Famous Attorneys: Lawyers Who Represented Famous People


Famous Attorneys: Lawyers Who Represented Famous People

Laws are the boundaries that we set for ourselves, to define the parameters of right and wrong. In essence, laws are the guidelines that tell us what it is that we must do. There is much debate over the exact definition of a law. Some people believe that it is something like an ethical code, a set of instructions that tell us how we should act. Others feel that it is nothing more than a contract between individuals. Still others would prefer to see it as nothing more than the mechanism that permits some things to happen and prevents others from happening.

Jurisprudence is a body of law that judges cases that fall under the category of criminal law. Criminal law is the area of the courts that deal primarily with the punishment inflicted upon those who are convicted of crimes. In the United States, there are twelve common law jurisdictions plus the District of Columbia which each have their own unique jurisdiction. Under common law jurisdictions, there are seven types of crimes: murder, manslaughter, arson, assault, disorderly conduct, burglary and homicide. In addition, there are other types of crimes not included in the above categories that fall under the jurisdictions of criminal law.

The states that use the most amount of common law in their criminal law systems are Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Maryland. As one might suspect, these states all highly influence the laws and criminal justice processes within their respective borders. For instance, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court often reviews lower court cases, and in turn, defers to the outcome of what is known as “Lyles v. New York.” This landmark case was won by the plaintiff in this case, David Liebeck who was arrested and convicted of killing his neighbor, David Lyle.

Most significantly, throughout much of the history of the United States, the federal government and state governments have been extremely powerful influences in shaping and passing laws and related issues through the legislative process. This is primarily due to the role of both the federal government and state governments in controlling interstate commerce and enforcement of immigration laws. Federal criminal law is vastly different from state and local criminal law. Consequently, many times civil rights lawyers who work on state and local cases are not fully prepared or knowledgeable about federal criminal law. Many times, those who are experienced with federal civil law are better equipped to handle federal criminal law cases.

One glaring example of an area where Liebeck’s expertise and knowledge were vital in the case was the issue of whether or not the police officer had properly executed a traffic stop in violation of the relevant statute of the time. As Liebeck’s expert and opinion testimony demonstrated, the violations consisted of failing to signal when turning in an intersection, not informing the driver of the fact that he had made a previously reckless turn, and failure to inform the driver that a red light had turned green. Ultimately, a three-judge majority ruled in favor of the drivers suing Liebeck for their injuries and pain and suffering, and Liebeck was awarded a large sum of money in compensation.

In addition to the above example, Liebeck has also been an important and influential voice in defending civil rights cases that have been ruled against employers, including the famous Stokes case. In this case, an arbitrator ordered Wal-Mart to pay $1.75 million to an injured employee who became pregnant while working at the store. Liebeck again proved invaluable in the defense of this case, as he repeatedly argued that the company had a legal duty to allow the woman to continue her pregnancy, despite the fact that it caused her injury. He also represented the woman in the case, which led to a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Liebeck was also one of the attorneys who successfully represented the widow of Martin Luther King, convincing the Court that her wrongful death suit against the drug manufacturer was actually a civil rights violation. In some regards, his focus on civil rights cases may be more limited than others, but his name remains on the bookshelf alongside other noted civil rights attorneys such as William Pepper and Anthony Kennedy.