July 21, 2005

"Judge Roberts 'said to me a long time ago there was no case he had been on where he couldn't have done the other side.'"

That's a quote from Richard Lazarus, one of John Roberts' law school friends.

Is this man a litigator to the core?

13 comments:

StrangerInTheseParts said...

Can someone explain to us non-lawyers what the significance is of a litigator turning into a judge? Is there a 'typical' (or stereotypical) kind of judge that they become? Are they more rigid and idealistic, or more political and more prone to split the baby or what?

Ann Althouse said...

It doesn't have to be true, but as the story is told in the material assembled in the Times article, Roberts appears to be all form and no substance -- someone who can argue for whatever needs to be done, with the goal set by the client, not by him. That could make him a great judge, able to decide according to the law and not to impose his own will. For an orthodox judge, the law itself becomes the client.

DaveG said...

Objection! Hearsay.

Ann Althouse said...

DaveG: Overruled. Party admission.

boringmadedull said...

I thought that's what lawyers did - argue for their clients. I'm assuming that some lawyers won't represent some clients for moral, personal, or ethical reasons, but the bar seems to be set pretty low. Isn't Ramsey Clark representing Saddam Hussein? It's a shame that Johhny Cochran couldn't make this one ("if the WMD don't fit, you must Aquit").

Beldar said...

A litigator need not be without moral values. He must, however, have an excellent poker face if he has them.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that as an attorney, you should be able to argue both sides of the case.

In Con Law, our prof caused a revolt of the feminists by asking that they argue the anti-abortion side. They grieved him, led by the woman who had the high grade in the class. The panel decided for the prof - no harm, no foul.

In any case, I thought that they were being extremely silly about the whole thing. Maybe you might not take either side of any issue, but you are almost guaranteed to to better if you can argue the other side.

Jim Hohnbaum said...

I don't think Roberts has handled the kind of cases where one would be saying "I could represent the slumlord or the tenants." He is saying "I could represent Microsoft or the states." Any litigator who could not say that would soon be looking for another line of work.

Beldar said...

Short war story:

One of the most challenging but useful things I've ever done was to write the scripts to be used for videotapes of mock opening statements that were used in a secret focus-groups analysis of the case before trial. It was a three-cornered dispute, so I had to write opening statements not just for my own firm's clients, but for their two other opponents (who were also opposing each other). I was terribly concerned that my own subconscious bias toward our clients would cause me to pull punches in writing the other sides' pitches, and therefore deliberately tried to overcompensate for that (to err on the side that would not minimize the risks our clients were facing by going to a jury verdict). Another problem was that our client group had serious internal conflicts and its members were sniping at each other, some wanting to settle, others to fight.

When it came time to shoot the scripts onto videotape for later display to the mock "jurors," I insisted on playing the "devil's advocate" myself and taking the role of our main opponent, while letting junior lawyers argue for our own clients and the third side.

As it turned out, with three separate mock juries, our clients prevailed. Watching the mock juries' deliberations from behind one-way mirrors, our clients all concluded that in playing the role of our main opponent, I'd been the most formidable advocate of the three shown to the mock jurors on videotape. Yet their position had still prevailed each time. This gave them considerable confidence in taking a hard-line position in settlement negotiations; and indeed, the case was settled on terms very favorable to our clients on the very brink of trial.

Wade_Garrett said...

I believe Roberts when he says that. I saw David Boies give a speech at Yale Law School a couple of years ago, in which he said that he could have represented the other side in every major case he'd ever had. He said that, when preparing his own arguments, he had to look into the arguments the other side would be making, and in so doing he got to know the other party's case as well as his own. I suspect that this is common among litigators of that skill level.

Wade_Garrett said...

I always though that the point of being a litigator was to serve your client, whoever that client may be. Those idelogy-driven lawyers who actively seek out people to represent in order to further their own personal goals . . . aren't those people the reason most regular Americans hate lawyers?

Wade_Garrett said...

I wonder what this approach says about Roberts' willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade. If he does in fact treat settled law as the client, then the religious right wing of the party could be very disappointed.

lawyerdan said...

I have never posted anything like this before but I am a first year law student and have been struggling with the concept of "thinking like a lawyer". They tell us that we should be able to argue either side of a case. I will protect myself against that with every ounce of my being. I understand that when you know a case very well you can argue either side b/c you know it so well. However, if I know anything it is that there is always a truth. I heard a lawyer say that there is my side, the other side, and the truth; and the first two rarely lead to the truth. I came into this business to find the truth and I am being taught that there is no truth, only my clients truth. I may think differently in a year or so, but I believe it will be a great travesty if I do. If anyone has any comments on this email me at lawyerdan1@hotmail.com
Thanks