An Insolent Judge
The judges themselves often came in for a share of his animadversions,
when he deemed their judicial or other conduct deserved public censure;
and when he pleaded as an advocate before them, their resentment
betrayed itself. Singular to say, his practice was never injuriously
affected by his boldness outside. Other men have suffered vitally from
the political or personal hostility of judges--Curran was one of them.
O'Connell beat down the most formidable hatred, and compelled, by
the sheer force of legal and intellectual power, the bitterest and most
obstinate personal rancor to give way. He compelled pompous, despotic,
and hostile judges to yield. He could not be awed. If they were haughty,
he was proud. If they were malevolent, he was cuttingly sarcastic.
It happened that he was by at an argument in one of the courts of
Dublin, in the course of which a young Kerry attorney was called upon by
the opposing counsel, either to admit a statement as evidence, or to
hand in some documents he could legally detain. O'Connell was not
specially engaged. The discussion arose on a new trial motion--the issue
to go down to the Assizes. He did not interfere until the demand was
made on the attorney, but he then stood up and told him to make no
He was about to resume his seat, when the judge, Baron M'Cleland, said,
with a peculiar emphasis, Mr. O'Connell, have you a brief in this
No, my lord, I have not; but I will have one, when the case goes down
to the Assizes.
When I, rejoined the judge, throwing himself back with an air of lofty
scorn, was at the bar, it was not my habit to anticipate briefs.
When you were at the bar, retorted O'Connell, I never chose you
for a model; and now that you are on the Bench, I shall not submit to
your dictation. Leaving his lordship to digest the retort, he took the
attorney by the arm, and walked him out of Court. In this way he dealt
with hostile judges.