‘Oh, Really?’ A ‘Night Of’ ethics, evidence woes

In our ‘Oh, Really’  feature, the Biederman Blog’s editors and alumni— voracious consumers of trendy matters — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular culture and its entertaining products, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.

The HBO series “The Night Of” has won critical acclaim. In this crime drama, Nasir, a community college student from a working class, Queens, Pakistani-American family heads out with friends to a party one Friday night. He meets a beautiful, mysterious young woman. After a night of drinking and ingesting other substances with her at her place, he blacks out. He awakens the next morning to find her stabbed 22 times.

The rest of the series is “Did he, or didn’t he?” and tracks his attorneys–a weary, down-on-his-luck ambulance-chaser, and the other a wet-behind-the-ears Pollyanna—as they build a defense. Their work is cut in with the hunt of a dogged detective who is “just one case away from retiring.” The series culminates in the young man’s trial, when we learn his surprise fate. The show’s performances are stellar, the direction is spot-on, and the writing —by the masterful Richard Price—is superb. But, really, how about the law in this hit? (Some spoiler alerts ahead, fyi.)

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‘Oh, Really?’ Yes, ‘Vinny’ still a hit after 25 years

In our ‘Oh, Really’  feature, the Biederman Blog’s editors and alumni— voracious consumers of trendy matters — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular culture and its entertaining products, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.

How’d that happen? Has it really been 25 years since a low-budget, gentle comedy about two New York youts—Bill (Ralph Macchio) and Stan (Mitchell Whitfield) and how they get into deep hot water in Dixie, only to be rescued by a Brooklyn wise guy—sneaked into theaters nationwide, became a hit, then a cult classic?

My Cousin Vinnyexperts note, not only has charmed audiences for awhile now. It also has earned a special spot in many lawyers’ hearts and minds because of its attention to telling truths. Its director holds a Cambridge law degree. It has been deemed by a respected legal publication as one of the 25 greatest legal movies, and it has been written up in legal textbooks and online sites.

The eminent jurist Richard Posner has written that the film is “particularly rich in practice tips: how a criminal defense lawyer must stand his ground against a hostile judge, even at the cost of exasperating the judge, because the lawyer’s primary audience is the jury, not the judge; how cross-examination on peripheral matters can sow serious doubts about a witness’s credibility; how props can be used effectively in cross-examination (the tape measure that demolishes one of the prosecution’s eyewitnesses); how to voir dire, examine, and cross-examine expert witnesses; the importance of the Brady doctrine … how to dress for a trial; contrasting methods of conducting a jury trial; and more.

Vinny has a notable fan at Southwestern Law School, too: Prof. Norman M. Garland (right), an expert on constitutional criminal procedure and evidence. Garland, who has served as the Irwin R. Buchalter Professor of Law and the Paul E. Treusch Professor of Law, offered a few observations about the film and its long and high-standing among legal practitioners: (more…)

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‘Oh, really?’ Early awakening’s murderous?

Passengers posits that rousing a space crew member early from a suspended state is tantamount to murder. How on earth might that be true?

In our ‘Oh, Really’  feature, the Biederman Blog’s editors and alumni— voracious consumers of trendy matters — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular culture and its entertaining products, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.

In the movie Passengers,  travelers on a swanky spaceship must trek for 120 years to reach and colonize Homestead II, a planet in a distant galaxy. To survive their journey, they’re all put into a suspended state, to be awakened just months before reaching their destination. But when the ship veers through an asteroid belt, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) accidentally awakens only 30 years into the trip. He grows depressed and isolated, confronting his  certain death in the 90 years before he reaches his planned new home.

Then, he notices Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) in her suspension pod. He falls for her. He struggles with his choice but wakes her, also nine decades too soon. When conscious, she is devastated that she will die before anyone else aboard besides Jim awakens, especially because she planned to stay only briefly on Homestead II before returning to Earth to write a book about her experiences.

