A Malaprop was the butt of many a joke. But he was a jolly and pleasant man, a lawyer with a successful criminal and civil practice. Like Apey George of Kandy, he is now dead, but the stories about him live on. One day he appeared in a case where his opposing counsel kept on distorting every argument he had put forward. Unable to stand it any longer, he sprang wrathfully to his feet, and addressing the Magistrate thundered, “Sir, my learned friend has got the wrong end of my stick!”
Another day he appeared for some prostitutes who had been rounded up by the police and produced in Court. As the Magistrate was about to remand them, he hastily got up and told the Magistrate: “It is not necessary to remand these ladies, Sir. They are available to the Court any time.”
In his later years, he was quite toothless, and one day he was cross examining a witness for the prosecution in a highway robbery case. In order to drive home the point that the witness’ eyesight was so poor that he possibly could not have seen what he had just described to the Court, this lawyer held up two fingers and said: “What can you see?” “I can see two fingers, and behind them a ‘Lomba,” replied the witness. ‘Lomba’ is a derogatory term for a toothless person).
On another occasion, he appeared for an accused, charged with stealing coconuts. The Magistrate found the man guilty and asked the defence lawyer whether he had anything to say in mitigation. “Yes sir,” replied the lawyer. “They were very, very small coconuts, Sir, only this much in size!” said the lawyer, demonstrating with his hands.
There was a maintenance case, and this lawyer appeared for the wronged wife. As he was pressing the claim of the wife for maintenance, her husband’s lawyer interrupted to charge that she was living in adultery with another man, and had delivered a child just a month earlier and that she had been separated from her legal husband for two years. The lawyer for the woman said he was shocked at his friend’s allegation and asserted that his client was an honourable and virtuous woman. At this the husband’s lawyer challenged the opposing counsel to ask his client whether she had delivered a child a month before.
After consulting the woman, the lawyer told the Court, “Yes sir, a child had been delivered but it’s hardly worth making a fuss about. You see sir, it’s a very, very small child, only this size!” said the lawyer, once again demonstrating with his hands.
He appeared for an accused who was charged with intimidation, but when the case came up, an amicable settlement was arrived at. As the parties were about to leave, the lawyer for the other side who was an MP at the time, sneered, “Your client should be very happy about this settlement, for if the case went to trial, things would have been very difficult for him. He is an I.R.C.” The accused’s lawyer objected vehemently to these uncalled-for remarks, and the lawyer MP challenged him to ask his client whether he was an I.R.C. or not. Thereupon the lawyer walked up to his client and questioned him, and the man confessed that he was an I.R.C. Addressing the Court, the lawyer then said, “Yes sir, he has I.R.C. after his name, which makes him a man of letters, and therefore fit to be even an MP!”
A cynic once remarked that a lawyer was one who instigates two people to fight in the nude and runs away with their clothes.
A doctor, a lawyer and an engineer were fellow passengers on a ship. Suddenly, the vessel hit a rock and began to sink. A lifeboat had broken its moorings and was drifting out to sea, and seeing it, the doctor shouted, “Look, look! An empty lifeboat and it’s drifting away!” “Don’t worry,” said the lawyer, “I’ll get it!” Diving into the water the lawyer swam easily and unhurriedly towards the lifeboat. “Oh, my God! Look!” gasped the engineer, pointing a frantic finger at the fearsome black fins of a school of sharks circling, ominously, the swimming lawyer. But the lawyer reached the lifeboat without mishap, climbed in and rowed back. “They didn’t harm him!” cried the engineer happily, “The sharks didn’t harm him!” “Yes” said the doctor drily, “professional courtesy!”
At Law College, the lecturer told his students. “When you are appearing in a murder case, if the facts are on your side, hammer them to the jury. And, if the law is on your side, hammer it to the judge.” “What if neither is on your side?” asked one student. “Then, you hammer the bloody table.”
There was once a criminal lawyer with a very lucrative practice, but alas, he was a wee bit absent-minded. “One day, he rose to his feet and began addressing the Court. “Your honour”, he thundered, “I know this accused very well! He has the reputation of being one of the most barefaced scoundrels and the most impudent rascals …” There was a sudden flurry of excitement and dismay at the bar table, and the lawyer’s junior tugged as his sleeve, “Sir, sir”, the junior said frenziedly, “we are appearing for the accused, not the complainant. Without batting an eyelid, the lawyer continued. “That is what everybody says about this accused, your honour, but I ask your honour, who is the man, however great and good, however honest and law-abiding, who hasn’t been, like the innocent accused here in the dock, vilified unjustly by his fellow men?”
