Legal Ethics and Reform

Famous Quotes & Interesting Statistics About Lawyers, Judges, etc.

Note: A new item is added to this list every week. Check back often to have your preconceptions about our legal system challenged.

..."presently, law school graduates will be the subject of three or more claims for legal malpractice before finishing a career." ...

Ronald E. Mallen and Jeffrey M. Smith

"In 1930, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declared 'I cannot believe that the (14th) Amendment was intended to give us carte blanche to embody our ...moral beliefs in its prohibitions.' In Ex Parte Quirin (1942), the court stated that 'courts possess no power not derived from the Constitution.' Article V of the Constitution provides for the method by which it may be amended. It remained the exclusive method of amendment until 1958 when the court -- in Cooper v. Aaron -- declared that its decisions were the 'supreme Law of the Land'."

Robert Donnelly, Former Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court

...."(many lawyers today believe) all rules, including the rules of professional ethics, are infinitely manipulable." ...

. Harvard Law Prof. Mary Ann Glendon

..."The proper or just outcome (of a trial) is defined as a result of following the right procedures. Our lawyers' code of ethics then is a code of procedure; it no longer uses such moral words as right, wrong, good, or bad." ...

. Thomas L. Shaffer

..."Outsiders have often marveled at the law's provisional and contigent view of the truth, as befits a profession that may have to argue the next case from the opposite side. The adversary is not illness (as in the case of a physician) but another attorney. Legal facts can differ from one court or one week to the next, depending on who argued the case, what the parties stipulated, how the jury selection broke, and what are called the 'atmospherics' of a trial."...

Walter Olson

..."In New York, payouts in (medical) malpractice cases rose 30,000 percent between the 1950's and the 1980's."...

. Walter Olson

..."...consider the curious case of asbestos litigation, a huge profit maker for trial lawyers, ... Until Manville Corp. went bankrupt in 1982, it was the chief target of asbestos lawsuits, and witnesses called by plaintiff's attorneys regularly testified that Manville supplied 75 to 80 percent of the asbestos products used in the shipyards where their clients worked. Just months after Manville's bankruptcy, witnesses suddenly began testifying that Manville shipped only 25 percent and pointed the finger at other, still solvent targets. One witness had trouble getting with the new program. 'Basiclly, most of the materials, John-Manville, I'm sure was used on all of them' he testified at a deposition, but then added,'I wasn't supposed to mention that, was I?'...

...Legal handbooks these days do everything but condone outright lying. One work on product liability advises lawyers to encourage the client to use 'descriptive terminology' in describing his pain to the jury. He should not say his head feels 'bad' rather that it feels like 'having the top of his head blown off.' The article prudently cautions, however, that 'the attorney must not place himself in the position where he is suspected of having coached his client...'..."

U S News and World Report (Jan 30, 1995)

..."The auditors with whom we spoke all agreed that the following practices, if not routine, were not rare either, demonstrating that some lawyers believe that dishonesty is the best policy:

+ Lawyers billing unworked hours, sometimes 
more than there are in the day.
+ Senior partners billing their time for
work actually performed by support
personnel, work that therefore should have
been billed at a substantially lower rate.
+ Firms charging for filling in the blanks 
in legal "forms", documents preprepared and 
used repeatedly, as if the lawyer had
created the documents from scratch.
+ Lawyers advising clients not to accept
reasonable settlements so that the case and 
the billing can continue.
+ Lawyers taking unnecessary depositions. ...
+ Lawyers living in luxury at the client's
expense, such as using limousine services,
staying in four star hotels, and eating at
expensive restaurants. ...
+ Firms failing to provide detailed billing 
statements, making it impossible for
clients to monitor the accuracy of the
charges." ...
. Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith

..."There is a perception among the pro-reform members of the Massachusetts legislature that the practicing lawyer-legislators in Massachusettes band together to block any court reform legislation.... (and) the legislative committee with jurisdiction over court reform issues is captured by the the lawyer-legislators who continue to practice law in the state. .... (Many) nonlawyer members felt the cost of state courts needed to be trimmed and that consolidation of many state courts was necessary. ...a Boston Globe series ... indicated that lawyer-legislators are often big winners in the state trial courts. Any changes in judicial personnel or arrangements could be seen as an attack on their lucrative practices."....

