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Friday, March 13, 2009

TV depicting the law, inaccurately

At CoOp, Corey Yung writes about the increasing inaccuracy of legal shows on TV, wondering whether Law & Order still employs lawyers as consultants and how that inaccuracy affects the understanding of law and the legal system that our students bring into the classroom. I long have shared this distaste for the often-stunningly incorrect depiction of law, lawyers, and the legal system. But this did remind me of my one brush with legal television:

When I was clerking on the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, we got a call in chambers from a production assistant on one of the legal shows (I think it was "Boston Legal") asking for minute details about the set-up of the courthouse and the courtrooms. The woman wanted to know who is in the courtroom during hearings and trials, where everyone sits or stands, where the district court and court of appeals are located within the building, all the way down to (I kid you not) the color of the striped ties and blazers that the Court Security Officers wear at the security stations at the building entrances. It seems the show was planning a story arc in which the lawyers would represent a prisoner in a habeas action in the E.D.Pa., with an appeal to the Third Circuit. And the PA's job was to find out all the atmospheric details.

I told her what I could over the course of about three conversations. But the entire time, all I could think was: You are going to get the legal issues and procedures so completely and utterly wrong. Why are you bothering to worry about the direction of the stripes on the Marshal's tie?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 13, 2009 at 11:55 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Television | Permalink


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