Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Overcoming Overwhelming Odds: A Case in Point.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | December 13, 2011

No. 770

When it happens in New York it makes national news.  When much the same thing happened in Pittsburgh some years ago, it made local news. Yet something even more remarkable happened after the Pittsburgh event that didn’t make the news at all, a story worth telling.

One afternoon, I was asked to help out a resident of the County Jail who had had a string of convictions for relatively minor offenses.  I don’t even remember what they were  or how he happened to accumulate  three detainers from three different judges for parole violations.  But he had spent months awaiting trial and couldn’t get bail unless the three judges who had revoked his parole on  prior convictions agreed. The odds were overwhelming, but nothing was going to happen unless I tried. So we started the rounds from one courtroom to the next.

After considerable effort, I obtained orders from the PJ at a bail hearing and two other judges, all contingent upon the others being in agreement.  The third, Judge Albert Fiok, was a little more difficult to persuade.  He was cool and silent.  But after an impassioned argument, I almost had him convinced.

Then he asked the question that I feared the most: “If I let you out” he was now speaking directly to my client, “do you have a job waiting for you?”

I feared the question because I thought I knew the answer.  As it turned out, I only knew half of it.

My client had torn out the lead article from the morning paper and folded it into a tiny square, hiding it in the seam of his prison uniform. The suspense grew as he unfolded the front-page photo of a window-washer’s scaffold dangling 20 stories high at the then-new Oxford Center. That poor soul was not as lucky as the New Yorker. He plunged to an instantaneous death.

My client proudly held up the article while he told the judge, in a most serious tone of voice, that he was a professional window washer! He didn’t have a job at the moment, but he “knew of an opening.”

The expression, “bringing down the house” is all about moments like this. The packed courtroom exploded.  Gallows humor at its finest! It took a minute for the loud laughter to subside.  But well before then, the order had been signed.



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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