Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

More Mentoring.

Over the past couple of weeks I have relayed some lessons learned from my trial mentors.

Similarly, Texas trial attorney William Dyer, who writes BeldarBlog, recently shared an amusing anecdote involving one of his mentors, the great Walter E. Workman.

"When I was a pup, new to the practice of law as an associate at Houston's Baker Botts, among the many superb trial lawyers I tried to learn from was Walter E. Workman. [A] ... story that I've heard from multiple sources — all purporting to have been eye-witnesses, or to have gotten it from someone who was, of course! — is about the time Walter was soundly whipped in the mid-1960s while defending a worker's comp case in Angleton, some miles south of Houston down in Brazoria County.

"Apparently, for whatever reasons and despite Walter's best efforts, this particular jury just hated Walter and his client — and they showed it by answering every single question they were asked against Walter's client just as forcefully as the judge's instructions permitted. The judge was reading aloud their entire verdict, and each successive answer from the jury was just like another punch landing squarely on Walter and his client — uppercut to the jaw, jab to the nose, jab to the nose, roundhouse to the temple, bam-bam-bam, they're down for the count!

"When the distinguished trial judge had finished transmitting this methodical thrashing from the jury, he looked up from the verdict form and solemnly asked the lawyers present for both sides the ritual question: "Do I hear any motions?" The judge and everyone else was expecting the plaintiff's lawyer to give the ritual answer appropriate to the big win he'd just been handed — something to the effect of, "I move that the jury's verdict be duly received by the Court and filed among the papers in this cause."

"But before the plaintiff's lawyer could speak, Workman bounded to his feet. "Yes, Judge, I do have a motion!" The judge was startled; the plaintiff's lawyer froze in his seat, stunned. "You have a motion, Mr. Workman?" the judge asked incredulously — perhaps figuring that Workman was already planning his motion for new trial or some other clever if premature set-up for an appeal.

"Yes, Your Honor!" said Walter Workman earnestly, "I respectfully move the Court to grant me and my client a fifteen minute head-start toward the county line before you discharge this dad-gummed jury!"

(HT: BeldarBlog: Report from the trial court trenches.)