If the Senators Laugh, It Was a Joke

By Dana Milbank and Peter Baker
Saturday, August 20, 2005

Stand down, everybody: It was just a lawyer joke.

That's the judgment of Michigan lawyer Aaron Larson, editor of a lawyer-joke Web site, on a controversial aside made 20 years ago by Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.

Roberts, then a White House lawyer, wrote in a 1985 memo that it was legally acceptable for an administration official to be nominated for an award recognizing her shift from homemaker to lawyer. But, he added, "Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good, but I suppose that is for the judges to decide."

Liberal groups interpreted it as misogynistic. Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, called it "Neanderthal." Even conservative Phyllis Schlafly tried to excuse Roberts by saying he "hadn't seen a whole lot of life at that point" and has since "learned a lot."

But the White House, and many disinterested observers, said it sounded as if the targets of Roberts's barb were lawyers, not homemakers. Larson, a Michigan lawyer who runs http://www.lawlaughs.com , said this was a quip straight from the too-many-lawyers category of jokes. "That sounds like the type of dark humor a lawyer might make about the profession," he said. "If I got that from nine of 10 lawyers, I'd assume he was making a joke about the profession."

Granted, Larson said, "it's usually more directly stated than that."

As in:

What's the difference between a dead lawyer and a dead skunk in the road?

There are skid marks in front of the skunk.

Or:

How can you tell when a lawyer is lying?

His lips are moving.


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