Law in Popular Culture

From the Bing to Fordham U: Legal Experts Confab on 'Sopranos'

Academics from around the world are converging on Fordham University for a symposium on The Sopranos that begins tomorrow.

Among those who will be speaking about the popular television show are James Keneally, a partner in Kelley Drye & Warren’s white-collar criminal practice group, who is included, along with a former FBI agent and two Sicilian prosecutors, in a panel on “Images of Justice and The Sopranos” on Friday afternoon. He will analyze the defense process throughout the show’s sixth season that follows the arrest of rival boss John “Johnny Sack” Sacramoni at the end of the fifth season.

“What I plan to be discussing is, from a defense attorney’s viewpoint, how the criminal justice system is depicted in The Sopranos,” Keneally tells, “how they show the relationship between an attorney and a client, especially in a situation where the client is overwhelmingly guilty.”

In the show—as in real-life criminal defense practice—Johnny Sack has to go through what amounts to a grieving process as he slowly accepts the reality of his likely criminal conviction and the penalties it will bring, Keneally recounts. “That really struck a chord with me. … You can’t just tell them right off the bat that they’re guilty as sin and they have to do something.”

The conference starts tomorrow, at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus in New York City, and runs through Sunday. It is free and open to the public.

More details are provided in Paul Levinson’s Infinite Regress. Paul Levinson chairs Fordham’s department of communications and media studies, and is an organizer of the symposium.

Additional coverage:

New York Post: “Wise Profs Take On Wiseguys in ‘Soprano’ Confab”

Vulture (New York magazine): ” ‘The Sopranos’: The Academic Symposium”

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