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Court Potato By Dashka Slater
The First Lady Is on Trial (for murdering her husband) By Christopher Buckley
God Save the Wig By Asha Rangappa
Judge Lee's County By Bill Rankin

The First Lady Is on Trial (for murdering her husband)
By Christopher Buckley
“Shameless” Baylor was, at age not-quite-50, the top trial attorney in the country. He had been the first lawyer to charge $1,000 per hour, which—for too long—had been considered the unbreakable sound barrier of legal billing.

There were half a dozen second-best trial attorneys, each of whom, naturally, considered him- or herself the top trial attorney in the country. But none of them had been simultaneously on the covers of all three newsweeklies. None had been portrayed in a movie by a famous British actor pretending to be American. None owned a professional baseball team. And, to be sure, none had been married and divorced four times. (The previous record had stood at three.) That he had any assets left after this serial marital wreckage was perhaps the greatest testament to his courtroom skills.

He hadn’t been baptized “Shameless.” Up to the moment he’d set out to become the best trial attorney in the country he had been the soul of decency, a veritable poster boy for all that is good and sunny in human nature. His real name was Boyce, and at his baptism, his godparents firmly rejected Satan on his behalf. Still, the nickname had been given to him by a judge early in Boyce’s career, after he had persuaded a jury that his client, the Cap’n Bob Fast Fish Restaurant chain, was unaware that its popular Neptune Burgers were made from whale meat bought on the Japanese black market.

Since that stunning victory, Boyce had successfully defended traitors, terrorists, inside traders, politicians, mobsters, black-mailers, polluters, toxic-waste dumpers, cheats, insurance frauds, drug dealers, horse-dopers, televangelists, hucksters, society wife-batterers, cyber-monopolists, and even fellow lawyers. An eminent legal scholar—he wore bow ties—commented on public television that if “Shameless” Baylor had defended Adolf Eichmann after he had been kidnapped and brought to Israel and tried for crimes against humanity, Eichmann would not only have been acquitted, but awarded damages.


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“Good evening,” said Perri Pettengill, wearing a clingy sweater and trademark eyeglasses, “and welcome to ‘Hard Gavel.’ My guest tonight, one of America’s great trial attorneys, Alan Crudman. Welcome.”

Alan Crudman was in fact a fine attorney, another one of the best, and yet even in his 60s he still carried on like a 25-year-old clamoring to be acknowledged as the smartest boy in class. In law school, it was said of him that he had come out of his mother’s womb with his hand raised. He had won acquittals for some of the most loathsome human beings on the planet. Yet not content to shrug and say that he had simply been upholding the purity of rights guaranteed by the Constitution, he insisted on going the unnecessary further step and proclaiming in front of cameras that his smirking client, shoes still sticky with his victim’s blood, was “totally innocent” and, “really, a terrific human being.”

Even colleagues who hadn’t lost a minute’s sleep in long careers spent defending the dregs of humanity shook their heads in wonder at Alan Crudman’s amazing protesta-
tions on behalf of his clients. Could he really have convinced himself of their innocence? Impossible. Too smart. It had to be more complicated: He had graduated to telling the big, big lies, daring God to challenge him. This fooled no one, but the media ate it up. The T.V. talk shows loved it. It got them callers galore. And Alan Crudman was never too busy to go on television, on any show, to comment about anything at all. If the Weather Channel invited him to go on to discuss the legal implications of a low-pressure system over Nebraska, he’d be there as long as they sent a limo for him. A short man, he demanded big vehicles.


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There are few spectacles more pathetic than a roomful of otherwise responsible people trying to squirm out of a civic duty enshrined in the Magna Carta as one of the signal boons of democracy. On the other hand, who in his right mind wants to serve on a jury?

Empanelling a jury for the Trial of the Millennium was even more daunting. When the prospective jurors entered the courtroom with the downcast shuffle of the damned, most of them took one look at the judge and lawyers and uttered the same silent cry:
Oh, God, no—not this case!

“This is a capital murder case,” the judge began. “Capital means that conviction carries a potential penalty of death. Normally a case like this could take months to try.” Groans came from men and women in expensive suits who looked as though they measured their time in seconds. “But this is not a normal case, so it is difficult to predict. It could take up to one year. It could take more.” Gasps, groans, chests clutched, nitroglycerin tablets downed.

It was easy enough to spot the ones who were horrified at the thought of spending the next year in some ghastly motel with15 of their “peers.” Others positively radiated delight, whether at the thought of becoming part of history or at the prospect of all those lucrative book deals: Juror Number Five: My Story. Film rights to Warner Brothers for seven figures.

A top New York publisher had been quoted in the Times as saying that a book by the first juror to be dismissed would fetch “at least” one million dollars. But a juror who held out against the other jurors, either for or against conviction— that juror, the publisher said, could start pouring the concrete for that dream house.

It was this declaration that led the judge to remark that, once the trial came to an end, he would not accept a hung jury. They would remain in that jury room until they died of starvation, dehydration, ennui, old age, or cannibalism, no matter, but they would render a verdict. He had no intention of putting the country, or himself, through two trials of the millennium.


Christopher Buckley is editor of Forbes FYI and the author of six satirical novels, including the forthcoming No Way To Treat A First Lady (Random House), from which this piece is excerpted.

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