police officers…..Appellant’s use of the vulgarism describing the filial partner in an oedipal relationship is fairly to be viewed as an epithet rather than as a phrase appealing to a shameful or morbid interest in intra-family sex….There is, after all, a strong possibility that an expert witness called in the matter before us might have testified to the occasional use of the offending profane adjective in bar association quarters or in trial judges’ lounges-alas, all too often in reference to a decision of the Court of Appeal.”
- Robert S. Thompson, People v. Price, 4 Cal. App. 3d 941, 948-49, 84 Cal. Rptr. 585 (1970) (dissenting)
“I put sixteen years into that damn obscenity thing. I tried and I tried, and I waffled back and forth, and I finally gave up. If you can’t define it, you can’t prosecute people for it. And that’s why, in the Paris Adult Theatre decision, I finally abandoned the whole effort. I reached the conclusion that every criminal-obscenity statute-and most obscenity laws are criminal-was necessarily unconstitutional, because it was impossible, from the statute, to define obscenity. Accordingly, anybody charged with violating the statute would not have known that his conduct was a violation of the law. He wouldn’t know whether the material was obscene until the court told him.”
- William J. Brennan, Jr., quoted in Nat Hentoff, “Profiles: The Constitutionalist,” New Yorker, 12 Mar. 1990, at 45, 56
“The appellant has attempted to distinguish the factual situation in this case from that in Renfroe v. Higgins Rack Coating and Manufacturing Co., Inc. (1969), 17 Mich App 259. He didn’t. We couldn’t.
Affirmed. Costs to appellee.”
- John H. Gillis, Denny v. Radar Industries, 28 Mich. App. 294, 294 (1970)
* This is the opinion in its entirety.
“Literary license allows an avid alliterationist authority to postulate parenthetically that the predominating principles presented here may be summarized thusly: Preventing public pollution permits promiscuous perusal of personality but persistent perspicacious patron persuasively provided pertinent perdurable preponderating presumption precedent preventing prison.”
- H. Sol Clark, Banks v. State, 132 Ga. App. 809, 810, 209 S.E. 2d 252 (1974)
“Our amended Constitution is the lodestar for our aspirations. Like every text worth reading, it is not crystalline. The phrasing is broad and the limitations of its provisions are not clearly marked. Its majestic generalities and ennobling pronouncements are both luminous and obscure. This ambiguity of course calls forth interpretation, the interaction of reader and text. The encounter with the Constitutional text has been, in many senses, my life’s work.”
- William J. Brennan, Jr., “The Constitution of the United States: Contemporary Ratification” (speech), Washington, D.C. 12 Oct. 1985, in Original Meaning Jurisprudence: A Sourcebook 151, 152 (1987)
“I, Andrew Johnson, …..hereby proclaim and declare unconditionally, and without reservation, to all and to every person who directly or indirectly participated in the late insurrection or rebellion, a full pardon and amnesty for the offence of treason against the United States, or of adhering to their enemies during the late civil war, with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws which have been made in pursuance thereof.”
- Proclamation 25 Dec., 1868, 15 Stat. 711, 712
“The patent system…added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”
- Abraham Lincoln, Second Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions, Jacksonville, Ill., 11 Feb.1859, in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 3:363 (Roy P. Basler ed. 1953)
[To the Court requesting a precedent for his position during the Crafts trial:] “I will look, your Honor, and endeavor to find a precedent, if you require it; though it would seem to be a pity that the Court should lose the honor of being the first to establish so just a rule.”
- Rufus Choate, quoted in Works of Rufus Choate 1:292 (Samuel G. Brown ed. 1862)
“We recognize that stare decisis embodies an important social policy. It represents an element of continuity in law, and is rooted in the psychologic need to satisfy reasonable expectations. But stare decisis is a principle of policy and not a mechanical formula of adherence to the latest decision, however recent and questionable, when such adherence involves collision with a prior doctrine more embracing in its scope, intrinsically sounder, and verified by experience…This Court, unlike the House of Lords, has from the beginning rejected a doctrine of disability at self-correction.”
