First they came for the journalists. We don’t know what happened after that.
“Ideas are like children: they’re wonderful when they’re your own.” — Sign in physics lab
In the morning my mind had been like a spool of cotton;
now all the thread had been stitched away at my job
and only the wooden spool was left.
— Charles Reznikoff (poet-lawyer 1894-1976)
Don’t rock the boat; sink it. –Brother Theodore
Perseverance is a great substitute for talent. — Comedian Steve Martin on himself.
The artist ought to love life and show us that it is good. Otherwise we might have doubts. –Gabriel Fauré, composer.
A loophole is a law working the way it was intended to and someone doesn’t like the result. –Simple Justice
Overheard while waiting for the movie to start: “Barton always wants to see things in their cultural context. I can’t tell you what a pain he is.”
Thanks to “progressive advocacy,” your boss can’t dictate your hairstyle. Only what you’re allowed to think and say.
“Humor often cuts the knot of serious questions more forcefully and effectively than severity.” — Horace
“In this Internet age, having 5,000 people mad at you is nothing.” — Professor Eric Rasmusen on having his opinions called “reprehensible” and “abhorrent.”
“The more precedents, the less occasion for investigating principles.” –Dr. Johnson
“Every time another deprecating memorandum is posted on our bulletin boards from the administration with new rules and ultimatums, or those inspection teams walking through the dorms barking orders and threatening disciplinary action, the entire dorm becomes quiet as a church mouse. Where are all the soldiers? Where are all these gangsters that like to run their mouths and are quick to fight other inmates? If this shoe fits, wear it, because you are what truly defines a coward!” — Prison newsletter
“It is of so much more importance that truth should be told than that individuals should not be made uneasy.” — Dr. Johnson
“If you’re anxious about the rise of authoritarianism – and who isn’t? – then buck it. Don’t just talk back in another authority-based language.” – Robert Storr, painter.
“Sorry for the inconvenience, but we’re fighting for survival.” Signs displayed by protesters at Hong Kong airport.
“Interior decoration is a rock-hard science compared to psychology practiced by amateurs.” — Justice Scalia.
“Viewpoint discrimination is poison to a free society.” Justice Alito Iancu v. Brunetti (2019).
The Penal Law is not a book of etiquette. — People v. Hogan (dismissing harassment charge against defendant for calling his wife a fucking bitch during quarrel).
“They who most loudly clamour for liberty do not most liberally grant it.” Dr. Samuel Johnson
The police may defy the laws of man, but they can’t defy the laws of physics.” Defense lawyer Mike Taglieri on incredible police testimony
“Hamilton Burger doesn’t lose. How can a district attorney lose when he fails to convict an innocent person?” Actor William Talman on his role as the always-losing district attorney on”Perry Mason.”
“On the Day of Judgment I shall probably be up on my hind legs putting a few impertinent questions to the Prosecution.” Rumpole of the Bailey
“What many forget is that the Supreme Court’s docket isn’t solely or even mostly comprised of issues of genitalia. Dormant Commerce Clause cases, anyone?” Judge Richard Kopf, U.S. District Court, Nebraska
“What convinces masses are not facts, not even invented facts, but the consistency of the illusion.” Hannah Arendt
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.” Senator Daniel Moynihan (1927-2003).
“Conversation in this day and age is just for two people to agree to talk about what they agree to talk about.” “Comedy Cellar” owner commenting about the flack over Louis C.K.’s surprise appearance at his club.
“The Court cannot simply stand by as the fruit rots on the tree. The case is ripe for adjudication.” Federal judge ordering college to provide due process in Title IX sexual assault investigation.
“Never wrestle with a pig. You just get yourself dirty and besides, the pig like it.” George Bernard Shaw.
“The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal.” Jonathan Chait, “How the language police are perverting liberalism.”
“There’s something scary about stupidity made coherent.” Tom Stoppard, “The Real Thing.”
“Inside every lawyer is the wreck of a poet.” Clarence Darrow
“The habit of excusing error over and over again makes it difficult for judges even to identify it.” Judge Nancy Gertner (ret.) on “harmless error.”
“Insult comedians comically stand up for democracy by affirming that all people – no matter what race, sex, creed, or color – have something wrong with them.” Stephen Rosenfield, Mastering Stand-Up.
“Americans are always trying to run away from conformity, but unfortunately they always start running in the same direction.” Art Buchwald (1925-2007).
“Parody enjoys First Amendment protection even if not everybody gets the joke. . . but somebody has to get it.” Golb v. NY State Atty-General (2017).
“Life is anything that dies when you stomp on it.” Dave Barry
“There is an enormous difference between life and intelligent life.”
