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Law

  • ... that's the worst of the law. They never do the sensible, straightforward thing. They have to go around corners, like a cat that always takes the longest way home ...

  • All these problems [deciding cases] are easier for people who believe in God. Those of us who don't or can't have to do the best we can. That's what the law is, the best we can do. Human justice is imperfect, but it's the only justice we have.

  • You were wise not to waste years in a lawsuit ... he who commences a suit resembles him who plants a palm-tree which he will not live to see flourish.

    • Countess of Blessington,
    • in R.R. Madden, The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, vol. 2 ()
  • Law should seek far more than mere reconciliation; it should be one of the great creative forces of our social life.

  • The Law likes to be argued with. Take away words and where is the Law? Silence always annoys it.

  • Our system is not one of justice, but of law.

  • In the criminal justice system you see the worst people on their best behavior, unlike the civil system, where the best people behave at their worst.

  • I know what an Act to make things simpler means. It means that the people who drew it up don't understand it themselves and that every one of its clauses needs a law-suit to disentangle it.

  • There are crimes which the Law cannot reach.

    • Dorothy L. Sayers,
    • "The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker," Lord Peter Views the Body ()
  • Court, in our society, is often the last resort of stubbornness.

  • The laws ought to be so framed as to secure the safety of every citizen as much as possible. ... Political liberty does not consist in the notion that a man may do whatever he pleases; liberty is the right to do whatsoever the laws allow. ... The equality of the citizens consists in that they should all be subject to the same laws.

  • Law to her was all Greek and turkey tracks.

  • They were always reading the law to her at home, which might not have been so bad if her father and mother had read from the same book.

  • What's too much for the law to see is too much for the law to require.

  • The law, in our case, seems to make the right, and the very reverse ought to be done — the right should make the law.

  • The sanguine assurance that men and nations can be legislated into goodness, that pressure from without is equivalent to a moral change within, needs a strong backing of inexperience.

    • Agnes Repplier,
    • "Conservative's Consolations," Points of Friction ()
  • Laws and customs may be creative of vice; and should be therefore perpetually under process of observation and correction: but laws and customs cannot be creative of virtue: they may encourage and help to preserve it; but they cannot originate it.

  • If the national mind of America be judged of by its legislation, it is of a very high order ... If the American nation be judged of by its literature, it may be pronounced to have no mind at all.

  • He's like those lawyer fellows — he wants laws as clubs, see? Clubs to make the other fellow do what you want! But my idea is to use laws to keep my freedom to do what I want.

  • The choice between law and justice is an easy one for courageous minds.

  • To make laws is a human instinct that arises as soon as food and shelter have been ensured, among all peoples, everywhere.

  • ... the law, like art, is always vainly racing to catch up with experience.

  • ... statutory regulations, legislative enactments, constitutional provisions, are invasive. They never yet induced man to do anything he could and would not do by virtue of his intellect or temperament, nor prevented anything that man was impelled to do by the same dictates.

    • Emma Goldman,
    • "What I Believe," in The New York World ()
  • Never can a new idea move within the law. It matters not whether that idea pertains to political and social changes or to any other domain of human thought and expression — to science, literature, music; in fact, everything that makes for freedom and joy and beauty must refuse to move within the law. How can it be otherwise? The law is stationary, fixed, mechanical, 'a chariot wheel' which grinds all alike without regard to time, place and condition, without ever taking into account cause and effect, without ever going into the complexity of the human soul.

    • Emma Goldman,
    • "Address to the Jury" (1917), in Alix Kates Shulman, ed., Red Emma Speaks ()
  • The law is above the law, you know.

  • In the United States we have a society pervaded from top to bottom by contempt for the law.

  • Woman throughout the ages has been mistress to the law, as man has been its master.

  • ... in the strange heat all litigation brings to bear on things, the very process of litigation fosters the most profound misunderstandings in the world.

  • For many persons, law appears to be black magic — an obscure domain that can be fathomed only by the professional initiated into its mysteries.

  • Law ... is not a preordained set of doctrines, applied rigidly and unswervingly in every situation. Rather, law is molded from the arguments and decisions of thousands of persons. It is very much a human process, a game of trying to convince others — a judge, a jury, an administrator, the lawyer for the other side — that your view of what the law requires is correct.

  • The contempt for law and the contempt for the human consequences of lawbreaking go from the bottom to the top of American society.

  • In America, law substitutes for custom.

  • ... laws ... are felt only when the individual comes into conflict with them.

