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When I first went to law school, I started to pay attention to some of the Supreme Court justices, and I was drawn towards Frankfurter and Louis Brandeis. Brandeis was a magnificent intellect and his compassion came through in his opinions. His use of the English language was so magical that I often sought out his opinions just to read the language, not even paying attention to which side of a particular issue he fell on.
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
"The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zealâ€”â€” well meaning but without understanding."
We were very lucky to have been exposed to great intellects such as Brandeis, Holmes, and Frankfurter and to have enjoyed their repartee with each other, because they didn't always agree. I also enjoyed their opinions because their full use of the English language. I saw their potential in expressing sometimes nuanced and difficult points of view. In my practice, I have been able to observe great lawyers, in particular, Melvin Belli. Belli was a multifaceted man and I am typically drawn toward people who are multifaceted. He had many great interests and he handled many different types of cases. Belli was known as much for his out-of-court nature and interests as he was for his in-court charisma. For example, he had a magnificent building in San Francisco, which is now a museum, and he owned the Hope Diamond. He was a collector and preserver of wonderful, beautiful artifacts. And many would see this as just simply material, but it was really just an interest in his multifaceted life. And that's why I was drawn to Belli. When I break a record, as I have done in Glendale, Ventura County, Orange County and the United States in my last case, I have often thought of others who were trailblazing, such as Belli. Gerry Spence is a towering figure in our profession and very different than Belli, but I read his books while I was in college, which encouraged me to go to law school, and then I continued to read them as I faltered in law school. Spence talked about the fact that high achievement in law school was in no way connected to success in the profession. In fact, he pointed out something that I truly believe: most of the great individuals who could have made wonderful contributions to our profession have been weeded out by the educational process. Most people with active minds aren't simply going to do something because they were told to do it. These people were weeded out. But think about it; those are just the kind of people the law needs because they didn't do the assignment because they were told to do it, they would only do it if it was interesting to them or they saw some worth in it. Now I recognize that's not always a good way to proceed; in fact, it certainly is a way to restrict your full achievement in school. But on the other hand, those are the kinds of people that would be able to relate to the everyday person and fascinate them and get their imagination going. It's a wonderful testament that someone with Gerry Spenceâ€™s character can thrive and get to the top of our game, and I have tried, in his footsteps, to do similarly.