Jim leads her to believe her rousing to consciousness was an accident. They grow close. Then an android, the bartender at one of the couple’s favorite spots on the ship, spills the beans to Aurora: Her amorous interest intentionally woke the sleeping beauty.

When another crew member Gus (Laurence Fishburne), a Chief Deck Officer, is accidentally awakened, Aurora fights with Jim. She insists to Gus that Jim has murdered her. Did he?  This flick raises an ethical or moral dilemma. But, really, murder? What might be legal considerations for such a claim, other than an angry lover’s recriminations about how a partner may have affected her longevity?

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‘Oh, Really?’ Pokemon chased by legal reality

508800-pokemon-goIn our ‘Oh, Really?’  feature, the Biederman Blog’s editors and alumni— voracious consumers of trendy matters — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular culture and its entertaining products, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.

Who knows how many millennials and youngsters spent the long Labor Day holiday chasing Pikachu, Eevee, and Jigglypuff? Who knows how many will race out this weekend to pursue Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander? And where’s Tauros or Mr. Mime?

“Gotta catch ‘em all, Pokémon!” rang out the ’90s theme song every Saturday morning on the cartoon show iconic to a  generation fully coming into its own. Now, history is repeating itself, as  kids, teens, and, yes, some adults repeat that tune as they zip around trying to “catch” Pokémon on the hot smartphone game app Pokémon Go.

To hear fans of Pokémon Go tell it, its rising technology–augmented reality (AR)–promises everything from mesmerizing new diversions  to innovative ways to present information and content to 100 percent Bar pass rates. But AR, as happens with many novel entertainment technologies, also has run smack into legal reality. (more…)

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‘Oh, Really?’ It’s tough to ‘Get away with murder’

 

In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors and alumni— voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise. This guest post was contributed by Sherrie Fields, a former editor of the blog and new member of the California Bar.

How To Get Away With Murder is the latest prime time hit to be produced by television titan Shondra Rhimes’ and it has fast become a Thursday night staple following Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.  Similar to Rhimes’ other shows, Murder is chalk full of drama, suspense, love triangles, and sex.

Viola Davis portrays Annalise Keating, an emotionally messy and conflicted but cunning lawyer, a role for which she won Best Actress at the most recent Emmy awards. In between the steamy sex scenes, Keating finds time to teach a course on criminal law, while running a highly successful criminal defense practice. Five of her students have earned coveted internships with her law firm and must assist Keating in representing clients in each episode, in which they invariably find themselves in precarious and scandalous situations.

While the television series is highly entertaining, as a recent Southwestern Law School graduate,  some aspects of the show require suspending  knowledge of a true first-year law school experience. Do any 1L’s lead lives with this much drama? Oh, really? (more…)

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‘Oh, Really?’ Naughty judges and ‘Mother’

In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.

With tens of millions of TV viewers tuned this week to see the answer to the nine-year question posed by the series How I Met Your Mother, for judicious reasons it’s a good time to reflect on this show’s episode titled Twelve Horny Women. Sitcom lawyer Marshall Eriksen, as played by Jason Segel, should have a slam-dunk case but cannot get anywhere with the judge or jury because opposing counsel, his law school pal Brad Morris (portrayed by Joe Manganiello), flexes his sculpted muscles, flashes his pearly white smile, and lures the all-female-jury with romance novel good looks. He woos all in the courtroom with his story of heartbreak after being recently dumped by his longtime girlfriend.

And not even the judge can resist — he allows Brad to act in this manner and even encourages it.  In one scene, Brad drops his pen to the floor, and when he goes to pick it up, he does so by flaunting his back-side to the judge and jury, then, slowly and seductively picks the pen up.  A frustrated Marshall says, “Objection!” yet the judge, with a grin on his face, gleam in his eyes and flirtation in his voice, responds, “I’ll allow.” Really? Is such conduct permissible in court? (more…)

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‘Oh, Really?’ Ethics shattered in 2 professions?

glassIn ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.

