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Judicial Insults

Lord Ashburton was 'stating law' to a jury during one of his cases when he was interrupted by Lord Mansfield, who exclaimed:

'If that be law, I'll go home and burn my books.' 'My lord,' replied his opponent, 'you'd better go home and read them.'

Lord Ellenborough was on the bench when a nervous, young barrister rose to open his first case in court:

'My lord, my unfortunate client ... my lord, my unfortunate client. . . my lord, my . . . my. . .'

'Go on, sir, go on,' said the judge, 'as far as you have proceeded hitherto, the court is entirely in agreement with you.'

Sir Edward Carson was one of the most feared barristers of his day. His cross-examination was known to break the most resolute witness.

'Are you a teetotaller?' he asked one man before him under oath.
'No, I'm not.'
'Are you a moderate drinker?'
The man gave no answer.
'Should I be right if I called you a heavy drinker?'
'That's my business.'
'Have you any other business?'

F. E. Smith and Judge Wills became well-known antagonists in the court-room. Smith was enlarging upon his case for so long during one sitting that the judge finally stopped his explanation saying irritably:

'What do you think I am on the bench for, Mr. Smith?'

'It is not for me, m'Lud, to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence,' replied F. E.

One of Judge Wills's colleagues found the exact opposite when he was subjected to one of F. E.'s lengthy, legal expositions. In spite of his care to cast light on the complexities of the case F. E.'s speech went right over the judge's head.

'I have listened to you, Mr. Smith,' the judge told him critically, 'but I am none the wiser.'

'Possibly not, m'Lud,' replied F. E., 'but you are much better informed.'

The leading American lawyer, Max Steuer, shared F. E. Smith's skill of delivering polished snubs in court. On one occasion he was forced to apologize to the court for an error in his argument, which had been picked up by the judge with evident satisfaction.

'Your Honour is right and I am wrong, as your Honour generally is,' Steuer told him.

Theodore Roosevelt on Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes:

'I could carve out of a banana a judge with more backbone than that.'


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