Food & Drink

Lesson #18,330,424 from the Conrad Black trial: Simplify

For as long as he remains a guest of the United States—and perhaps right to the gates of Paradise—I suspect Conrad Black will hear ringing in his ears the following exchange between Judge Richard Posner and Andrew Frey recorded at Black’s oral appeal to the Seventh Circuit (I’ve edited the exchange for the purposes of clarity):

Posner: What’s your view of the following hypothetical situation—really simple: Suppose you were owed a hundred dollars by your law firm and you were having a lot of trouble getting the money from them and they were haggling over [it] and so on. So you just went to the petty cash and helped yourself to a hundred dollars—you know, pocketed it. And, actually, you were owed it and they were horsing you around. Would that be a breach of fiduciary duty to your firm? Frey: Well it might or might not be a breach of fiduciary duty…Posner: Yes or no? Frey: I think that’s a difficult question… What is clear…Posner: (interrupting and laughing) I think it’s pretty obvious, actually.

In two sentences, Justice Richard Posner boils Black’s felony down to its essence (and makes mincemeat of a leading appellate lawyer in the bargain). An ongoing civil and criminal case costing the parties and their attendants in the hundreds of millions of dollars over years and years and this guy gets it in less than a hundred words. Here endeth the lesson.

• Judges appear cool to Black appeal [Chicago Tribune]


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