He’s a fresh-faced, eager but ruthlessly ambitious guy who somehow also manages to be nice, likable and accomplished. He’s also more than a little furtive, mysterious and slippery. And the actor who captures all these characteristics — a star who also portrayed a youthful warrior who would morph into one of the notorious, tortured Freudian villains of pop culture — has won praise for putting a personable, accessible and bespectacled face on the practice of pathological lying. Why is it worth revisiting actor Hayden Christensen as scribe Stephen Glass in the critically acclaimed but relatively low-grossing flick Shattered Glass?

Well, when truth turns into fiction, fiction shows truth and the truth becomes an object of scorn, this must be a mix of Washington, Hollywood and San Francisco or journalism, movies, the law and commentary. And who knew that the odious practices of one craft, chronicled in a movie three years ago, would be resurrected in a California Supreme Court rebuke and then would subject the legal profession to its own tut-tut-ing over  its bad actors? (more…)

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‘Oh, Really?’ Smart law and ‘Dumb Starbucks’

IMG_20140210_124208In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise. Blog editors Karen Hao and Kasia Campbell investigated a bit of L.A. street theater for this piece:

With the online buzz and media blitz that comedian Nathan Fielder whipped into a perfect latte froth with his “Dumb Starbucks Coffee” shop in the trendy Loz Feliz area, it might have seemed as if he cured cancer or created a crazy way to take a common daily drink that should cost a few bits and make us all pay gazillions for it. No, wait, just like some hipster java haven,  it was not long before crowds of people (including the authors of this post) waited in line for hours to get “dumb coffee” at his pop-up creation and to see what the fuss was all about. Would it be dumb and dumber to rely, as Fielder asserted he did, on “parody law” to circumvent the Starbucks’ trademark and to capitalize on an addictive brand? Maybe he just needed a way to promote his upcoming Comedy Central show, “Nathan for You?” Or maybe he wanted law-watchers to consider smartly some intellectual property issues of his brilliantly dumb stunt, which health officials shuttered just days after its Feb. 7 opening? (more…)

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‘Oh, Really?’ 47 million ways TV courts differ

judy--300x300In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.

Pop quiz: Who is America’s highest-paid television star? Kim Kardashian? Nope. John Stewart? No. Tina Fey? Negative. Try this: TV Guide says it is Judith Sheindlin, aka “Judge Judy,” who reigns atop this nation’s star list, pulling down a whopping $47 million annually.

It’s unsurprising, actually, that the Judge Judy phenomenon has seeped so deep into pop culture. By delivering her brand of “drive-thru” justice and entertainment, replete with common sense conduct and no-nonsense rebukes from the bench for an endless array of reality TV-style twits, Sheindlin has become one of America’s most trusted jurists.

But the cruelest reality of the broadcast courts — where Judge Joe Brown hauled down a reported $20 million annually and Judge Marilyn Milian presides over one of TV’s longest-running and highly profitable franchise series — is how much they differ from the pauperized, actual state of the legal system. While Judge Judy exemplifies the exception where a law degree is worth millions, her show and the other TV courts falsely portray an American legal system that’s fiscally healthy and sufficiently rewarding to give all plaintiffs, especially those with relatively minor matters, an abundance of time and attention. (more…)

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‘Oh, Really?’ Let’s go ape over jests, contracts

A combination photo showing Bill Maher and Donald Trump

In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.

He’s a real estate investor who plasters his name on properties from Manhattan to the Vegas strip. He appears regularly in the New York tabloids and has a network television show. He opines freely on matters political and otherwise, made a run at the GOP presidential nomination and is quoted by fringe elements for his widely discredited theorizing about President Obama’s birthplace and academic record. Donald Trump, though, has shown no sense of humor and has turned tortious over comedian Bill Maher’s broadcast comments about his parentage. He’s now put this monkey business into the courts in a case ripe for consideration in Contracts 101: (more…)

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