Favorite Law Movies: Witness for the Prosecution–An Oldie But a Goodie!

This 1957 courtroom drama is based on a short story, and later a play, by Agatha Christie.  It involves the seasoned barrister and curmudgeon Sir Wilfred Robarts, masterfully played by Charles Laughton.  He takes on the murder defense of Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power).  Robarts’ private nurse (Elsa Lancaster) objects, constantly reminding the barrister of his doctor’s advice to stay away from criminal cases due to ill health. Vole is accused of the murder of a wealthy older woman Mrs. French (Norma Varden) who appeared to have fallen in love with him and changed her will to give Vole the bulk of her large estate.  Circumstantial evidence strongly points to Vole’s involvement.

Vole claims his defense is based on the fact that his wife, Christine (Marlene Dietrich), will testify that he arrived home the evening of the murder long before it occurred.  Robarts, of course, counsels Vole that the testimony of a wife in such a situation will be suspect.  Robarts’ first meeting with Christine leaves him concerned with her demeanor and sincerity.

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Appreciating Our Professors: James D. Ghiardi

My first experience with Professor James D. Ghiardi occurred in the fall of 1960 when I was a first year student at the Marquette Law School. I learned that Jim was my Torts teacher. Prior to that time I had never known any attorney. There were none in my family, and none of my friends had relatives who practiced law. I recall thinking in that first Torts class, if Jim was what being a lawyer was about, I had selected the right form of postgraduate education. He was the kind of lawyer I wanted to be.

At the inception, Jim made it clear to me and my fellow students that he was there not only to help us learn what Torts was all about, but also so that we learned to think, speak, and act like lawyers. We were not there to learn how to be philosophers, economists, sociologists, or political scientists. He also made it clear to all of us that knowing the elements of any particular Tort theory did a lawyer little good if he or she did not know how to prove those elements in court. What I experienced in that class made me want to take Jim’s other courses as well. It was very clear to anyone who cared to observe that Jim loved the law and what he was doing.

But Jim Ghiardi was much more than a law professor. He was and remains a dedicated husband, father, and now grandfather. He has served as President of the State Bar of Wisconsin. Election to that post speaks volumes about the respect he earned from lawyers in the state — even those who were not Marquette alums. He also served as a representative of the State’s bar in the ruling body of the American Bar Association. Jim loves sports, being a Marquette Basketball season ticket holder for as long as I can remember. Up until a few years ago he was also an avid golfer.

Several years after I graduated from the Law School, I felt a great deal of pride after making a presentation at a Wisconsin State Bar meeting. Thereafter, a member of the audience approached me and said that he was one of Jim’s former students. He then said that when he closed his eyes while listening to me he could have sworn that it was Jim making the presentation. High praise indeed.

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Priorities for the Next President: Don’t Change a Thing About Tort and Insurance Law

I am very happy with the state of tort and insurance law. Thus, my message to the new president would be: Don’t change a thing.

I suspect that will be true if a Republican is elected president. If a Democrat is elected, I also suspect there will be little change in tort law brought about by Congressional action, especially when one considers the financial support the organized plaintiffs’ bar is providing to the dems, particularly to their presidential candidate.

However, if the November election results in the continuation of Democrat control of Congress and puts a Democrat in the White House, there could be a significant impact on insurance law. That impact could well be a switch from state to federal regulation of insurance.

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