Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
- Perry Mason
- Sam Benedict
- 333 Montgomery
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
I just finished a wonderful lunch with Nate Cohn, one of San Francisco’s great criminal lawyers. Nate related some extremely interesting stories of his life as a new and struggling criminal lawyer in San Francisco back in 1948 and how Jake Ehrlich helped and inspired him in his practice.
Within a short time, Jake approached Nate and congratulated him on what he was seeing this young lawyer doing in the criminal courts. In those days a preliminary hearing (a hearing before a judge who had to determine if there was probable cause to hold the defendant over for trial in the superior court) usually only took about a half hour or so. Now Nate Cohn was conducting preliminary hearings that were taking half days, full days and on some occasions a week to complete. Nate was turning the PX, as it is referred to by criminal lawyers, into a mini trial. Jake expressed his admiration for such diligent and tenacious advocacy and told Nate: “You’re going to be a great lawyer. I never saw anyone put so much time and energy to try to win a case at the PX.” Jake was absolutely correct, Nate Cohn went on to be one of the greatest criminal defense lawyers in San Francisco and across the country.
Pictured above Melvin Belli, Jake Ehrlich & Nate Cohn in 1965
It is no small tribute to Jake Ehrlich that he was always extending a hand to other lawyers in which he saw promise. The same can be said of Nate Cohn. He did the same for me as a young lawyer as Jake did for him.
Nate fondly remembers one day he got a call from Jake inviting him to lunch. Now this was something because it was public knowledge that Jake Ehrlich had lunch every day with Lou Lurie at Jack’s Restaurant. They had a big table right inside the door; the movers and shakers of the City on public display everyday. Nate admitted he was a little intimidated to receive such an invitation but got up his courage and went nonetheless.
Jake introduced a young Nate Cohn to Lou Lurie (Powerhouse of the City). “Lou, this is Nate Cohn, an outstanding lawyer.” Lou took an immediate liking to Nate and a new history began.
Jake advised Nate: “Beware of the ‘B & Ps”. The expression stands for “bleeders and pleaders.” These are unscrupulous lawyers who take money and then just plead the client guilty without giving them any defense.
Jake Ehrlich told Nate, “If you want a jury to go with you, look like a lawyer. Knock yourself out to look good for them, show them you respect them, they will respect you. Present yourself with a professional image. Have your clothes and case in order.” As we all know Jake was always impeccably dressed. He was a standout and there was no mistake on what his profession was to any onlooker. You knew immediately he was a top shelf lawyer.
One story about Jake that really touches my heart, and which hits close to home, is the time Nate went over to see Jake at his house in Marin. Upon arriving at the house he was shown out to the back yard to find Jake sitting next to the pool completely dressed in French cuff shirt, necktie and suit pants. Nate told Jake, “This is Marin; it’s very causal over here, why are you dressed like that?” Jake replied, “I don’t have any casual clothes.”
Even if you never met Jake Ehrlich, you would know him immediately. He had the most distinguished look of any lawyer in the City. He always sported a very bright white and exaggerated pocket square. To this day, I have had older people on juries tell me that they remember Mr. Ehrlich and how great he dressed.
Nate related that Jake told him a story about himself and how he tried to attract clients when he was starting out as a lawyer. When Jake was a young lawyer himself he would wait until he had a hundred dollars. He would then get a one hundred dollar bill, go to a good bar in the tenderloin (not like it is today), put the one hundred dollar bill on the bar and announce to the entire bar, “The drinks are on Jake Ehrlich the lawyer.”
Jake was named the “Ring Master” of a charitable group called the Saints and Sinners. Tommy Harris was the Jester and started referring to Jake as “Master.” Some say this is how Jake’s moniker (“The Master”) came about. One of their projects was to raise money for a school milk program. Nate had arranged for his mother to come down to Montgomery Street outside his office at 105 Montgomery Street and set up a small card table to sell tickets for this program. She would sell the tickets two or three days a week from 11:00 to 3:00 each day.
Jake would make it a point to stop by after his lunch and sit down and chat with her. Nate remembers how impressed his mother was that the “Master” would be so nice and spend this time with her.
Jake Ehrlich made favorable impressions on thousands of people in his life. He helped thousands of people. These are just a few little tales of his lasting magic on the City and its people.
Happily, I can report that if Jake were here today he would see his fine tradition of helping his fellow man being practiced by many San Franciscans. He would also see that many of his colleagues in the criminal defense bar practice what he did so well–extend a helping hand to our newer members who are just getting started.
Indeed, when he helped Nate Cohn, little did he know he was helping a young lawyer who went on to become one of the greatest criminal lawyers in the City’s history. Nate Cohn would go on to start the American Board of Criminal Lawyers (http://www.abcl.us), the most prestigious group of criminal lawyers in the country.
Jake may have thought he was helping one lawyer, but it turned out he was helping hundreds.
The one statement that stood out in my mind that Nate made about Jake Ehrlich, as we were finishing our lunch, was:
“Jake was a great lawyer, a great gentleman and his word was his bond.”
What more could a lawyer hope to have as an epitaph?
[James Farragher Campbell has been a California based defense attorney since 1975. You can learn more about James by clicking here.]
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I am honored that Jake Ehrlich III would invite me to write a quarterly column for the Never Plead Guilty Blog.
Why? Because his grandfather, the Master, Jake Ehrlich, was the person who started me thinking of becoming a lawyer. Let me set the scene.
I was a senior in high school attending Marmion Military Academy in Aurora, Illinois, just out side of Chicago. I had my heart set on becoming a sea captain and was ready to enter the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point.
I was on guard duty, which was exciting because that meant I could lawfully skip some of my classes. Somehow, I came across Jake Ehrlich’s book, Never Plead Guilty. I started to read it and couldn’t put it down. I was hooked!
Good-bye to the Merchant Marine Academy and hello to college, the liberal arts and onto law school. After reading The Lost Art of Cross-Examination by Jake Ehrlich, I knew it was the life of a lawyer for me.
It was these books that lead me to other books by San Francisco lawyers, including a series of books, Criminal Law Seminar, by Nathan Cohn.
It was Jake that also made me think of coming to San Francisco. I have never regretted that decision either.
My San Francisco office is housed in the historic and very beautiful Stock Exchange Tower at 155 Sansome Street in the heart of the old financial district. On my walk to my office I feel the spirit of those that made San Francisco. I still feel the buzz of commerce, the gamblers from the gold fields, the Big Four, Black Bart, Emperor Norton and yes, the Master, Jake Ehrlich. Who would not be energized coming down the street from Nob Hill into the canyons of the financial district?
As I sit in my office chair behind my desk I can easily recall memories of cases and people I have come across in the practice of criminal law. Hung on the walls, or set about the office, I see all significant objects, mementoes and pictures of my practice and my life. I believe memories should be seen and not put away in the attic. There is also a touch of the opulent for added drama, red walls with grand damask curtains and gilded chairs. I refer to my decorative style as “eclectic opulence.”
One object hanging on my wall is of special interest with regard to Jake Ehrlich. It was given to me by his grandson as a memento of how Jake has influenced my life. This object was originally given to Jake Ehrlich many years ago by the warden of San Quentin Prison as a present to Jake for his work in the criminal justice system. It is the lock and key to the front prison gate. A gate that never had to be opened for any of Jake’s clients!
I hope to hear from all of our readers as well on what they think Jake might make of the changes today in our society and our little sanctum of San Francisco.
Until next time,
All the Best,
James Farragher Campbell