(A reworked post from June, 2015.)
What is written here is not in any particular order, but then, neither is my mind!! Bud’s late uncle, Lee, (Bud's mother's brother) was a lawyer & my husband’s first law partner. Lee probably would have retired earlier, but he wanted to be able to train Bud as an attorney. He practiced criminal law, but he wanted Bud to learn what the practice of law was all about & what options there were before he chose a specialty.
In the early 1940’s he enlisted in the Army & was stationed in England. Somehow he pissed off an officer--& for Lee, this was inevitable. He learned that if he were stationed on a ship, the Navy would have jurisdiction over him, instead of the Army, & he could avoid contact with this officer, so he got a job as an assistant ship’s librarian. When the officer found about this, he had Lee transferred back to land & had him digging lead out of sand piles--literally. (On the rifle ranges, spent bullet casings were dropped into piles of sand, retrieved, melted down & recast.) He was less than thrilled by this new assignment. Since he was already a successful attorney & was certified to appear in California & before the US Supreme Court, he had business cards printed. He handed them out to his fellow lead diggers & told them that if they or their friends were ever court martialed to request that he represent them. They did--& he did--& Corporal Lee won most of his cases against the captains & majors representing the government.
Losing to a lowly corporal undoubtedly pissed off many more officers so Lee was sent back to the States. He was ordered to run a rehabilitation fishing boat for ex-Army personnel out of Santa Monica, California. This was only a few miles from his home in Malibu, so every morning he’d drive his Cadillac to the pier & take the boat out. One day, someone fell overboard & Lee, who had worked as a lifeguard while he was a teenager, jumped in & saved him--no problem! For this he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal, which was the highest medal you could get for bravery outside of combat. They were catching a lot of halibut (much more than they could eat) so the entire crew decided to go into business. They sold their catch to local fish markets. Lee’s Army salary was about $50.00 a month & his share of the business was more than $50.00 a day. The Army discovered what was happening & told them they were going to become a partner in this thriving new enterprise, so one day they sent 2 men in a 2½ ton truck to pick up the fish. They loaded the entire day’s catch; somehow (?) it was only 2 halibut into the truck. The Army backed out of the deal & they were soon back in business.
After his discharge Lee wanted to let his clients know that he was out of the Army. He didn’t want to send out announcements. He reasoned that some of them might not be seen (especially if the client was currently in prison) or left unnoticed & unopened. He had a typically brilliant Uncle Lee idea. He ran for mayor of Los Angeles!! He wasn’t elected, but he didn’t want to be. He figured that, for much less than the cost of printing & mailing announcements, people would read the newspapers or listen to the radio & say to themselves, “Oh, good!! Lee’s back!!”
Lee once shot--& killed--his TV set. He claimed he was cleaning his rifle & it went off accidentally, but those of us who knew him weren’t too sure he just didn’t like the program. I think this was his early version of remote control.
Two car stories about Lee: #1--He was rear-ended (by an escapee from the Camarillo insane asylum!!) & the gas tank was driven into the back seat, where it caught fire. The driver’s door was wedged shut so Lee climbed out the window. He was lying on the street yelling, “My back!! My neck!! My knee!!”, when he heard the other driver say that he hoped he wasn’t injured too badly because he didn’t have insurance. Lee jumped up & said, “No insurance? C’mon, help me put out this damned fire!!” #2--He had a model A or model T Ford; I don’t remember which. He used to play with it as a hobby. He took the engine completely apart & cleaned it. After he put it back together he had 2 or 3 parts left over. The car worked fine so he threw them away.
Lee bought a house on the beach in Malibu. It was on a cliff & you had to go down (& then back up!!) almost 100 stairs to use the beach. Lee had a cable car installed. Gus Grissom, who was America’s second man in space, came out to see Lee. He had already made his space flight, but he looked at the cable car & told Lee it was too dangerous for him. He used the stairs.
A friend was going on a business trip to Hawaii & Lee drove him to the airport. The friend asked, “Lee, why don’t you come with me?” Lee answered, “How can I go with you? I don’t even have a toothbrush.” His friend reminded him that they sell toothbrushes in Hawaii. Lee thought for a minute & said, “You’re right!!” & he went.
Uncle Lee had an “eyebrow” system for setting fees. Bud claimed it was just a joke, but with Uncle Lee, I’m not so sure. This is how it worked: Lee would discuss the case with his client, who would then ask him what the fee would be. Lee would say, “$5,000” & watch the client’s eyebrows. If his eyebrows went up, he would say, “That’s my normal fee, but for you it will only be $4,000.” If the client’s eyebrows stayed stationary, he’d say, “Of course, you understand that’s only the retainer. There’ll be additional fees & costs as the trial progresses.”
My uncle used to work for a bookie. Before Bud & I knew each other, his uncle defended my uncle on a bookmaking charge (he was guilty) & got him off. After one of his cases (the guy was probably guilty & I’m sure Lee got him a reduced sentence) he received a letter his client had written him from prison. It went something like this: “Dear Mr. Zeman, I want you to know how proud I am of you. When the judge sentenced me to 20 years, you stood tall & took it like a man, while I almost passed out on the floor….”
He was a true renaissance man. He was a raconteur, he played the guitar & sang & he even made jewelry with tiny shells & starfish embedded inside. He sometimes wore a bolo (string) tie to court, with a homemade slide. One judge chastised him for having such a casual appearance. He told the judge (lawyers are not under oath) that he was some kind of big mucky-muck in an Indian tribe. He said that the tie & slide were formal dress; actually, they were a badge of honor. The judge apologized to him in open court.
When the courts ordered castration as a condition of probation in sex cases, he wrote this poem:
With respect for our great nation
Built upon the firm foundation
Of brotherly love and toleration
Concerning a Municipal Corporation
Wherein in criminal litigation
Sanctioned by the administration
The Court does order castration
As a condition of probation
In lieu of incarceration
In a penal habitation
WHICH I THINK’S THE NUTS!
It taxes one’s imagination
That American civilization
Should permit emasculation
By judicial declaration
Which causes great humiliation
Permanent physical desecration
Destroys God’s gift of germination
Is contrary to all legislation
Passed to prohibit copulation
Or other forms of fornication
By those who suffer from frustration
WHICH I THINK’S THE NUTS!
There should be an investigation
Concerning human degradation
Of this sex abomination
Then those who fear effemination
Resulting from cohabitation
May face again the population
Without danger of discrimination.
To stop this dreadful violation
This ode is written in protestation
And tho I suffer accusation
ALL I CAN SAY IS “NUTS”!
(My husband recently told me that this poem was published in a legal newspaper & that the judge Lee was referring to recognized himself & cited Lee for Contempt of Court. In true Lee fashion, he had the citation reversed!!)