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Friday, April 27, 2012

New competition: Find the good lawyer!

Dear all, this course is approaching the end and I have the impression that in the Law and Literature field the negative aspects of law a& lawyers seem to prevail. This can't be really said for the field of Law and Iconography and Law and Architecture. In the first one I think that we have both positive and negative interpretations of the law and of the lawyers while in architecture the image seems to be always positive. This is certainly linked to the fact that architecture, much more then the other "humanities", is conceived to represent power and its ideal representation of justice. Does this mean that the more the artist is free, the more the image of justice seems to be a negative one? I would like to ask you to post examples of good jurists (lawyers or judges or professors of law) in literature, cinema and iconography all over the world. I will start with the easiest example: Lawyer Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee (which was also made into a very successful American movie). Someone of you could maybe try to describe the character? Both the novel and the movie are really nice.


  1. Atticus Finch is a fictional legal hero and an Alabama single father who famously defended a black man, Tom Robinson, who was falsely accused of raping a white woman in the Jim Crow American south. He is ethical, honest and forbearing and he is considered as a lawyer a model to follow, so that, for example, in an article I read that a civil rights lawyer, Morris Dees, the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, says Atticus Finch is the reason he became a lawyer. I tried to find something focusing in particular on cinema and I found out that good lawyers are common in American TV series or thrillers, involved in racial matters or social questions in general. For example Matthew McConaughey in the thriller “A time to kill” is a Southern lawyer who fights in defense of racial realities that the law seems unable to redress. We find also innovative characters, like in Ally McBeal, an American TV series, whose protagonist is a female lawyer that combines justice with guys and expensive shoes. As far as Italian films is concerned, we can remember a true story, that of the lawyer Ambrosoli, who tries to investigate deeper in a case in which Mafia is involved and he pays no mind to the ominous hints from the government that he should stop, so at the end he is killed. His story, represented in a film called “An ordinary hero”, is an example of real virtue in a lawyer, because he accepts to die for the Truth and reminds us that lawyers, just as judges, have to be heroes in reality, even if they are not considered good in films and books.

  2. While I was looking for some positive figures of lawyers or judges in literature, I found these interesting words of the italian writer Andrea Camilleri, about 'Juges in literature'; he quotes some negative but even positive examples:

    I was also wondering if I knew films wherein lawyers have a positive role, and I though about 'Philadelphia',a film directed by Jonathan Demme. I suppose everyone has already seen this film, wherein the main characters are two lawyers. Tom Hanks is a brillant lawyer, who looses his job because of his Aids desease and because of his omosexuality. He decides to sue his conservative law firm, with the help of a lawyer, starred by D. Washington, who acts as attorney in his case, gradually losing his homophobic prejudices and fears. This film is a lesson of tolerance, against the injustice and the typical prejudices of American '90s society, and it's a vivid (rare?) example of 'good lawyers'who make a correct use of the law to overcome human prejudices and limits.

  3. Rudy Baylor – “The Rainmaker”, a novel by John Grisham (1995) adapted into a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1997) .

    Rudy Baylor is about to graduate from Memphis State Law School; inexperienced, young and without a job he decides to start working for J. Lyman "Bruiser" Stone, a personal injury lawyer and “ambulance chaser” (imagine a lawyer following the ambulance to the emergency room to find clients) . He then meets Deck Shifflet, a non-ethical character, a paralegal who has failed the Bar exam six times but a mentor too somehow, showing him tricks to get clients in a city overcrowded by lawyers.

    Rudy Baylor is the ideal, impeccable character: naïve and inexpert at first he finds himself taking on one of the most powerful, corrupted companies in America, responsible in the end for Donny Ray death, a young man ill with leukemia who could have been saved with a bone marrow transplant from his identical twin. The procedure should have been covered by his insurance company, the Great Benefit Life Insurance, which denied the claim.

    In the end Dot and Buddy Black, Rudy’s client and Donny Ray’s parents, win the case, Great Benefit is forced to declare bankrupt (to avoid paying the verdict) and even if there is no payout for Donny’s parents it is still an incredible victory: at 25, barely out of law school, Baylor wins (ideally and in practice) thanks to his quest for details, a good judge and his restless, strenuous courage. People love Rudy Baylor because he is the absolute hero, perfect in his imperfections, ethical, rigorous and almost impossible to meet in real life. He is the highest example of a lawyer, but of a person with ideals in general.

