When it became apparent that people of power in Los Angeles didn’t want “labor’s lawyer” to leave town, Darrow reached out for suggestions on defense counsel; time and again, one name surfaced, Earl Rogers. At that time, Earl Rogers was not merely the best-known lawyer in Los Angeles but in all of California. By this point in his career, after a string of successes in many high-profile matters, any trial in which Rogers was involved was an event.
Earl Rogers was sui generis. He was a one-of-a-kind phenomenon.
Rogers was a celebrity lawyer with a following of his own. Nearly every case he handled in either Los Angeles or San Francisco, was before a standing-room-only crowd. Despite his troubled personal life and notoriety for after-hour antics, Rogers’ work ethic was legendary and his effectiveness as a champion of an accused was universally respected. Darrow could find no better “local counsel” than Earl Rogers.
No two people, nor two lawyers could be more unlike the other. Darrow, the sober, somber, philosophical crusader who cared little for the law but entered the arena for the sake of the struggling masses, versus Rogers, ever seeking laughter, battling unspoken demons, who cared only to be the champion of the forlorn individual in the clutches of the law. Darrow, the lawyer who loved reading classical literature, learned treatises on the social conditions of the working poor and contemporary poetry, and asked others to research the law for him, versus Rogers, the passionate student of the law, reading court decisions daily, and whose mind never stopped thinking about how best to gain an advantage for his clients in the courtroom. Darrow, the slovenly lawyer with grease stains on his tie and shirt who often looked like he had slept in his suit and needed a bath, versus Rogers, whose sartorial splendor was unrivaled, always appearing in court so well-groomed that his attire was often the first thing discussed in news reports of his trials. Darrow, the advocate extraordinaire whose words could melt the hearts of gruff men and bring them to tears, versus Rogers whose virtuosity in the courtroom had yielded mystifying acquittals, utilizing his voice and his brilliant legal mind. Finally, for Darrow it was all about social issues, for Rogers it was only about his individual clients. Regardless of their differences each needed and respected the other.
Darrow was fearful his career might end in disgrace, and needed help from this gifted local attorney. Rogers was fighting with an occasional loss of confidence; he was buoyed by the prospect of representing America’s most famous lawyer. Also working to his advantage, Rogers’ roots in Los Angeles were deep, he had a network of investigators, informants and drinking pals who kept him informed on anyone that might affect his law practice. Rogers’s stature what it was, and knowing the business and political players who would be delighted to see Darrow behind bars, it’s likely he expected being called upon by Darrow. Yet both men knew that if they were to have an attorney-client relationship it would be anything but routine.
Complicating their relationship further was the relationship between Ruby Darrow and Rogers’s daughter, Adela. They detested one another.