I confess: I love reading biographies. It all started when I was young reading about historical US Presidents. Then I enjoyed reading sports biographies. When I knew I wanted to become a lawyer, I began reading biographies about famous lawyers.

I have many old ones on my shelf. I want to lend you my favorite lawyer biography. Final Verdict is the biography of Earl Rogers written by his daughter Adela Rogers St. Johns. She literally grew up in her father’s office and the courtrooms where he tried cases. When I first read the book, I literally could not put it down.

The book begins with Adela being a witness to have her father committed because of his alcoholism. He had been picked up while driving drunk and had resisted arrest. Adela describes the courtroom this way:

Today the room was almost empty. Usually when Papa tried a case, the court and the corridors, often the lawns and sidewalks and streets, even the windows across the walls and the branches of trees were jammed…

Rogers in the courtroom was like a rockstar on stage. He drew crowds. I read the book to find out what set him apart. He lost only 3 of the 77 murder cases he defended. A popular saying of the time went:

If you are guilty, hire Earl Rogers.

You may have seen the movie Final Verdict with Treat Williams playing Earl Rogers. It wasn’t nearly as good as the book.

Final Verdict book.jpg

He also served as the role model for Erle Stanley Gardner’s character Perry Mason.

Rogers had many flaws, including extreme alcoholism. In that capacity he served as the role model for alcoholic lawyers in novels and movies. When Adela sought to have her father put away for his own good, his brilliant cross-examination of her, won his freedom. I found this quote from a link to COUNSEL for the INDEFENSIBLE, an article in American Heritage magazine:

William Fallon, the ‘Great Mouthpiece” of the 1920s, said, ‘Even when he’s drunk, Earl Rogers is better than any other stone-sober lawyer in the whole damned country.”

Did you know that Earl Rogers defended Clarence Darrow? It would be an understatement to say that the two famous trial lawyers did not get along. Much has been written about the Darrow bribery trials.

The shame for young lawyers and law students is that Final Verdict is no longer printed. It would be a wonderful book to put on Kindle. Shortly after Adela Rogers St. Johns died, LA Times writer, Jack Smith wrote: Early L.A. Law : Earl Rogers’ Life In and Out of Court Was More Dramatic Than Fiction.

When I saw Final Verdict was no longer printed, I bought a few used copies on Amazon. I also bought a copy of Once Upon a Time in Los Angeles: The Trials of Earl Rogers.

One reviewer of that book said:

He was the first American lawyer to use the science of ballistics, and was at the leading edge of medical forensic science. Rogers assisted in performing over 30 autopsies, and been present for 70 others. He saved one client from hanging after an exhumation failed to find a shot to the head that several eyewitnesses testified to seeing. Rogers was among the first to use charts and blackboards in the courtroom, along with scale models, to get his point across to a jury.

P.S. One final note: Adela Rogers St. John was a very successful journalist and writer. She led an interesting and active life of her own, which you will see in this article: What can I tell you about Mabel’s friend, Adela Rogers St. Johns? 

Want to borrow my book? If so contact me and please, please return it when you are finished.