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Jewish World Review Dec. 6, 2000/ 10 Kislev 5761

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Legal relief: Attorneys in Florida court are welcome shift --
THAT SIGH heard round the world recently was the collectively expressed relief of members of the world's most-maligned profession: lawyers.

Thanks to the admirable performances of attorneys in Judge N. Sanders Sauls' circuit courtroom in Tallahassee - as Sauls ultimately rejected Al Gore's request to overturn George W. Bush's certified victory in Florida - America's legal gladiators are entitled to at least a temporary moratorium on lawyer jokes.

Specifically, the performances of David Boies and Barry Richard, attorneys for Gore and Bush, respectively, were a welcome shift from what we last witnessed as a nation glued to court proceedings during the O.J. Simpson trial.

Not once were either of the presidential candidates' attorneys - or any of a half dozen others who spoke - compelled to rhyme a couplet or to profile for the television cameras. In fact, these focused, articulate gentlemen of the bar seemed unaware that there (ital) were (end ital) cameras in the courtroom.

Lawyers' lawyers, Richard and Boies belong to a breed that once characterized the legal profession, before the dawn of ambulance chasers, personal-injury hounds and Yellow Page hawkers. They're the sort who made mothers hope their children might grow up to be lawyers.

Of course the spinners who tell us what to think during commercial breaks reminded us that the proceedings were "boring." Who wants to know so much about ballot design and voting-machine maintenance? Certain legal analysts made famous during the O.J. doggerel-a-thon explained each lawyer's strategy with the ho-hum attitude of veteran Broadway critics reviewing a community theater production. After trials of sex, murder and DNA, who gives a chad about the quality of rubber? (I'm referring to the Simpson trial, not the Clinton administration.)

We've become so accustomed to news-as-entertainment, we're disappointed when the substance of a particular drama falls short of the musical score that precedes each installment. If Jay Leno can't one-line a day's events, did anything really happen?

Alas, the weekend's court proceedings with Boies and Richard offer little for the parody peddlers. Character, after all, defies caricaturization. The same goes, too, for Sauls, though one TV commentator took a satirical stab at the judge when she described him as coming from "Margaritaville," suggesting that the judge's laid-back manner is a tad slow-paced for the "West Wing" and "Law & Order crowd."

Maybe it's the Florida cracker in me, but I found Sauls' faux slow-take charmingly disarming, just the right foil for anyone tilting toward self-importance. He conveyed in every way what you want a judge to convey: common sense, fairness, civility and, as a bonus, a sense of humor. Sauls made clear that he was neither intimidated by the big-name attorneys before him, nor by the magnitude of the case he had to decide.

He also betrayed none of his own political leanings, though he has been described as a conservative Democrat. None of his questioning, either of lawyers or witnesses, suggested that he will be influenced by personal politics. Which is to say, we feel we can trust him.

To witness our legal system, absent celebrity and the aura of entertainment, has been, if anything, reassuring. Our system surely is imperfect, but the proceedings of the past few days - in a small courtroom in a single county in one state in a large and diverse nation - suggests that we have reason, even in the midst of our national befuddlement, to be proud.

At various points since this undecided election began, Americans have wondered whether we suffer a dearth of heroes. Who, if anyone, might emerge heroic from the detritus of this contested presidential election?

The answer, regardless of who "wins," may well be found in Judge N. Sanders Sauls' courtroom, and the pickings, thankfully, are not slim.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


