The Jury Returns. Louis Nizer. New York: Doubleday & Co. (1966).
I have now read 3 books by Nizer: My Life in Court, Reflections Without Mirrors and The Jury Returns. My sentiment has been the same for each one, that I wish I had had the opportunity to practice with him. He did seem to have a large ego but, if what he reports is true, that ego had a basis. He got results, had significant cases, and had an impact on clients as well as the law. An ethical practitioner, he cared as much for the rule of law as he did about the causes of his clients. The difference between his (apparent) practice philosophy and what I saw early in my career when I was briefly an associate in a law firm is amazing.
In The Jury Returns, Nizer reports on four separate cases. One, that of Paul Crump, details the efforts to save a convicted murderer from the electric chair using the then novel argument of rehabilitation. Crump had murdered a security guard in the process of robbing a company. After a couple of trials (the second trial held after an Illinois appellate court overturned the conviction when the trial court judge’s ruling that cross-examination of a witness’ drug use was impermissible was held improper), Crump was convicted and sentenced to death. Nizer came into the case after being asked to by a number of luminaries, both legal and social. Crump had changed from the angry young man to a model prisoner, wrote a book, and was well liked and respected by inmate and guards alike.
The next discussion was a divorce case which Nizer lost at every level of appeal but, in the end, he managed to obtain a victory for the client (anonymous in the text). He gained the victory by going after the ex-spouse’s assets which had been transferred to the man’s family members (brothers and mother).
The third case involved Fruehauf, he of the trucking and trailer family, who was indicted for having made a loan to a union head allegedly in derogation of such things. It seems the idea is that such loans may be intended to influence union contracts and leadership. In Fruehauf’s instance, he was returning a favor to a union head who had loaned Fruehauf money to fight off a hostile takeover. In both cases, the loans were legit (from the union to Fruehauf and from Fruehauf to the union), and were paid off with interest. In the case in which Fruehauf was indicted, the law had changed after the loan was made but the government chose to indict anyway. The feds lost.
Finally, the case of John Henry Faulk who lost his job and any opportunities to gain other employment due to blacklisting. Faulk was accused of being a communist and the charge was found to be demonstrably untrue. This last case was the longest chapter in the book, some 230 pages, and was actually really interesting and more than a little frustrating – even 40, 50 years later. I won’t detail the trial and what went on but I probably would have lost my temper more than once at what was said and argued.
The book was long and I am again impressed by the elegant if outdated writing style Nizer had. The stories flowed and only rarely was I bored. He explained pretty well fairly complicated legal ideas. Again, I found myself wishing that my legal career was other than it has been. Recommended.