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Keeping fascination going, even in an otherwise stuffy courtroom

Mar 29, 2009 Keeping fascination going, even in an otherwise stuffy courtroom

My law practice keeps me away from the outdoors too often, except when I drive to and from courthouses, jails, and incident scenes.

On this glorious day, my three-year-old boy and I visited Potomac Overlook Park for the first time. The park is just four miles from Washington, D.C., but I just recently learned of its location, tucked away from the major thoroughfares. We walked down a sometimes muddy trail, which included some single trunks growing into two six-plus story trees. Then we got to one stream crossing after the other, with rocks jagged and far enough apart to threaten slips when carrying nothing, but I was carrying my boy across. Ultimately, both my feet got wet after a one-way of four stream crossings, but aside from hearing the cars on the nearby parkway, it was like being a hundred miles from the nearest city or 7-11, with clean air, birds galore, streaming water, and trails going up and down.

As we nearly finished the trail, we saw a purple butterfly, or was it a moth, seeing that it was as small as a moth. It was the first time I had seen such a thing. Then, as we neared the parking lot, we saw a tree with a human set of eyes, nose and mouth, followed twenty feet later by another tree with the same, plus a moustache.

The enchantment of crossing the stream without slipping any further, experiencing the purple butterfly, and seeing the human faces on the treesides underlined that my law practice challenges my ability to keep me in touch with the powerful sense of wonder with life that has followed me since childhood. I love music, but the courtroom has none. I love laughing like a hyena, but the august courtroom rules say not to. Could I get away with performing magic in the courtroom, or would that backfire on my client’s cause?

Starting in grade school, I was fascinated with performing magic, and experiencing great magicians, including Doug Henning. After years of hibernation, I reawakened my bag of tricks to do some sponge ball magic at my son’s recent birthday party, where, of my own imagination, I blew booger balls out of my nose, ate them for the gross-out effect that children love, and made them reappear from the other nostril, and the sophomoric antics continued to the children’s delight. I made a red ball transform into a black ball, a ball transform into a square, and a ball transform into a much larger ball. Then, for the grand finale, I did the famous napkin trick first performed several decades ago on television by Steve Martin, followed by tearing and restoring a napkin.

Enter Kent Wong, a lawyer in Alberta, Canada, who works as a real estate lawyer by day, conjures by night, and even diverts his clients with magic. Apparently with no magic shop nor other magic club in the neighborhood, Kent makes his 1500-square-foot magic storage space available for local magicians to meet.

I have not tried performing magic in the courtroom while the judge is on the bench, but find that doing some close-up magic for clients as we wait in the hallway can loosen them up. From the darkside, Philadelphia personal injury defense lawyer Steven Leventhal routinely performs magic during opening and closing in trials, including producing a bizarrely patchwork-attached dollar bill, and a dollar bill transformed to $100 and back to one dollar, to illustrate the smoke and mirrors that he claims the opponent is trying to blow the jury’s way. He has bent at least one opponent out of shape to the point that he received a motion to prevent him from performing magic before the jury. The case apparently settled before the motion was decided.

A fellow Washington area trial lawyer Ken Trombly has a cool routine where he presents his business card as blank on both sides and then slowly passes his hand over the card to make the printing appear. He also has a penchant for buying vintage magic posters. The Law and Magic blog talks about more lawyers who practice magic as part of their law practice or on the side.

Magic can be an icebreaker for an otherwise tough audience, particularly when adding comedy to the mix, although I have not found the right situation for performing magic to a judge or jury. The Washington, D.C., area, apparently has only one magic shop from here to Baltimore, that being Barry’s Magic Shop in Rockville, Maryland. Barry and his staff are great for suggesting and demonstrating magic items to get anybody conjuring right away.

The one magic trick I still seek is a time machine to reverse my countless clients’ gaffes in waiving their right to remain silent with the police.

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