Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Proposed Constitutional Amendment: Protecting the Right to Enjoy Governor Scandals

Early_out_governorsIt's really nice to see Rod Blagojevich back in the news. That man is an American gem. But it's not the same now that he's no longer a sitting governor. I'm still mad at Illinois for impeaching and removing him. It was like the end of the first season of The O.C.; you just stare at the television trying to come to terms with the fact that it's really over.

Dang it! I am sick and tired of governors resigning or getting impeached just when they create fabulous national news. Enough is enough!

Look, news of oil spills is horrible. It's important, of course, but it's not a lot of fun to watch. The same is true of most news. But scandalized, out-of-control, going-rogue governors – that's delicious stuff.

When a state gets rid of a sitting governor who has become a scandal magnet, that state gains. Sure. But the other 49 states lose out. The last days of the Blagojevich, Sanford, and Spitzer administrations were halcyonic. And with Palin, it looked like that investigation was about to heat up and things were just about to get interesting, and then she ended it.

Even though Palin and Blagojevich have had an afterlife on cable talkshows and the internet, at their best, they're merely amusing. But when they were in office, they pushed the needle to en fuego. You just can't refudiate that. 

Thus, I propose the following as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: No governor of any state may resign or be removed before the end of the term of office unless two-thirds of cable television audiences so consent.

(Palin photo CC-BYTherealbs2002)

Posted by Eric E. Johnson on July 21, 2010 at 08:14 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Current Affairs, Television | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

What Television Show Do Prawfs Like Best?

230_Watching_television_1958 What is the all-time favorite television show of law professors? 

Let's do a scientific* survey. (I have a prediction for who will win, but I don't want to say just yet.)

First, we will need nominations. Please put yours in the comments. 

Also, of course, you should feel free to gloat in the comments that you don't watch television. (Neither does Rachel Maddow, which is why, despite the fact that I like her, I was forced to put her on my AXIS OF EVIL.) 

At least we know Orly Lobel watches television – she wrote a gallant defense of the box here.

I personally don't watch TV very much at all. But it's hard to completely avoid seeing it. I mean, after all, it is babysitting our children.


* I will figure out some way to make it scientific later.

Posted by Eric E. Johnson on July 6, 2010 at 07:14 PM in Television | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Compendium of Media & Entertainment Law Materials

Banner for compendium of materials for media and entertainment lawI've put together a compendium of materials for courses on media law and entertainment law, and I've put it up on the web so that other teachers can make use of it. These are materials that I've used, or plan to use, in my own courses.

There are some judicial opinions in there. Judicial opinions are the staple of law-school reading. But the best parts of the compendium are the documents that are not judicial opinions. 

I'm a strong believer in assigning readings other than judicial opinions. So my compendium includes contracts, demand letters, and various litigation pleadings. These documents are especially valuable reading in entertainment law and media law, where industry custom, intimidation tactics, creative lawyering, ignorance, bullying, and fear all combine to play a role that rivals that of the law itself.

In the compendium, you will find a recording contract and a management deal for Mötley Crüe, scarily one-sided agreements for reality television participants (including Kid Nation), a television distribution deal, dressing-room requirements rider, endorsement deal, and cease-and-desist/demand letters written on behalf of Lindsay Lohan, Jennifer Aniston, and Catherine Zeta Jones. There are also some complaints, and the difficult-to-classify agreement between Britney Spears and Kevin Federline over their fake wedding ceremony.

If you use any of these materials in your class, I'd be grateful if you dropped me a note to let me know.

[Cross-posted on Pixelization.]

Posted by Eric E. Johnson on June 18, 2010 at 05:18 PM in First Amendment, Intellectual Property, Teaching Law, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Last minute call for David Simon fans

Fans of the Wire and Treme who are also attending Law & Society may want to check out "Roundtable -- And All the Pieces Matter . . . Thoughts on 'The Wire'".  It's chaired by Susan Bandes, and the panelists are Alafair Burke, Bennett Capers, Jeffrey Fagan, and David Sklansky.  Get there on time, as David Simon is scheduled to drop in on Skype.  The roundtable will be held in the Renaissance's Grand Ballroom III today at 2:30 p.m. Central.

