Patterico's Pontifications


Legends of the Law

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 4:36 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

I’d pay good money to listen to the tales told by these two legal legends:

“For octogenarian legal legends Richard “Racehorse” Haynes and Joe Jamail, deciding to stop practicing law would be akin to choosing to stop breathing.

“Stop doing what? This is not work,” said Jamail, the cursing, clever, long-ago-dubbed King of Torts. “This makes you feel like you are worth something. We can still do good for others and do good for ourselves. I would wither and die, truthfully. I need to be somewhere where the light’s on me.”

Haynes, the witty and gentlemanly criminal defense lawyer, recalls the prior generation’s legal master Percy Foreman warning him that the law is a jealous mistress “but they don’t explain that the law is a nymphomaniac.”

Jamail has the biggest notch in his belt by winning the $11 billion Texaco-Pennzoil case (his fee was $400 million), when he had already earned the moniker King of Torts. He’s also infamous among lawyers for a deposition posted on the internet in which he used colorful language with the witness and opposing counsel.

Yet I’ve always been fascinated by Racehorse. His career includes not one but two O.J.-caliber murder cases representing Houston Dr. John Hill and Fort Worth oilman T. Cullen Davis, both of which he won against staggering odds.

If you like larger-than-life characters who happen to be lawyers, read and enjoy the linked article on Joe Jamail and Richard Racehorse Haynes.


  1. Yet I’ve always been fascinated by Racehorse. His career includes not one but two O.J.-caliber murder cases representing Houston Dr. John Hill and Fort Worth oilman T. Cullen Davis, both of which he won against staggering odds.


    DRJ, I don’t want to be obstreperous, but Racehorse didn’t “win” the Dr. Hill trial, although he probably would have. There was a mistrial declared during the prosecution’s case, and Dr. Hill was murdered before his retrial.

    I never thought there was a lot of evidence that Dr. John Hill murdered his wife. There was a lot more evidence that Dr. Hill’s former father-in-law had him (Hill) murdered, but he was never charged.

    Comment by lc (1401be) — 9/9/2007 @ 8:38 am

  2. LC,

    I’ve always thought of that case as a win because Hill was not convicted – despite the evidence, emotion and media glare – but you are entirely correct that Hill was not acquitted. Thanks for the correction.

    Comment by DRJ (2afbca) — 9/9/2007 @ 10:26 am

  3. deciding to stop practicing law would be akin to choosing to stop breathing…

    i stopped practicing law in november, 1995 and i look back on it as one of the best decisions i ever made.

    Comment by assistant devil's advocate (94841c) — 9/9/2007 @ 11:33 am

  4. Joe Jamail made a lot of money, and he’s pretty gneerous with it so long as he gets some credit (which is fine). But’s he’s never had any respect for our system of justice. He speaks to judges and other lawyers with an intent to intimidate. He’s about winning, not about justice. I sure wouldn’t mind that dedication if I were his client, but I find him to be a bit of an embarassment. In most jurisdictions, he’s be thrown in jail for the way he acts. In Texas, it’s ok because of who he is. That speaks poorly for Texas.

    Comment by Dustin (9e390b) — 9/9/2007 @ 11:56 am

  5. Dustin,

    Anyone wants to know all about Joe Jamail, they can find a copy of “the Texaco-Penzoil wars”. The book written about the divving up of Getty Oil to Texaco and Penzoil.

    Did anyone of you know that Jamail is Lebonese, and that one of his cousins was a murdered Prime Minister of Lebanon?

    Comment by PCD (b47ba5) — 9/9/2007 @ 3:14 pm

  6. I was moderately young and conscientious. I had filed a motion to dismiss supported by affidavits and exhibits about thirty pages in total and had personally delivered a courtesy copy to the judge a week in advance of the hearing. He didn’t read it. At the hearing, opposing counsel picked up my thirty pages and threw them over his shoulder saying something like “Your Honor, we can weigh these papers or we can weigh the merits of the case”. He believed in drama. I believed in making a record. I lost that motion but I won the case on the merits.

    I am not on the level of either Haynes or Jamail but I have no regrets for that. I am, however, proud of my profession and very happy in it and highly recommend it to everybody. And it is neither a demanding mistress nor a nymphomaniac — it’s a paycheck you bring home to feed your family with.

    Comment by nk (a6ecc6) — 9/9/2007 @ 7:31 pm

  7. NK,

    Ethically, I wouldn’t be comfortable practicing law the way either of these lawyers have … but I’d still like to hear their stories.

    Comment by DRJ (ce7fcf) — 9/9/2007 @ 8:04 pm

  8. I have nothing against them, DRJ. I simply don’t envy them. If I were to envy anyone it would be Chief Justice Roberts. He is my ideal of a super-lawyer.

    And yes, definitely. I am always willing to listen to and learn from other lawyers.

    Comment by nk (a6ecc6) — 9/9/2007 @ 8:10 pm

  9. That’s interesting. I admire Roberts’ accomplishments and intelligence, and he might even be America’s best lawyer. But I would never want to be like him or live the life he’s lived to get there.

    I just like lawyer stories. Roberts probably has a number of good ones and I bet you, Patterico, WLS, (et al) do, too.

    Comment by DRJ (ce7fcf) — 9/9/2007 @ 8:26 pm

  10. I want to hear yours too, DRJ.

    Comment by nk (0c0cd0) — 9/9/2007 @ 8:37 pm

  11. With the exception of some pro bono criminal appeals I worked on as a young attorney in a big firm, I’ve practiced as a civil law lawyer my whole career so my experiences aren’t going to be used in any John Grisham novels. In fact, the stories I remember the best involve learning a good lesson the hard way, and I remember those stories especially well in the middle of a sleepless night.

    However, I fondly recall several colorful Texas men (and a few women) who did things that gave me fits when I represented them, but I realize in hindsight were innovative, daring, honest, and very special people. Thinking about their stories lets me go to sleep with a smile on my face.

    Comment by DRJ (ce7fcf) — 9/9/2007 @ 9:41 pm

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