- Felix Frankfurter, Helvering v. Hallock, 309 U.S. 106, 119, 121 (1940)
“I would rather create a precedent than find one.”
- William O. Douglas, The Court Years: 1939-1975, at 179 (1980)
“The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom.”
- William O. Douglas, Public Utilities Comm’n v. Pollak, 343 U.S. 451, 467 (1952) (dissenting)
“We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government.”
- William O. Douglas, Osborn v. United States, 385 U.S. 323, 341 (1966) (dissenting)
“In no country in the world is the love of property more active and more anxious than in the United States; nowhere does the majority display less inclination for those principles which threaten to alter, in whatever manner, the laws of property.”
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 2:314 (Francis Bowen trans.1862) (1835)
“Any person who is the head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a citizen of the United States, or who shall have filed his declaration of intention to become such, as required by the naturalization laws of the United States, and who has never borne arms against the United States Government or given aid and comfort to its enemies, shall, from and after the first January, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, be entitled to enter one quarter section or a less quantity of unappropriated public lands, upon which said person may have filed a preemption claim, or which may, at the time the application is made, be subject to preemption at one dollar and twenty-five cents, or less, per acre; or eighty acres or less of such unappropriated lands, at two dollars and fifty cents per acre, to be located in a body, in conformity to the legal subdivisions of the public lands, and after the same shall have been surveyed.”
- Homestead Act of 1862, ch. 75, § 1, 12 Stat. 392, 392
“With the rise of property, considered as an institution, with the settlement of its rights, and, above all, with the established certainty of its transmission to lineal descendants, came the first possibility among mankind of the true family in its modern acceptation. . . It is impossible to separate property, considered in the concrete, from civilization, or for civilization to exist without its presence, protection, and regulated inheritance. Of property in this sense, all barbarous nations are necessarily ignorant.”
- Lewis Henry Morgan, Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity 492 (1870)
“The primary duty of a lawyer engaged in public prosecution is not to convict, but to see that justice is done.”
- Canons of Professional Ethics Canon 5 (1908)
[William Jennings Bryan:] “Your Honor, I think I can shorten this testimony. The only purpose Mr. Darrow has is to slur at the Bible, but I will answer his question. I will answer it all at once, and I have no objection in the world, I want the world to know that this man, who does not believe in a God, is trying to use a court in Tennessee-”
[Clarence S. Darrow:]” I object to that.”
[Bryan:]” to slur at it, and while it will require time, I am willing to take it.”
[Darrow:] “I object to your statement. I am exempting you on your fool ideas that no intelligent Christian on earth believes.”
- Clarence S. Darrow, Scopes Trial, Dayton, Tenn., 20 July 1925, in The World’s Most Famous Court Trial 304 (1925)
“Men may believe what they cannot prove. They may not be put to the proof of their religious doctrines or beliefs. Religious experiences which are as real as life to some may be incomprehensible to others.”
- William O. Douglas, United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 86 (1944)
“Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others.”
- Hugo L. Black, Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495 n.11 (1961)
“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember, or overthrow it.”
- Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, 4 Mar. 1861, in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln 4:269 (Roy P. Basler ed. 1953)
“The word “revolution” has of course acquired a subversive connotation in modern times. But it has roots that are eminently respectable in American history. This country is the product of revolution. Our very being emphasizes that when grievances pile high and there are no political remedies, the exercise of sovereign powers reverts to the people. Teaching and espousing revolution-as distinguished from indulging in overt acts-are therefore obviously within the range of the First Amendment. ”
- William O. Douglas, W.E.B. Du Bois Clubs v. Clark, 389 U.S. 309, 315-16 (1967)
“If we cannot secure all our rights, let us secure what we can.”
- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Madison, 15 Mar. 1789, in Papers of Thomas Jefferson 14:660 (Julian P. Boyd ed. 1958)
“But the word “right” is one of the most deceptive of pitfalls; it is so easy to slip from a qualified meaning in the premise to an unqualified one in the conclusion. Most rights are qualified. ”
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., American Bank and Trust Co. v. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 256 U.S. 350, 358 (1921)
“This freedom of movement is the very essence of our free society, setting us apart. Like the right of assembly and the right of association, it often makes all other rights meaningful-knowing, studying, arguing, exploring, conversing, observing and even thinking. Once the right to travel is curtailed, all other rights suffer, just as when curfew or home detention is placed on a person.”
- William O. Douglas, Aptheker v. Secretary of State, 378 U.S. 500, 520 (1964) (concurring)
“America is of course sovereign; but her sovereignty is woven in an international web that makes her one of the family of nations. The ties with all the continents are close-commercially as well as culturally. Our concerns are planetary, beyond sunrises and sunsets. Citizenship implicates us in those problems and perplexities, as well as in domestic ones. We cannot exercise and enjoy citizenship in world perspective without the right to travel abroad; and I see no constitutional way to curb it unless, as I said, there is the power to detain.”
- William O. Douglas, Aptheker v. Secretary of State, 378 U.S. 500, 520-21 (1964) (concurring)
“Of course, I believe that every child has a right to decent education and shelter, food and medical care; of course, I believe that refugees from political oppression have a right to a haven in a free land; of course I believe that every person has a right to work in dignity and for a decent wage. I do believe and affirm the social contract that grounds these rights. But more to the point I also believe that I am commanded-that we are obligated-to realize those rights.”
- Robert M. Cover, “Obligation: A Jewish Jurisprudence of the Social Order,” 5 Journal of Law and Religion 65, 73-74 (1988)
“And I take this opportunity to declare, that …I will to my dying day oppose, with all the powers and faculties God has given me, all such instruments of slavery on the one hand, and villainy on the other, as this writ of assistance is. It appears to me…the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty, and the fundamental principles of the constitution, that ever was found in an English law-book.”
- James Otis, Argument against the writs of assistance, Boston, Feb. 1761, quoted in John Adams, “Abstract of the Argument for and against the Writts of Assistance,” 1761, in Legal Papers of John Adams 2:134, 139-40 (L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel eds. 1965)
“Your Honours will find in the old book, concerning the office of a justice of peace, precedents of general warrants to search suspected houses. But in more modern books you will find only special warrants to search such and such houses specially named, in which the complainant has before sworn he suspects his goods are concealed; and you will find it adjudged that special warrants only are legal. In the same manner I rely on it, that the writ prayed for in this petition being general is illegal. It is a power that places the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.”
- James Otis, Argument against the writs of assistance, Boston, Feb. 1761, quoted in John Adams, “Abstract of the Argument for and against the Writts of Assistance,” 1761, in Legal Papers of John Adams 2:134, 141-42 (L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel eds. 1965)
“Now one of the most essential branches of English liberty, is the freedom of one’s house. A man’s house is his castle;* and while he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ [of assistance], if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege.”
- James Otis, Argument against the writs of assistance, Boston, Feb. 1761, quoted in John Adams, “Abstract of the Argument for and against the Writts of Assistance,” 1761, in Legal Papers of John Adams 2:134; 142 (L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel eds. 1965)
*Burton Stevenson, Home Book of Proverbs, Maxims and Familiar Phrases 1192 (1948), traces the proverb, “A man’s house is his castle,” back to 1567 and notes legal usages of it by Sir Edward Coke in the 17th century.
“That general warrants, whereby an officer of messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offence is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive, and ought not to be granted.”
- Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, § 10, in Federal and State Constitutions 7:3812, 3814 (Francis N. Thorpe ed. 1909)
It shall be unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, by the use of any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce, or of the mails…
(A) To employ any device, scheme, or artifice to defraud,
(B) To make any untrue statement of a material fact or to omit to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in the light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading, or
(C) To engage in any act, practice, or course of business which operates or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon any person, in connection with the purchase or sale of any security.
- Rule 10b-5,13 Fed. Reg. 8183-84 (1948) (codified at 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5)
[Definition of insider trading:] “Stealing too fast.”
- Calvin Trillin, “The Inside on Insider Trading,” in If You Can’t Say Something Nice 141, 143 (1987)
“Racial discrimination in public education is unconstitutional…..All provisions of federal, state or local law requiring or permitting such discrimination must yield to this principle.
- Earl Warren, Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294, 298 (1955)
“The hardest case we ever heard of lived in Arkansas. He was only fourteen years old. One night he deliberately murdered his father and mother in cold blood, with a meat-axe. He was tried and found guilty. The Judge drew on his black cap, and in a voice choked with emotion asked the young prisoner if he had anything to say before the sentence of the Court was passed on him….”Why, no,” replied the prisoner, “I think I haven’t, though I hope yer Honor will show some consideration FOR THE FEELINGS OF A POOR ORPHAN!” ”
- Artemus Ward, “A Hard Case,” in Artemus Ward in London 183, 183-84 (1867)
“I’m often asked why there is such a great variation among sentences imposed by Texas judges. I can only quote the Texas judge who was asked why a killer sometimes doesn’t even get indicted and a cattle thief can get ten years. The judge answered: “A lot of fellows ought to be shot, but we don’t have any cows that need stealin’.”
- Pearcy Foreman, quoted in Michael Dorman, King of the Courtroom 104 (1969)
“Oyez, oyez, oyez! All persons having business before the honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the court is now sitting. God save the United States and this honorable Court.”
- Marshal’s cry at the opening of public sessions of the United States Supreme Court
“Equal Justice Under Law.”
- Inscription on West Portico of Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C.
“Justice the Guardian of Liberty.”
- Inscription on East Portico of Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. Court
“[We’ll] never really know how many brothers-in-law were ‘accidentally kilt’ by their kin who were holding their shotgun and stepping over a fence at the same time.”
- Robert Meriweather, Professor of Political Science, Education and History and Dean of Students at Hendrix College (1959-1993)
“Knowing Master Huckaback to be a man of his word, as well as one who would have others so, I was careful to be in good time the next morning . . . “
- R.D. Blackmore, Lorna Doone
“Justice the Guardian of Liberty.”
- Inscription on East Portico of Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C.
“Anything less than full justice is cruelty.”
– William Penn
“Your brand is your promise to the consumer. It’s your reputation. It’s the encapsulation of your core values. . .When someone attempts to steal our brand it’s personal, as though some part of my family has been assaulted.”
- Doug Shafer, A Vineyard In Napa
Here this extraordinary man [Charles Townsend], then Chancellor of the Exchequer, found himself in great straits. To please universally was the object of his life; but to tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men. However, he attempted it.
- Edmund Burke, Speech on American Taxation, 19 April 1774, in Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke 2:409, 454 (Paul Langford ed. 1981)
“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.*”
- Benjamin Franklin, Letter to Jean Baptiste Le Roy, 13 Nov. 1789, in Writings of Benjamin Franklin 10:69 (Albert H. Smyth ed. 1907)
*Not the man in the moon, not the groaning-board, not the speaking of friar Bacon’s brazen- head, not the inspiration of mother Shipton, or the miracles of Dr. Faustus, things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed. – Daniel Defoe, The History of the Devil, 1726, in Defoe’s Works 3:283, 481 (1912)
“I don’t see why a man shouldn’t pay an inheritance tax. If a Country is good enough to pay taxes to while you are living, it’s good enough to pay in after you die. By the time you die you should be so used to paying taxes that it would just be almost second nature to you.”
