Denver Bar Association
April 2005
© 2005 The Docket and Denver Bar Association. All Rights Reserved.
All material from The Docket provided via this World Wide Web server is copyrighted by the Denver Bar Association. Before accessing any specific article, click here for disclaimer information.

Warbled Closing Saves the Day

by Robert Kapelke

Denver Attorney Sings Closing Argument, Wins Case

To his own surprise, Denver sole practitioner Phil Schadenfreud snatched an unlikely courtroom victory by his last second decision to sing his closing argument to the jury. Schadenfreud was representing elderly Central City resident Ethel McMarley in an outrageous conduct suit in Jefferson County District Court against the city arising from the condemnation of part of her back yard for the new highway.

"I guess it turned out to be kind of a fortunate inspiration on my part," explained Schadenfreud. "I got up to give the closing, and the jury was giving off a lot of negative energy — bad body
language and even some hostility. To brighten things up a bit, I made up a version of the old Music Man favorite ‘Trouble’ right on the spot. The jurors started thawing right away when I came out with, ‘Well, you got trouble, my friends. Trouble right here in Central City. Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with C and that stands for Cruel!’"

According to Schadenfreud, the startled city attorney objected twice, but the trial judge did not rule on either objection. "I’m pretty sure he was doing a crossword puzzle and didn’t even hear the guy. He never looked up at all."

One of the jurors, Margaret Gutschnabel of Black Hawk, said she was delighted to hear the attorney break into song. "It relieved the awful tedium and took me back to my junior year
in high school when I was in The Music Man. I was only in the chorus, but my best friend Sally was Marian the Librarian. It was a blast." As for the quality of Schadenfreud’s vocal performance, Ms. Gutschnabel described it as "not that bad under the circumstances." She added: "He must have been darned nervous and scared about what the judge might do to him for singing in court. But he sure belted it out."

Another juror, Sam Winstead, part owner of a Central City curio shop, said he was not so much influenced by Schadenfreud’s warbling as by the reaction of opposing counsel. "He got real red in the face and kept pointing his finger at plaintiff’s lawyer. That’s sure as heck not the way I was taught you behave in public."

Schadenfreud is anxious to try his new singing technique in future trials. "I do a lot of divorce cases, and I think there’ll be a good opportunity to sing ‘You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille,’ or maybe just the old country hit ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E.’" Admitting he has had no vocal training since seventh grade, Schadenfreud claims to have a "passable baritone voice," but a now-proven ability "to sell a number like crazy."

Interviewed at her new condominium in Las Vegas, Ethel McMarley praised her attorney’s quick thinking at trial but pointed out, "I think part of the reason we got the punitive bucks is that the city started bulldozing one of the outbuildings while I was in there reading the society section."

Member Benefits DBA Governance Committees Public Interest The Docket Metro Volunteer Lawyers DBA Young Lawyers Division Legal Resource Directory DBA Staff The Docket