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Good Lawyers Don’t Always Win; Bad Lawyers Don’t Always Lose.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | July 16, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle (c) 2009

So, it finally happened.

An avowed fan of Perry Mason, or more correctly of Hamilton Burger, his perennial opponent, is going to the Supreme Court.

Senator Al Franken, who must have joined the Senate Judiciary Committee just in time to participate in the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, asked the nominee questions which uncovered the revelation that she decided to become a lawyer (or was it a prosecutor?) because of a fictional character on TV.

Sotomayor remembered Burger, when asked about the role of a prosecutor, saying that justice is served when the guilty are convicted and the innocent are acquitted. Franken had wanted to know (facetiously, of course) why she had chosen a loser like Burger for a hero.

The truth was, Burger always questioned witnesses with consumate skill. During his case in chief, he proved the defendant to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt with workman-like efficiency. When the prosecution rested, the Defendant’s goose was always well cooked. Thus, by the time Perry Mason called his first witness, it seemed impossible for the jury to return anything but a guilty verdict.

Yet Burger lost cases, lots of them. But, it was not primarily because Mason was the better lawyer. That conclusion was probably true, but even world class lawyering, without more, wasn’t going to extract Mason’s client’s neck from the noose Ham Burger tied.

Oh, no! Burger lost cases because the truth surfaced and he happened to be on the wrong side of it. In the last few minutes of the trial, the true killer was unmasked and delivered into the hands of the prosecution. You can be pretty sure Burger eventually convicted every one of those villains, especially the poor bastards who made a full confession in open court.

Yes, boys and girls, good lawyers lose bad cases, often. Alas, the evidence you wish you had, just isn’t there.

And sometimes, good lawyers even lose good cases. That’s why God invented settlements.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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