    These are two clips of the film found on youtube:

    In the first one Rudy (Matt Damon) attempts to conduct his deposition without success.

    I couldn’t find the last one in English, unfortunately, because it's one the key moments of the film, but this is an approximate translation
    “Every lawyer, at least once in every case, feels himself crossing a line that he doesn’t really mean to cross, it just happens. And if you cross it enough times it disappears forever. And then you’re nothing but another lawyer joke. Just another shark in the dirty water.”

  4. William "Willy" Beachum - Il caso Thomas Crawford (Fracture).

    An attorney intent on climbing the career ladder toward success, finds an unlikely opponent in a manipulative criminal he's trying to prosecute. Theodore "Ted" Crawford, a wealthy and talented Irish aeronautical engineer in Los Angeles, discovers that his wife Jennifer is having an affair with police detective Robert Nunally. He then engages in a battle of wits with rising star deputy district attorney William "Willy" Beachum who considers this an open-and-shut matter and agrees to immediately go to trial. Beachum is busy, making preparations for his transition from criminal law to corporate attorney for Wooton & Simms, a well-known law firm. At the trial, Crawford acts as his own attorney, matching up a star prosecutor against a supposedly untrained litigant. Crawford reveals that the arresting officer (Nunally) was having an affair with his wife, assaulted him during his arrest, and was present during his interrogation.Crawford's confession is ruled to be inadmissible as evidence, as it was fruit of the poisonous tree (Fruit of the poisonous tree is a legal metaphor in the United States used to describe evidence that is obtained illegally). Beachum discovers that Crawford's handgun was not used to shoot his wife because it had never been fired and did not match the shell casings at the crime scene. Beachum is tempted by Nunally's scheme to plant false evidence to implicate Crawford but decides against it at the last minute. With no new evidence to present to the jury, Beachum is forced to concede the trial, and Crawford is acquitted.
    With the case closed, Beachum obsessively continues to search for evidence and he find it.
    Beachum confronts Crawford with his new evidence and he is arrested by the waiting police.

  5. the only positive example shown by a lawyer that I can remember it's in a film, "I am Sam". the story is very simple: the main character is Sam,played by Sean Penn, a disable people who suffers mental retardation, has a child, Lucy, but her mother leaves him alone with her. Sam's problem is that his brain has developed only until the age of five, and when Lucy become 7 years old, she is yet cleverer than his father..for this reason, the child is taken from some welfare workers, to be given to a normal family. in this situation enters in the play Rita, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, a very famous lawyer, in particular a barrister, who after meeting Sam and Lucy offers to Sam his help in the trial, and she offers it free, she doesn't want any payment.

  6. But...the good lawyers seem to prevail in the USA!

  7. i'm absolutly agree with you. If i think to the aim of this "competition" only american characters come to my mind. First of all Perry Mason. Perry Mason is a fictional character, a defense attorney who was the main character in works of detective fiction authored by Erle Stanley Gardner. Perry Mason was featured in more than 80 novels and short stories, most of which had a plot involving his client's murder trial. Typically, Mason was able to establish his client's innocence by implicating another character, who then confessed. Gardner, who was one of the best-selling authors of all time, had 135 million copies of his books in print in America alone in the year of his death in 1969. The character of Perry Mason was portrayed each weekday on a long-running radio series, followed by well-known depictions on film and television, including television's most successful and longest-running lawyer series from 1957 to 1966 starring Raymond Burr; another series in 1973–1974, starring Monte Markham and Brett Somers; and 30 made-for-TV movies filmed from 1985 to 1993.

  8. On German television we have a really successful TV series which is called “Danni Lowinski”. Danni Lowinski has started her career being a hairdresser. Meanwhile she has done evening courses to pass her university-entrance diploma. Finally, she studied law at university and became a lawyer.
    Unfortunately, she was not able to find a job and started her own business in a mall with a simple table and two chairs. He offers legal help for one Euro per minute. In the series she mostly has poor clients and unusual orders. She tries to fight against big law firms and corrupt people.
    She is quite an unusual lawyer and one easily feels sympathy for her. It’s kind of a dramatic comedy and the series got several awards in Germany. A TV channel in the US is planning a copy based on the original.
    Attached you find a link containing the introduction of the series. Maybe you get an impression.

