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A lawyer (Al Pacino) is forced to defend a guilty judge, while defending other innocent clients, and trying to find punishment for the guilty and provide justice for the innocent.
Arthur Kirkland: The one thing that bothered me, the one thing that stayed in my mind and I couldn't get rid of it, that haunted me, was 'why?' Why would she lie? What was her motive for lyin'? If my client is innocent, she's lying. Why? Was it blackmail? No. Was it jealousy? No. Yesterday, I found out why. She doesn't have a motive. You know why? Because she's not lying. And ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prosecution is not gonna get that man today. No! Because I'm gonna get him! My client, the Honorable Henry T. Fleming, should go right to fuckin' jail! The son of a bitch is guilty! This man is guilty! That man, there, that man is a slime! He is a slime! If he's allowed to go free, then something really wrong is goin' on here! That man is guilty! That man, there, that man is a slime! he is a *slime*! If he's allowed to go free, then something really wrong is goin' on here! Judge Rayford: Mr. Kirkland you are out of order! Arthur Kirkland: You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They're out of order! That man, that sick, crazy, depraved man, raped and beat that woman there, and he'd like to do it again! He *told* me so! It's just a show! It's a show! It's "Let's Make A Deal"! "Let's Make A Deal"! Hey Frank, you wanna "Make A Deal"? I got an insane judge who likes to beat the shit out of women! Whaddya wanna gimme Frank, 3 weeks probation? Frank Bowers: *DAMMIT!* Arthur Kirkland: [to Judge Fleming] You, you sonofabitch, you! You're supposed to *stand* for somethin'! You're supposed to protect people! But instead you fuck and murder them! [dragged out of court by bailiffs] Arthur Kirkland: You killed McCullough! You killed him! Hold it! Hold it! I just completed my opening statement!
Judge Rayford: I found out what the meaning of life is. Arthur Kirkland: What's that? Judge Rayford: It sucks.
Judge Rayford: Sixteen years of marriage and my wife still won't eat Chinese food. It's crazy, especially since we met in a Chinese restaurant.
Arthur Kirkland: When asked what you were doing you said, 'I don't know nothing about that taxi cab robbery'. Ralph Agee: Now that's true, because I don't. Arthur Kirkland: How did you know there was one, Ralph? Ralph Agee: Mr. Kirkland there's ALWAYS one.
Carl Travers: I was your first, you know that, Arthur? I was your first client, you broke cherry on me. Arthur Kirkland: Now is not the time to go down memory lane, Carl.
Arthur Kirkland: [Arthur is visiting his client Jeff McCullaugh in jail, and sees that he has been assaulted] Jeff, what happened? Jeff McCullaugh: Some... somebody beat me up... Arthur Kirkland: Why? Jeff McCullaugh: I dunno, I didn't ask.
Arthur Kirkland: [about Judge Rayford] This is a man bent on killing himself, it's not secret, a guard found him in his chambers once trying to hang himself! This is a man who's making value decisions on people's lives!
Sam Kirkland: Are you a good lawyer? Honest? Arthur Kirkland: Being honest doesn't have much to do with being a lawyer. Sam Kirkland: If you're not honest, you've got nothing.
Sam Kirkland: They're still your parents. Arthur Kirkland: No. You raised me. You put me through law school. You're a wonderful man, Grandpa. But your son is a shit.
Arthur Kirkland: I have a client in jail for a busted tail light and I can't get him out.
Jeff McCullaugh: They raped me... lotsa times... and other stuff, too.
Jeff McCullaugh: If everybody agrees I'm innocent, how come I'm going BACK to jail?
Warren Fresnell: [In Arthur's place Warren let slip corrections required in Ralph Agee's case, resulting in his arrest when he was supposed to get probation] If he's not in jail this week, he'll be there next week! [Arthur's crying] Warren Fresnell: Appeal it! Arthur Kirkland: I CAN'T APPEAL IT, HE'S DEAD! HE'S DEAD! HALF HOUR AFTER THEY PUT HIM IN THE LOCKUP, HE HANGED HIMSELF!
Judge Rayford: [in a helicopter] Would you like to go anywhere in particular? Arthur Kirkland: No! Down! I'd prefer to go down!
Ralph Agee: [trying to explain why he was arrested] See what happened was it was time to come down on a nigger. It's like smoking, they've got to have a nigger every 20 minutes.
William Zinoff: This is not the McCarthy hearings. Arthur Kirkland: Oh that's a relief. So you aren't going to ask me 'are you now or have you ever been a lawyer?'
[Officer Leary is on the witness stand] Officer Leary: I told him to move on, but he continued to use profanity and he refused to leave the premises. Judge Rayford: What sort of profanity? Officer Leary: You know, the normal kind. Judge Rayford: Officer Leary, we've all heard these words before, now for the record what did he say? Officer Leary: [uncomfortably] He used... "fuck" a lot. [quiet laughter from the gallery] Officer Leary: ..."piss on you"... [more laughter] Officer Leary: ...then said he was gonna... "bung-hole the short order chef"... "cream on the waitress"... [more laughter] Officer Leary: ...stuff like that, Your Honor. Dapper Defendant: There's a very good reason for all of that, Your Honor. Judge Rayford: Oh? What is that? Dapper Defendant: I'm a diabetic. [loud laughter from the gallery] Judge Rayford: I fail to see the connection. I've never heard of diabetes causing foul language! Dapper Defendant: That's because you're a douchebag. [entire courtroom erupts into laughter, including Officer Leary before he catches himself and forces a poker face]
Ralph Agee: I was in that taxi cab but I didn't rob it, it was my cousin, he's crazy. Arthur Kirkland: What's his name? Ralph Agee: I don't know... I mean he lives out in Hillsberry... Arthur Kirkland: You don't know your cousin's name?
Arnie: [about Arthur's grandfather] He keeps telling us you're going to make a great lawyer. Arthur Kirkland: I wish he could remember that I AM a lawyer. Arnie: Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't, what's it matter? He's still proud of you.
Carl Travers: I haven't left the scene of the accident, I'm in it!
Arnie: Whoa! Where's your teeth? Arthur Kirkland: What'd you do with your teeth, Grandpa? Sam Kirkland: Did I have teeth the last time you visited me? Arnie: Of course you had teeth, you had teeth this morning!
Arthur Kirkland: [He's trying to get out of an invitation by the Judge to fly with him] Why dont you go flying together with your wife? Judge Rayford: Ha! The last thing we did together was get married!
Arthur Kirkland: I don't need this jive ass put me on.
Arthur Kirkland: At this point, I would just like to say that what this committee is doing in theory is highly commendable. However, in practice, it sucks... and I'm not going to answer any more questions.
[Judge Rayford fires a gun in his courtroom, drawing attention] Judge Rayford: Gentlemen, need I remind you you're in a court of law?
Arthur Kirkland: Why do we have to use microphones? Why can't we just talk to each other? We're close enough. Assistant D.A. Keene: This is a hearing, Mr. Kirkland.
[Arthur has agreed to go flying with Judge Rayford, thinking the Judge flies planes. But he is not pleased to find that the Judge flies helicopters] Arthur Kirkland: Where are we going? Judge Rayford: You wanna go someplace in particular? Arthur Kirkland: No. Down, I would prefer to go down...
Judge Rayford: You must admit she's an attractive woman. I wouldn't mind seeing her again some time.
Arthur Kirkland: You know, there are times where I'm not too sure I like you. We're so opposite.
Arthur Kirkland: Coffee, please.
[last lines] Jay Porter: Hi, Arthur. Good to see you. Nice day.