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Jewish World Review Sept. 5, 2002 / 28 Elul, 5762

Art Buchwald

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Moot court | Law school is the place where lawyers learn all the tricks of their trade.

I sat in on a legal ethics class at Wuthering Heights University.

The instructor said, "Today we're going to take a hypothetical case. A man named Hatfield is suing his surgeon for malpractice because his doctor cut off the wrong leg.

"Tina, you're the lawyer for the plaintiff. Tommy, you are the insurance company's defense lawyer. Tina, you go first."

Tina said, "Well, first I have to prove the doctor didn't know one leg from the other. I use charts, X-rays and slides to show the leg the surgeon removed was a healthy one. To do this, I have to call expert witnesses to testify to this effect."

The professor said, "And how do you find the expert witnesses to testify for your client?"

"I will just go to the hospital and ask if I can borrow them."

"No, Tina. You have to pay expert witnesses to testify. Since they are experts, they get $5,000 a day, plus lunch and transportation. Remember, the defense is going to hire their own expert witnesses who will say cutting off the wrong leg happens all the time.

Continue, Tina."

Tina said, "I will put my client on the stand and he will testify he could not find work as a dancer after his leg was removed."

"Tommy, you object because that fact is irrelevant."

Tommy said, "I object."

The professor continued, "I will be the judge in this case and say, 'Objection overruled.' I will tell the jury to ignore the defense objection. As soon as the defense lawyer utters it, the jury will ignore the judge's instructions and remember it. Now, Tommy, it's the defense's turn."

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Hatfield signed a form giving permission to cut off his leg and did not specify which one. Once he signed the paper it was no longer the surgeon's responsibility."

Tommy said, "I would like to enter Exhibit A."

"What is it?" the professor asked.

"When Hatfield went to college, he flunked Medieval History and was kicked off the football team."

Tina said, "Objection. His school grades have nothing to do with his leg."

The professor said, "Now class, pay attention. This is very import for anyone who is defending a client in this kind of a case. You have to smear his reputation every chance you can. If he is divorced or has unpaid traffic tickets, try to put it into the record. Get the jury to forget the amputation and look at Hatfield as a money-grubbing, hateful scoundrel.

"I hope you have learned something today. As the great lawyer O.J. Simpson once said, 'Winning is everything.'"

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