Thursday, January 3, 2008

media portrayals of legal argument

Law_and_order_logo On last night's 18th season premiere of Law and Order, the new character, prosecutor "Michael Cutter" (played by Linus Roache), interrupted opposing counsel's argument, despite the judge telling him to wait his turn. And then the judge did nothing. (And I'm not even going to touch the prosecutor's decision to tell the police to proceed with a search after the judge turned down his request for a warrant.)

It concerns me to see these portrayals of uncivil and unprofessional argument in the media. The blog "May It Please the Court" even has a name for this phenomenon, labeling it the "Boston Legal Syndrome." (On that television show, however, the lawyers are occasionally sent to jail for contempt of court. But not always. Take, for example, a recent statement Shore made in court: "I move to remove you on the grounds of horrible judging. There's a pattern of it, actually.")

I enjoy watching these shows, I admit, in part because they address current issues, and in the case of Boston Legal, because it's funny. But I am afraid that if I played a clip in class from one of today's tv-lawyer shows, my students might fail to appreciate that I am showing them what not to do.

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