Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

James T. Brady
An Anecdote


L.J. Bigelow, Bench and Bar: A Complete Digest of the
Wit, Humor, Asperities, and Amenities of the Law

(New York: Harper & Brothers, 1871)

It is related that Mr. James T. Brady was employed to argue a doubtful case in the Supreme Court of the State of New York while Greene C. Bronson was the chief justice. He felt doubtful as to being able to succeed even in getting the justices to take the case for consideration. The plaintiff had been nonsuited in the former trials of the case for a reason which was apparent—he had "rested" too soon, stopped short in his proof, but whether from necessity or inadvertence was not disclosed by the testimony. Mr. Brady proceeded to state the facts, and , in commenting upon the incidents of the trial, said, "And hereupon the plaintiff rested."

"Rested, sir," said Chief Justice Bronson, who had been grasping the case with avidity, and saw the defect which Mr. Brady apprehended would be fatal, "rested, sir; why did he rest?"

Mr. Brady, with that peculiar involuntary movement or shrug which is often the avant courier of a good thing, with great self-possession, but apparently feeling in his neckcloth for the lost Pleiad, said,

"If your honors please, that question has given me much anxiety. I have devoted nearly two weeks to a search for the reason why, at so early and inconvenient a period in this controversy, the plaintiff rested, and I have at last arrived at the conclusion, and it is, in my judgment, the only one that can be sustained on principle and authority, that he must have been very much fatigued!"

It is needless to say that the papers were not taken nor the judgment reserved.
On another occasion, Mr. Brady had a case equally defective, and so very lame that he gave his client to understand that it could not be gained. The client insisted on trying it, and Mr. Brady devoted his best talent to making the best show he could. The case was ably put on the other side, and was so plain that the judge, who had made up his mind, rather indicated it by several rulings entirely favorable to the opposite side. Mr. Brady was seeking for an opportunity for covering his retreat from his untenable positions, and on some ruling of the judge highly favorable to his opponent, he blandly inquired, "May it please your honor, who's engaged on the other side of this case besides the judge?"

Mr. Brady was on another occasion engaged in another and more interesting case, in which the testimony was nicely balanced, and it required an effort to succeed. He was the defendant's counsel, and was addressing the jury with great earnestness. Becoming violent in his tone and gesture, a dog, the fond companion of a juror, and hitherto lying in blissful secrecy and security under the juror's bench, alarmed at the unusual performance, suddenly appeared and barked at the orator. As quick as a flash the speaker turned upon the intruder, and with appropriate gesticulation exclaimed,

"I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my mouth let no dog bark."

That flight of fancy won the jury and carried the case.