The Biblical Lawyer or Tales from Yankee Lawyer, The Autobiography of Ephraim Tutt

This post is to explain the nature and derivation of a series of stories I am going to be posting over the next few weeks.  The origin of the stories is a book called Yankee Lawyer which says it is an autobiography of Ephraim Tutt a prominent New York trial lawyer.  As it turns out the book was not written by Ephraim Tutt as Ephraim Tutt never existed.  It was written by a Harvard educated lawyer named Arthur Train.  Mr. Train was a 1940s John Grissom type who published stories about Ephraim Tutt in Harper’s Weekly among other publications.

I read Yankee Lawyer as a young lad and it was partially responsible for my decision  to become a lawyer.  I first read the book when I was eight or nine years old and much of the legalese was lost on me at that time.   I first discovered the book in my grandmother’s library which is not remarkable except that my Grandmother was a true southern lady and daughter of the confederacy and it was strange to me that she would have a book with such a title.  I never found out why she had it and failed to press her on the subject.  So that mystery remains unsolved.

Upon my grandmother’s death the book passed into the hands of my mother, unbeknownst to me and I then came into possession of it at my mother’s death.  I guess it will pass to my daughter or my son upon my death.  Once it came into my possession I re-read it and found it even more enjoyable as now I had been engaged in the practice law in one form or another for over forty years.  I am now able to appreciate the manner in which Tutt deftly handled his cases and the legalese actually makes perfect sense.  And, after having been an Episcopal Lay Reader for about the same number of years as I have been a practicing lawyer the use of biblical passages made perfect sense also.

The book contains a number of very clever stories laced with homespun humor, a bit of legal doctrines, legal history, and some application of biblical passages.

The first post will relate a tale concerning how Tutt resolved a case involving a dentist who pulled the wrong tooth.  The patient, a gigantic farmer, was resolved to apply the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” doctrine of the book of Leviticus to obtain justice.  The dentist, of course, found that solution totally unacceptable. Tutt was able to take the “eye for an eye” doctrine and expand it in such a way so as to render a harmless solution to the problem. It was a solution which was acceptable to everyone with no mayhem involved. Praise the Lord!  This story illustrates a role played by lawyers which is rarely publicized, that being the role of conciliator or mediator who seeks to find common ground thereby finding  an acceptable resolution for both parties and avoiding the necessity of litigation.

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