Less Laughter as FL Lawyer Dies at 75

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Sy Gaer, a beloved longtime Miami defense attorney known in courthouse circles for his cantankerous charm and unfailing sense of humor, has died following intestinal surgery. He was 75.

Never at a loss for words, Gaer was quoted in the Miami Herald late last year in one classic courtroom exchange:

“I’m here on a mission of mercy for this poor innocent child, your honor.”

Responded the judge: “How old is this ‘poor child’?”

Gaer: “He’s 23 years old, your honor … a babe in the woods.”

The judge: “If I recall, once you reach 18, you’re not a child anymore.”

Gaer: “I have suits that are older, your honor.”

The judge: “You have speeches that are older. I’ve heard them all Mr. Gaer. Motion denied.”

A veteran of the Korean War who originally hailed from Queens, N.Y., Gaer was humble in court hallways and could be underestimated by unwary opponents at their peril, the article continues. “They see this bumbling Barney Fife type guy, and then he does a brilliant cross examination, and they’re shocked because they thought he was just a court jester,” Circuit Judge Diane Ward told the newspaper last year.

Although he had been struggling with emphysema and prostate and colon cancer, Gaer continued working until the end, according to an attorney with whom he shared an office for decades. And he was telling jokes this past weekend even as he learned from his doctor that he needed immediate surgery, according to his son, Douglas, the Herald reports today. “The doctor told him, `You’re an attorney. You’re in your right mind,’ ” Douglas Gaer recounts. “And he said, ‘I don’t know about that.’ ”

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