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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Signing Off and Remembering Andy

GriffithMultitasking has its limits -- especially in the midst of a major move. As I prepare to head south to Savannah Law School, I wistfully regret not having more time to post on Prawfs during the month of June as frequently as I would have liked, but, as always, I enjoyed my stay. This time around, I'd like to sign off with a posting dedicated to the late and always wonderful Andy Griffith. His first film, A Face in the Crowd (1957) is featured in Advocacy to Zealousness, but Griffith is best known as a fictitious television sheriff and lawyer. Whenever I watch A Face in the Crowd, I think about Griffith's wonderful range as an actor and artist, and how he was celebrated for only a small portion of what he was capable of conveying on the big and small screens of film and television, respectively. Having experienced Griffith as Lonesome Rhodes makes me see Andy Taylor and Ben Matlock a little differently -- with an increased awareness of the depth beneath the surface of affability, and a realization of Griffith's strategic choice to go further in his career by staying in second gear indefinitly rather than shifting to fourth for a brief several miles. He personified some of the most beloved characters related to law and order in popular cultural history. Much like Lonesome, yet in a vastly more positive and productive way, Griffith read his audience and went with what they wanted, what "worked" for the long haul, and he seemed to be at peace with his decision to embrace his "brand" throughout his career. Do we also do this as law professors, or do we continue to stretch and grow throughout our careers? If you've ever shown a Griffith clip in class, which one(s) did you use?

Posted by Kelly Anders on July 3, 2012 at 04:19 PM in Culture, Current Affairs, Film, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law, Television | Permalink

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It seems to me that Andy had a clear conflict of interest in Mayberry, trying to serve as sheriff and justice of the peace. This required him, as justice of the peace, to decide cases in which he, as a sheriff, had been directly involved. See, e.g., the episode when he gave Bobby Fleet (of Bobby Fleet and His Band with a Beat) a trumped-up parking ticket and then fined Fleet for insulting the dignity of Andy's robes when Fleet dared to challenge the ticket in court. Plus, Andy's fine for "robe dignity offending" seemed to be pretty arbitrary. There was supposedly a circuit judge who came through town every once in a while, but his jurisdiction was never fully explained.

Posted by: Alex Long | Jul 5, 2012 4:11:46 PM

Yes, this is an excellent point. This is a commonly-used storyline in sitcoms that depict law and order in small towns. On "The Andy Griffith Show," the "folksy" element of law enforcement permeated the series. Andy wore both hats, but this was generally excused by his choice to use this dual authority for genial purposes (e.g., to gently and indirectly encourage parties to resolve disputes, such as the one between Fleet and the guitar player -- I think his name may have been Jim).

However, I recall one episode that was very differnt in tone. It began with Andy visiting a larger, neighboring city to require a newspaper or magazine publisher to return to Mayberry to see the justice of the peace regarding a recent traffic violation. When the man arrived, he discovered that Andy also served in that capacity, and the man devised a scheme to send a young, female reporter to Mayberry to "get dirt" for an expose on Andy's job performance in an effort to get him removed from office. After the article was published, Andy was required to attend a hearing about some of the information in the article. Through Barney's testimony about the role of a "small-town sheriff" being "a friend," and the importance of maintaining order by making decisions "from the heart." Andy was reinstated, but this was probably the most stark example of the downside of his dual role in the series. Interestingly, it is also the clearest example of Andy's attempt to go by the book (and not by the heart) in his roles as sheriff and justice of the peace.

Posted by: Kelly Anders | Jul 6, 2012 5:21:31 PM

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