Sanford and Son (1972–1977): Season 3, Episode 15 - Fred Sanford, Legal Eagle - full transcript

When Lamont gets a traffic ticket, Fred convinces him to fight it in court, where the poor man's Perry Mason steps up to defend his son against the system.



♪ Blee be doo be
doo boo doo... ♪


Grady, will you hurry up?

Will you hurry up?

You move slower than a fat
woman in a cactus garden...

blindfolded... naked.

I just want to make
sure you don't jump me.

What'd you do that for?

Because you was
going to jump me.

Well, you can't shove
that out there like that

and then take your finger off.

That's against the
rules of the game.

That's only because
you made up your mind

that that's the move
you wanted to make.

I know, that's what I said.

But it don't show
I've made up my mind

if that's the move
I wanted to make.

It only shows that my
finger is slower than my mind,

because after I shoved
it, I changed my mind,

but my finger didn't
change my move.

Yeah, but you
shoved it out there

and took your finger off.

That's my finger's fault,

not where I wanted to shove it.

Grady, I don't know where
you want to shove your finger,

but I know where I'd
like to shove my foot.

Now, come on, man,
let's get some action.

Fred, if I could
get some action,

I wouldn't be sitting here
playing checkers with you.

Come on, Grady, I
don't want to rush you,

but I want to get
this game over with

before Lamont comes home,

because if he comes here
and find me playing checkers

instead of doing my work,

he's going to be mad.

Okay, all right. Come on.

Okay, okay, okay. Just
a minute. Play, then.


I knew he was going to be mad,

but I didn't know he
was going to be this mad.

We going to stop playing, son.

That's not what I'm mad about.

Then what is it?

I got a traffic ticket, Pop!

A dumb traffic ticket.

Let me see.

"Failure to yield
to the right of way."

What did you do
that for? I didn't!

I know you didn't.

That's what failing means.

You were supposed
to do something

and didn't do it,

and then not doing it,
that means that you did it.

You shouldn't have did it,
but you did it, didn't you?

What are you talking about?

I'm explaining the situation.

May I make a suggestion?

The situation is that
I had the green light,

but I still got a ticket

for failing to yield to a guy
who jumped the red light.

If you had the green
light, you can't get a ticket.

You can if the light is
green, and you black,

and the cop is white.

Well, may I make a suggestion?

You say you're innocent?

That's right. What
are you going to do?

What do you mean?

I'm going to pay it.

May I make a suggestion?

Well, you can't pay that ticket

if you're right.

If you're right,
you got to fight it.

Oh, come on, Pop.
Don't be ridiculous.

You can't fight
a traffic ticket.

I'm not being
ridiculous, you are.

Now, look, you get a ticket

from a white cop
in a blue uniform

in a black neighborhood,

and it makes you so
mad that you see red,

and you ain't going to fight
it because you're too yellow.

Now, what are you?

What are you, a man
or a box of crayons?

May I make a suggestion?

What is it, Grady?

I think he needs
some legal advice,

and I have a friend
who is a lawyer.

Why don't I call him?

A lawyer? Yeah.

That's a good idea.

Why didn't you speak up before?

Well, that's what
I was trying to...

Well call him on
the phone, Grady.

I was going to do that...

Just call him on
the phone, Grady.


Look, here, son, let's
clean this mess up here.

You come over here

and un-coordinate
this whole house...

Pop, what's the use?

What's the use in
getting a lawyer?

You can give it
a try, can't you?

What are we talking about?

We can't afford no lawyer.

I think we can
afford this lawyer

that Grady's calling.

Right, Grady?


Hello, Sonny
Cochran's Tailor Shop?

Hello, Sonny.
Yeah, this is Grady.

Yeah, I'm over to Fred
Sanford's junkyard,

and we need some legal advice.

Can you come over right away?

Yeah, I'll explain when
you get here, Sonny.

Yeah. Yeah, okay. Goodbye.

Who's that you called, Grady?

Well, that was Sonny.

You know, he's sort
of a lawyer-tailor.

You see, his law business
wasn't working out so good,

so he opened up a tailor shop,

and now he does a
little law on the side,

and he gets by fine.

Look, I don't need
a tailor or a lawyer,

and I'm not going
to court, okay?

Well, listen, son.

Look, you've got
to fight this thing.

Yeah, because, see, next time,

it could be me
getting the same ticket,

and even worse than
that, it could be Grady.

How could it be worse if
he gets the same ticket?

Because Grady don't
have no driver's license.

Now, come on son,
what can you lose?

A day's work, plus the fine.

Aw, shucks, don't be negative.

What if you win?

Hey, Pop, you can't win.

