2017. november 19., vasárnap
Legal plea by Antonio's defense lawyer
Legal Plea by Antonio’s Defense Lawyer
Based on William Shakespeare’s „The Merchant of Venice”
The upcoming blog entry is based on Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice". In this first entry I decided to write a legal plea, that could have been formulated by Antonio's legal representative or by his defense counsel during his legal battle with Shylock.
Honorable Doge, Honorable Senators and Honorable Judge!
The life of a young man is at stake today! The verdict that you will decide upon today will not only affect the life of the defendant and that of the plaintiff, but will also have significant effect on the citizens of Venice. Let wisdom, mercy and justice guide you through today’s trial!
The most exciting part of every proceeding is the closing remark. It is also the most important duty of the defense. It incorporates conclusion, persuasion and pondering, furthermore it demonstrates the essence of the trial, from the perspectives of both the defense and the prosecution.
As the legal representative of Antonio, I will speak on his behalf in front of the Honorable Court.
The verdict of the Honorable Judge, after my closing remark, will decide the fate of my client and his innocence or his guilt will be officially declared.
Pacta sunt servanda -the core principle of our nation- the conditions of a contract should be respected and followed. Is that the only necessary aspect to consider when a verdict is made? I know that it is the supreme law of Venice and it guarantees the efficient functioning of economy and trade. Our nation’s greatness and glory relies on our respect of the law and on our commitment to remain beholden to the terms of all contracts. Even the Roman Law acknowledged that –contractus- a contract is based on the free will of both parties and this freedom should also be respected along with the terms declared. Are we allowed to expand our scope and can we consider other aspects?
Today’s trial rests on a contract. The Honorable Doge and the Honorable Judge must decide whether the contract between Antonio and Shylock is in accordance with all the laws of Venice. Furthermore, the Honorable Council must also investigate the legality of the sanction proposed in the contract referring to potential breach of any of the terms by either party. Is the contract in accordance with the centuries-old laws of Venice? If yes, then what is today’s trial about?
The defense respects the freedom of will and also honors the fact that both parties can independently define their commitments in a contract. It is their liberty to declare the conditions and the content of any particular contract. The trade of Venice would simply diminish if the terms of a contract were breached based on either sympathy or antipathy –not to mention peremptory-. These all combined, or separately, could potentially eradicate the order of our world that is based on a fragile social consensus.
You might ask at this point why am I standing in front of you here today as a defense lawyer if I’m supporting the reasoning of the prosecution?
My answer is that everything has a wide range of meaning and content. Can we allow ourselves to observe the contract in hand in a simple, thoughtless and plane manner?
I am confident that the answer for this is “no we can’t” and I hope that by the end of my closing remark all of you will understand the reasoning behind my response. Let us investigate the contract: The bearings of the case reveal that my defendant, Antonio, reached an agreement with Shylock, the moneylender. There is no need for further introduction of Shylock, everyone knows how he makes a living. He continuously increases his wealth by scrounging on innocent people. He is, however, legally allowed to continue this practice because our laws do not consider the aforementioned activity illegal in any manner. The agreement that Shylock and Antonio made authorized the moneylender to cut one pound of flesh out of my client’s body if Antonio fails to pay back the designated amount of money before the final deadline. The contract clearly defines the service, the counter-service and the penalty.
The obligations of both parties are entitled in the contract and became promulgated when Shylock transferred the agreed amount to Antonio. On Shylock’s behalf, the obligation was successfully completed. Antonio was fully aware of the terms of the contract at the moment he received the money, and he acknowledged his obligations declared in the concordat. Furthermore, Antonio certifies that he fully comprehended the sanctions that would follow if an unlikely breach of the terms occurred on his behalf. His signature was given by his own free will without any coercion. He completely understood the “contactus”, his rights, his obligations and the consequences of the potential breach of the terms on his behalf. The contract is, without a doubt, valid in its legality.
There are, however, further aspects surrounding the case that the Honorable Judge and the Honorable Doge should take into consideration. My client signed the contract in a noble spirit, with the intention to help his desperate friend. He was fully confident that the sanction would not be promulgated, because he hoped that his ships would return to Venice with significant amount of profit as they mostly do after trading with foreign customers. He presumed that he would be able to repay the loan in a full amount way before the designated deadline.
Unfortunately, his expectations turned out to be wrong. Antonio could not perform his obligation bound by the contract. Given the aforementioned context the penalty (cutting out a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body) must be executed. If this penalty were denied then the security of the Venetian laws would be violated. The principles of our legal code and the core element of our social consensus would be harmed.
Nevertheless, when the bearings of the case are investigated, we must also observe other aspects and legal provisions. Both the Honorable Judge and the legal representative of the prosecution must be in full comprehension of all provisions that might alter the bearings of the trial.
It is declared in the legal code of Venice (3§ (2)) that if „Party A” spills the blood of a Venetian citizen, then „Party A” commits a crime. Under this law, „Party A” is guilty with the charge of murder. Murder is the highest level of crime and its punishment involves the strictest legal response.
With this in mind, a further glimpse on the contract proposes a question: Can one pound of flesh be removed, without spilling the blood of my client?
Furthermore, has my client agreed to allow his blood to be spilled, when he authorized Shylock to remove one pound of his flesh? The answer is definitely “no”, because if that had been that case, then the victim should have formulated a separate declaration regarding this action, given its serious nature. Is this separate declaration contained in the contract? The Honorable Judge must realize that the contract lacks such a declaration.
