And Now For Something Completely Different: Graham Chapman 1941-1989, Catch phrase in Monty Python’s Flying Circus

One of the skills that I have always admired and enjoyed of a great advocate is the ability to spice up their argument with an apt quotation (no doubt a planned outpouring of spontaneous thought) that not only advances their argument, but, at the same time, engenders a sense of confidence and trust because the selected quotation contains an underlying truth. A good quote can also be disarming and provide temporary amusement. If nothing else, I remember Dorothy L. Sayers who said, “I always have a quotation for everything – it saves original thinking”.

From the foregoing perspective I offer the following quotes which are primarily focused on lawyers and the law for your reading pleasure.

No brilliance is needed in the law. Nothing but common sense, and relatively clean finger nails.

– John Mortimer

When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When you have neither, holler.

– Albert Gore Jr., July 23, 1982

You cannot argue with someone who denies the first principals.

– Auctoritates Aristotelis

If you think that you can think about a thing, inextricably attached to something else, without thinking of the thing that it is attached to, then you have a legal mind.

– Thomas Reed Powell – August 16, 1955

An incompetent attorney can delay a trial for years or months. A competent attorney can delay one even longer.

– Evelle J. Younger, Attorney General of California, March 3, 1971

If a man wants to leave a toothbrush at my house, he can damn well marry me.

– Michelle Triola Marvin, on winning $104,000.00 California Superior Court case against the common-law husband, Lee Marvin, April 19, 1979

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they make a good excuse.

– Thomas Szarsz 1920

A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

– Sam Goldwyn 1882 – 1974

I don’t know, as I want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do. I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do.

– J.P. Morgan 1837 – 1913

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

– Benjamin Disraeli 1804 – 1881

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

– George Orwell 1903 – 1950

The law isn’t justice. It is a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be.

– Raymond Chandler 1888 – 1959

Who thinks that the law has anything to do with justice? It’s what we have because we can’t have justice.

– William McIlvanny 1936

We’ve heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.

– Robert Wilensky

Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.

– Mark Twain

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

– William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616

[The] ideal client is the very wealthy man in very great trouble.

– John Sterling – April 1960

Be prepared, be sharp, be careful, and use the King’s English well. And you can forget all the [other rules] unless you remember one more: Get paid.

– Roberta N.C. Nix, Advice to Young Lawyers on January 7, 1984

I must have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up.

– Mark Twain 1835 – 1910

I am not arguing with you – I am telling you.

– James McNeil Whistler 1834 – 1903

I do not think that the son of a bitch knows the difference between telling the truth and lying.

– Harry S. Truman of Richard Nixon

It depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

– Bill Clinton September 21, 1998

‘When I use a word’, Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less’.

– Lewis Carroll 1832 – 1898

The truth is out there.

– Chris Carter 1957 – Catchphrase; The X-files

What the insurance companies have done is to reverse the business so that the public at large insures the insurance companies.

– Gerry Spence, Trial Lawyer, March 24, 1986

I don’t write polite letters, I don’t like to plea-bargain. I like to fight.

– Roy M. Cohn, August 2, 1986

Because of plea-bargaining, I guess we could say, ‘Gee, the trains run on time’: But do we like where they are going.

– Franklin E. Zimring, Professor of Law, University of Chicago, August 28, 1978

It has, I believe, been often remarked that a hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.

– Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902

Was it through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey?

– Bishop Samuel Wilberforce 1805 – 1873, in a debate on Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

From the fact that there are 400,000 species of beetles on this planet, but only 8,000 species of mammals, he concluded that the creator, if he exists, has a special preference for beetles.

– J. B. S. Haldane 1892 – 1964

I use the rules to frustrate the law. But I didn’t set up the ground rules.

– F. Lee Bailey, September 20, 1970

Yes, there is such a thing as luck in trial law but it only comes at 3 o’clock in the morning … You’ll still find me in the library looking for luck at 3 o’clock in the morning.

– Louis Nizer October 1984

The lawyer’s first thought in the morning is how to handle the case of the ringing alarm clock.

– Edward Packard Jr.

A TV host asked my wife, ‘Have you ever considered divorce?’ She replied: ‘Divorce never, murder often’.

– Charlton Heston

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.

– Vernon Law, Pittsburg Pirates pitcher, August 14, 1960

Litigation is the pursuit of practical ends, not a game of chess.

– Felix, Frankfurter, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

There are also unknown, unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

– Donald Rumsfeld

He is one of those orators of whom it is well said, before they get up, they do not know what they are going to say; when they are speaking, they do not know what they are saying, and when they have sat down, they do not know what they have said.

– Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965

If A is a success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x, y is play, and z is keeping your mouth shut.

– Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955

If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.

– Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., in closing defence statement to the Jury in O. J. Simpson murder trial, September 27, 1995

If you steal from one author, it is plagiarism; if you steal from many, it is research.

– Wilson Mizner

It is true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure why take the chance?Ronald Reagan

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.

– W. C. Fields

Some people are so busy learning the tricks of the trade that they never learn the trade.

– Vernon Law, Pittsburg Pirates pitcher, August 16, 1960

Do as adversaries do in law, strive mightily but eat and drink as friends.

– William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616, Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew, act I, sc. 2, L.276 – 7

You are not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.

– Dean Martin

[The judiciary is] the least dangerous branch of our government.

– Alexander M. Bickel, Professor of Legal History, Yale, February 11, 1986

There is something particularly appealing about teaching a subject that seems to deal with the lowest kind of relationships – accidents, ambulance chasing – because you can show students that these raise the most fundamental questions about the structure of society.

– Guido Calabresi, Professor of Law, Yale, March 14, 1977

I do not object to people looking at their watches when I am speaking, but I strongly object when they start shaking them to make certain they are still going.

– Lord Birkett 1883 – 1962

[A lawyer’s] performance in a courtroom is responsible for about 25 percent of the outcome; the remaining 75 percent depends on the facts.

– Melvin Belli, September 20, 1982

If there is any truth to the old proverb that ‘one who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client’, the Court … now bestows a constitutional right on one to make a fool of himself.

– Harry A. Blackman, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, June 30, 1975

Common sense often makes good law.

– William O. Douglas, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, March 25, 1957

Well, I always say the law was meant to be interpreted in a lenient manner. And that’s what I try to do, sometimes I lean to one side of it, sometimes I lean to the other.

– Irving Ravetch, US Screenwriter, Harriet Frank and Martin Ritt, Hud (Paul Newman) Hud (1963)

Things in law tend to be black and white. But we all know that some people are a little bit guilty, while others are as guilty as hell.

– Donald R. Cressey, Professor of Criminology, University of California, 1978

This contract is so one-sided that I am surprised to find it written on both sides of the paper.

– Lord Ebershed

What chance has the ignorant, uncultivated liar against the educated expert? What chance have I … against the lawyer?

– Mark Twain

Proceed. You have my biased attention.

– Learned Hand, to an attorney who asked to review a motion already heard.

In my youth, there were words that you could not say in front of a girl; now you cannot say ‘girl’.

– Tom Lehrer

Nil carborundum illegitimi.

– Anonymous, cod Latin for “don’t let the bastards grind you down”

And last but not least …

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

– Vincent J. Calzonetti, dream defence closing argument

Marinus Lamers

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