 LAWYERS                75%                     25%
 NON-LAWYERS             0%                    100%
Note:  The suvey obtained responses from 24 legislators.
       Twelve lawyers and twelve non-lawyers.
. George Carpinello and Mark C. Miller

... "Many lawyer-legislators see politics as their primary profession, and they often obtained a law degree merely to help them become electable." ...

. Mark C. Miller

..."Of the 195 lawyers who served in the House in 1989, 45% fell into the nominal lawyer category and 55% were real lawyers with more than five years of experience in the practice of law before getting into politics." ...

. Ann L. Brownson and Phil Duncan

..."In 1988, nine of thirteen prominent major party candidates for president were lawyers. Only George Bush, Paul Simon, Jack Kemp and Jesse Jackson were non-lawyers. In 1988, both Gov. Dukakis and Sen. Bentsen were lawyers. And, of course, Vice Presdient Dan Quayle is a lawyer, as is his wife."

. Prof. Mark C. Miller

   with Percentage of Lawyers Shown
   (Note: Total House Membership in 1989 was only 42% lawyers)  
Committee                   Rank            Lawyer Members(%)
Rules                         1                   53
Ways & Means                  2                   44
Appropriations                3                   49
Budget                        4                   47
Energy & Commerce             5                   61
Armed Services                6                   45
Gov't Operations              7                   41
Foreign Affairs               8                   48
Agriculture                   9                   34
Merchant Marine & Fisheries  10                   41
Public Works & Transport     11                   29
Sceince & Technology         12                   55
Interior & Insular Affairs   13                   33
Judiciary                    14                   97
House Administration         15                   32
Banking and Urban Affairs    16                   35
Veterans Affairs             17                   36
Dist of Columbia             18                   20
Post Office & Civil Service  19                   39
Education and Labor          20                   31
. Glenn R. Parker & Suzanne L. Parker
..also see Lawrence Dodd and Bruce I. Oppenheimer

..."Between 1877 and 1934, more than 70% of the presidents, vice presidents, and cabinet members combined were lawyers."

. Donald R. Matthews

..."This is a suit fore Mule Steeling in which Jesus Ramirez is indited for steeling one black mare mule, branded 0 with a 5 in it, from Sheriff Werk. George swares the mule in question is hisn and I beleeve so to on hearing the caze I found Jesus Ramirez gilty of feloaniusly and against the law made and provided and the dignity of the people of Sonora steelin the aforesade mare mule sentenced him to pay the costs of Coort $10 and fined him $100 more as a terrour to all evil dooers. Jesus Ramirez not having any munney to pay with I rooled that Geroge Werk shuld pay the costs of coort, as well as the fine, and in defalt of payment that the said one mare mule be sold by the Constable John Luney or other officer of the Court to meet the expenses of the Costs of the Coort, and also the payment of the fine aforesaid."

"H. P. Barber the lawyer for George Werk insolently told me there were no law for me to rool so, I told him that I didn't care a damn for his booklaw, that I was the law myself. He continued to jaw back I told him to shut up but he wouldn't I fined him $50 and committed him to gaol for 5 days for contempt of Coort in bringing my roolings and dississions into disreputableness end as a warning to unrooly persons not to contradict this Coort."

. The opionion of Justice of the Peace R. C. Barry in a case entitled IN RE JESUS RAMIREZ issued on Aug. 21, 1851 in Sonora, California

..."The number of lawyers employeed by the Federal government has grown rapidly over the years and appears to be continuing to increase. Between 1954 and 1970, the number of self-employed lawyers in the U.S. increased by 19% while the number of lawyers in the Federal government increased by 108% and the number employed by state government increased by 167%."

