When Good Lawyers Happen to Bad People

Kurt Andersen and Nora Ephron

When Good Lawyers Happen to Bad People

Kurt Andersen and Nora Ephron

When Good Lawyers Happen to Bad People
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Sept. 15 1999 10:48 AM

Kurt Andersen and Nora Ephron

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We are having a hurricane watch in our house, and all activity has halted while we try to figure out whether the weather people know what they're talking about and whether it is safe to use Fed Ex (which flies through Memphis) and whether the contractor for our Long Island house ever fixed the front door that doesn't close. The last time there was a hurricane we were in the house on Long Island, and the police came and actually said the words "Seek higher ground."

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Which brings me to today's Duff-Perelman news: Ms. Duff has hired two new lawyers, bringing the total of lawyers she has employed to 23, and the 22nd of them is the divorce lawyer who argued the custody case in the divorce of the 21st lawyer, who was still on the case this morning, but not for long. I know the 21st lawyer and have watched horrified as he argued that anyone's 5-year-old deserves a $26,000 antique desk, so I hope he has learned something.

Here is a serious thing for a moment: The world is full of women who can't get their husbands to pay child support, and it won't be long before even the ones on food stamps will be attacked by their ex-husbands' lawyers for being as greedy as Patricia Duff.

Lawyers are fascinating things, aren't they? Thomas Puccio, once someone I admired, took the case of that rapist-who-went-on-the-lam from Connecticut, and tried to smear his accuser. And there's Marvyn Kornberg, who (fortunately) lost for his client in the Louima case, but not before he had stood up in court and accused Louima of being sodomized not by his client but by consensual sex in a gay bar. Lawyers always fall back on the time-tested everyone-deserves-a-lawyer thing, everyone-is-entitled-to-a-defense, but the truth is there's no excuse for what these lawyers say in court--for which they never ever even seem to say they're sorry. And just because everyone deserves a lawyer doesn't mean it has to be you. Incidentally, that's another side-effect of the dropping crime rate: fewer criminals, and therefore fewer cases for criminal lawyers. As it is, there's fierce competition among them for the celebrity criminals: You could see it most clearly in the first days after Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered, when virtually every good criminal lawyer was on Court TV auditioning for the gig.

You're right about the police: The criteria for advancement in the department should be changed now that the crime rate has dropped. But I had no idea that you get bonus points for correctly challenging someone at Scrabble.

I think it's interesting you sign off. I almost never do. It's one of the liberating things about e-mail, that you don't quite have to say hello or goodbye.

Today, among other things, I am grateful my name is not Floyd.

Kurt Andersen was architecture critic for Time, co-founder of Spy, and editor of New York magazine. He now writes for The New Yorker, and his best-selling first novel, Turn of the Century, was published in May (click here to buy it). Nora Ephron is a screenwriter and director. Her films include Sleepless in Seattle, Michael and, most recently, You’ve Got Mail.