On the Horns of a Dilemma: Clarence Darrow and the McNamara Case
A master of the courtroom stage who possessed an uncanny understanding of human character, Clarence Darrow was arguably the greatest trial lawyer of the twentieth century. An adamant opponent of capital punishment and a passionate proponent of civil and human rights, he was often called the "Attorney for the Damned" because he fought for the underdog and took on criminal cases thought to be hopeless. Yet, while commanding respect as a trial lawyer, Darrow was often embroiled in bitter controversy for his unpopular stands on many issues and criticized for his purported unethical professional behavior.
ON THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA: Clarence Darrow and the McNamara Case explores one highly publicized case in the life of one of last century's greatest trial lawyers ... The McNamara Brothers trial in the aftermath of the bombing of the Los Angeles Times Building in 1910. The term “dilemma” originates from the Greek and means “two premises,” which may be likened to the front end of an angry and charging bull. It refers to a situation where one is confronted with making a decision based on two options, the results or consequences of either decision having equally unpleasant results. No matter what decision is made, the outcome is unfavorable ... “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” This predicament is the essence of Greek Tragedy.
The McNamara case involved a great loss of human life in what we would now likely characterize as domestic “terrorism.” The case played out in a politically charged atmosphere. It was a violent fight between the unions and the company’s management and corruption ran deep on both sides. After saving his clients from the gallows, Darrow himself was brought up on charges of jury tampering. He was acquitted of the charges, but he lost his law practice and partners, his credibility and almost his liberty. There is still much controversy about his guilt or innocence. But at the age of fifty-one, Darrow experienced a kind of transformation and the next thirty years brought him his greatest cases.
The scene explores Clarence Darrow's personal convictions, thoughts and summation in the case, illustrating issues that are as relevant in present times as they were in Darrow's. It provokes thought about reconciling conflicts between personal values and professional responsibilities and about dilemmas for which there are often no easy answers or rules to fall back on. It provides a tool to facilitate discussion and thought about these issues as they may relate to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
GRAHAM THATCHER was the Artistic Director and primary performer for Periaktos Productions. Over his lifetime he performed in or directed over 250 community, university and professional theatre productions. He co-authored Clarence Darrow: Crimes, Causes and the Courtroom, Maxims, Monarchy and Sir Thomas More and Impeach Justice Douglas! and performed in the leading roles in those CLE Theatre programs. He also coauthored and directed Thurgood Marshall’s Coming!
Graham Thatcher also served as a workshop facilitator and consultant in communications and was the creator and facilitator of “Word of Mouth: A Workshop in the Art and Ethics of Oral Communication for Lawyers” and “The Art of the Law: A Workshop in Professionalism for Lawyers,” which he presented for numerous law schools and bar associations. He held a B.A. from San Francisco State University, an M.A. in Theatre from the University of South Dakota and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota.
He was listed in Who's Who in American Education and Outstanding American Educators and was a recipient of the Governor's Award from the Minnesota Council on Quality. Graham was named "National Presenter of the Year for 2006" by the New Mexico Bar Foundation and received the Rushmore Honors Award in the Arts from the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce in 2007.
He passed away in May of 2018, leaving a decades long legacy in both the performing arts and Continuing Legal Education.
BRIAN T. GUTHRIE, ESQ. is Of Counsel with Mattioni, LTD in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With nearly forty years experience at the Pennsylvania bar, Mr. Guthrie’s practice includes assisting lawyers and law firms achieve success in a setting mindful of the tradition of the law as a learned profession. He believes lawyers can attain professional fulfillment by synthesizing several dimensions in which they work every day.
“Competence” and “integrity” are easily mouthed as platitudes, but a refined understanding of what they are and how they are achieved makes for a law practice that is personally satisfying. It also provides a competitive advantage when vying for a limited number of clients with what often seems to be a limitless supply of lawyers. He believes that the skill development that comes with a true understanding of what it is that lawyers actually do, together with a firm grasp of the relevant ethical considerations is not only personally rewarding, but also makes good business sense.
Mr. Guthrie has worked in numerous areas of the law and achieved the coveted highest peer rating awarded by a major law publisher. His professional experiences include partnership in a major law firm, acting as senior in-house counsel to a Fortune 500 Company, representing a major city and working in a small law firm. His litigation experience includes representation in both state and federal courts throughout the United States and includes jury trials, arbitrations and appellate matters.
He is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the First and Third Circuits, the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Eastern District of Tennessee. Mr. Guthrie has also represented clients in state courts in Illinois, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota and Tennessee. Mr. Guthrie holds a B.B.A. from Temple University and a J.D. from the James Beasley School of Law - also at Temple University in Philadelphia. Mr. Guthrie is listed in Philadelphia’s Top Lawyers: The Definitive Guide to Legal Representation in Philadelphia.
JOHN M. STUART was the Minnesota State Public Defender from 1990 to 2014, supervising a state public defense system in which 700 lawyers and support staff represent 175,000 clients a year. Prior to that he was a trial court public defender for 12 years. Stuart has served as Co-Chair of the American Council of Chief Defenders and taught at the National Defender Leadership Institute. In Minnesota, he has worked on numerous statewide task forces dealing with racial fairness, drug and sex offender sentencing, child welfare and juvenile justice. He holds a B. A. from Haverford College (Haverford, PA) and a J.D from the State University of New York Law School at Buffalo, where he was a volunteer law clerk for the Attica Brothers Legal Defense. Stuart retired in 2014 and is still active in the justice system, continuing to work on creating more drug courts and treatment programs for nonviolent offenders as an alternative to jail time.
BARRY R. VICKREY served as Dean of the University of South Dakota School of Law (Vermillion, SD) from 1993 to 2011 and then served as a full-time professor until his retirement in 2016. He taught legal ethics throughout his career in legal education.
Prior to his tenure at USD, he was on the faculty of the University of North Dakota School of Law for eleven years, including five years as Associate Dean. He was on the staff of the American Bar Association for five years, serving as assistant to the president elect president and as Director of the Division of Professional Education.
Between college and law school, he was a staff aide on the Policy Planning Staff of the Governor of Tennessee. Barry lived in Tennessee for most of his early life and is admitted to the practice of law in Tennessee and South Dakota.
He holds a B.A. in history and a J.D. from Vanderbilt University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. His wife, Mary Green Vickrey, is a singer-songwriter and music educator who holds a B.A. from Vanderbilt and an M.A. from USD. They have two grown sons and two grandchildren.