- Will Rogers, “They’ve Got a New Dictionary at Ellis Island,” 28 Feb. 1926, in Will Rogers’ Weekly Articles 2:157, 158 (James M. Smallwood ed. 1980)
[Responding to a statement that “laws should be considerate of the poor”:] Not more so than of the rich. The laws should be equal and just; and the poor are the last people who ought to wish them otherwise, since they are certain to be the losers when any other principle governs….No class suffers so much by a departure from the rule, as the rich have a thousand other means of attaining their ends, when the way is left clear to them, by setting up any other master than the right.”
- James Fenimore Cooper, The Chainbearer, 1845, in Complete Works of J. Fenimore Cooper 27:94-95 (1893)
“The true form of the Rule against Perpetuities is believed to be this: – NO INTEREST SUBJECT TO A CONDITION PRECEDENT IS GOOD, UNLESS THE CONDITION MUST BE FULFILLED, IF AT ALL, WITHIN TWENTY-ONE YEARS AFTER SOME LIFE IN BEING AT THE CREATION OF THE INTEREST.”
- John Chipman Gray, The Rule Against Perpetuities 144 (1886)
“During my life, and now by my will and codicils, I have given considerable sums of money to promote public or humanitarian causes which have had my deliberate and sympathetic interest. If any of my children think excessive such gifts of mine outside of my family, I ask them to remember not only the merit of the causes and the corresponding usefulness of the gifts but also the dominating ideals of my life.
They should never forget the dangers which unfortunately attend the inheritance of large fortunes, even though the money come from the painstaking affections of a father. I beg of them to remember that such danger lies not only in the obvious temptation to enervating luxury, but in the inducement . . . to withdraw from the wholesome duty of vigorous, serious, useful work. In my opinion a life not largely dedicated to such work cannot be happy and honorable; And to such it is my earnest hope-and will be to my death-that my children shall, so far as their strength permits, be steadfastly devoted.”
- Joseph Pulitzer, Will, in James Wyman Barrett, Joseph Pulitzer and His World 295-96 (1941)
“And do as adversaries do in law – Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.”
- William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, act I, scene ii
“Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.”
- The Holy Bible – Amos 5:24
“In the heart of every lawyer, worthy of the name, there burns a deep ambition so to bear himself that the profession may be stronger by reason of his passage through its ranks, and that he may leave the law itself a better instrument of human justice than he found it.”
- John W. Davis
“I do solemnly swear or affirm:
I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this State, and I will faithfully perform the duties of attorney at law.
I will exhibit, and I will seek to maintain in others, the respect due courts and judges.
I will, to the best of my ability, abide by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and any other standards of ethics proclaimed by the courts, and in doubtful cases I will attempt to abide by the spirit of those ethical rules and precepts of honor and fair play.
I will not reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the impoverished, the defenseless, or the oppressed
I will endeavor always to advance the cause of justice and to defend and to keep inviolate the rights of all persons whose trust is conferred upon me as an attorney at law.”
- Oath administered to new attorneys.
“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
- Thomas Jefferson, 1789
“We will either find a way, or make one.”
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
- Albert Einstein
“I have lived my life, and I have fought my battles, not against the weak and the poor – anybody can do that – but against power, against injustice, against oppression, and I have asked no odds from them, and I never shall.”
- Clarence S. Darrow, Defense against charge of jury bribing in McNamara Case, 1912, in Attorney for the Damned 491, 497 (Arthur Weinberg ed. 1957)
“We cannot not be here. People look to us.”
-Mari Wright, Executive Director of the Southwest Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross.
“The law favors farmers.”
- an old folk saying
“…There nothing more expensive than a bad lawyer”.
Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.
- Albert Einstein
In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning people are all the same.
- Albert Einstein
“It’s never about the opponent or who we’re facing. . . . Coach likes to say they’re faceless – and they are. It’s about us and about what we do and how we take everything on the field. It doesn’t matter who we play. We’re trying to play the way we’re capable of playing.”
