Monday, July 31, 2006

Oh joy! I have found "The First Rumpole Omnibus" at the library. I enjoyed much the second and third Rumpole omnibi so finding the first is good.

They are collections of short stories by John Mortimer, a British lawyer, based on episodes of the Rumpole of the Bailey TV show, on PBS in the USA.

I cannot stand to watch the show because the main character grates on me. But reading his accounts of his cases I enjoy.

There isn't any of that fictional defense lawyer thing where all his clients are innocent, a la Perry Mason. He makes it clear he depends on the Timson family of small time criminals for support, though he only tells us in detail about Timson cases (rarity is implied) where they are factually innocent.

He mostly talks about more interesting cases than the Timsons and people who are factually innocent and found innocent, though there is one case where the post-trial ending makes it clear that Rumpole has successfully defending a respectable looking serial murderer. Maybe stuff like that is why he drinks so much.

On the page I enjoy him and how much he enjoys his work. His story is he hates the law and loves performing in the courtroom

Having read more than half of all Rumpole stories I should maybe give the TV show a second chance.

It was interesting to be that when I was in jury selection for a criminal trial, the lawyer annoyed me in almost exactly the same way that Rumpole annoys me on TV.

Big baby. Big baby wants attention. But hey, if you can find a societal use for that, I guess it's all to the good. I mean, you gotta have criminal defense lawyers and if part of the pay off for them is making points of law to get attention like baby hitting his spoon on the high chair tray to get attention, it works, really, for everyone.

"Presumption of innocence is the golden thread that runs through British justice." I though Rumpole said that all the time, and I agree, and think it's also golden in US justice.

**So it's interesting that in the first collection of Rumpole stories, "Rumpole of the Bailey" which I have now read after reading dozens of later stories, he never says that.

One reason is probably that the author, John Mortimer, hadn't thought of having Rumpole say that yet.

Another reason, I think, is that Mortimer was in a different mood when he wrote the first stories--a little more looking at the down side.

In the first series of stories, Rumpole defends a man charged with rape and attacks the woman on the stand, having found out varous things about her, like that she's been treated for mental illness.

The man is found guilty anyway (I think that is Mortimer intervening to make himself feel better) because he doesn't do very well on the stand. Here the good news is that Rumpole's client is found guilty, making it different than a lot of lawyer stories.

We the readers never know if it was rape. They did have sex. British law at that time was that rape depended on the man's intent. (Wonder if that has changed.) The wishy washy in daily life, frustrated, respectable charged rapist can't be strong about anything, including what his intent was. So we never know if it was rape in anybody's sense.

But we are reminded of unappealing things defense attorneys do.