Law in Popular Culture

Jean Valjean becomes a lawyer in planned TV series inspired by Les Misérables


Les Misérables is on our list of the 25 Greatest Law Novels.
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A revered novel about the tortuous path of a long-ago peasant who spends nearly 20 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread has inspired a planned new television series featuring a lawyer fighting both the wrongful convictions of others and the federal prosecutor intent on ruining the protagonist attorney’s life.

Victor Hugo’s famous book, Les Misérables, is the starting point for the planned prime time drama about a modern-day Jean Valjean with a law license, which has gotten a script commitment from Fox, according to

The creators, who include Rob Thomas and others involved in putting together the critically acclaimed Veronica Mars television series, plan to tell a story that interweaves the protagonist lawyer’s efforts to represent wrongfully convicted clients with his own tumultuous personal and romantic life. Throughout the program, he will be dogged by a U.S. attorney unwilling to let the protagonist’s own unjust conviction stay in the past.

It remains to be seen how the new program, if and when it is aired, balances the opposing forces of justice and redemption that lend power to Les Misérables.

The adventures of Valjean and his nemesis in the Hugo novel, Inspector Javert, essentially require the audience to think about two issues, wrote law professor Jonathan Simon earlier this year in The Berkeley Blog.

“First, does justice require absolute adherence to the letter of the law and condemnation of those who break it, or instead to meeting human needs and showing mercy and forgiveness to others? Second, can a person who commits a crime change, or do they carry a moral failure that will always reassert itself?”

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