. Richard L. Abel

..."Today, government attorneys comprise about 15% of all American lawyers."

. Paul Wice

..."I believe there are more instances of abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."

. James Madison (1751 - 1836)

..."Law school seems to change people's behavior; lawyer-legislators have a superiority complex. On technecial issues, clearly they know more than you do. But generally they are so vague and abstract. Some of the lawyer-legislators here are very narrow and not very bright. They use their legal training to see the world in a very restricted way, but they can't generalize to make the kind of quality decisions that legislators must make every day. They have tunnel vision."

. Comment of a non-lawyer member of the Massachusetts Legislature

... "I should apologize perhaps, for the style of this bill. I dislike the verbose and intricate style of English statutes, and in our revised code I endeavored to restore it to the simple one of ancient statutes, in such original bills as I drew in the 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 'said' or 'aforesaid' and saying everything over two or three times, so 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.. "...

. Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

..."The lawyer-legislator is more likely to concern himself with questions concerning the language of proposed bills or with the constitutionality of legislation. There is an observable tendency on the part of nonlawyer members to defer to the judgement of their lawyer colleagues on such 'legal' questions. ... In the state legislatures, particularly in states where bill-drafting services are not available, a lawyer-legislator usually does a substantial amount of actual drafting. The great usefulness of a competent lawyer in a typical legislature is principally a matter of his ability to detect and correct 'sleepers' and technecial defects in bills." ...

. Albert P. Blaustein and Charles O. Porter

..."Eulau and Sprague's (1964) study on lawyers in the state legislatures of New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, and California reported some sharp complaints by nonlawyers about their lawyer colleagues. Said one nonlawyer,'Lawyers draw up laws so nobody including themselves can understand them. It makes business for them. Judges have to decide in courts what laws mean and sometimes they reverse themselves. Laws could be drafted that would be clear and simple if they wanted to'. Another nonlawyer is quoted, 'Lawyers are lousy legislators because they have too much of a technical attitude. They can't look at it as a layman can. They can't see practical problems. They are too much interested in legal technicalities. The lawyer is good to defend you or give you legal advice, he's not good to represent all the people. The average layman is better equipped to be a legislator.'.." ...

. Heinz Eulau and John D. Sprague

"The advantages enjoyed by lawyers in the American political opportunity structure can easily be appreciated. Lawyers are generally eligible for all offices for which their fellow politicians are eligible, but only lawyerrs are generally qualified to hold a large number of elective and appointive legal posts such as judge, prosecuting attorney, attorney general, and the like. They are thus advantaged in their ability to advance in their careers primarily because they are able to monopolize important routes of political advancement."

. Paul L. Hain and James E. Piereson

Percentage of Lawyer Members of National Legislatures for Selected Countries during Various Time Periods





Columbia66%late 1960's
United States45%1993
Venezuela25% 1986
Australia20% 1985
Italy 17%1976
United Kingdom16%1945-1974
Norway10% 1980-1985
West Germany5%1969-1983
Denmark4% 1945-1974
Source: Mark C. Miller - page 60 - HIGH PRIESTS OF AMERICAN POLITICS

..."If the bar is to state quite honestly the measure of its participation in public life, it must admit that law-trained persons maintain a complete monopoly over one branch of government, and considerable effective control over the other two."

. Esther Lucile Brown ( - )

..."The number of people who have little or no respect for lawyers has nearly doubled in eight years, rising to 44 % from 25% in 1988."...

Survey results reported by ......
.......Decision Research, a trial consulting firm from Lexington, MA

..."I asked Cuomo if his alleged thin skin would affect his possible Presidential campaign. Cuomo replied 'If by thin skinned you mean very, very quick to respond - that's what I've done for a lifetime. I'd been a lawyer for twenty years. You can't let a comment from a witness pass. If there is a jury, everything is important' . "

"Cuomo (evidently) experiences life as a courtroom; reporters are witnesses to be cross-examined, voters as juries. This much is irreducibly part of his nature."

. Johnathan Alter ( - )


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