  9. Joseph "Joe" Miller - Philadelphia (1993)

    Philadelphia, with the masterly interpretation of Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks(who won the Oscar for it), was one of the first mainstream films to acknowledge AIDS, homosexuality and homophobia. It also offers a great example of a "good lawyer", Joe Miller, who after overcoming the initial prejudices, accepts to take the hard case of Andrew Beckett. Beckett is a senior associate in the largest corporate law firm in Philadelphia, and is not open about his homosexuality at the law firm, nor the fact that he has AIDS. On the day he is assigned the firm's most important case, one of the partners notices a lesion on his forehead, and the truth about his illness began to emerge. Beckett is dismissed from the law firm, under the pretext of a misplaced document, but he's aware that the firing is actually a result of his diagnosis with AIDS. He asks several attorneys to take his case, including Joe Miller, who is admittedly homophobic and declines, immediately visiting his doctor to find out if he could have contracted the AIDS through shaking Beckett's hand.
    But then, after some circumstances, disgusted by the discriminatory beahviour and the hostilities of the others, he changes his mind and offers his courageous support to Beckett. As Miller prepares for the courtroom battle, he begins to realize the discrimination practiced against Beckett is no different from the one he himself has to battle against for the fact he's black.
    Thanks to Miller's hard work the jury votes in Beckett's favor, awarding him back pay, damages for pain and suffering, and punitive damages totaling nearly $4.5M.

  10. The life of David Gale.
    David Gale (Kevin Spacey) is a college professor and longtime activist against capital punishment who is sentenced to' death for killing a fellow capital punishment opponent.
    With only a few days to his execution he tells his story to a journalist from a major news magazine.
    The story is revealed to the movie audience through a series of lengthy flashbacks.
    David tries to' demonstrate that the capital punishment in Texas is fallacious because it sentences to' death innocent people.
    However he isn t albe to show it in a logica way: in fact he loses a televisive debate with the Governor of Texas, when he is unable to point to an example of a demonstrably innocent man being executed.
    In any case however the theory is proved at the end: the system is wrong because has sent to' death an innocent person. There is a deep contraddiction: it imposes life through an other person's death.
    Nevertheless in my opinion the theory is limited because it doesn t manage to' state the right of life tout court, in
    an absolute way.
    Maybe the death punishment must generate shame and not only considerations about its opportuneness.

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  12. Gareth Pierce - In the Name of the Father, a 1993 movie based on the true life story of the Guildford Four, four Irish people falsely convicted of the IRA's near London bombings which killed five people. These four Belfast people and some of their relatives are convicted of supporting the bombing on the basis of unsubstantiated trials and for the result of a police conspiracy they are sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment. The Guilford Four were assisted by a very combative lawyer, Gareth Peirce, a passionate solicitor determined to prove their innocence that was already clear to the public opinion. Her court speech alone is worth the price of admission, and represents one of the most stirring moments of recent cinema. In fact the production of some documents she found, leads to a triumphant scene in court when she produces the evidence that the police officers have been lying all the way through, which leads to the acquittal of all the accused.
    Here you can take a look on Gareth Pierce's profile, to see how really is this radical solicitor, heavily involved in the civil rights sphere with her work.

    This the movie trailer

    …and this is the ending scene with the lawyer's speech!

