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Criminal Lawyer

Criminal Lawyer(1951)

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In a Chicago courtroom, defendant Vincent Cheney grows nervous over the absence of his attorney, Jimmy Reagan, master of slick defense strategies who reputedly never loses a case. Jimmy's devoted secretary, Maggie Powell, reassures Cheney that the firm's associate, Clark Sommers, is perfectly capable of his defense, but Vince sends his brother Harry in search of Jimmy. Harry finds Jimmy at a bar having a glass of milk, and when he menaces the lawyer, Jimmy's bodyguard, Moose Hendricks, threatens him. Jimmy then returns to court and, after destroying the credibility of the star witness with a staged photograph, gets Vince off. Back at the office, Sommers complains about not receiving proper recognition, but is surprised when Jimmy announces to the entire staff that he is retiring as he has been nominated for a judgeship. Jimmy gives the practice to Sommers who, being in deep personal debt, quickly contacts Harry and offers himself as the Cheneys' new counsel. After a celebratory dinner that evening with the staff, Jimmy meets District Attorney Walter Medford, who introduces him to Tucker Bourne, secretary of the bar association. Medford then confides that Bourne did not recommend Jimmy for the judgeship because of his reputation for using slick maneuvers over legal know-how. Depressed, Jimmy goes on a drinking bender, with Moose keeping him from disaster. Maggie summons Moose, who talks Jimmy into returning to the office. There, high-powered attorney Melville Webber and his brother-in-law, Bourne, seek assistance for Webber's son Bill, who has been accused of a drunk hit-and-run accident. Jimmy accuses them of hypocrisy for criticizing his character, then seeking his assistance, and refuses the case. When Webber and Bourne walk out, Maggie chastens Jimmy for his foolishness and over lunch convinces the attornies to accept Jimmy as counsel. Despondent that Jimmy has apparently come out of retirement, Sommers is ready to return to his associate position, but Jimmy assures him that he remains the head of the practice and will be the trial attorney for Bill. Jimmy visits Bill in jail and determines he was not drunk during the accident. Later, Jimmy advises Sommers on jury selection, then has his numerous assistants follow the jurors and cause near pedestrian-auto accidents, to make them amenable to considering Bill's actions unavoidable. Bill is later found not guilty. When reporter Frank Burnett realizes Jimmy's tactics after speaking with several jurors, he writes a story accusing the lawyer of chicanery and dishonesty, but his editor refuses to publish it. Angered, Burnett informs the hit-and-run victim's wife, Mrs. Johnson, of Jimmy's actions. Meanwhile, Sommers secures a contract with Harry to represent him exclusively. Maggie warns him of the potential danger of the arrangement, but when Sommers reprimands her, Maggie quits. Jimmy invites Maggie and his assistants over for dinner and just before their arrival, Harry telephones, demanding a visit, but Jimmy refuses. Then Mrs. Johnson comes by and threatens Jimmy with a gun, revealing how getting Bill off has ruined any possibility of her getting money she desperately needs to support her two children. Shocked by this, Jimmy rushes out after the distraught woman. When Jimmy does not return for the dinner, Moose, concerned, looks up Harry's address and taking a pistol, heads there. Harry is later discovered murdered and although Moose is arrested, Jimmy remains missing. Maggie searches for Jimmy for several days, then finally goes to Sommers to ask him to represent Moose. Sommers agrees reluctantly. Jimmy turns up hung over and despondent and tells Maggie that he never realized his methods could be legally right, but morally wrong. Maggie scoffs at his easy dismissal of being legally right, then tells him about Moose. Jimmy hastens to jail and despite Sommers' advice, demands they plead not guilty. In court, Moose testifies about the night of Harry's murder: Moose believed Jimmy had disappeared because of Harry and went to threaten him. Vince discovers Moose at Harry's door, but Moose knocks him out before entering Harry's apartment, only to find Harry dead. In the present, Maggie informs Jimmy of Harry's exclusive contract with Sommers. The following day, Jimmy examines Vince, who describes how the previous evening Jimmy had come to Harry's to learn how a hat that Moose insists was by the body might have been taken by the murderer hiding on a ledge outside. Jimmy then gets Vince to recall that a trophy from Harry's desk was missing. Jimmy presents a trophy to the court and summons a junk collector, who agrees that he was scavenging the night of the murder outside of Harry's apartment and may have seen someone carrying the trophy down the fire escape. When Jimmy abruptly accuses Sommers of the murder, the judge demands all counsel meet in chambers. There, Sommers admits to killing Harry, but insists it was self-defense, as Harry had summoned him to cancel his contract and began slapping him. Outside the courtroom, before departing with Maggie, Jimmy informs Burnett that although his style might be called trickery, it could also be acknowledged as a means of discovering truth.