Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Patrick O'Brian Quotes about Lawyers and the Law

As you may (or may not) know, I'm going through Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. I've just finished The Reverse of the Medal, which is the eleventh book in the series of twenty one.

The series is set during the Napoleonic wars, and centers on the exploits of a British naval officer (Jack Aubrey) and his friend (Stephen Maturin), who is an intelligence agent. It's wonderful writing, and I've been enjoying it thoroughly. Although most of the action takes place at sea, the most recent novel deals with Aubrey's being framed for a stock exchange fraud and the civil trial that ensues. It allows O'Brian to give some wonderful commentary on the legal system. Here are a couple of my favorite quotations:

On lawyers: "I do not say that lawyers are bad, but I do maintain that the general tendency is bad; standing up in court for whichever side has paid you, affecting warmth and conviction, and doing everything you can to win a case, whatever your private opinion may be, will soon dull a fine sense of honor."

On truth in the law: "What should like is simply to have my say, like a man called before his captain, and tell the judge and jury just what happened. Everyone agrees that there is nothing fairer than English justice, and if I tell them the plain truth, I am sure I shall be believed"

On the complexity of the law: "It is a game that has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years, growing more tortuous with every generation, the rules multiplying, the precedents accumulating, equity interfering, statues galore, and now it is such a bitter tangle that a layman is perfectly helpless."

The ideal of the law: "For him they [certain complex civil cases] do not represent the real law at all, but only the technical warfare of pettifogging attorneys. For him the law is something much simpler and more direct - the wise impartial judge, the jury of decent fair-minded men, with perhaps a few barristers to speak for the inarticulate and ask questions designed to bring out the truth, probing questions that he is happy to answer." 

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