The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But: Lawyers And Concepts Of Truth And Honesty

“You can’t handle the truth!” This is the iconic line from the 1992 military courtroom film, A Few Good Men. Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) bellowed these words to Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) during Kafee’s intense cross examination. Given the current pandemic, I find myself—like many of, us no doubt—spending a good amount of time watching old movies.

After hearing the line anew, I started thinking about the concepts of truth and honesty. It occurred to me that this is a subject of interest to many of us, especially in the justice system. In fact, there is a myriad of expressions surrounding these concepts, as there are for the flip side, dishonesty.

For starters, children use a cute phrase when they feel they have been deceived. I recall once promising to take my then-young son Gabriel to a hockey game. Unfortunately, something urgent came up near a trial date, and I had to cancel. Gabriel was very understanding. He exclaimed, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”

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