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50 A.B.A. J. 537 (1964)
But the Greatest of These

handle is hein.journals/abaj50 and id is 537 raw text is: But the Greatest of These
The work of judges is enshrined in the reports and the labor of
the law teacher is made easier by the use of hindsight. But the lawyer,
especially the trial lawyer, is not given the recognition he deserves,
Mr. Planck declares. It is high time, the author proposes, that the
lawyer be assigned his proper place as the greatest of the three.
by Joseph W. Planck * of the Michigan Bar (Lansing)

And now abideti law teacher, law-
yer and judge and the greatest of these
is the lawyer.
THIS SIMPLE TRUTH is not given
the recognition it deserves. Of course,
for lawyer read trial lawyer. It is
high time that the advocate is assigned
his proper place at the head of the en-
tire legal profession instead of trailing
in public recognition and esteem be-
hind the law professor and the judge.
One reason the lawyer is not given
his due place is the fact that judges
write decisions embalmed in printed
volumes which have a captive audience,
the Bar. This alone confers a form of
immortality. On the other hand, a law-
yer's life is largely writ in water. Usu-
ally the only tangible remains of his
work are some dusty files of ancient
and forgotten causes. Thus it comes to
pass that the best legal minds are
little known or remembered.
The lawyer has to cope as best he
can with an enormous mass of judicial
decisions constantly swelling in volume
at a rate only comparable to that of
the expanding universe itself. The law
is a huge rag bag in which the lawyer
must search for a particular color and
piece to match his case. Usually he can
find something. Then his task is to
argue that it should be made the rule of
decision in his case.

Another complication for the lawyer
is that judicial decisions are not always,
one regrets to say, models of logical
judicial thinking and crystal-clear pre-
sentment. The lawyer all too often is
at a loss to understand what the judge
was trying to say. Perhaps the judge
had the same trouble. It is said that
Immanuel Kant had one great advan-
tage over later thinkers: he didn't have
to read and ponder Kant.
There is no sound reason for this
puzzlement. The issues are defined
simply and clearly by counsel for the
plaintiff and the defendant. The ap-
plicable principles of law are set forth
by them in briefs or oral argument
with citations to the legal precedents.
From where the lawyer sits all the
judge has to do is make a choice and
then write an essay, the shorter the
better, based on the research and labor
of the winning advocate. Sometimes,
as though to demonstrate alertness and
originality, the opinion of the court will
advert to some decision, perhaps irrele-
vant, not cited by counsel.
Frequently the decision of an appel-
late court is unanimous. There is no
contrary voice. This leaves the loser
and also his client, unfortunately, with
the feeling that they had no business
being in court in the first place, the
law being so plainly against them. But
when there is a split decision, the situ-

ation is much better. Sometimes even,
the feelings of the distinguished jurists
become aroused; they let their hair
down and go at each other with ham-
mer and tongs. One side or the other
may be convinced that constitutional
government is being destroyed and the
republic cannot stand. Or it may be
angrily pointed out that the legislature
or the Congress (as the case may be)
has a place in the scheme of govern-
ment and that there is and ought to be
applied a quality known as judicial
Mr. Dooley (Finley Peter Dunne)
observed this phenomenon years ago
when he said: An appeal, Hinnissy,
is where ye ask wan coort to show its
contempt f'r another coort. .... I have
gr-reat respect f'r th' joodicyary, as
fine a lot 'iv cross an' indignant men
as ye'll find annywhere. I have th' same
respect f'r thim as they have f'r each
How Counsel
Read an Opinion
When the postman delivers the deci-
sion of the court, most lawyers turn to
the last page. If it is favorable, the
opinion is read through with apprecia-
tion of the perspicacity and legal acu-
men therein employed. If the case is
lost, the document is tossed aside and
only picked up at a later time so that
the lawyer can tell his client where the
June, 1964      , Vol. 50     537

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