The First Client

by Irwin Russell

Irwin Russell


John S MITH , a young attorney, just admitted to the bar,
Was solemn and sagacious as — as young attorneys are;
And a frown of deep abstraction held the seizin of his face —
The result of contemplation of the rule in Shelley's Case.

One day in term-time Mr. Smith was sitting in the Court,
When some good men and true of the body of the county did on their oath report,
That heretofore, to wit: upon the second day of May,
A. D. 1877, about the hour of noon, in the county and state aforesaid, one Joseph Scroggs, late of said county, did then and there feloniously take, steal, and carry away

One bay horse, of the value of fifty dollars, more or less
(The same then and there being of the property, goods, and chattels of one Hezekiah Hess),
Contrary to the statute in such case expressly made
And provided, and against the peace and dignity of the state wherein the venue had been laid.

The prisoner, Joseph Scroggs, was then arraigned upon this charge,
And plead not guilty, and of this he threw himself upon the country at large;
And said Joseph being poor, the Court did graciously appoint
Mr. Smith to defend him — much on the same principle that obtains in every charity hospital, where a young medical student is often set to rectify a serious injury to an organ or a joint.
The witnesses seemed prejudiced against poor Mr. Scroggs;
And the district attorney made a thrilling speech in which he told the jury that if they didn't find for the state he reckoned he'd have to " walk their logs. "
Then Mr. Smith arose and made his speech for the defense,
Wherein he quoted Shakspere, Blackstone, Chitty, Archbold, Joaquin Miller, Story, Kent, Tupper, Smedes, and Marshall, and many other writers, and everybody said they " never heerd sich a bust of cloquence. "

And he said: " On this hypothesis, my client must go free; "
And: " Again, on this hypothesis, it's morally impossible that he could be guilty, don't you see? "
And: " Then, on this hypothesis, you really can't convict; " —
And so on, with forty-six more hypotheses, upon none of which, Mr. Smith ably demonstrated, could Scroggs be derelict.
But the jury, never stirring from the box wherein they sat,
Returned a verdict of " guilty " ; and his honor straightway sentenced Scroggs to a three-year term in the penitentiary, and a heavy fine, and the costs on top of that;
And the prisoner, in wild delight, got up and danced and sung;
And when they asked him the reason of this strange behavior, he said: " It's because I got off so easy — for if there'd ha' been a few more of them darned hypothesises , I should certainly have been hung! "

Last updated September 05, 2017