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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Talking Heads

  As a lawyer in a small town you are often greeted with questions about the seemingly endless high profile cases that find themselves in the news.  Everyone has a question, if not an opinion, as to what, why and how things occur in the criminal justice system.  It is easy to opine about things but not always smart.  The larger cities are worse so the news channels seek out lawyers to comment live on TV and radio and in the print media.
  All court personnel are insiders, so to speak, and have jaundiced views of what goes on in a courtroom.  It doesn't mean they are correct or have sufficient knowledge to offer an opinion - but many do.  Too many, in my opinion!
  Very few people have the luxury of knowing enough of the inside dope on a case to form an intelligent and well thought out position on many of these cases.  Personally, I have always told lawyers if you are going to try a case you need to pick your jury so that you can talk to them.  Too many young lawyers, prosecutors mostly, want someone else to pick the jury for them because its intimidating to talk to people in a courtroom and not have everything orchestrated for your own comfort.  The same applies to the position of "talking head" offering opinions on something with which you have no involvement and limited knowledge.  It is really easy to say something but it's not always easy to say something intelligent.
  Like facing a knuckleball pitcher you can talk about how far you would smack that floating balloon until you step into the batter's box.  The scenario changes drastically when it's your behind on the line and that pea sized ball heads this way and that as it makes its way to the plate.
  Lawyers need to stop and think about this sideline commentary that is becoming all the more prevalent on the various news and cable channels trying to fill air time.  They aren't Howard Cossell offering observations on a quarterback rolling out to throw a pass.  The courts and people's rights are not a game up for color commentary and interesting asides about someone's stance or swing or evasive run with a ball.
  The various bar associations are responsible for this, indirectly, when they allowed all the advertising and puffery that accompanies the unsightly commercials that are aired and the billboards that pollute the major intersections.  No one could have ever imagined it would go this far but it has!  Murder trial as sport.  Judge Judy and Joe Brown and the now countless others that have friends litigating against friends over spilt milk.  While being seen with the popular host of a TV newscast may meet the requirements of Marketing 101 it falls far short of what lawyering should be all about.

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