From “This Will Make You Smarter,” John Brockman, ed.
“Which is worse: rare, horrific crimes committed by deranged
individuals or a systematic, increasing, massive, generalized encroachment on civil liberties by the state?” David M. Halperin, “The War on Sex” (2017).
“People think bad things are more intentional than good things.” Joshua Knobe, experimental philosopher
“A judge should read a brief like a surgeon examining the innards of a cancer patient.”
“Every show is a great show no matter how terrible we were.”
Breakdancer on the subway.
“Structural reforms have failed because of the incompetence of reformers, not because there’s a lack of evidence that there’s a problem.” Aaron Swartz
“Poor evidence can make a very good story.”
Daniel Kahneman, “Thinking Fast and Slow.”
“It will be the rare judge indeed who does not find his own conduct to have been blameless.” Judge Van Graafeiland on trial judge’s post-hoc rationalizations for refusing to delay trial while the defendant was hospitalized for heart attack.
“No system can detect its own bias.” Greg Hampikian, Idaho Innocence Project
“We have plenty of Social Justice Warriors and not enough criminal defense lawyers to represent people they would otherwise despise.” Judge Richard Kopf, “Snitches’ Lives Matter.”
“Are we going to have to be responsible for every mistake that we make?” President of the NY State District Attorney’s Association blocking legislation to make prosecutors accountable for misconduct.
“One of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done him honor. … Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke his name, we do him honor—in presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways.” Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016).
“How many guns does it take to change a lightbulb?” — comment on police officer’s accidental fatal shooting of man in dark housing project stairwell.
“Charlie Hebdo is insolence elevated as a virtue, and bad taste as a mainstay of elegance.” — French Minister of Culture commemorating the 1-year anniversary of the Islamist massacres of the staff of a satirical magazine.
“The life of the common law has been in the unceasing abuse of its elementary ideas.” S.F.C. Milsom
“It is fundamental to our notions of a free society that we do not imprison citizens because we fear that they might commit a crime in the future.” Karsjens v. Jesson (holding Minnesota’s civil commitment of sex offenders unconstitutional).
“That Court of Appeals case upholding a car stop based on an anonymous 911 call is VERY unsatisfactory, and I wouldn’t be allowed to say that if I were still a judge.” Barry Kamins, former judge.
Angry drunk on the subway: “This is New York City! If you can’t make it here, you can’t make it nowhere!”
“They think they work hard just because they never get anything done.” Georges Bernanos
“You can’t go offering the truth to people as if it were an insurance policy.” Georges Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest.
“As if there could possibly be such things as true stories; events take place one way and we recount them in the opposite way.” Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea.
“The victim appeared pale and Juan.” Trial transcript
“In most instances where the offender does not object to the oral confession being reduced to writing, he will readily sing it in the presence of one or more witnesses.” Inbau & Reid, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions (1986).
The great lesson of History is that nobody learns from it. Hegel
“Abuse of discretion” means the judge had to be in a coma.
Judge Nancy Gertner.
“A basic tenant of our legal system is not to convict innocent persons.” People v. Gill. But is our legal system rent-controlled?
“There was sufficient community of purpose between he and the shooter.” Judge Victoria Graffeo, Grammarian of the NY Court of Appeals in People v. Demetrius McGee
“Judges who ‘assume without deciding’ aren’t doing their job. They should decide without assuming.” Judge Roderick Kennedy, NM Court of Appeals
“Even though I torture them, I love the lawyers.” Justice David Saxe, Appellate Division, NY
“My wife is a professor of imperative literature.” Juror at voir dire.
“Hurricane Sandy is the biggest event in the history of the New Jersey Turnpike.” NJ Official
“I got three children at home and they all need I-pods.” Subway panhandler.
“Why is it inadmissible? It happened, didn’t it?” Judge at pretrial proceeding.
“In politics the impossible becomes the inevitable.” Larry Summers
“Yeah, those people are so parannoying.” Overheard on the subway.
“If you know it’s the right thing to do, you’ve got to do it.”
Former NJ Attorney-general on implementing police lineup reforms
“. . . and no one should think that we won’t take actions that we think are appropriate when we think they are appropriate.” Mayor Bloomburg on Occupy Wall Street
“Nothing can be so misleading as observation.”
“If of chaos we are on the brink
It is because so many people only think that they think.
In truth, of anything other than thinking they are fonder,
Because thought requires the time and effort to reflect, cogitate, contemplate, meditate, ruminate and ponder.
Their minds are exposed to events and idea but they have never pondered or reflected on them
Any more than motion picture screens meditate on the images that are projected on them.”
— Ogden Nash