Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wasting time, but it's kinda like work

I should be working right now, what with the previously mentioned soul-crushing case and all, but instead, I can't stop myself from watching "My Cousin Vinny". I understand that there are some lawyers who don't like to watch shows or movies about the law, but I am not one of them. I watch all the law shows (except Law & Order ever since the episode where they sentenced a criminal defense attorney to 20 years for refusing to reveal where the bodies were buried because that would have violated attorney-client privilege). And I love trial movies.

"Vinny" is one of those that I watch every time it's on. We "studied" that movie in law school, as good examples of a cross-examination. He does an excellent job of questioning those 3 eyewitnesses in a firm way but without being a jerk or even unkind. Well, he's a little tough on Mr. Magic Grits, but that guy deserved it. He's not a fast cook and the laws of physics don't actually cease to exist on his stove. I also like to use "Vinny" as an example of how the state's case may seem really strong, even airtight, and yet be completely bogus. Mr. Trotter had 3 eyewitnesses and a confession, after all. The only problem with "Vinny" is the bad rap public defenders get. But I'll still watch it.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, you know how towards the end, Mr. Trotter says he's got that surprise witness and Vinny objects with his well-reasoned, legally-correct objection which the judge overrules: well, in my experience, sadly, most judges really would overrule that objection. An awful lot of them would also deny any real continuance to allow the defense to prepare. Most defendants wouldn't be lucky enough to have Miss Mona Lisa Vito in the courtroom to rebut the state's surprise new evidence. In the real world, the rules of evidence and criminal procedure are almost always construed in favor of the prosecution.

Of course, I always watch "Legally Blonde", too. I first saw that movie on the second (and final) day of the bar exam. I think it made more of an impression on me because I still thought of myself as a law student (even though I'd been working as a pseudo-lawyer for almost 2 months). I remember when Chutney casually tossed out that she'd gotten a perm that day. Bruiser (the dog) stands up in his bag and barks. Elle doesn't seem to pick up on it right away, but I did! I'm enough of a Cosmo girl to know you don't wash your hair for 24 hours after getting a perm. (In case you're wondering, I have never gotten a perm; my curls are all natural, thank you.)

Perhaps my favorite, must always watch trial movie is "A Few Good Men". My family and I went to see that on Christmas Eve 1992. At the time, I don't think I even knew who Noah Wyle was, so I didn't know to be excited that my favorite ER doc was in the movie. Cuba Gooding, Jr., was also unknown to us then, as it was long before anyone would show him an Oscar for asking to be shown the money. And Demi Moore's second husband was 14 and living in Cedar Rapids, IA (home of my grandparents). The movie was a great one for everyone in my family to watch. Now I've seen it so many times, I can't watch it without reciting many of the lines, especially Jack Nicholson's response to Tom Cruise's demand for the truth. You know it, too. Who doesn't love that movie?

So those are the three legal movies that I always watch whenever they're on, but none of them contain what is probably my favorite courtroom scene of all time. That one has to go to "Miracle on 34th Street". The real one with Maureen O'Hara, Edmund Gwenn, and Natalie Wood. (In my world, that is the only one. The remake doesn't exist. Neither does "Legally Blonde 2".) Because I love clever lawyer tricks, I love, love, love the way Fred Gailey proves his case. Get the opposing party to stipulate to the honesty and accuracy of your evidence before they even know what's happening. Who doesn't love the moment after the judge has commanded Fred to put the additional pieces of evidence "right here on my desk." Then the dozens of mail bags come in and are dumped out on the bench. Classic.

So, my fellow lawyers: do you watch trial movies or no? If so, what are your favorites? What about you readers who aren't lawyers? Do you like to watch movies or shows about your profession? None of you should worry that obliging me in my fairly obvious attempt to procrastinate will actually prevent me from getting all of my work done.


Language Lover said...

I'm not a lawyer, but I also love the three movies you mentioned (haha, "Mr. Magic Grits" :) ) I'll have to watch Miracle on 34th Street; that's a classic I've never caught.

Not a trial movie per se since all we ever see is the deliberation, but what do you think of "Twelve Angry Men"? I've had that used in anti-racism curricula to examine how group dynamics work to silence minority viewpoints.

Language Lover said...

Oh, yeah, and I LOVE watching movies about electronic design automation software engineers. At least, I've loved every single one I've seen.


Unknown said...

I went to law school because of Legally Blonde. Sadly that's true.

S said...

Actually, I've never seen Twelve Angry Men. From what I've heard, I suspect I would find it infuriating (except for the ultimate verdict) because I'm pretty sure there is some serious juror misconduct.

Those software engineer movies are great, aren't they? Ooh, maybe you can get a job writing those screenplays! Seriously, I hope the job search isn't getting you down too much.

Erin, I don't think that's sad at all. Elle Woods teaches us all a good lesson about valuing ourselves (and not letting others underestimate us based on our fabulous looks).

Meryl said...

A Few Good Men....A Time to Kill....and actually there's a really fun scene in Harry Potter where Dumbledore acts as Harry's defense attorney. The head of the court is bent on convicting Harry for political reasons--he even switches the time and place of the hearing to try to get the case defaulted--and Dumbledore argues that they need to follow their own laws (think self-defense situation) and gets the acquittal.

Language Lover said...

What kind of juror misconduct is supposedly in "Twelve Angry Men"? It's been a while, but as far as I can remember, the jurors don't ever leave the room, which rules out independent investigation and, um...well, I don't really know what other kind of juror misconduct there is, which is kinda sad since I've served on three.

And I was mistaken: I HAVE seen a job about my profession, but "Antitrust" was so phenomenally stupid that I blocked it from my memory. It's about as realistic about software engineering as "Double Jeopardy" is about the law. Grrr. Maybe I WILL write that screenplay!

S said...

Actually, Bear, I may be thinking of an update to 12 Angry Men. I just remember my sister once telling me something about how the one guy convinces the others and I thought it involved something like outside investigation.

There are other types of misconduct, though, like in the Scott Peterson case, I think the jurors playing around in that boat merits a new trial. Or jurors can coerce other jurors. There are lots of things. My dad always proudly tells this story of when he was a jury foreman and came up with the amount of damages. I hate to tell him, but what the jury did was quite wrong.

But I don't know what your problem with "Double Jeopardy" is. ;) It's a brilliant piece of cinema and is absolutely correct on the law.

(Disclaimer: it is wrong on the law. If you serve prison time for killing someone who is not actually dead, you do NOT have license to kill that person! If you kill that person, you will go back to prison. Probably for a lot longer than the first time. Killing is bad, no matter how big a jerk the victim is.)

Dominick said...

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