Posted by Matt Bodie on May 27, 2010 at 02:07 PM in Criminal Law, Culture, Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Illegal Motion?

My wife loves this clip and it has grown on me. But I must ask the football-rules question: Is this Illegal Motion?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 15, 2009 at 03:45 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Sports, Television | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lawyer Wins “Most Irritating TV Character” Nod

It’s not who you think. Yes, Law & Order’s
Jack McCoy is on the list, but this character made it to number one. I must admit, it’s not a choice most people would disagree with, and I agree that there is a fine line between being delightfully quirky and just plain annoying. Annie Hall is a film-based example of that conundrum. In contrast, there have been many great lawyer characters on television. So, my question of the day is, who are some of the best lawyer characters who have ever been featured on the small screen?

Posted by Kelly Anders on October 22, 2009 at 01:48 PM in Television | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Law Professors: Lou Dobbs is on Our Side

Lou_dobbs A couple of weeks ago, Lou Dobbs discussed what he called "an apparent threat to America's sovereignty," namely certain remarks made by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I will warn you, her words are shocking. But I feel you need to see them. This is the actual transcript of what she said at a symposium at the Mortiz College of Law at Ohio State University.

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Why shouldn't we look to the wisdom of a judge from abroad with at least as much ease as we would read a law review article written by a professor.

Don't you see? Lou Dobbs is not just fighting against foreign influence, he is fighting for law-review-article influence. 

This is, indeed, a truly grave "threat to America's sovereignty." We need America's sovereignty to continue to be held, as it always has been, by America's law professors.

I hope all of you professors will join me in roundly condemning Justice Ginsburg and supporting Lou Dobbs – as he has supported us. And if Justice Ginsburg continues her assault on America's sovereignty, let us band together and fight back. We have the power write a bunch of really confusing scholarship about the Third and Ninth Amendments, and we should not be afraid to use it!

Posted by Eric E. Johnson on April 28, 2009 at 05:34 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Television | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Monday, April 06, 2009

Media depictions of lawyers and the civil justice system: Not good

For those of you looking for television breaks, may I recommend the new season of In Treatment on HBO (initial airing Sunday from 9-10 and Mondays from 9-11, with lots of reairings throughout the week). A running plot line this season will be a malpractice lawsuit brought against the central character (a therapist) by the estate of one of his client's from last season, a Navy aviator who killed himself upon return to duty, the therapist having signed off that the patient was fit and ready to return. The lawsuit was the main focus of the first half-hour episode (titled "Mia: Week One").

And how were law, lawyers, and the legal process depicted? Not well. Let us count the ways:

1) The lawsuit was served by the deceased patient's father (presumably the executor of the estate) by knocking on his door in the middle of the night, berating him, then stuffing an envelope in his chest and announcing "I told them I wanted to serve the summons personally." Um, no.

2) At his first meeting with his lawyer (presumably not more than a few days or a week after being served with the lawsuit), we learn:

a) There is a "hearing" in 8 weeks, at which the Judge will decide whether the case will go to trial; of course, there is no mention of how or why this hearing will take place, who requested it, or what the hearing will be about. Can the defendant at least Answer the complaint first?

b) The attorney thinks the case is meritless and wrong as a matter of law. But it all depends less on the law and more on the judge. A hometown judge might feel sympathy for the patient's young children and give the plaintiffs their "day in court." Oh, and the defense will "find" an expert to testify that he met the standard of care, while the plaintiffs will "pay" someone to say he didn't. Judges and the courts are far more plaintiff-friendly on TV (at least when the show's star is the defendant) than case statistics suggest. Except, of course, for the "completely incompetent" brain surgeon who operated on the wrong side of a patient's brain, but prevailed when represented by this lawyer. In any event, Legal Realism is never so alive as on television.

c) The lawyer says the plaintiff's lawyers are right now "deposing" everyone the patient ever knew. No mention of why she (as the defense lawyer) was not at those depositions so she could, you know, ask those witnesses some questions.

