A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 28, 2016
“Why does California have the most lawyers and NJ the most toxic waste dumps?” (lawyer joke)

A popular old lawyer joke is:

Q: “Why does California have the most lawyers and New Jersey the most toxic waste dumps?”
A: New Jersey had first choice.


The joke has been cited in print since at least 1987 (when it was a New York versus New Jersey joke involving investment bankers) and 1988. “Washington, DC” often replaces “California” in the joke.


10 March 1987, Washington (DC) Post, “The Crucial ‘Us-Them’ Factor” by Mark Shields, pg. A15, col. 1:
Question: Why does New Jersey have more toxic waste dump sites and New York have more investment bankers? Answer: New Jersey had first choice.

15 March 1987, Boston (MA) Herald, “The Eye on Sunday” with Norma Nathan, pg. 11, col. 5:
There was light—very light—laughter, so (John—ed.) Kerry tried again. “One story question why New York has so many investment bankers and New Jersey has so many toxic waste dumps and the answer was that New Jersey had first choice.” That got a strong response and was the first joke of the night.

6 April 1987, The Times Reporter (Dover-New Philadelphia, OH), pg. 4, col. 4:
Chief Tusky says:
Wall Street’s widespread insider-trading scandal has spawned a batch of jokes, many of them nasty, to wit: Question: Why does New Jersey have more toxic dump sites and New York more investment bankers? Answer: New Jersey had first choice.

17 June 1987, Tri-State Defender, “In Black and White; Pyramid ballot” by Robert D. Samuelson, pg. 4:
Have you heard why New Jersey has more garbage dumps than New York and New York has more lawyers than New Jersey? It’s because New Jersey had first choice. Sorry, counselor, we’re just kidding.

Google Books
Skid Marks:
Common Jokes about Lawyers

By Michael Rafferty
Bolinas, CA: Shelter Publications
1988
Pg. 54:
Why does California have the most lawyers and New Jersey the most toxic waste dumps?
New Jersey had first choice.

New York (NY) Times
THE LAW; In Search of the Latest - Certainly Not the Last - Laugh in a Long Line of Jokes About the Profession
By David Margolick
Published: June 30, 1989
(...)
Why does California have the most lawyers and New Jersey the most toxic waste dumps? (New Jersey had first choice.)

Google News Archive
26 September 1990, Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT), “Want the latest in lawyer jokes? Dial 900 number, help homeless,” pg. 3A:
Richmond, Va. (UPI)—
(...)
Why does New Jersey have so many toxic waste dumps and Washington, D.C., so many lawyers? New Jersey had first choice.

Google Groups: rec.humor
Looking for Lawyer Jokes (Lawyers usually have the bestgrin
Fred Kopec
4/26/91
Why does Texas have so many lawyers and New Jersey so many toxic waste dumps?
Because New Jersey had first choice!

Google Groups: gnu.gcc.help
Gnu lint ?
Nick Straguzzi
9/23/92
(...)
Nick Straguzzi / GE Advanced Technology Labs / Moorestown NJ / (609) 866-6646
------------------------- --------------------------
Why does New Jersey have the most toxic waste dumps and Washington, DC, the most lawyers?  Because New Jersey chose first.

Google Books
Lawyers from Hell Joke Book
By Ellie Grossman
New York, NY: Signet: New American Library
1993
Pg. 40:
New Jersey has the most toxic waste dumps, and California has the most lawyers. You know why? New Jersey had first choice!

Google Groups: rec.humor
REQUEST: LAWYER JOKES…
Hinayana Bawagan
8/20/93
These lawyer jokes I got from a Time magazine article regarding lawyer bashing.

1. Why does California have the most lawyers and New Jersey have the most toxic waste dumps?
Because New Jersey had the first choice.

Google Books
Lowering the Bar:
Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture

By Marc Galanter
Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press
2005
Pg. 201:
Why does California have the most lawyers and New Jersey the most toxic waste dumps?
New Jersey had first choice.

Google Books
The Biteback Dictionary of Humorous Business Quotations
By Fred Metcalf
London: Biteback Publishing Ltd
2014
Pg. ?:
Why does California have the most lawyers and New Jersey the most toxic waste dumps?
Because New Jersey had first choice.
Anon.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Monday, March 28, 2016 • Permalink