12/04/00: When rules become flexible, children misbehave
11/29/00: Hard to forgive Dems' divisiveness
11/23/00: The answers aren't so complicated
11/21/00: The devil -- or is it really Nurse Ratchet? -- in Mr. Gore
11/16/00:In the end, the winner may be loser
11/13/00: Eliminate popular vote -- at least in Palm Beach County
11/07/00: Lesser of 2 evils? It's more like the lesser of 2 lies
11/02/00: Latest Jones' saga exposes a big irony
10/31/00: Hate-crime legislation and anti-Bush ad are flawed
10/26/00: Taking it to the streets
10/23/00: Headlines blur fiasco of family
10/13/00: Forget polls: Bush passes turtle test
10/06/00: Feminism: A cup that's half full?
10/04/00: Election-year reality check: Abortion is here to stay
09/29/00: For Gore and Hollywood, the mirror has two faces
09/26/00: Oprahfication of presidential political: It's all about feelings
09/19/00: It's not subliminal: Hypocrisy of moral outrage is obvious
09/15/00: So wear, oh wear, are we headed?
09/11/00: Do Steinem's wedding bells sound feminist death knells?
09/08/00: Grounded in her fears about flying
08/31/00: Dudettes that don't
08/29/00: AlGore wants to be his own man -- does he know who that is?
08/21/00: Dems manufacture emotions at convention
08/17/00: Hollywood divine? AlGore is miscast
08/08/00:Outreach: Good strategy and long-run policy
08/04/00: A sharp look back at the Vietnam War
08/01/00: Bush's choice of grown-up Cheney is a stroke of genius
07/24/00: Fired up and grossed out over stupid Canadians
07/20/00: Lack of judgment --- our critical flaw
07/18/00: 'Progress' for women often a step back
07/11/00: School essay watchdogs cannibalize our children
07/06/00: Youths fear marriage --- blame boomers
06/28/00: Eminem might just have a point
06/21/00: Bridging the day-care divide
06/15/00: N.Y. baby case ends up with multiracial scrambled eggs
05/31/00: The war only time wins
05/25/00: The opposite of sex
05/18/00: World War II gave us our true heroes
05/11/00: Boy Crazy! stacks deck against guys
05/09/00: Finding out where the boys are
05/05/00: A born Ms. Leader -- Barbie for prez
04/25/00: From here to paternity
04/14/00: Boys should be boys, not viewed as criminals in training
04/11/00: Oh, for a standard of what is socially, morally acceptable
04/06/00: Womyn's Contempt for Commitment --- and the bastards it creates
04/04/00: Sue-happy American society is out of control
03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
03/28/00: Stay-home parents know that their kids need them
03/24/00: No 'Great Expectations' when schools shun the classics
03/21/00: It's common sense to restrict Internet usage in libraries
03/17/00: You want to be just a mom? For shame!
03/14/00: Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV
03/10/00: I made a mistake about trigger-locks
03/08/00: After this school shooting, no easy target for our contempt
03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
02/28/00: Nasty politics? Americans like it down, dirty
02/14/00: College testing via Lego-building -- yeah, right
02/02/00: Bubba should spare us phony love theatrics
01/26/00: What sets off Those Who Speak for Women
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01/11/00: Who funds these studies!?
12/29/99: Grandparents' rights impinge on family autonomy
12/13/99: When did fathers become fair game?
12/09/99: Don't be stupid about at-risk kids
12/07/99: Pokemon is no substitute for a father
12/02/99: Blaming the victim --- men
11/30/99: Baby-killer's story has less-than-Precious ending
11/23/99: Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility
11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
11/11/99: Skip the applause for this baby news
11/09/99: Gore could benefit from a secret in Wolf's clothing
11/03/99: Who needs 'birds and bees' when we have MTV?
11/01/99: Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say
10/26/99: Children's needs must take priority in divorce system
10/19/99: The deadbeat dad is less a scoundrel than an object of pity
10/15/99: Bullying boys ... and girls
10/12/99: Divorced dads ready to wage a revolution
10/04/99: A father's best gift? His presence
09/30/99: Sorry, guys, Faludi is no friend of yours
09/28/99: Science's new findings: Scary future for families
09/23/99: The great blurring of need and want
09/21/99:Focus on more than baby's first 3 years
09/16/99: Commentary from kids sheds no light on day-care debate
09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
09/07/99: A slap in the face of domestic violence
09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior
08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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