Legal Thrillers and Rough Justice

legal thrillers

By Paul Levine

In legal thrillers, rough justice is better than none at all. To explain, let’s start with a quote from my favorite fictional lawyer.

“We eat what we kill. Hey, they don’t call us sharks for our ability to swim.” – Jake Lassiter

It’s been twenty-five years since Jake Lassiter uttered those words in TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD, the first of my series of legal thrillers featuring the linebacker-turned-lawyer.

Now, Lassiter defends Steve Solomon, who’s accused of killing a South Beach nightclub owner. To win the case, Lassiter must find a missing bar-girl, battle Russian gangsters, and avoid being indicted himself. Complicating everything: he thinks his client is lying…and he’s falling for the client’s lover, Victoria Lord.

That’s the setup for the latest of my legal thrillers, BUM RAP, which hit number one in the Amazon Kindle Store in July.

The new novel gives readers a chance to see how Lassiter has developed over the years. In the past, despite all his grumbling about ungrateful clients and lousy judges, he remained an optimist:

“If your cause is just, no case is impossible.” – LAST CHANCE LASSITER

Yet, he rejects the lofty language on the sign in the courtroom: “We Who Labor Here Seek Only the Truth.”

“There ought to be a footnote: subject to the truth being ignored by lying witnesses, concealed by sleazy lawyers, excluded by inept judges, and overlooked by lazy jurors.” – NIGHT VISION

Legal Thrillers: The Games Lawyers Play

He knows the games lawyers play, in and out of court:

“A good lawyer is part con man, part priest…promising riches if you pay the fee, damnation if you don’t.” – STATE vs. LASSITER

He turns down cases, even when he needs the money:

“I could have used the work, but I prefer cases I believe in. Best is to have a client you like, a cause that’s just, and a check that doesn’t bounce. Two out of three and you’re ahead of the game.” – FLESH & BONES

legal thrillers bum rap
The latest of the Jake Lassiter legal thrillers.

He looks for loopholes in the Canons of Ethics:

“I won’t lie to a judge, bribe a cop, or sleep with a client’s wife…unless I knew her first.” – MORTAL SIN

That noted writer of legal thrillers, William Shakespeare famously penned: “What’s past is prologue.” (I consider “The Merchant of Venice” one of the early legal thrillers. Talk about rough justice!)

Lassiter’s view is a little more earthy:

“Our past clings to us like mud on rusty cleats.” – BUM RAP

Against all odds, Lassiter still believes in justice, or at least, his version of it:

“Justice is the North Star, the burning bush, the holy virgin. It cannot be bought, sold, or mass produced. Justice is intangible and invisible, but if you are to spend your life in its pursuit, it is best to believe that it exists. When you fail, fight for the next best thing. Rough justice is better than none at all.”LASSITER

Legal Thrillers: Rough Justice Isn’t Pretty

So just what is rough justice? Pretty much, the ends justify the means. A murderer beats the rap but takes the fall for a crime he didn’t commit. Or vigilante justice or personal retribution. Hey, I didn’t say rough justice was pretty.

This is the key to Lassiter’s character in all eleven of his legal thrillers. He believes in the overriding importance of the quest for justice. He will work outside the law to obtain a just result, or some close approximation. Twenty-five years after starting the quest, he’s still hard at work on the job.

(BUM RAP is available in e-book, print, and audio, and all of the Lassiter legal thrillers can be found on Paul Levine’s AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE. Kindle Unlimited members read FREE. Just a few bucks for everyone else. Kindle Unlimited is now available in USA, UK, Canada, Mexico, India, Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, and Japan).

Jake Lassiter: Flirting with Disbarment

Jake Lassiter faces disbarment in “Last Chance Lassiter,” the prequel to the ten-book series featuring the Miami Dolphins linebacker turned trouble-prone lawyer. In the novella, a young Lassiter – a few years out of night law school – slugs a client. Why? The transcript of his Bar Disciplinary Hearing answers the question, as he spars with the judge assigned to his case.

