Law in Popular Culture

Many Details Right in Fictional Lawyer’s Supreme Court Skewering


The U.S. Supreme Court is often the target of criticism. In one of the more recent high-profile critiques the missives were delivered by a fictional lawyer, Alan Shore of Boston Legal.

The character played by actor James Spader is arguing a case before the high court with look-alike justices when he starts his attack, Legal Times reports. Shore tells the court it is “overtly and shamelessly pro-business” and tells the objecting justices “you folks are not as hot as all get-out.”

Many aspects of the episode were improbable, the article says, but the writers got many details right, including references to little-known sculpture and customs at the court.

Spader is supposed to be arguing for his client, a convicted child rapist sentenced to death, in a case that mirrors one in real life. But he gets off track. “You’ve transformed this court from being a governmental branch devoted to civil rights and liberties into a protector of discrimination, a guardian of government, a slave to monied interests and big business and today, hallelujah, you seek to kill a mentally disabled man,” he said.

Stanford law professor Jeffrey Fisher argued the real child rape case, Kennedy v. Louisiana. He told Legal Times he has seen the episode.

“It was striking how closely the episode hewed to the real facts in Kennedy, down to the most minute detail, and (certain rants aside) to the real legal arguments the parties are advancing,” Fisher said in an e-mail.

The show’s producer, David Kelley, is a Boston law school grad. He told Legal Times the show was “probably my vicarious fantasy. If I had ever appeared before the Supreme Court, they would have had me for a light snack.”

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “James Spader Argues Before ABC’s ‘Supreme Court’ “

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