March 27, 1998
As you well know, it is not my style to cast aspersions on any person or profession. I don’t resort to detraction, mock, invective, or vituperation. I avoid taking cheap shots at bureaucrats and politicians, and government at any level. I believe in the golden rule, so if I can’t say something nice about someone, I try to say something not too nasty.
I’ll admit that once in a while I point out, as gently as possible, blunders by governing bodies that are made, no doubt, because they work long hours under intense pressure. It also is my habit to chide, in a friendly manner, officials who have strayed from the fundamental principle that everything should be kept as simple as possible.
I see myself as a man burdened by the problems of parenting and grandparenting, barely able to take the time to look for wrongs and try to right them. But whatever I do, I do without rancor and in the spirit of making the world a better place. As anyone who knows me will tell you, there is not a bitter or hostile bone in my body.
Since all that is true beyond question, how does it happen that I suddenly find myself in the middle of a lawsuit?? Why is my name used in legal papers filed in the District Court of Shawnee County? (the honorable Richard M Smith, assigned.)
Why am I maligned in the pages of this newspaper, held up to ridicule as being less than a fair and square reporter of the passing parade?
The attorney representing another attorney charged by the state with felonious conduct said in a motion for a change of venue that his client can’t get a fair trial here because of prejudicial pretrial publicity.
He says “Anti-lawyer sentiment permeates today’s society, which is exacerbated in Shawnee County by the regular and repeated ‘lawyer bashing’ in a thrice-weekly column which appears in the Topeka Capital Journal, authored by Dick Snider”
The motion continues: “One of Mr. Snider’s latest broadsides against lawyers is contained in the recent (March. 11) issue of the Capital Journal. Although the content is relatively mild, compared to his usually demeaning ‘lawyer jokes,’ the caption nonetheless captures the essence of his opinion, ‘with lawyers and politicians and wind, air may turn fowl.’
“Mr. Snider’s column appears three times a week and seldom fails to contain a disparaging comment about lawyers, and the legal profession.”
There is a footnote to the first paragraph of this excerpt, which says, “one often wonders just what episode in his life soured Mr. Snider on this honorable profession.”
As they say in legalese, comes now yours truly, to make these points in my defense, and you’ll notice I haven’t raised my voice:
- To say I engage in regular and repeated lawyer bashing and that I “seldom fail” to make disparaging comments about lawyers and the legal profession in my thrice-weekly column is, to say the least, a slight exaggeration on the part of the attorney, Charles McAtee.
- Regarding the March 11 column, I didn’t write the headlines. If I did, in that case, I would have written that the air turns foul, not fowl, as McAtee wrote in the brief.
- Also regarding that column, it was about corporate hog farming in Utah, and had one reference to a lawyer. It said a lawyer employed by a hog farm helped write some legislation. If that’s bashing, neither the basher or the bashee would be aware of it.
- As to what episode in my life soured me on lawyers, I can say only that lawyers told me lawyer jokes and I printed them. And the more I printed the more they told me, and sent me, and readers did the same. Lawyers started me on this sinful path, and every time I tried to quit, they contribute another joke. On my own, I confess to an occasional shot at lawyers and the profession in general. Readers tell me I don’t do it often enough.
- What I never have printed are hilarious true stories about local lawyers, told to me by local lawyers. The stories aren’t flattering to the lawyers or the profession.
- McAtee is a friend, I think, and I’ve owed him a big favor for almost 40 years, going back to the days when he was a young attorney in the statehouse. Maybe if my bashing columns helped win him a change of venue, I can call it even.
To that end, I will repeat my favorite lawyer joke. Two little boys are talking and the conversation goes like this:
“My daddy is a lawyer.”
“No, he’s just a regular lawyer.”
(Told to me by a retired local lawyer and former judge.)