This is how you win court cases

Pay no attention to that crime behind the curtain!

I’m currently writing a paper on the opening (exordium) of Cicero’s “Pro Flacco”, his defense of his friend Lucius Valerius Flaccus against charges of “extortion”, which, in Roman law, includes just about any sort of ill-gotten gains from the people of the Republic. What I find interesting is that although Flaccus’ crime is financial, Cicero mentions finances once: when he says that the foreigners over whom Flaccus has been governor were bribed to come to court to testify against him.
Cicero says that it’s not from the Lydians, Mysians, and Phrygians that the jurors will give their verdict because the foreigners have been bribed (qui huc compulsi concitatique venerunt).  I wonder: is this tactic still taught in law schools? Are lawyers taught to completely sidestep the main issue of a case? From what I’ve seen on Law and Order (the official source of my knowledge concerning American law), it seems that it’s always the bad lawyer who, instead of sticking to the facts, goes off on tangents.

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2 responses to “This is how you win court cases

  1. To go off on tangents rather than stick to the facts is also, of course, the premise of the venerable SNL skit, “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.” I have no knowledge of what goes on in law schools, but I feel fairly confident that educators and students (at any rate, any who aren’t jaded) would likely agree with the rest of us than to resort to manipulation of various sorts in legal arguments makes whoever so argues a scumbag. What’s more, I’m fairly confident that we’re supposed to regard Cicero as a scumbag for doing this very thing in every winning argument of his that has reached us!

    • Joshua McManaway

      I’m with you here. I can’t know for sure that Flaccus was stealing, but trying to remind the jury that he comes from a nice family and has been working as a governor for a long time isn’t really a great argument. He still allegedly stole money from the people of the Republic.

      I totally remember that Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer skit – “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury……I’m just a caveman. Your world frightens and confuses me. The honking horns of your tracking make me want to get out of my BMW and run off into the hills or…whatever.”

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