The Judge’s Daughter: Loving on Books
By Pamela Buchmeyer
Thorne is my new hero. Thorne Donnelley operated Liberty Books in Boston, Massachusetts, in West Palm Beach, Florida, and now he has a shop in a work-live condo in my neighborhood. Life is good.
I stop in regularly to pet Thorne’s dog and listen to long rambling stories about antiquarian books, signed first editions, and volumes so rare they are practically buried treasure. Last week I was obsessed with a slim leather volume with gold accents, The Comic Blackstone, by Gilbert Abbott à Beckett, originally published in 1844 London at the Punch office on Fleet Street. About $200 later, I had my new prized possession.
The Comic Blackstone is hilarious. Laugh-out-loud funny with a text that is surprisingly fresh and crisp. It has now proudly joined my late father’s collection of legal humor books. Excerpts follow below.
Dad, the honorable Judge Jerry L. Buchmeyer, wrote a humor column for the Texas Bar Journal for 28 years, and he also had his favorite book haunts. He loved John R. Mara Law Books on Richmond Avenue in Dallas. I could go past there any weekend and spot Dad’s car. Later, when Dad needed nursing care, we chose a facility barely a block from John Mara’s old shop, hoping it would bring Dad fond remembrances.
Dad also loved handling the Wichita Falls docket in the Northern District of Texas because it meant he could frequent Larry McMurtry’s nearby book haven, Booked Up. Once Dad called me: “Pam, you won’t believe it! I’m in Archer City having drinks with Larry McMurtry.” Wow. “Well, actually, I’m at the water fountain and he’s 10 feet away taking sips from a Big Gulp. But I think it still counts!”
Definitely, Dad, it still counts.
It’s good to hear from you! Please continue to send your anecdotes, tidbits, tall tales, and war stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Thanksgiving.
CATTLE V. ATTORNEYS
Ranching is often a mystery to big city lawyers. At least that’s been the experience of Sharon E. Giraud, of Fort Worth, who recently sent in the following deposition excerpt:
Attorney: And what’s that property used for?
Witness: Grazing cattle.
Attorney: Is it being leased?
Witness: I don’t think so.
Attorney: (So) … what’s the property being used for?
Witness: It’s where cattle eat.
Attorney: It’s not being used for anything?
And that’s a lawyer who has never visited a farm in his life.
W. McNab “Mac” Miller III, of Houston, recalls some unusual testimony given when he was clerking for federal Judge Carl O. Bue Jr. in the Southern District of Texas. The defendant in a robbery case insisted on representing himself. And he came across as articulate and smart—until the fateful moment when he tried to impeach a witness who had identified him as the robber.
Question: Isn’t it true you could not identify me because I had my mask on?
Oops. Case over. A conviction quickly followed.
THE LAWYER'S NEW CAR
Submitted anonymously last month from a party living close to the Gulf. This lawyer was diligently working for a partner who’d arrived at the office behind the wheel of a stunning new car. When the young associate expressed his admiration, the law firm partner said:
Kid, if you work long and hard enough, meet your goals for billable hours, and bring in a few new clients, then maybe someday soon … I can buy an even fancier one.
THE COMIC BLACKSTONE
Although penned in 1844, this clever book is so packed full of goodies that I may have to draw upon it in more than one column. I wonder if the author used his real name, probably not for even the dedication takes a dig at the courts of the day and compels a chuckle. Emphasis added, of course.
To the Commissioners of the Courts of Request, who have
So often extracted merriment from a dry subject, by rendering
Law a Burlesque and Justice a Farce,
The Comic Blackstone is with all due respect,
inscribed by their obedient servant,
Gilbert Abbott à Beckett
Master Beckett shares many an amusing insight. On the study of the law, he wrote:
Every gentleman ought to know a little of law, says Coke, and perhaps, say we, the less the better.
Of the nature of laws in general:
Man, as we are all aware, is a creature endowed with reason and free will: but when he goes to law as plaintiff, his reason seems to have deserted him.
While, if he stands in the position of defendant, it is generally against his free will; and thus, that “noblest of animals,” Man, is in a very ignoble predicament.
Continuing on the same topic and showing little respect for the legal authorities of the day:
…we come now to the municipal or civil law, which is the subject of the present (lengthy) chapter, though we have not yet said a word regarding it. Municipal law is defined to be “a rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power in a state….” Such was the definition of Puffendorf, whose name is probably a corruption of Puffing off, for he puffs off the law most outrageously whenever he can find an opportunity of doing so.
On the law of parent and child:
The duties of a parent are maintenance and education; or, as Coke would have expressed it, grub and grammar.
Tongue in cheek, indeed. The Comic Blackstone has brought me a lot of pleasure even during tough and stressful times and that’s what this column is all about. I can almost hear my father saying, “Definitely, Pam, it counts.”TBJ
is an attorney and award-winning writer who lives in Dallas and Jupiter, Florida. Her work-in-progress is a humorous murder mystery, The Judge’s Daughter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.