The Fifth Streeters Tale
This is an actual event which occurred in
the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and has become a
local legend. The names have been changed to protect the innocent
and not so innocent.
The Judge Who Dropped A Bomb on Himself
The term "Fifth Streeter" is a derogatory term used when referring to
attorneys whose practices are located very near the Superior Court in
the District of Columbia, most of which are on
Fifth Street. Many of these practitioners perform the necessary
functions of taking court appointments and servicing clients with
small matters. Due to the large governmental, corporate, and lobbying
presence in the District, such small practitioners are not held
in high regard.
A certain Fifth Streeter was involved in a trial. The opposing counsel
is a local practitioner who is blind and uses a seeing eye dog to
safely guide himself. During the trial, the Fifth Streeter moved
to admit a document into evidence. The Judge asked if he had shown
the document to the opposing counsel. Taken aback, the Fifth Streeter
was unsure how to comply with the Judge's request. Not wasting
a moment or an opportunity, the Fifth Streeter approached the opposing
counsel's table and placed the document under the nose of the
seeing eye dog. Neither the Judge nor the opposing counsel appreciated
the gesture, but this courthouse urban legend remains.
A now retired administrative law judge from
the Social Security Office of Hearings and Appeals was well known
for his bombastic demeanor. All too often he would deliberately
bait and berate Claimant's during hearings. On one particular
day the Judge was particularly irascible when one of our clients
entered the hearing room. The client walked with jerking motion
and was chewing as he sat down. Not wasting a moment to intimidate,
the Judge bellowed: "Sir, are you chewing gum in my Court!"
The client calmly replied that he was chewing his tongue.
When No Accommodation is Reasonable
Since the Judge had not fully reviewed the file prior to hearing,
he failed to learn that the client suffered from schizophrenia and
had been medicated with haldol for many years. During this time,
the long term use of haldol had resulted in tardive dyskinesia,
also known as "Fly-Catch," a condition which is characterized
by uncontrollable muscle twitches and movements.
Recognizing his mistake, the Judge quietly ended the hearing within
a few minutes without any other insensitive comments and benefits
A Social Security client suffered from terrible
panic attacks which were aggravated by entrapment in closed surroundings,
especially elevators. The Office of Hearings and Appeals for which
she was scheduled to have her case heard was located in a secured
building where the stairwells were locked. The Administrative Law
Judge in the case refused to hear the case in the lobby or at a
remote location, insisting that the Claimant would need to use the
elevator or the matter would be dismissed. After much cajoling,
the Claimant consented to enter the elevator along with her boyfriend,
one of our attorneys and a Social Security employee. The panic attack
started as soon as the elevator door closed and the Claimant remained
in a nonresponsive state for the entirety of the hearing. Fortunately,
her boyfriend was able to provide helpful testimony. In order to
buttress the case, our attorney called the Social Security employee
to testify. Never hearing such a request before, the Judge asked
if he could acquire the testimony later when the employee was on
break. The Judge did so and the client received her benefits.
At a medical malpractice trial, a trial attorney
was faced with an unfriendly and experienced medical expert. The
expert was known to the trial attorney, who had faced him before.
The attorney was familiar with the expert's tendency to tout
his experience by reminding juries that he was involved in the autopsy
of Elvis Presley. In addition, the expert was seemingly unflappable
and spoke with an authoritative monotone. In order to win the case,
the attorney knew he had to rattle this expert. But, how?
Good morning, doctor. You remember me don't
Yes I do.
You have testified in other cases and have
been examined by me before.
Yes I have.
After all this time, I just wanted to ask
you one question.
At the last minute, the trial attorney decided to utilize a new
line of questioning as follows:
Is Elvis really dead?
(Causing immediate laughter from the jury
and judge who had to turn his chair around to hide his smiling face)
Following this original questioning, the attorney proceeded to take
apart the expert's testimony. The expert could no longer keep his
composure and was unsure (or had become unsure) of his testimony.
Black became white. Night became day.
Not to leave well enough alone, the attorney had a final question
for the expert.
Attorney:By the way, doctor, are you still sure
(Again the jury and judge convulsed with laughter)
Greatest Historic Exchange
During the course of the Scopes "Monkey"
Trial at which time Clarence Darrow defended a school teacher against
the criminal offense of teaching evolution in a classroom, the special
prosecutor, William Jennings Bryan (a vice-presidential candidate
and stalwart religious conservative) took the stand to testify about
and defend Biblical Creationism as literally interpreted from the
text. The following is a partial transcript of the historic exchange
between these legal titans:
Do you think the earth was made in six days?