d) The therapist seems genuinely surprised to learn that he should have been taking notes and keeping records about his treatment of this patient. My wife (a mental-health professional) says that a competent therapist unquestionably would take notes and keep records of treatment--if for no other reason than to be able to bill the insurance company. From a legal standpoint, representing a client who has not taken notes does not provide an easy case to litigate. On one hand, there is nothing damaging to turn over in discovery; on the other, it is not going to be easy to show that your client met the standard of care when you have no proof of what, exactly, that care entailed (statements for purpose of medical diagnosis are admissible as a hearsay exception).

e) The lawyer, we quickly find out, is a former patient of the therapist/client, having seen him twenty years before when she was a struggling law student. She "grabbed" the case when it came into the office. Her therapy had ended suddenly when the therapist relocated without telling her and she remains unhappy about that fact. As a matter of medical ethics (Jennifer tells me), a therapist should under no circumstances have a former client represent him. As a matter of legal ethics, a lawyer should not represent her former therapist--especially if she is still angry at the therapist for abandoning her treatment (and her).

f) The lawyer interrupts their conference twice to talk to her father on the telephone, once about the color of an outfit she bought for him.

g) The lawyer confesses that although she seems to have a successful career because she works in a tall building, in fact she hates the windows that don't open and the jackhammers that never stop. And when she wins a case (and she specializes in hopeless med mal cases, such as the brain surgeon), she gets drunk with her gay secretary, then stumbles home to her one-bedroom condo and prays that she can fall asleep. Needless to say: a) That is not something one should be sharing with a client, especially in a first conference and b) She is not doing any of her clients any good if she is that miserable with her personal life and not doing something about it.

3) The therapist seems lost and angry about the lawsuit and the legal process, such as the suggestion that he should have been keeping treatment notes and records. It is true, of course, that we know more of the law than your non-lawyer client and we are expected to explain the process and shepherd them through. But most professionals (such as therapists) who become involved in lawsuits are quite attuned and knowledgeable about the law and what they ought to do to help themselves within the legal process. That does not mean we are not obligated to provide counsel and guidance; it means only that our clients are probably sharp and can be more helpful to us (and to themselves) than this show suggests.

4) Perhaps more troubling is the utter contempt the therapist repeatedly expresses for the legal system. Obviously, he is angry about being sued and believes he is being wrongly accused. But the disrespect for the process is troubling; after all (we tell out students), the reason to have procedural rules is that everyone accepts the outcome as just, even if adverse. And hey, our guy has been a practicing therapist for 25+ years--he never once had to sue (or even threaten to sue) a client for non-payment? I bet he liked the legal system just fine then.

Jennifer and I watched the show last year, even though (or perhaps because) the show mostly did a poor job of showing how therapy should work or how a therapist should act. Of course, media depiction of lawyers and the legal system long has been a pet peeve of mine. The writers of In Treatment have decided to kill two birds with one stone this season--they are going to drive us both up a wall simultaneously.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 6, 2009 at 07:08 AM in Howard Wasserman, Television | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

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 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Justice O'Connor on The Daily Show

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night and was quite good. She talked a bit about her courts-education program and a bit about the Court and she did a pretty good job riffing with Stewart. The couple times I saw her live (and I never have had the privilege of meeting her) she always seemed a bit self-serious (and at one point she corrected Stewart that they don't have trials, just oral arguments). But she seemed very relaxed in the interview. At one point, when Stewart referred to her as the "swing justice," she stopped him and said she did not like the term; he then referred to her as the "most principled justice" and she said "Much better."

Part One:

Part Two after the Jump:

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 4, 2009 at 07:35 AM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Operation Tough Love

Staying home on a Friday night and working, with occasional channel flipping or websurfing or even old fashioned just reading a book (i.e., not on a Kindle) is the tough love of my academic commuter marriage.  No wonder a segment on Dr. Phil (I swear it just happened to be on the TV when I turned it on) about the Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff’s Office’s recent “Operation Tough Love” seemed Tivo-worthy.

