Cal. Litig. 2016, VOLUME 29, NUMBER 3

Trial Lawyer Hall of Famer

By e. bob wallach

Idid not enter a courtroom until my senior year of high school and did not see a jury trial until I was a young lawyer, as a 12½-year associate and partner with the justly eminent Bruce Walkup. My first experience in a courtroom was in high school to attend the sentencing of my friend Cliff, an 18-year-old physical giant who was a conscientious objector and would not register for the Korean War draft. That was 1952. The courtroom was packed for the dozen or so Quakers scheduled to be sentenced. The judge was a legendary figure from the Roosevelt administration, now a senior judge. We saw that as a sign of probable leniency. Instead, the sentence was a year in a work camp outside of Tucson. The audience was audibly and emotionally shaken at the severity of the sentence for engaging in an act of honor. The judge, responding to the audience’s unhappiness, said, "You must remember that morality and the law are not the same." I was instantly hostile to that statement — a reaction that persists to this day.

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I have asked myself many times why a profession is so continuously maligned when overwhelmingly inhabited by decent people, concerned about their clients, adherent to rules of professional conduct, and active in myriad community activities — such that no church, synagogue, mosque, service organization, school district, worthy cause for afflicted children and adults or the environment could survive without their volunteered efforts. Schools are built and innocent people freed because of the dedication of lawyers. Yet everywhere we hear rueful discussion and read saddened articles lamenting the perceived alterations in our profession, uniformly for the worst.

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