    • Suzanne La Follette,
    • "Institutional Marriage and Its Economic Aspects," Concerning Women ()
  • His demon is litigation and all his money goes in that.

  • To make laws that man cannot, and will not obey, serves to bring all law into contempt.

  • ... we hear of those to whom a lawsuit is an agreeable relaxation, a gentle excitement. One of this class, when remonstrated with, retorted, that while one friend kept dogs, and another horses, he, as he had a right to do, kept a lawyer; and no one had a right to dispute his taste.

  • ... those learned in the law, when they do give advice without the usual fee, and in the confidence of friendship, generally say, 'Pay, pay anything rather than go to law;' ...

  • Men alone are not capable of making laws for men and women.

    • Nellie McClung,
    • newspaper report (1915), in Linda Rasmussen et al., A Harvest Yet to Reap ()
  • Great and necessary as are law and authority, if human society is to develop its higher possibilities, law and authority are but rounds of the ladder by means of which mankind climbs to higher levels.

  • Law in the United States is at once a powerful medium and a medium for power.

  • [To King James I:] I beseech your Majesty, let me have Justice, and I will then trust the law.

  • Me care for te laws when te laws care for me.

  • Bad laws make bad customs.

  • Petty laws breed great crimes.

    • Ouida,
    • "The Marriage Plate," Pipistrello ()
  • ... the only reason he didn't prefer hell to court was he couldn't tell the difference.

  • It is important to recognize the limited ability of the legal system to prescribe and enforce the quality of social arrangements.

  • A lawsuit is to ordinary life what war is to peacetime. In a lawsuit, everybody on the other side is bad. A trial transcript is a discourse in malevolence.

  • He was as law-abiding as the next guy — when he could abide the law.

  • The law is a curious beast; it is not really interested to find out what did happen, or why, but whether a theory put forward by one party to the dispute can or cannot be proved according to the rules.

    • Margaret Cole,
    • "The Case of Adelaide Bartlett," in Helen Simpson et al., The Anatomy of Murder ()
  • ... being a member of the court is a lot like walking through fresh concrete. Do you remember doing that as a child and leaving a footprint and it hardens after you? I'm afraid that's what we do and we look back and we see those opinions we've written and they've sort of hardened after us.

  • [Law] is one part justice to nine parts expediency. Who needs it.

  • The sad truth is that truth is almost irrelevant in a court of law.

  • The law was for people who needed instructions, she would later tell me. The same people who needed to be told not to put a baby in the dryer or a dog in the microwave.

  • ... law is no explanation of anything; law is simply a generalization, a category of facts; law is neither a cause, nor a reason, nor a power, nor a coercive force; it is nothing but a general formula, a statistical table.

    • Florence Nightingale,
    • 1860, in Michael D. Calabria and Janet A. Macrae, eds., Suggestions for Thought ()
  • Law is a reflection and a source of prejudice. It both enforces and suggests forms of bias.

    • Diane B. Schulder,
    • "Does the Law Oppress Women?" in Robin Morgan, Sisterhood Is Powerful ()
  • It is not possible to make a bad law. If it is bad, it is not a law.

  • Avoid the law — the first loss is generally the least.

  • ... justice and law are sometimes in opposition ...

  • [On current copyright law:] If one needs an army of lawyers to understand the basic precepts of the law, then it is time for a new law.

  • The law is not abstract, impartially arbitrating between conflicting social classes; it is a tool in the hands of those who govern.

  • It takes a very long time to learn that a courtroom is the last place in the world for learning the truth.

  • If you love the law and you love good sausage, don't watch either of them being made.

  • The United States Supreme Court, once a reliable if ultimate recourse for progressive and even revolutionary grievances, has become a retrograde wellspring for enormous economic and social distress.

    • June Jordan,
    • "Where Is the Rage?" Technical Difficulties ()
  • If you got the sayso you want to keep it, whether you are right or wrong. That's why they have to keep changing the laws — so they don't unbenefit any of these big white men.

    • Ruth Shays,
    • in John Langston Gwaltney, Drylongso ()
  • Every form of bigotry can be found in ample supply in the legal system of our country.

    • Florynce R. Kennedy,
    • "Institutionalized Oppression vs. the Female," in Robin Morgan, ed., Sisterhood Is Powerful ()
  • He's sitting there in a long black dress gathered at the yoke, and I said, 'Judge, if you won't talk about what I'm wearing, I won't talk about what you're wearing,' because it occurred to me that a judge in a skirt telling me not to wear pants was just a little bit ludicrous. It's interesting to speculate how it developed that in two of the most anti-feminist institutions, the church and the law court, the men are wearing the dresses.

