If you’re relying on the internet for quotations, stop right now. Stop for two reasons.
One, the internet is unreliable. It misattributes too many quotations to Abraham Lincoln, Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain. When a person is quoted, it should be the right person. And a quotation should be an accurate rendition of a sentiment, not a paraphrase with quotation marks.
The second reason to stop relying on the unreliable internet for quotations is that two new authoritative books of quotations have just appeared. The internet, which has spurred so much misattribution, has also facilitated research and collaboration that has made it easier to verify the sources and precise wording of quotations. These books benefit from such research.
The two compilations, both published in 2022, include recent quotations. The books are “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” (the 19th edition; the 1st appeared in 1855) and “The New Yale Book of Quotations,” edited by Fred R. Shapiro, the associate director for collections and access at the Yale Law Library.
These are not books of legal quotations. (For legal quotations, see The Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations, which Shapiro edited.) But they do contain quotations about law and lawyers, many that you won’t find in Lexis and Westlaw.
And they’re quotations that you might use in your legal writing. For example, some day you may need to know for a pleading: What was it again that that lawyer said about not being a potted plant?
Bartlett’s contains these law-related quotations:
“People ask me sometimes, when — when do you think it will be enough? When will it, will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is when there are nine.” — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court
“The Constitution is not a living organism; it is a legal document. It says something and it doesn’t say other things.” — Justice Antonin Scalia, U.S. Supreme Court
“When urgent considerations of public safety require compromise with the normal principles constraining law enforcement, the normal principles may have to bend. The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” — Judge Richard Posner, 7th Circuit (A useful footnote provides similar quotations by Robert Jackson and Arthur Goldberg, both U.S. Supreme Court justices.)
“As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” — President Donald Trump, in a tweet
The Yale book contains these quotations:
“I fought the law and the law won.” — Sonny Curtis, songwriter
“‘[T]he law is a ass ….’” — Charles Dickens, writer
“Lawyers should never marry other lawyers. This is called inbreeding, from which comes idiot children and more lawyers.” — Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, screenwriters of “Adam’s Rib”
“I must say that as a litigant I should dread a lawsuit beyond almost anything short of sickness and death.” — Judge Learned Hand, 2nd Circuit
“Laws were made to be broken.” — Christopher North, Scottish literary critic
“I’m not a potted plant. I’m here as the lawyer. That’s my job.” — Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. Sullivan said those words, the explanatory note reads, “[u]pon being told to allow his client, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, to object for himself if he wished, at the Senate hearings on the Iran-Contra scandal.”
These are more than reference books. These are books to browse for enjoyment. They’ll make good holiday gifts — or gifts to yourself.
I’ll leave you with one last quotation from “The New Yale Book of Quotations,” a quotation that you will never use in a legal pleading.
“I object, your honor! This trial is a travesty. It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.” — Woody Allen and Mickey Rose, who cowrote the movie “Bananas” (Allen delivered those lines in the movie as Fielding Mellish.)
Ken Bresler, a lawyer, has compiled two books of quotations, “Can You Dance a Prayer? Collected Wisdom About Praying” and “Swoon, I’ll Catch You: Romantic Lines from the Movies.” He compiled and edited a third book containing many quotations, “Mark Twain vs. Lawyers, Lawmakers, and Lawbreakers: Humorous Observations.”