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 people. 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.