I. M. Ismail (later Justice) was accorded a felicitation dinner by the Galle Bar on his appointment as a Commissioner of Assize. It was presided over by a retired Commissioner of Assize who was quite corpulent and broad of girth. The late A. Mampitiya, classics scholar and a leading lawyer of the day proposing the toast of the Chief Guest, quipped: “Gentlemen, tonight we have the honour of having ‘two’ Commissioners with us. One a Commissioner of Assize, and the other a Commissioner A-size.”
On another occasion the Galle Bar gave a complimentary dinner to a well-known lawyer who had reached a milestone in his long and illustrious career. This lawyer had a loud voice, and in a bad case, his modus operandi was to bowl out and shout down both opposing counsel and witnesses. Proposing the toast of the Chief Guest, another leading lawyer said, “My learned friend’s advocacy is always sound, and nothing but sound!”
A veteran lawyer, noted for his quick wit and repartee, was cross-examining a witness, a very rich and colourful personality, in a land case, when the Court adjourned for lunch. After lunch the cross-examination was resumed.
“Witness, I put it to you that you are drunk.”
“I am not”.
“I am told that you had two whiskies over lunch.”
“That’s a damn lie! I had four gins!”
“Tell me, witness, why do you drink?”
“That is my pleasure”
“But don’t you think it is injurious to your health?”
“I prefer to drink and die!”
At this, the presiding Judge, J. F. A. Soza (later Justice) then Additional District Judge of Galle, quipped, “Today, Greek has met Greek! Please carry on.”
The lawyer’s side in the Galle Law – Medical Cricket Match of 1972 was captained by the then District Judge of Galle (later Justice), J. A. F. Soyza. The doggerel describing him in the Law-Medical souvenir was:
‘Ye medicos beware,
Bat and bowl with care.
He’s the Captain of our team,
And though he’ll not be mean.
He’ll permit the loss
Of only the toss!’
The vice-captain of the team was George Rajapaksa, then a Cabinet Minister. The doggerel describing him was:
Glutton for runs,
Centurion more than once.
At a seminar in Colombo, a legal luminary said that he had once received the gift of a ceramic beer mug and on it was painted the following verse:
“Doctors do little,
Policemen and Analysts
Add to the mess.”
Lawyers are expected to be shrewd and quick of mind. A young man who had just passed the Bar examination was being interviewed for a job by a prestigious law firm. “What would you do” a partner asked, “if a prospective client asked you for advice on a subject you knew nothing about?” “I would tell the client,” the young man replied without hesitation, “Give me a retainer of Rs. 1000.00 and call me in the morning.” He was chosen for the job.
Two friends were taking a balloon ride. Suddenly, the wind dropped and the balloon began to descend rapidly. They saw a man standing in a field. One of them called out to the man: “Where are we?” The man shouted back: “In a balloon.” The questioner turned to his companion in the balloon and said with disgust, “That man is a lawyer.” The friend asked, “How do you know that?”. The other said, “Why? His answer was short, concise, accurate and utterly useless.”
A lawyer and a doctor were attracted to the charming girl-receptionist of the hotel where they dined. One day, before setting off on a one-week vacation, the lawyer presented her seven apples, in keeping with the familiar expression ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’.
Malapropism originated with Mrs. Malaprop, who was a character in one of Sheridan’s plays, who took astounding liberties with the Queen’s English. A client wanted to retain a certain Malaprop for a case, and went to see him one morning at his residence. Since he didn’t have enough to pay the Malaprop’s fee, the client promised to bring the balance in the evening at about five. “No, no,” said Malaprop. “Don’t come at five. At 5.00 I have to go for a murder. Come at 6.30 or 7.00. The shocked client hurried away. Not wishing to have anything to do with the Malaprop after the murder, he visited the man at about four that evening, to find him dressed in spotless white. It was then that it struck him that when the Malaprop said ‘murder’ what he had actually meant was ‘funeral’.
One of our most brilliant criminal lawyers was well known for the stupendous fees he charged.
When the lawyer quoted an astronomical fee, the client nearly fainted and asked him “Why so much sir?” “Well …” said the other, “that includes my junior’s fees as well.” “Sir, is a junior necessary?” “My dear man if my car gets stuck on my way to Court, who is there to push it?”
Justice Barber was the presiding judge at the Kandy Assize sessions. And, an interesting and a controversial case was to be heard before him. His wife, daughters and sons and same nephews and nieces were all present in Court that day to listen to it. The famous Kandy Lawyer, Cox Sproule, who came to Court, saw the judge’s family gathering and exclaimed “My God! Is this a Supreme Court or a barber’s salon!”
A government servant was the accused in a certain case, and when the Magistrate told him that the nature of his offence was such that he would have to remand him for fourteen days, his lawyer got up and said: “Sir, I beg of you not to remand him. My client is holding an important government post and if you remand him, he won’t be able to do the job for 14 days!”