Thursday, October 11, 2001
Lancaster Attorney Won’t Sit Still When He Hears Lawyer Jokes
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Lancaster attorney R. Rex Parris lets his feet do the talking when the topic of conversation turns to lawyer jokes.
Parris doesn’t even stick around long enough to hear the punch line. He gets up and walks out.
FBI Special Agent Jack Schaffer found that out the hard way Friday when he tried to break the ice at the Antelope Valley Bar Association with a couple of lawyer jokes before giving a presentation on hate crimes.
After Schaffer opened his speech by saying he was tempted to tell a bunch of lies to his audience since that is what they do most of the time themselves, Parris said he stood up and walked out.
When Schaffer tried a second joke, Los Angeles Superior Court Referee Robin Kesler pointed out Parris’ exit and asked the agent to refrain from any more lawyer jokes, Parris said.
Schaffer was unable to continue to with his speech and left the room, Parris said.
Kesler’s secretary said the referee declined to comment on the incident.
Parris said he had no idea his exit would cause such a commotion, since walking out on lawyer jokes is nothing new to him.
“When people start bashing lawyers, I leave,” Parris said. “And that happens more often than I wish it did.”
While the lawyer-bashing keynote speaker at his daughter’s graduation from Pepperdine University last year may have made Parris grin and bear it so he could see his daughter graduate, Parris has been known to walk out of church because the minister was telling a joke about the difference between a dead snake and a dead lawyer.
But Parris said getting former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich to stop telling lawyer jokes was one of the biggest accomplishments of his walkouts.
Gingrich spoke at an event in the Antelope Valley which Parris attended and subsequently walked out of after the lawyer jokes began.
Parris told U.S. Representative Buck McKeon what had occurred and when Gingrich returned a few years later for another speaking engagement, there were no cracks on the legal profession.
“If you can get Newt Gingrich to quit doing it, you can get anybody to quit doing it,” Parris said.
Parris said he doesn’t have a problem with Schaffer, he has a problem with lawyers who have let lawyer jokes become commonplace and even laugh at the jokes themselves.
“I didn’t intend to bring it down on [Schaffer],” Parris said. “What he was doing is socially acceptable. He was not being inappropriate and that is our fault.”
Parris said he wants other lawyers to join him in walking out on lawyer jokes.
“I think it’s a sin for us not to take that approach,” Parris said.
But protests and jokes aside, Parris said he hopes Schaffer comes back to the bar association and gives the speech on hate crimes he was prepared to give.
“I’m hoping we get that phone call from the association that says, ‘let’s try this again,’” he said.
Schaffer did not immediately return calls for comment.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company