  • Ye'll learn perhaps that in law, a friend prosecuting is better than a friend defending!

  • ... our country's history has shown not only that the law is the key to social change, but that there is no law for all time — that law, like technology, may become obsolete as new needs emerge. Old ideas, like old machinery, require replacement.

    • Doris L. Sassower,
    • "The Chief Justice Wore a Red Dress," in Maggie Tripp, Woman in the Year 2000 ()
  • Never let us confuse what is legal with what is right. Everything Hitler did in Nazi Germany was legal, but it was not right.

  • During prohibition I observed the law meticulously, but I came gradually to see that laws are only observed with the consent of the individuals concerned and a moral change still depends on the individual and not on the passage of any law.

  • The Laws ought to be so framed, as to secure the Safety of every Citizen as much as possible.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in W.F. Reddaway, trans., Documents of Catherine the Great: The Correspondence with Voltaire and the Instruction of 1767 in the English Text of 1768 ()
  • The political Liberty of a Citizen is the Peace of Mind arising from the Consciousness, that every individual enjoys his peculiar Safety; and in order that the People might attain this Liberty, the Laws ought to be so framed, that no one Citizen should stand in Fear of another; but that all of them should stand in Fear of the same Laws ...

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in W.F. Reddaway, trans., Documents of Catherine the Great: The Correspondence with Voltaire and the Instruction of 1767 in the English Text of 1768 ()
  • [When a judge asked her character if she was trying to show contempt for the court:] On the contrary, your Honor, I was doin' my best to conceal it.

  • Law is an advanced degree in thinking.

  • There's really no such thing as an 'ex-cop' or a cop who's 'off-duty' or 'retired.' Once trained, once indoctrinated, a cop is always alert, assessing reality in terms of its potential for illegal acts.

  • One policeman may be a friend, but two are the Law.

  • Police work is two parts routine, one part common sense and one part luck.

  • Cops never took anything on faith, and disbelieved every story that was told them on principle until and unless they could confirm that the story was fact in all its essentials, and even then remained wary and unconvinced. Cop shops bred skeptics. Skeptics cherished few illusions about human nature, and therefore were seldom disappointed.

  • I almost shot you back there, you know that? when are / you people gonna learn, huh? you talk too much, that / makes me damn mad when you talk too much. i was ready / to put lead into your brain, you know that? shit makes / me damn mad, rather take you to the morgue.

  • [To graduates of the police academy:] Look, this uniform does not automatically give you respect. People will either view that uniform as a symbol of hope and honesty or they will view it with fear.

  • ... I wonder if we shall ever make a lawyer of you. Don't you know that our first duty is to make things easy for our clients, who are always right, except when they come in conflict with ourselves?

  • The lawyer hummed and hawed, not because he had any real objections but because it is a lawyer's business to consider remote contingencies, and a straightforward agreement to anything would be wildly unprofessional.

  • When a man had been a counsel in the criminal courts as long as Kevin had, his mind had only points of view, not convictions any more.

  • It took man thousands of years to put words down on paper, and his lawyers still wish he wouldn't.

  • 'That is difficult to say exactly,' said Mr. Kirkwood, enjoying, like all lawyers, making the reply to a simple question difficult.

  • ... lawyers never go to law, do they? They know better.

  • Lawyers make their cake by cooking up other people's troubles.

  • Lawyers enjoy a little mystery, you know. Why, if everybody came forward and told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth straight out, we should all retire to the workhouse.

  • Lawyers' work required sharp brains, strong vocal chords, and an iron butt.

  • ... lawyers are like morticians — we all need one sooner or later, but better later than sooner.

  • Besides, you want the unvarnished and ungarnished truth, and I'm no hand for that. I'm a lawyer.

  • I never saw a lawyer yet who would admit he was making money.

  • Them lawyers is no better than a sponge for sucking up money.

  • I had always been so much taken with the way all English people I knew always were going to see their lawyer. Even if they have no income and do not earn anything they always have a lawyer.

  • Lawyers [are] operators of the toll bridge across which anyone in search of justice has to pass.

  • Buy a friend; hire a lawyer.

  • Such poor folk as to law do go, / are driven oft to curse: / But in mean while, the Lawyer thrives / the money in his purse.

