Law in Popular Culture

Lawyer Pitches Zombie Law Casebook, Following Others Who Have Linked Lawyers to the Undead

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A pitch video for Zombie Law: Zombies in the Federal Courts,
a casebook

As a viral YouTube video produced in response to a corporate dispute over cable television distribution and fees demonstrates, zombies can elicit quite a reaction from the general public, even among jaded New Yorkers.

Now, as the living dead creatures gain an increasing foothold in pop culture (even the feds used zombies to market emergency preparedness last week, the New York Daily News reported), more and more zombie lawyers are rising from the grave. In works that interweave legal advice and information with the dramatic zing of watching a staggering humanoid with bloodshot eyes work his or her morbid mojo, they entertain and advise.

There’s even an attorney seeking crowdfunding for a casebook on actual federal legal opinions that rely on zombies and related concepts. New York lawyer Joshua Warren is seeking funding to put together a casebook on zombie law in the federal courts. At the time of this posting, seven backers had pledged $658 towards his $4,666 goal, with 28 days remaining in his crowdfunding campaign.

Warren, who describes himself in his kickstarter profile as “obsessed with zombie rhetoric,” points out that his project is based on reality, not fiction: More than 300 federal court case opinions use the word “zombie” (also “zombies” and “zombi” and “zombified” and “zombielike” and “zombified” and “zombism”), he notes.

For example, Warren writes at his zombielaw blog, a federal judge referred to “a tale of zombie precedent” as he held in a 2007 opinion that “a rule definitively extinguished by statutory amendment in 1989 continues to prowl, repeatedly re-animated by mistaken citation and dicta.”

Eventually, concluding that “this court is not bound to further animate the dead rule,” U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled that he does in fact have jurisdiction to hear the habeas petition of Gary Ray Crowell before dismissing it on its merits.

“All sorts of people will like this book,” Warren writes in his kickstarter pitch. “It would be a good gift for any lawyer or law student but also any intellectual zombie fan as well as anyone interested in American law. Every federal case is itself an epic short story and so this book is a compendium of real zombie short stories. The book is full of real life ‘zombie’ tales packed with legal terminology and federal procedure.”

But Warren is not the first to juxtapose zombies and the law. Last year, the blog Jungle Red Writers interviewed the author of a zombie-at-law series of novels written under the pen name K. Bennett. Author James Scott Bell told the blog that the series, which now includes three books, began with an effort to bring something fresh to the zombie genre.

“I’d been thinking, What hasn’t been done in zombie fiction? So much of it is the same. Then I thought, How about an actual legal thriller where the lawyer just happens to be a zombie? All sorts of intriguing possibilities started to pop up,” Bell said. He still uses the tagline he came up with for his original pitch: “In L.A., practicing law can be hell. Especially if you’re dead.”

Although his character, Mallory Caine, is the heroine of his books, zombie lawyers also, of course, can be scary adversaries.

Attorney Thomas A. Crowell, the author of the Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers, utilized zombie lawyers in Attack of the Zombie Lawyers, an animated video he also wrote that promotes the book. The video was posted on YouTube last year.

“You have been served,” growls a spork-and-knife-wielding “bloodsucking barrister,” with a bib tucked under his chin. The remark comes after he and his walking dead business-suited buddies launch lawsuits from chainsaw machine guns at a couple of independent moviemakers. The fictional filmmaker who is the protagonist of the video has not asked for permission to use a music group’s poster in the background of his film and also may have violated a contractual provision requiring expensive vegan food for the dog for one of his film’s stars. But then enters the Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers, which literally shields the filmmaker and a cohort from a barrage of lawsuits that have turned into flying bats.

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