It turns out that on Valentine’s Day, Sheriff Joe Arpaio rounded up “deadbeat dads,” men who had failed to pay child support. The men were held on $10,000 bond in tents where the temperature reaches, according to Sheriff Arpaio, 148 degrees in the desert sun (Farenheit, I assume, as Sheriff Arpaio, who wears a tie pin shaped like a handgun and is known for making prisoners wear prison-stripes and pink underwear, doesn’t strike me as a Metric System sort of guy - he tends toward Medieval).

Local news reported that 72 people were arrested, but only 18 were deadbeat dads - the remaining 54 were arrested for other offenses, such as drugs (was this operation a pretext?).

This Very Public Event (read: spectacle, political stunt) seems like a waste of resources. It also seems counterproductive. What if Dad is deadbeat because, in our Meltdown Economy, he’s out of work? Will keeping him locked away unless he can pay really help his kids - given that this whole operation is (of course) “for the children”? I wonder why the sheriff isn’t instead out garnishing wages (if any) or seizing cars (if any) or homes (if any are even worth seizing these days)? Those methods seem more profitable.  The counter-productivity (and harshness) of Operation Tough Love is amplified when we consider that Dad could be injured in lockup by other prisoners, or from heatstroke, and that his brush with the criminal justice system could lead to job loss or stigma that harms his efforts to gain productive employment.  Consider also that the United States Supreme Court's expansive search-incident-to-arrest doctrine could lead to conviction for possessing various contraband found upon arrest, which under draconian drug laws could put the father in prison for years, rendering him truly unable to pay child support.

I Foley Admit that I don’t have the details of specific cases. Maybe these guys are notoriously deadbeat, and Sheriff Arpaio had tried all other means and failed.  But I wonder if the apparent political popularity of such roundups might cause them to become routine, leading to a de facto crime of poverty in our tough economic times - and yet another way for police to trigger their search-incident-to-arrest powers?

I don’t have a dog in this fight: I don’t have kids - another aspect, perhaps, of my own, two-city, Operation Tough Love.

H/T Dr. Phil.

Posted by Brian J. Foley on February 28, 2009 at 10:29 PM in Criminal Law, Culture, Current Affairs, Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, January 12, 2009

Federalism & Cop Shows: The Case of "The Wire"

After Rick Pildes and other colleagues assured me that HBO's The Wire transcended all TV formulae for cop shows, I rented the first season and watched it sporadically with my wife. Artistically speaking, the show is outstanding. But naturally I am more interested in looking at what the show has to say about fundamental matters -- which, for me (of course) means federalism.

Sadly, the Wire followed the usual formula. Local police are focused on the nitty gritty of drug crime, trying to save West Baltimore. The feds are better dressed, more humorless, and have a senseless set of bureaucratic norms that prevent them from helping out the beleaguered local cops who want to bring the feds in to help with surveillance against a local drug boss. The feds refuse, because there is not a federal interest: They need an international drug cartel, an anti-terrorism angle, or political corruption in order to have a statutory mandate. One of the Baltimore cops storms out, telling the Deputy U.S. Attorney in Baltimore that he is an "empty suit" and not "real police": The feds, he rails, would let "West Baltimore burn" because of red tape. Although the show does an admirable job of suspending any overt judgment about its characters' actions, the sympathies that the scene is intended to elicit are apparent as the federal agents sit around the table looking sheepish and feckless.

From any sensible functional theory of federalism, however, the feds in The Wire were right to insist on a genuine federal interest -- and The Wire's own plot shows them to be correct. During the first season, the primary reason that the City cops could not collect evidence against the drug boss was political corruption in the state legislature: Eliminate the corruption, and the Baltimore police would be able to get the wire taps they needed.

That a popular TV show would miss the moral of the importance of limiting federal police power suggests, more than any judicial decision or federal statute, that federalism may be well and truly dead in the public's consciousness.

Posted by Rick Hills on January 12, 2009 at 08:52 AM in Television | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack