Ryan Slabaugh: I object, your honor, to bad jokes
At a local breakfast this week, after a speaker proclaimed there were really only two attorney jokes in the world, he gave the punch line: The others were all true.
Funny or not, lawyers, if you can forgive the generalization, always seem to laugh last. Buried behind the stories about today’s corruption are the men in expensive suits, brief cases by the dozen, slugging it out for a healthy income by representing, prosecuting and civilizing our playground fights.
And unfortunately, California is well-represented in the recent legal drudgeries, a fertile ground for expensive suits. O.J. Simpson arrived with an entourage of suited law Monday at his trial in Vegas ” we’ll call his latest made-for-TV drama, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas, Unless You’re O.J.” The Juice is being tried for bringing men with guns into a Vegas hotel room so he could recover his own memorabilia, all so his kids can inherit them when he dies. What memories they will surely bring, his attorneys proclaim.
This is an example of one of those “true jokes.”
We also learned this week that, like Vegas, nothing really stays in Washington D.C., despite its reputation for cigar smoke conspiracy. On Monday, a one-time congressional aide to California Congressman John Doolittle, who went on to work with jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff, was arrested for conspiring to bribe government officials.
The indictment accuses Kevin Ring of lying about getting an alleged $135,000 kickback, and both Ring and Doolittle being involved in other scams involving charities. At one point in 2000, Doolittle’s then-chief of staff even said he felt like a “subsidiary” of Abramoff’s lobbying firm.
Where’s the humor? If you read between the lines, an attorney represented by an attorney defeated another attorney, so the other attorney ended up in jail after bribing a non-attorney who said he felt like he worked for another attorney. There’s a true joke in there somewhere.
And one more: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s legal team and the state’s prison guards are squaring off in a classic action thriller, or perhaps better put, inaction thriller.
Instead of harrowing explosions, the scene is set legally between said representatives, as prison guards are upset their governor is trying to decrease their pay and benefits, and are trying to rally a million signatures to create a recall election. A plot that makes you wish for some Hollywood, no?
Yet with all unions and government, more than one clue tells me an attorney might be the ones really at the table. Why? Only one keen to persuasion could arrange this union’s biggest responsibilities ” picking the state’s wardens, the guards’ on-the-job bosses. Ever had a boss you’d like to fire? True joke.
And only a government attorney would tell Schwarzenegger to embrace the recount idea, spend $40 million, and prove to the electorate he has some gusto in him before 2010. To his credit, even Arnold sees the error in this analogy: He’s not the most electable man in the world right now, as the state’s economic woes have only continued to slide since he took office. So the actor-turned-politician’s representation pronounced the recall a “political stunt,” which, as I think about it, is exactly the title for a movie about the prison guard issue (except, if we could, add a bit more firepower).
Guess what? True joke.
To finish, the creme de la creme, the pa-da-da before the curtains close, attorneys, who are (like journalists) often represented in movies by red men with bifurcated tales and pitchforks, also earned their weekly paychecks by arranging the California prison guards’ pay, a truly devilish amount: California Highway Patrol officers’ monthly salaries, minus $666.
It makes you wonder when that offer came on the table, if nobody saw the irony. But then again, compared to O.J. and a weightlifting governor, hell seems a little unneeded, not to mention, a little out of touch. Throw away the pitchfork. Add a mixed up celebrity plus a brief case (and a columnist). Bring hell to Earth. Send out a bill.
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