Friday, February 27, 2009

Is It Improper for a Lawyer to Perform Magic Tricks for a Jury? reports today that in a motion in limine in a case called Blash v. ABA Construction Group, the plaintiff's lawyers begged the judge to forbid their opponent, Steven G. Leventhal from performing magic tricks for the jury. The motion argued that a lawyer performing magic tricks is "highly prejudicial, confusing, misleading for the jury" and has "absolutely nothing to do with the substantive issues."

Although Leventhal conceded in his brief that he does perform magic tricks regularly in trials, during his opening and closing speeches, he insisted that there's nothing wrong with doing so. He said he has been doing magic for decades as a trial lawyer and that his illusions are designed to illuminate his arguments. Most often, he said, the tricks accompany portions of his closing that accuse the other side of hiding the truth or trying to use smoke and mirrors to create a false reality. In one trick, Leventhal, who works exclusively for defendants, said he slowly folds a $1 bill while explaining to the jury that the parts of the plaintiff's case just don't tie together. When he unfolds the bill, he said, the astonished jury sees a bizarre bill that appears to have been cut apart and pasted together the wrong way, with the corners in the middle. In another trick, Leventhal said, the slowly folded $1 bill is revealed to be a $100 bill and then, to the jury's collective amazement, changes back to a $1 bill. Go here for the full story.

According to Model Rule 3.4(e) a lawyer shall not allude to any matter the lawyer does not reasonably believe is relevant or that will not be supported by admissible evidence, assert personal knowledge of facts in issue, state a personal opinion as to the justness of cause, the credibility of a witness or the culpability of a party. According to Rule 3.5, the lawyer shal not seek to influence a judge or juror by means prohibited by law.

Would the lawyer violate any of these rules by performing the tricks described above?

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