“A Tail Isn’t a Leg” Analogy – Saying its So, Doesn’t Make It So

Ever have an attorney argue a question of law or fact which just was not so. Some people believe if they say something loud and frequently enough, it makes it so. Abraham Lincoln had a pretty clever way of dealing with such tactics.

On one occasion, Abraham Lincoln, as a young trial lawyer in Illinois, was arguing a case with a lawyer whose version of the facts came more from the attorney’s fervent imagination than the testimony and evidence before the Court. Lincoln in his argument turned to the other lawyer and eviscerated him through a series of questions and answers:

“Tell me, sir, how many legs does a calf have?”

“Well, four, of course,” he answered. ”

And if I call a tail a leg, how many legs would that calf have?”

And the answer came back: “He’d have five.”

Abraham Lincoln slammed down his hand on the jury box and roared “No! He’d still have four.

Just because you call a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

So now let’s see how many tails, you have been calling legs in this case.


About Richard A. Cook

Richard Cook graduated from Purdue University in the Economics Honor Program in 1979 and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1982. Following law school, Richard served as a federal law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. In 1984, Richard began working as Deputy Prosecutor for the Lake County Prosecutor's Office and from there, served as Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. There he handled a number of complex criminal matters and jury trials. While there, Richard received the Chief Postal Inspector's Special Award and a letter of commendation from the U.S. Attorney General for his work prosecuting a major money order fraud scheme being perpetrated out of the Indiana State Prison system. Since leaving the U.S. Attorney's office in 1989, Richard has focused primarily on civil work and is currently a member of the firm Yosha Cook & Tisch in Indianapolis. Richard is also a member of the ITLA, IBA and the ABA, as well as, a fellow for the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

Posted on May 7, 2013, in closing arguments and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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