Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One of my Lawyers in Movies theories is that although the narrative of American jurisprudence teaches us that judges are the heroes, its portrayal in popular culture is closer to the truth: the real heroes are the lawyers. It's the lawyers who take the cases, and create the arguments, but the judges get the ink. In the casebooks that we are taught from the decisions always report the names of the judges who wrote, but the names of the lawyers-- and their briefs, for that matter-- are never mentioned. Interestingly, there are apparently not many movies about the Supreme Court (this Wikipedia list omits The Talk of the Town, for my money superior to The Pelican Brief). Part of this is that appellate advocacy can be pretty dry stuff, and part of it is that appellate court judges really have pretty narrowly defined powers. I liked Stephen Carter's The Emperor of Ocean Park when it was about affluent African-American culture, a subject about which I know damn little, and it was all right when it was about academic politics; but its McGuffin was about a corrupt Circuit Court judge, and that was simply too implausible to sustain my suspension of disbelief.

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