(Fact - Drawn from Memory)
Have you ever heard someone try to define the indefinable “it”? That particular quality that makes someone rise above all of his or her peers? The “it” that makes someone a leader, a winner, a champion? One of our sports talk show hosts here in Boston, Eddie Andelman, filled a lot of air time trying to describe the shortcomings of a former Patriot quarterback. He kept saying that this particular quarterback didn’t have “it”. Then he confessed that he didn’t know exactly what “it” was, but that athletes either have “it” or they don’t.
I think I understood what Andelman was talking about. “It” may be indefinable, but we do seem to recognize “ít” when we see it. In the courtroom, great communicators share an ability to effectively use voice, expression, mannerisms, knowledge, vocabulary, pronunciation to argue their cases. Then there are certain people in that special category. They have the “it”. There is just something about their timing, their sense of the audience, their use of a lingering pause which places them in a rarified class.
I learned a great lesson of “it” in my own courtroom. The litigants were an unmarried father and mother in a parenting dispute. The father represented himself. His stature alone created a presence – he looked like the actor Michael Clarke Duncan who played the gifted prisoner in the movie The Green Mile and he had the voice and elocution of James Earl Jones. He spoke with the ease of a professional which, it turns out, he was, as he hosted a radio show in Boston.
During his closing argument, he stepped back from the table, eyed the courtroom audience, and proceeded with the deepest sincerity:
“Judge,” he said, “during my time in your courtroom, I’ve had the opportunity to observe you in action. I see how you handle cases and I want to tell you that you seem like a nice guy. You listen. You give people an opportunity to speak. You’re considerate. . .”
I was feeling pretty good at this point. I had it! I had “IT”! He had built me up so beautifully!
“but . . . . . .”
He paused to survey the courtroom, then continued in that deep baritone,
“I must say . . . . .”
Then he let the hammer fall:
“You are one . . . . lousy . . . . judge ! ! !”
His was a masterful performance and, as put-downs go in Family Court, this was very mild (he didn’t try to climb the bench and clobber me). I had to admit I’d learned who had “it”. On that day, clearly the litigant did.