First… Save all the Lawyers
A tip of the hat to those who stand at the gate, guarding the rule of law.
The most often quoted words from the pen of William Shakespeare appear in part 2 of his history play, Henry VI. In scene 2, the character, Jack Cade, a rebel and former officer of Richard, 3rd Duke of York, stages a revolt in order to ascertain if the common people would support York in his anticipated claim to overthrow the king. In the planning of the rebellion, Cade and his henchmen sought to create chaos and disorder as a threat to the social order. In challenging the government order and creating tyranny, the number one obstacle, obviously, would be the prevailing rule of law. Dick, the butcher, realized this fact when he suggested that if the rebellion was to be successful:
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
Believing that Shakespeare was railing against lawyers, the quote is commonly cited to mock the legal profession or to express frustration with the complexity of the law and its interpretation by the courts. Actually, Shakespeare was praising and paying respect to lawyers because of their devotion to the rule of law and an orderly society. The remark of the butcher served as comic relief in response to a boasting Jack Cade, for only lawyers would stand against a tyrannous disregard of human rights.
Although most people give little thought to the role of lawyers in society, their sworn obligation is not only to skillfully represent their clients in legal matters, but also they have a responsibility to society as a whole to obey and defend the constitutions of the United States and the state where they practice and serve and protect the administration of justice. My personal legal heroes have well served the legal profession in Knoxville and in Tennessee and have proven themselves to be outstanding advocates for the rights of their clients. However, importantly, each has fulfilled their duties to the Constitution and to the administration of justice by standing guard at the gates of justice to protect the rule of law that we all might live free and unthreatened by attacks on our government institutions.
Last February, I was reminded of the importance of the legal profession in sustaining a free and orderly society when I attended the Golden Gala sponsored by the Knoxville Bar Association honoring members of the bar who have practiced law for 50 years or more. As I moved about the crowd, I saw many old friends whom I have admired and respected over my years of private practice. Among those being honored were some of my special favorites:
Bernard Bernstein—Bernie founded his firm in 1959 and has represented his individual and business clients in litigation matters, commercial law disputes, real estate matters, and domestic relations cases. He has distinguished himself over the years as a champion of individual rights and has frequently been involved in constitutional issues and the pursuit of civil rights. He has been a community leader for over 60 years. As a business major at U. T., I visited federal court to hear him argue a constitutional case and that experience was instrumental in leading me to law school.
Robert Campbell—Bob Campbell was assigned to mentor me when I was admitted to the Tennessee Bar. He is known and respected throughout the legal community of Tennessee and beyond as an outstanding litigator and defender of national and international clients. Bob has practiced law in Knoxville since 1956. He has been a respected leader, both within the Bar and in the community. Bob knows the law that keeps us a free people and has spent his career maintaining accountability to it.
Louis Woolf—One of the greatest advocates ever produced by the Knoxville Bar and the University of Tennessee College of Law is Lou Woolf. Lou’s practice has been nationwide in scope and focused on litigation involving matters of products liability and environmental law. Although we were often on opposite sides of cases, we have remained friends for over 50 years.
Sidney Gilreath—A top advocate for catastrophically injured clients. Sid has been a true spokesman for the rights of the individual against business and insurance interests. Sid and I practiced together for several years back in the 70’s, and for many years he has been one of our very best courtroom advocates.
Lewis Hagood—A kind and gentle man who has served both labor and business in protecting rights related to employment law. More recently, Lewis has served the bar as a mediator in resolving conflicts between parties. Lewis is a true professional and is admired as such throughout the Bar and the Knoxville community.
Arthur Seymour, Jr.—Arthur was my close friend and law school classmate. He was a masterful representative for people appearing before our Knoxville and Knox County governments. He specialized in fighting the arbitrary exercise of power. Arthur passed away last March shortly after being honored for 50 years of law practice and will be remembered throughout our community as a dapper friend to all.
Richard Hollow—Rick was one of my law instructors when I attended the University of Tennessee College of Law and over the years became Knoxville’s voice for freedom of the press and the public’s right to know. Rick is an authority on matters of invasion of privacy and defamation of character. You can bet he has spent many hours guarding the gates of justice and promoting an orderly and well informed community.
Judge Wheeler Rosenbalm—Judge Rosenbalm taught for many years at the University of Tennessee College of Law, practiced privately for 23 years, and served as Circuit Court Judge of Knox County, Division III. He taught me civil procedure in law school, and I used it for 22 years in his court. The rule of law never had a better friend.
Joseph J. Levitt, Jr.—A solo practitioner for over 50 years, Joe is a constant student of the law. He has represented and protected the constitutional rights of hundreds of citizens accused of crime. Joe is an independent thinker who has devoted his career to protecting the rights of the individual against the establishment.
The Honorable Charles D. Susano, Jr.—Judge Susano practiced general law in Knoxville for 30 years before his appointment to the Tennessee Court of Appeals in 1994. A friend to all lawyers, Judge Susano was the 2017 recipient of the Outstanding Judicial Service Award for extraordinary devotion and dedication to the improvement of the law, our legal system, and the administration of justice. Bingo. I think we’ve found the chief gatekeeper.
Today, we share a world where our democracy is under attack and chaos and disorder are seemingly intentionally produced. The rule of law is disrespected in the highest halls of government and, like Jack Cade’s rebellion, there is a direct threat to social order. For the first time in my life, I feel that our democracy is being threatened from the top and disassembled before our eyes. We are blessed that we have so many lawyers and judges like my friends mentioned above who stand guard at the gate. They have and will continue to protect us against the threats of tyranny just as Shakespeare understood and predicted. Let’s salute our lawyers and the rule of law they protect.