The Legacy

Jim Beasley Sr., a legendary, boot-stomping Philadelphia Lawyer, left his firm in the hands of his ne’er-do-well son. But now Beasley Jr.’s quiet approach is not only winning big cases, but signaling a new era in the city’s courtrooms

There’s a historical plane collection in Harlingen, Texas, which means traveling some 500 miles off course. The Kid wants to see a World War II-era plane — “The coolest plane ever,” he tells his father — of which he’s building models at home: the P-51 Mustang, one of the most famous fighter planes in aviation history. The then-52-year-old Beasley Sr. not only flies his family to Texas. He buys the P-51, for $140,000.

Many of the Kid’s stories about the Legend are like this — redolent of anger, vomit and laughable good fortune. This one is particularly special because the warplane is a passion father and son grow to share, and flying an activity they bond over between problems. And over the years, there are always problems.

When the Kid got fat, for instance, the Legend’s response was brutal. “Stop eating,” he said. “Fat shit.” The Kid spent his nights in the basement, lifting weights to scour the fat away, feeling helpless as he listened to his father yell at his mother upstairs. And one afternoon he came home to find all the furniture gone. “Dad,” he said, phoning his father, “I think we’ve been robbed.”

The reality was that his mother had moved out, unable to live with a Legend.

IN ROBERT BLACK v. Terrence Malloy, the defense called a series of medical residents to try and refute the plaintiff’s testimony. But they seemed to focus mostly on the color of Black’s urine. He maintained in his testimony that it was often bright red and thick with clots it pained him to pass, suggesting that doctors should have quickly discovered his injured bladder. The residents testified that his urine was usually clear and sometimes “light rosé,” a reference to a gradation of red wine, suggesting that there was no evidence of bladder injury at all.

Beasley’s cross-examination of the defendant, Terrence Malloy, promises to be more interesting. In Malloy, Beasley is to face an experienced witness who also holds a distinct advantage. Modern juries want Gladiator-style combat, but they don’t consider the match between lawyer and witness a fair fight. Beasley knows: If Malloy gets sharp with him, he’ll enjoy more room to maneuver. He might even be able to retrieve the exhibit from its box.

But the doctor never rattles. Beasley questions him for maybe half an hour. Working carefully, he pins him into claiming that the fluid reservoir “eroded” into Black’s bladder without producing any signs or symptoms. Black had testified that he bled and suffered intense pain.

“If there was erosion,” Beasley asks, “would you not expect that the patient would suffer from considerable lower abdominal pain?”

“He may or may not,” replies Malloy.

Without a hint of impatience, Beasley refers the doctor back to his deposition in the case. “Dr. Malloy,” he begins, “on page 24 of your deposition I asked, ‘What are the signs and symptoms of an erosion?’”

Malloy’s wrinkled fingers sift through a copy of his deposition on the stand.

“You testified,” Beasley begins again, “that ‘You would have considerable lower abdominal pain if there was an erosion,’ correct?”

The jury’s eyes flit from Beasley to the witness. “Yes,” Malloy admits.