Law in Popular Culture

Criminal Defense Associate Played a Role in Creation of New CBS Legal Drama 'Made in Jersey'

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Behind-the-scenes clips from Made in Jersey.

In all honesty, Creston P. Smith isn’t much of a television watcher, except when the Baltimore Orioles are trying to make the playoffs.

But he’s planning to record a new legal drama that premieres Friday on CBS, to watch later and see if any of the scenarios he talked about with a script writer are actually included in Made in Jersey. As the network explains, the program revolves around a street-smart Jersey girl who has the law license and legal abilities to get a job as an associate at a prestigious New York City firm but lacks the Ivy League education to blend in with pedigreed colleagues.

After working as an assistant public defender for the city of Baltimore, Smith went into private practice as criminal defense attorney about seven years ago and is an associate at Baltimore-based Silverman Thompson Slutkin White. A call a year or so ago from a law school buddy at Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles led to Smith playing a volunteer role as a sounding board for that friend’s client, who wanted to pitch a project to network television.

Dana Calvo called Smith about hypothetical situations, Smith said, and he told her how he might handle the issues presented, warning her that the applicable law in New York or New Jersey might be different than Maryland’s. So, since he wasn’t talking about any of his own current cases, he didn’t have to worry about disclosing confidential details or conflicts. “I was just informally helping a writer,” Smith told the ABA Journal, adding “I would assume she was probably asking prosecutor friends, too.”

As a thank-you for his help, one of the characters in the legal drama is named Creston, although Smith says he doubts that the scripted character name will actually be used on camera.

A number of lawyers with a connection to the entertainment industry like Smith’s might be trying to figure out a way to spend more time on legal dramas and less in actual courtooms. But Smith isn’t looking for a career reconfiguration, although he’s hoping Made in Jersey will be a hit.

“l love my job,” Smith says, explaining that he enjoys being in the courtroom and working on cases that are always different, each presenting unique legal or factual issues.

While most of his time talking with Calvo was spent responding to her hypotheticals, Smith believes he did tell her about one of his former cases. It involved a client with tattoos, which he could prove he had prior to the robbery at issue. The crime took place on a bus with a security camera, and the video showed the suspect had no tattoos. Case dismissed.

Could a tattoo-based defense be part of a storyline for Made in Jersey? Those who want to know will have to watch and see.

Smith said he ordinarily doesn’t watch legal dramas on his off time because he tends to get distracted by unrealistic scenes, such as extensive interaction between a defendant and the prosecutor. “As a criminal defense attorney, I would never let my client go in and talk with the state’s attorney without my being there,” he points out. Likewise, few judges and opposing counsel would tolerate the lengthy prefatory statements with which attorneys on television and in the movies introduce their questions.

A law firm press release provides additional details.

See the series premiere teaser:

Related coverage: “Those with Criminal Tendencies Who Like Tattoos Might Want to Rethink Ink”

Philadelphia Inquirer: ” ‘Made in Jersey’ creator Dana Calvo discovers her star in England”

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