- Alabama senior quarterback AJ McCarron, quoting Coach Vick Saban
Men of few words are the best men.
- William Shakespeare
This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read.
- Sir Winston Churchhill
I have made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.
- French writer and mathematician Blaise Pascal
Funny Order from Kenton, KY Circuit Court
- Click to download PDF
“[W]hat many of those who oppose the use of juries in civil trials seem to ignore [is that t]he founders of our Nation considered the right of trial by jury in civil cases an important bulwark against tyranny and corruption, a safeguard too precious to be left to the whim of the sovereign, or, it might be added, to that of the judiciary.”
- Chief Justice William Rehnquist
in Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 343 (1979)
“Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they discuss it freely.”
- Thomas Babington Macaulay
“There was not a member of the Constitutional Convention who had the least objection to what is contended for by the advocates for a Bill of Rights and trial by jury.”
- George Washington (1788)
“It is through trial by jury that the people share in government, a consideration which ought to make our legislators very cautious how they take away this mode of trial by new, trifling and vexatious enactments.”
- Lord John Russell, Prime Minister of England (1823)
“What individual can so well assess the amount of damages which a plaintiff ought to recover for an injury he has received than an intelligent jury?”
- Henry Peter Brougham, Lord Chancellor of England (1828)
“The law of England has established trial by judge and jury in the conviction that it is the mode best calculated to ascertain the truth.”
- Jeremy Bentham, English Philosopher (1832)
“The civil jury is the most effective form of sovereignty of the people. It defies the aggressions of time and man. During the reigns of Henry VIII (1509-1547) and Elizabeth I (1158-1603), the civil jury did in reality save the liberties of England.”
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)
“The jury system is the handmaid of freedom. It takes on the spirit of liberty, and grows with the progress of constitutional government. Rome, Sparta and Carthage fell because they did not know it, let not England and America fall because they threw it away.”
- Charles S. May, Address to the Michigan Law School (1875)
“In the Declaration of Independence, the King of Great Britain was arraigned before the world for depriving us of trial by jury. This language evinces the purpose of our representatives to risk their lives and their fortunes to secure the ancient right of trial by jury.”
- Justice Alphonso C. Avery of North Carolina (1892)
“In the jury box, no less than in the polling booth, every day the American way of life is given its rebirth. American jurymen are the custodians and guarantors of the democratic ideal.”
- Justice Bernard Botein of New York (1946)
“The more I see of trial by judge, the more highly I think of trial by jury.”
- Australian King’s Counsel B. R. Wise (1948)
“Through 500 years of human history the jury trial has been regarded as an unalienable right cherished in the thinking of freedom-seeking peoples. It remains today a refuse against all those little tyrannies plotted behind hypocritical fronts in well-respected places theoretically dedicated to the preservation of basic civil liberties.”
- Judge William J. Palmer of California (1958)
“In the minds of American colonists, trial by jury was the firmest barrier of English liberty; it survives today as the voice of the people.”
- Arthur Schlesinger, The Birth of the Nation (1968)
“[N]o man’s life, liberty or fortune is safe while the legislature is in session.”
- Benjamin Franklin
“The right of trial by jury in civil cases is fundamental to our history and jurisprudence. The founders of our nation considered it an important bulwark against tyranny and corruption, a safeguard too precious to be left to the whim of the sovereign.”
- U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist (1979)
“The concept of the jury system is as close as any society has ever come to true democracy.”
-Paula Di Perna, Faces of American Justice (1984)
“Plaintiff respectfully demands trial by jury and tenders the required jury fee”.
- Non-parenthetical requirement in every complaint alleging personal injury or wrongful death, Law Offices of Gary Green
“A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.”
- Robert Frost
Don’t forget to e-mail your favorite legal quotes to us at ggreen@gGreen.com!