On Mon, 25 Mar 2002 05:12:41 +1100, matthew X wrote:

> "First we kill all the lawyers." Shakespeare.henry the something.

Falling into camp "I resemble that remark," here's a bit of history on one
of the worlds' most common epithets against the legal profession.  While
this remark has been reduced to a slogan or jingle, placed in context, the
line makes a profound statement on the conflict between rule of law and
anarchy (or, perhaps more relevant today, the conflict between rule of law
and a police state).  As eloquently employed by Justice Stevens
below, "Shakespeare insightfully realized that disposing of lawyers is a
step in the direction of a totalitarian form of government."

Henry VI is the son of much beloved Henry V, and his legacy includes the
bloody Wars of the Roses, embroiling England in generations of civil war.  
Described as "a high-class soap opera," throughout its three parts, Henry
VI sees the beleaguered king faced by threats from within his court,
from the nobility, from the French and from uprisings among the common

One of these uprisings was led by Jack Cade.  Cade and his men wished to
present grievances to the king. The king received their petitions and then
gathered an army to destroy them. Cade's men then routed the troops sent
to subdue them and ended up capturing London. Although Cade was initially
welcomed into London, his men soon engaged in selective looting and
pillaging, and executed Lord Say for encouraging literacy.
This provides the backdrop for the statement by Dick the Butcher, "The
first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," to which Jack Cade
replies, "Nay, that I meant to do." Shakespeare adapted this statement
from Holingshed's Chronicles, where it is reported that John Ball exhorted
the people "that they might destroy first the great lords of the realm,
and after the judges and lawyers, questmongers, and all other whom they
took to be against the commons." 

Shakespeare's Stratford-on-Avon was not spared from the revolutionary
fervor and some local nobility were killed. Taken in context, Cade's men
sought not a utopia without lawyers (compare to Sir Thomas Moore's Utopia)
but rather to eliminate government and the rule of law. Thus Dick the
Butcher was a precursor to Sex Pistols.

Judges generally quote Dick the Butcher in two contexts: (1) when
criticizing the exclusion or limitation of lawyers from various
proceedings (always in dissenting opinions) and (2) when commenting on the
role of lawyers in society. Inevitably, judges making the first reference
are careful to note the complete context of the remarks, while judges in
the second category do not.

Perhaps the best example from the first context is Justice Stevens'
dissent in Walters v. National Association of Radiation Survivors.  473
U.S. 359 (1985).  The case involved a statute adopted in 1862 limiting
attorney's fees in veterans cases to $10.  The United States argued that
the system worked better without a lot of quarrelsome lawyers involved.  
In dissent, Justice Stevens argued that, "Just as I disagree with the
present court's crabbed view of the concept of 'liberty,' so do I reject
its apparent unawareness of the function of the independent lawyer as a
guardian of our freedom."  Justice Stevens added a footnote, underscoring
his point:  "That function, however, was well understood by Jack Cade and
his followers, characters who are often forgotten and whose most
famous line is often misunderstood. Dick's statement ('The first thing we
do, let's kill all the lawyers') was spoken by a rebel, not a friend of
liberty. (citation omitted.) As a careful reading of that text will
reveal, Shakespeare insightfully realized that disposing of lawyers is a
step in the direction of a totalitarian form of government."  Thus,
Justice Stevens makes the point that lawyers are a protection from
government power rather than an evil to be protected against.

Other references are found in cases excluding attorneys from field
sobriety tests, excluding lawyers from line-ups and denying counsel to one
held as a material witness.

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