Man, haven't you ever
heard that old saying,

"You can't fight City Hall"?

Oh, yes. You can.

I know a guy who did.

You see? Who was it, Grady?

Clayton Foley. You remember
Clayton Foley, don't you?

Clayton Foley? Yeah.

Ugly Clayton Foley.

Yeah, he used to work
down at the pool hall.

Yeah, real ugly with
the big bug eyes.

Yeah, that's Clayton.

Yeah, you see, you see,

he had a goiter in his neck

because his thyroid
wasn't working too good,

and that caused his
eyes to bug out, like...

That's what got him in
trouble, them bugged-out eyes.

You see, Clayton, Clayton
was a window washer,

and he was washing
this lady's window,

and she saw him looking at
her with them bugged-out eyes

and thought he
was a Peeping Tom,

and she had him arrested
for being a dirty old man.

And you say he fought
that case and won it?

He sure did.

He went to the doctor

and got a certificate
saying that he had a goiter.

He walked three
miles in the rain,

gave it to the judge,

and the judge
found him innocent.

Two weeks later, Clayton
died of pneumonia,

but he died knowing

that he was a clean
old man with a goiter.

See that, son?

If Ugly Clayton can
do it, so can you.

Yeah, but he died
doing it, remember?

Well, you can't fight City Hall

without making a few sacrifices.


Oh, that must be Sonny.

I'll get the door.

Yeah, you get it, Grady.

Right, sure, I'll get it.

Hey, Sonny.


How are you doing?
Come right on in.

Yeah, Fred, this
is Sonny Cochran.

Sonny, this here
is Fred Sanford.

Hello, Sonny. Mr. Sanford.

And that's, uh, uh... Lamont.

Yeah. Sit down, Sonny.
Have a little sit-down.

Yeah. Sit down, Sonny.
Have a little sit-down.

Right here.

Now, say, Sonny,
are you a lawyer?

That depends on who you ask.

If you ask me, I'm a lawyer.

Well, who says
you're not a lawyer?

The State of California.

But Sonny knows more
law than most judges.

Go ahead, ask
him anything, Fred.

Well, look here, Sonny.

Now, Lamont here
got a traffic ticket,

and he's innocent.

Now, what should he do about it?

Well, two viable options
immediately suggest themselves.

He can either pay
the fine, or fight it.

Oh! Did you hear that, Fred?

He's good, Grady.

Man, that was legal talk!

Look, look, look, I'm
going to pay the fine

just like I did the last two,
and just skip all the hassle.

You have two prior tickets?


Within the past year?


If you have two prior
tickets within the past year,

do you know what this means?


This means that this
is your third ticket.

And what I mean is...

I told you he was good.

Very good.

Under California law,

you're only allowed
four tickets in one year,

and if this one goes on
your record as the third one,

you're only one
away from the big one.

The big one?

What happens when
you get the big one?

The judge can
revoke your license

and no more driving.

Then that means that
there goes the truck.

There goes the business.

There goes Sanford.

There goes Son.

Going to be nothing
left but "and."

Son, I think you
ought to fight it.

Yeah, you may not have a choice.

Well, listen,

what are the chances
of fighting this case?

Well, that depends
on your line of defense,

but first we have to
ascertain the facts.

Tell me, what happened?

Well, see, I had
the green light,

and there was this guy that
came up from my right side,

and he was just about
to run the red light,

but he stopped all of a sudden.

So to keep from hitting him,

I had to go around him
and run through the light.

But you were supposed
to stop and yield.

He was supposed to
stop and yield for him.

You were supposed to
stop and yield, dummy.

I know that, but there
was a guy behind me,

and if I had stopped
all of a sudden,

I could have got
rammed in the rear.

Yeah, and that'd be dangerous.

You can get whiplash
and a rammed rear.

Well, did you tell
this to the officer?

Yeah, I told him, but he said

the guy behind me had
enough room to stop. A-ha!

We may have a
good defense after all.

The facts establish
two immediate hazards,

one in front, and
one in the back.

And a dummy in the middle.

It may no longer
be Lamont's word

against the policeman's word,

but Lamont's judgment

against the
policeman's judgment.

Your best defense
is to take the stand

and tell the simple truth,

and here's what you do.

Watch this, Sonny's going to
show him how to do it in court.

Yeah, watch this, Lamont.

Yeah, watch this.

Is everybody watching?

Yeah, we're watching.
Go ahead, Sonny.

You get up in front of
the judge and you say,

"Your Honor, my
story is quite simple.

"I saw a car pull
in front of me,

"which constituted
an immediate hazard,

"and even though I
had the green light,

"I was intending to
yield the right of way

"just as the law says,

because I was always
taught to obey the law."