Which law is stronger? Can one legal provision be stronger than another? My answer is annulling again, because our law is interdisciplinary, meaning that neither of the provisions can be mightier than the other. All provisions were promulgated and declared by the Honorable Doge and the Honorable Senate of the State of Venice.
Which provision should be respected by the Honorable Judge when the verdict is made? If the Honorable Judge applies one over the other, is that a justifiable, legal action?
Which provision is more sacred? The unconditional respect of the contract or the protection of the life of a Venetian citizen?
The Honorable Judge must reach a final decision that reflects wisdom with the consideration of all legal provisions.
But is there really a contradiction between the application of both provisions? According to the defense there is no contradiction, because the solution is simply the clear interpretation of the legal code.
I would like to ask the Honorable Judge and all parties present to follow my reasoning with careful consideration.
It is a fact, that both parties involved possess Venetian citizenship. The agreement does not mention “blood” in any paragraph of the contract. “One pound of flesh” that’s all we can read. With due respect to the sacred and unalterable laws of Venice, it logically follows that Shylock can only take one pound of flesh if he does not spill Antonio’s blood. When signing the contract, Shylock must have been aware of the legal provision banning murder and the spilling of blood. This means that when he offered the contract to my client, Shylock either forgot to mention this provision to Antonio, or he simply ignored the legal code of Venice.
If Shylock failed to consider this important legal provision, then it is negligence on his behalf and his malpractice is an ultimately unlawful action.
If Shylock was aware of the legal provision, that cutting out one pound flesh leads to illegal spilling of blood, and he voluntarily ignored to enlighten my client with this detail, then the contract is invalid. This leaves Shylock’s claim without any standing legal ground.
The moneylender violated his obligation to cooperate with the other party, moreover he breached his legal liability of informing the other party and the legal consequence of these actions means that the “spilling of blood” did not become a term of the contract given the lack of its official declaration in the agreement.
Furthermore, Shylock’s intention voluntarily or involuntarily involves the “spilling of blood” and this violates the laws of Venice. Due to this fact, the contract is invalid and cannot be carried out justifiably.
Can Shylock explain how he could lawfully apply the terms of the contract? During the proceeding, no such explanation was formulated on Shylock’s or on his legal representatives’ behalf.
It is an undeniable fact, that the action of cutting out flesh from a human body will certainly spill the blood of the particular individual. There is no need to obtain a separate proof for this claim, referring to it as truth is enough to be considered valid.
To conclude, the contract is invalid and the penalty of the contract is impossible to be executed. The Honorable Judge can only have one justifiable verdict: to consider the contract null and declare that there is no bonding agreement between the parties.
Throughout the proceeding, the Honorable Judge and the Honorable Doge had the opportunity the hear the claims of both parties involved. Both parties described the circumstances of the contract in a completely concordant manner. I would like to highlight the conversation that preceded the signatures: Shylock said that he did not require any warrant, instead he proposed that “as a game” he and my client should agree upon “one pound of flesh” as a payment. The defense brought in a witness, Bassanio – the man who asked for Antonio’s help with the money- who confirmed the validity of the circumstances of the signature. During the proceeding, Bassanio must be considered as the primary witness and his words must be treated as the truth, because he solemnly swore that he will only tell the truth in front of the court. Therefore, I would like to highlight the fact that the content of the contract is supported with strong evidences: the actual contract and the confession of the primary witness.
Here stands Antonio, this young, vital, honest and noble man, waiting for his death, even though the amount of money –that should have been paid to the cruel prosecutor- is currently possessed by him. Furthermore, he is not only willing to pay the amount declared in the contract, but he would also pay the additional interest rate. Shylock even ignored the personal request of the Doge, and the moneylender denied any chance of mercy. What’s this if not injustice? What’s this if not the denial of the Venetian law? We must abide the laws and must abide by the system of justice! I believe in the State of Venice! I believe in the power of its legal code! This is a great and mighty country with a centuries-old justice system. Why shall we allow superfluous barbarism? We cannot behave as blood-thirsty, uneducated societies did in the previous centuries. We must give resumption a chance! If the prosecutor accepts a deal, he maintains his honor, but if he denies the deal, and spills one drop of my client’s blood, the consequences will be ferocious. If Antonio dies today, that will lead to public outrage and who knows what could that develop into? The chance of a social and economic breakdown is at stake.
I believe that the interest of our nation is more important than the interest of an individual. We must preserve social balance and we must abide by pre-determined rules and laws.
If Shylock wins at court today, that would not only be Antonio’s failure, but the failure of the justice system of Venice.
Your Honor, the defense finished its closing remark.
The only justifiable verdict, in the case of a contract that violates the legal code of Venice, could be an integrum restitutio- that is the restoration of the original conditions.
The decision is in your hands. We could save the life of an innocent young man while repaying the entire debt to the greedy moneylender, or we could watch the death of the merchant -Antonio- and let Shylock bypass our laws.
As a final remark, I would like to note that today’s trial demonstrates that if someone respects the legal code of our nation, that person will be met with justice, no matter what. Correspondingly, those who go against the justice system of Venice, by following their own greediness, will be met with punishment.
Your Honor, please arrive upon a wise verdict and do not let a greedy and barbarian interest infect our justice system! Not in this country! Let us demonstrate with this verdict, that Venice is a free, wealthy and proud nation, that rejects unlawfulness and rebellious individuals. Every citizen can trust the wise Doge, council, and judges. They can feel confident that the balance of laws will protect them from any attack, if they live their lives in honor and faith.
Thank you for your attention! Long live Venice and liberty!
Krisztian Janos Pivarnyik