  13. I don't think that positive figures of lawyer are only in american movies. "Un eroe borghese", an italian movie of the 1994 directed by Michele Placido, describes the story of Giorgio Ambrosoli, an italian lawyer murdered by the italian mafia in Milan in 1979.
    The Ambrosoli's troubles began when he was appointed liquidator of the Italian Private Bank; 40 years old, with wife and 3 sons.
    The bank is owned by the sicilian powerful financier Michele Sindona, who is actually in U.S. where he is supported by the mafia in order to recycle dirty money, Sindona is also well connceted with many important figures like politicians and entrepreneurs. Everybody hate Ambrosoli, both people involved directly in mafia business and even the employees of the bank, everyone is scared to be damaged by his work. The only person that stands for the lawyer is Silvio Novembre, marshal of the Guardia di Finanza, who is not only a collaborator but also a friend.
    When the misdeeds are discovered, Sindona, furious, goes on attack.
    There will be citations against Ambrosoli, telephone threats and blandishments, but the lawyer holds on and submit its report, which is a real indictment.
    The same Ambrosoli family life has become more than difficult: his wife is alarmed, the children no longer see his father, who luckily founds in Novembre an honest and tenacious collaborator. After he was invited in 1978 to testify in N.Y. he comes back in Milan and the mafia gives the order to eliminate him.
    Renewed threats by phone not prevent Ambrosoli to fulfill its task. Returning home one evening (among other things he is not never been given a spare), while his family are on Lake of Como, Joseph Aricò, Italian-American hit man, kills him with four gunshots.

  14. -Avery Tolar (Gene Hackman) in the legal thriller film "The Firm".

    This is a movie from 1993,directed by Sydney Pollack, where Tom Cruise plays the role of a brilliant student of Harvard Law School, Mitch McDeere.
    When he's about to graduate he makes different job meetings trying to decide where he will work (many law offices try to hire him because of his brilliant legal education). He finally decides to work at the firm 'Bendini,Lambert & Locke' who immediatly fascinates him making him feel that they are a small but very rich office which can give him many benefits and make him feel as if he was part of a family.
    Everything seems beautiful, he gets a new house, a new car, an enormous salary, and the lawyer Avery Tolar becomes his mentor in the office, introducing him in different iportant cases which they have to treat.
    Going on in the story the protagonist will find out that the firm actually works through many illegal ways,corrupting,killing,threatening and so on.
    In this whole story his mentor makes part of this criminal organisation, but in the end he will help him denouncing the firm's illegal activities to the FBI, just before dying.
    This makes understand Mitch,his wife and the spectators, that although he was acting unfair, he was just another good man cought in a maze without an easy exit.

    -Giovanni Falcone (Andrea Tidona) and Paolo Borsellino (Gaetano Aronica) in the italian programme "Il capo dei capi".

    This was a succesful italian programme about the story of the famous sicilian mafia's boss Salvatore Riina.
    Every episode narrates a part of the life and the crimes of the boss and of course, during the story, we get to know the characters of the two very important and brave italian judges Falcone and Borsellino, and then we see how they got killed for having tried to fight the 'Cosa Nostra' criminal organisation.

  15. Is possible to find a positive character of a lawyer also in a well-known novel by John Grisham, “The Client”, in which is described the character of Reggie Love, an older female lawyer who is chosen by the young protagonist , Mark Sway (a child threatened by Mafia because he’s the only one to know how a US senator was killed by Mafia and where his body is buried) in order to defend himself. During the process, the Reggie’s past comes out: she has divorced with her husband but, especially, she’s a former alcoholist. Nevertheless, she tries not only to defend him (and his younger brother) in the process, but also to protect the young protagonist, and between the two starts a relationship made of distrust, conflict, suspicion and, at the end, affection. In the 1994 a film, directed by Joel Schumacher, was based on this novel and the character of Reggie was interpreted by Susan Sarandon.

  16. I would also add a different perspective about the theme.i m refering to the movie"the devil'advocate",which hides an important metaphore.Infact often powerful lawyers are not loyal to the real meaning of law,but are disposed to accept any condiction to afford their personal aims. that's what the movie show us and according to me it s really important.cinema as literature as well,do not always show the image of the "good jurist".

  17. The only italian literary example of good lawyer that comes in my mind is the character of lawyer Guerrieri by Gianrico Carofiglio.
    Maybe Carofiglio's novels can't be considered as a classics, but certainly they are interesting for the way in which he treats the figure of the lawyer. Infact Guerrieri is described as an ordinary man with his weakness and faults but he is honest and not at all avid and cynical such as other lawyers are generally described.
    Besides the author himself was training as a lawyer and he is a magistrate, so from his prose comes out his knowledge of subject.