    • Isabella Whitney,
    • "The 104. Flower," A Sweet Nosegay, or Pleasant Posye: Containing a Hundred and Ten Phylosophicall Flowers ()
  • If he knew anything, he wouldn't say it until he checked it out for possible libel suits. He thinks in small print.

  • I do believe that half a dozen commonplace attorneys could so mystify and misconstrue the Ten Commandments, and so confuse Moses' surroundings on Mount Sinai, that the great law-giver, if he returned to this planet, would doubt his own identity, abjure every one of his deliverances, yea, even commend the very sins he so clearly forbade his people.

    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
    • 1891, in Theodore Stanton and Harriot Stanton Blatch, eds., Elizabeth Cady Stanton As Revealed in Her Letters Diary and Reminiscences, vol. 2 ()
  • ... we hear of those to whom a lawsuit is an agreeable relaxation, a gentle excitement. One of this class, when remonstrated with, retorted, that while one friend kept dogs, and another horses, he, as he had a right to do, kept a lawyer; and no one had a right to dispute his taste.

  • ... those learned in the law, when they do give advice without the usual fee, and in the confidence of friendship, generally say, 'Pay, pay anything rather than go to law;' ...

  • McIllvaine, a trial veteran, had been standing out of the crossfire, keeping his mouth shut until it was time to grandstand for the jury. All the courtroom's a stage, and all the men and women in it merely lawyers.

  • I edged forward on my pew in the gallery so I wouldn't miss a single word. My ex-lover's new girlfriend, Eve Eberlein, was about to be publicly humiliated by the Honorable Edward J. Thompson. I wanted to dance with joy right there in the courtroom. Hell hath no fury like a lawyer scorned.

  • Everybody hates lawyers, but they don't realize judges are just lawyers with a promotion. Think about it.

  • Any good poker player will tell you the secret to a winning bluff is believing it yourself. I know this, so by the time I cross-examined the last witness, I believed. I was in deep, albeit fradulent, mourning. Now all I had to do was convince the jury. 'Would you examine this document for me, sir?' I said, my voice hoarse with fake grief. I did the bereavement shuffle to the witness stand and handed an exhibit to Frankie Costello, a lump of a plant manager with a pencil-thin mustache. 'You want I should read it?' Costello asked. No, I want you should make a paper airplane. 'Yes, read it, please.' Costello bent over the document, and I snuck a glance at the jury through my imaginary black veil. A few returned my gaze with mounting sympathy. The trial had been postponed last week because of the death of counsel's mother, but the jury wasn't told which lawyer's mother had died. It was defense counsel's mother who'd just passed on, not mine, but don't split hairs, okay? You hand me an ace, I'm gonna use it.

  • She had paralegal training, and she was a scam artist, which was a lawyer without the student loans.

  • One hires lawyers as one hires plumbers, because one wants to keep one's hands off the beastly drains.

  • Her jealousy never slept.

  • In the evening Hogg comes. I like him better each time; it is a pity that he is a lawyer; he wasted so much time on that trash that might be spent on better things.

  • ... butting heads at trial was the way attorneys bonded. Kind of like dogs sniffing at each other's hindquarters.

  • Now I know that lawyers must live, but I've never been able to understand why they have to live so blamed well!

  • Lawyers like to leave no stone unturned, provided they can charge by the stone.

  • A lawyer's relationship to justice and wisdom ... is on a par with a piano tuner's relationship to a concert. He neither composes the music, nor interprets it — he merely keeps the machinery running.

  • His anger will not fall upon you, but upon your legal adviser. And I am not afraid that he will eat me. Lawyers are indigestible.

  • To me, lawyering is the height of service — and being involved in this profession is a gift.

  • I hate that stuff — mingling with lawyers and all. I've always thought there must be some reason why the French words for 'attorney' and 'avocado' were the same.

  • Just-in-your-own words was Mr. Gilmer's trademark. We often wondered who else's words Mr. Gilmer was afraid his witness might employ.

  • Never, never, never, on cross-examination ask a witness a question you don't already know the answer to, was a tenet I absorbed with my baby-food. Do it, and you'll often get an answer you don't want, an answer that might wreck your case.

  • Let you lawyers alone for speed, when you have yourselves for clients.

  • It is a horrible demoralizing thing to be a lawyer. You look for such low motives in everyone and everything.

  • Lawyers should never marry other lawyers. This is called inbreeding, from which come idiot children and more lawyers.

  • The question arises ... whether all lawyers are the same. This is like asking whether everything that gets into a sewer is garbage.