************************************************************************************

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA

THE FLORIDA BAR, Case Number SC-14-238
Petitioner

vs.

JAKE LASSITER,
Respondent

TRANSCRIPT OF BAR DISCIPLINARY HEARING

**************************************************************************************

JUDGE BUCKSTROM: Apparently, Mr. Lassiter, you have a propensity for violence.

JAKE LASSITER: Not really, Your Honor. The only time I was arrested, it was a case of mistaken identity.

Q: How’s that?

A: I didn’t know the guy I hit was a cop.

Q: But in this case, Mr. Lassiter, you have admitted striking your own client.

A: Technically, he wasn’t my client. It was our first meeting, and I hadn’t agreed to represent him.

Q: So why did you hit him?

A: He came at me with a baseball bat from the collection on my office wall. Barry Bonds. Mark McGuire. Alex Rodriguez.

Q: You collect from any players who didn’t break the rules?

A: Innocent until proven juiced, Your Honor.

Flirting with Disbarment
Jake flirts with disbarment in “Last Chance Lassiter.”

Q: So your testimony is…your prospective client attacked you with your own bat?

A: Under Florida’s stand-your-ground law, I could have shot him with a machine gun.

Q: The complainant swears you hauled off and slugged him without provocation.

A: So he’s a liar in addition to being a wife beater.

Q. Now, hold on, Mr. Lassiter.

A: He was charged with spousal abuse and wanted me to suborn perjury. Specifically, he said–

Q: Stop right there! That’s hearsay.

A: I thought this was an informal proceeding.

Q: My report to the Florida Supreme Court is damn formal, pardon my French. And you, sir, are flirting with disbarment.

A: (inaudible)

Q: Did you just laugh, Mr. Lassiter?

A: Sorry, Your Honor. Flirting with Disbarment. Sounds like my life story.

Q: Indeed. I’ve reviewed the litany of Bar Complaints against you. Are you familiar with Florida Bar Rule Seven-D?

A: Not really, but if it’s only number seven, how important can it be?

Q: What!

A: Like in the Ten Commandments. Number seven outlaws adultery. No biggie, if you look at the statistics.

Q: Mr. Lassiter, Rule Seven-D states that “Lawyers must comport themselves with dignity.”

A: Sounds like a slap-on-the-wrist offense. Can I plead nolo and get a sternly worded letter from Tallahassee?

Q: Assault and battery is a felony, and a felony is a disbarable offense.

A: Disbarable? Is that even a word?

Q: That’s enough! Your flippancy will be noted.

A: Now, flippancy is definitely a word. But a funny one. No way can you say flippancy and not smile.

Q: What about the word disbarment? Want to crack wise about that one? Disbarment! Disbarment! Disbarment!

A: I get your point, Judge. I just do things my own way.

Q: If you don’t follow the Ethical Rules, just how do you go about practicing law?

A: I look for a cause that’s just, a client I like, and a check that doesn’t bounce.

Q: How’s that working for you?

A: I seldom win the trifecta.

Q: I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. Do you have any remorse? Do you regret striking your client? Your prospective client.

A: My Granny taught me that any man who hits a woman is a low-life scumsucker, and if I were ever to see such a thing, I should put a stop to it. Well, I couldn’t stop this bastard, so I just called him a bully and a coward who doubted his own manhood, a pussycat pretending to be a tiger. He’d been admiring the Barry Bonds black maple bat. I was hoping he’d come at me with it. When he did, he swung more like Barry Manilow than Barry Bonds. I ducked and caught him with a left jab to the jaw followed by a right hook to the gut. He tossed his cookies on my loafers.

A: So you have no regrets about this violent incident, which could lead to your disbarment?

Q: Sure, I do, Your Honor. I regret getting caught.

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“Last Chance Lassiter” is available in paperback and as an ebook from Amazon. More information on the Jake Lassiter Series Pages.