One of the most misunderstood literary phrases of all time came from Shakespeare's "Henry VI." Shakespeare's character, Dick the Butcher, was a follower of Jack Cade. Cade was the head of an army of rabble who wanted to overthrow the British government so Cade would become king. Dick said to Jack Cade, "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." Cade agreed.
At first glance, those words might seem to reflect today's popular sentiment since lawyer bashing seems to be common sport, except when one needs a lawyer. Yet, Shakespeare was actually giving a great compliment to a profession that is the front line defense of democracy and the protector of our individual rights. Cade and Dick knew that only if they killed all the lawyers, they could destroy the law and impose their own will on the people.
Today, there are many Jack Cades. They are the powerful insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, big banks, chemical manufacturers, and oil companies, all seeking to manipulate the laws for their own financial and political benefit. Despite their presence, the underdog can win. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark Supreme Court case in which the court affirmed the "noble ideal" that everyone is equal under the law because even an indigent criminal defendant has a right to be represented by a lawyer. That case began with a trial lawyer in Bay County, Florida. His name was Fred Turner.
This is also the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, an order that led to freedom for millions. It was delivered by a trial lawyer. His name was Abraham Lincoln. On a daily basis, they fight for equality and justice and to hold the Jack Cades of today accountable. It is a relentless, uphill battle fighting for the individual's rights, but when one person's rights are protected, everyone benefits. A salute to Shakespeare!