I'm not finished.

Oh, sorry.

"But just then, I looked
into my rear-view mirror,

"and I saw a car coming
up fast behind me.

"Now, what was I to do?

"Break the law and
avoid an accident?

"Or obey the law

"and see the blood
of my fellow man

"spilled on the streets
of our beautiful city?

"I made my decision,

"and I accept
full responsibility

"and throw myself on
the mercy of the court,

and place my fate in
the hands of Your Honor."


Oh, Grady.

He's great, ain't he?

Hey, Sonny, that
was just beautiful.

That was beautiful.

You know you should be a lawyer

or have your own TV
series in a wheelchair.

Thank you.

Hey, listen, now, how
much do we owe you

for this valuable legal advice?

Well, I never charge my friends,

but what you can do is
let me make you a suit.

Now, one of my $49 specials.

Well, good.

Well, make me a suit

with two pairs of
pants and a vest,

and throw in a
pair of white socks.

It's a deal.

You got a deal.

Good luck, Lamont.


And don't forget,

throw yourself on
the mercy of the court.

Didn't I tell you
he was a winner?

He is great.

Oh, man.

Hey, wait up, Sonny,
I'll have a little...

I'll walk over to
the shop with you,

because I'm having a
little trouble with my zipper.

How about that, son?

You got all that
valuable information

that you can use
in court for nothing...

because I ain't going
to pay no $49 for no suit.

Do you think I'm going
to get up in the courtroom

and do a scene like he did?

Why not?

Because he's a tailor.
He ain't no lawyer.

Take a chance. I
mean, best you can do...

I mean, you can't let people
take advantage of you.

Yeah, but what if I lose?

You are not going to lose.

What if I do? I
could go to jail.

Listen, don't even
think like that.

Yeah, but that's the
chance I'm taking, Pop.

If I go to jail, then
where will you be?

Where will I be?

I'll be outside the jail

with a big sign saying
"Free Lamont Sanford!"

Free Lamont Sanford!
Free Lamont...

All rise. This court
is now in session.

Judge James Cleaver presiding.

Say, why do we got to
stand up for the judges?

Respect. Now, be quiet.

I don't mind getting up
for a woman, but a judge?

Hey, you don't think
judges might be...?

Would you stop that?

Well, they wear
them long black skirts,

and in England, the
judges wear powdered wigs.

And they don't
even have offices.

They have chambers.

I know. Now, be quiet.

Well, any time a
guy has a chamber

and wears a long
black skirt like that

and would put on a powdered wig,

I just happen to
think he might be...

Look at the judge.
It's a brother.

Son, we got it made.

Call the first case.

Juan Diego Lopez.

He's a Mexican.

No kidding.

Do you swear to tell the truth,

the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth,

so help you God?


I bet you he got
a speeding ticket.

See, because when
Mexicans get their car started,

they have to drive real fast

so they can get
where they're going

before the car stalls again.

Mr. Lopez, you were cited
for causing a traffic jam

on the fast lane of the
Hollywood Freeway.

I was driving in
the fast lane, si,

but I was going fast as I could.

But it says on
the traffic ticket

you were going 35 miles an hour.

That's as fast as my car can go.

Then in that case,

you shouldn't have
been in the fast lane.

You should have been
driving in the slow lane

as the law requires.

I didn't know that.


What did you say?

I didn't know that.

Well, ignorance of
the law is no excuse.

I have no alternative
but to find you guilty.

See, that's what was wrong.

He let the judge
know he was ignorant.

Now, whatever you do,

don't let the judge know
how ignorant you are.

I fine you $25.

Pay the cashier on your way out.

Thank you.



What did you say?

I didn't know that.

This is the right courtroom.

They've got to be
here somewhere.

Oh, there they are!

Hey, Fred! Here we are!

Hey, hey. Come on down.

Hey, would you guys move?

Would you all move over there?

These are my friends.

Yeah, excuse me.
Yeah. Thanks a lot.

Hey, hey. Come on down.

Court will be in order.

Say, what are those
clowns doing here?

I invited them to come.


Because when the judge
sees you got a lot of friends,

it would be good for
character witnesses.

Hey, hey. Hey, Bubba.

How are you doing?

I'm glad you all could make it.

Yeah. Lamont Sanford.

Either they leave
or I'm leaving,

because I'm not
going to stay in here

and be embarrassed...
Lamont Sanford.

They're calling your name.

Go on up there, son. Go ahead.

Hey, hey, hey, hey, listen.
I'm so glad you guys made it.

You are charged

with violation of Section
21803 of the Vehicle Code,

failing to yield
the right of way.