Not six days of twenty-four hours.
Doesn't the Bible say so?
Mr. Bryan, do you believe that the first woman was Eve?
you believe she was literally made out of Adam's Rib?
you ever discover where Cain got his wife?
sir, I leave the agnostics to hunt for her.
Do you think the sun was made on the fourth
they had an evening and morning without the sun?
I am simply saying it is a period.
The creation may have been going on for a
It might have continued for millions of years.
Yes. All right. (Then he continued after a
long pause) Do you believe the story of the temptation of Eve by
I will believe just what the Bible
says. Read the Bible and I will answer.
right, I will do that. "And I will put enmity between thee
and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise
thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said,
I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow
though shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy
husband, and he shall rule over thee."
That is right, isn't it?
I accept it as it is.
God said to the serpent, Because thou hast done this, though art
cursed above all cattle and above every beast of the field; upon
thy belly thou go and dust shall eat all the days of thy life.
Do you think that is why the serpent is compelled to crawl upon
Have you any idea how the snake went before that time?
Do you know whether he walked on his tail
sir, I have no way to know.
(Laughter from the audience, then turning
to the Judge) Your Honor, I think I can shorten this testimony.
The only purpose Mr. Darrow has is to slur the Bible, but I will
answer his questions, I shall answer them at once. I want the world
to know that this man, who does not believe in God, is trying to
use a court in Tennessee...
I object to your statement. I am examining you on your fool ideas
that no intelligent Christian on earth believes.
The Lighter Side of Darrow
During his career, Clarence Darrow was indicted
in Los Angeles and faced prosecution. He learned that the prosecutor
intended to introduce a photograph of Darrow which purportedly showed
him leaving the house of a beautiful local widow at dawn. As Darrow
bemoaned his fate, a friend optimistically stated that Clarence's
enemies would always believe the worst of him, and his friends will
know the photograph is a fake. When Darrow asked how his friends
would gain such knowledge, his companion replied that Clarence would
never leave the home of a beautiful widow at dawn. He would stay
Small Town Justice
In a trial, a small town prosecutor called
his first witness to the stand, an local elderly woman. He approached
her and asked, "Mrs. Smith, do you know me?"
She answered, "Why, yes I know you, Mr. Jones. I've known
you since you were a young boy. And frankly, you've been a
big disappointment to me. You lie. You cheat on your wife. You manipulate
people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're
a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you never
will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I
The prosecutor was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he proceeded
to point across the room and asked, "Mrs. Smith, do you know
the defense attorney?" She again replied, "Why, yes I
do. I've known Mr. Handley since he was a youngster, too. He's
lazy, bigoted, and has a drinking a problem. He can't build
a normal relationship with anyone and his law practice is one of
the worst in the entire state. Not to mention, he has cheated on
his wife with three different women."
The defense attorney nearly died from shame. At this time, the Judge
brought the courtroom to silence and asked both counsel to approach
the bench. In a hushed voice he said, "If either of you idiots
asks her if she knows me, you'll be jailed for contempt."
True Family Story
Scott's mother's side of the family comes from Albany, New York.
Although it is the little known capital of the state, it had a small
town feel when she was growing up. My great grandfather had been a
prominent attorney in the area for many years. His son, my grandfather,
remained in the area to work and raise his family.
One day, my grandfather was called for jury duty. He was assigned
to an motor vehicle accident case. When the judge asked if anyone
in the jury knew any of the person involved in the case, my grandfather
rose. The judge asked by grandfather who he knew. My grandfather
stated that he knew the defense counsel since the lawyer
had been a friend of his own father for many years (Scott received
his middle name from his great-grandfather, who was a prominent
upstate New York attorney). The judge asked if my grandfather knew
anyone else. My grandfather said he also knew the defense counsel
from many social events in which he attended. The judge asked if
my grandfather knew any other person who was part of the proceeding.
My grandfather stated that he knew the Defendant, who had been his
high school principal. The judge then asked, "Well, do you
know the Plaintiff?" My grandfather answered affirmatively
as the Plaintiff was his family's tailor. Following this exchange,
the judge asked my grandfather, "Could there anything more
you know about this case?" My grandfather replied: "Yes,
the tailor was on his way to my house to drop off my son's
pants that he had repaired when the accident occurred." Needless
to say, my grandfather did not serve on that particular jury.
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