How do you plead?

No. Uh, not guilty.

Is the arresting
officer present?

Yes, Your Honor.

Please take the stand.

Hey, Fred.


Two to one he's found guilty.

Put your money
where your mouth is.

I got two bucks
that says he's guilty.

All right.

How about you,
Grady? You want some?

I'll put 50 cents on it.

I'll take 50 cents
worth of that.

MAN: Let me have part of it.

I'll give each one
of you a quarter.

All right.

Where's your two dollars, Fred?

No, one dollar. It's
two to one, isn't it?

Okay, all bets in.

The defendant
will take the stand.

Do you swear to tell the truth,

the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth,

so help you God?

I do. Be seated.

Will you tell the
court what happened?

Uh, well, Your Honor,

I realize now that
the legal thing to do

would have been to
yield the right of way,

but sometimes just being
legal isn't all there is to it.

See, all I was doing was
trying to avoid an accident,

but it turns out

that that was the
right thing to do,

but not the legal thing to do.

Hey, he look good.

Do I still have to
give two to one?

No, I'll bet you another
dollar, even money.


Officer, what was the
condition of the other car?

He had plenty of time to stop.

Well, I object, Your Honor.

May I ask the arresting officer

a very important question?

Mr. Sanford, I would think

that whatever question you had

would be better
asked by your counsel.

Are you represented by counsel?

Well, see, when I came up here,

I figured that...
Pardon me, Judge.

Did you say that that question

could be better
answered by his counsel?

That is correct. Who are you?

I'm his counsel.


Order in the court.

You say you're the
counsel for the defendant?

I've been
counseling all his life,

and I want to ask this
officer here a question.

Very well. Proceed.

Now, here's the question.

What have you got
against black drivers?


Order. Order.

I will not tolerate
these outbursts,

and you will
restrict your inquiry

to the matter before the court.

Well, that's what's wrong
with the court, Judge.

A black man ain't got
a chance down here.

I'm black.

Well, you're the
judge. That don't count.

Listen, why don't you
arrest some white drivers?

I do.

You do? Well, where are they?

Look at all these
niggas in here.

Look around here.

There's enough niggas in
here to make a Tarzan movie.


Order in this courtroom.

Mr. Sanford, I suggest

you write your congressman
or the newspapers

to express your views.

Well, listen, Judge,

a courtroom's where you
come to get justice, ain't it?

And that's what I'm
looking for is justice,

and I demand justice.


You tell him!

Order, order in this courtroom.

Now, another
demonstration like that

and I'll clear the courtroom.

You two, stand before the bench.


I have taken into consideration
the testimony in this case

and have reached a decision.

It seems to me

that you are a pretty
conscientious young man,

and taking into consideration
the two hazards confronting you,

you acted with
reasonable judgment.

Now, in view of all this,

I find you not guilty and
order this case dismissed.




Hey, son, I defended
you real good,

didn't I?

And Judge, if I hadn't spoken
up for our rights like I did,

you'd have found him
guilty, wouldn't you?

Wouldn't you, Judge, right?

Wrong. Huh?

Because I've also come
to a decision about you.

Who, me? Yes, you.

Due to your repeated
outbursts and disruptions,

I have no choice

but to find you in
contempt of this court.

Judge, I don't have no
contempt for this court.

I did, but I don't now.

You're fined the sum of
$25. Pay on your way out.

25 bucks? Listen,
brother, you can't...

And if you utter one more word,

the fine will be
increased by another $25.

Next case.

That's some justice.

You get a ticket and I
wind up paying the fine.

I'm going to get me a
coming-back-from-court drink.

Yeah, well, it's
your own fault, Pop.

My fault?

That's right, if you hadn't
invited those guys down there

and started
disrupting the court,

it never would have happened.

Look, I wouldn't even
have been in that courtroom

if you hadn't have
decided to fight the ticket.

If I hadn't decided
to fight the ticket?

You were the one that
said I should fight it.

I wanted to pay it, remember?

You did?

Well, then, since you
were going to pay it,

then give me my 25 bucks
back and we'll be even.

Why should I give you $25?

Because thing's will be

just like they were before
you changed your mind,

and I'll have my 25 bucks back.

Yeah, and I'd be
out of 25 bucks.

Well, okay, since
I talked you into it,

we'll split the difference.

Give me $12.50.


What about $6.25?


Well, wait a minute.

What's half of $6.25?

Forget it.

Forget it?

I'm never going to
be your counsel again.

Next time you get in trouble,

get your white lawyer and
get you some time in jail.

Cheap dummy.


and Son is recorded on tape

before a live studio audience.