From this article in Above the Law:
Roger Ebert passed away last week, robbing us of a great film critic and an equally insightful social critic. Ebert loved the movies and his critical ire was only raised when films failed to live up to the standards he’d set in his own mind.
But one genre of film seemed to give Ebert consistent fits — the legal movie. From drama to comedy, if the film found its way into a courtroom, Ebert was likely on the wrong side of public opinion.
Walters legal advisor and brother-in-arms LEO KNOX Michael Clarke Duncan was once an intense and extremely obese lawyer. But after the deaths of his wife and children, Leo transformed himself from a man driven by hate into a gentle giant and philosopher.
On March 9, 2009 the Boley Law Library dedicates a special collection in honor of the late Doreen Margolin ’81. The Doreen Margolin Law in Popular Culture Collection includes law-related fiction, biography, and nonfiction works written by and about lawyers.
Materials in the collection, which includes both books and DVDs of law-related movies and television programs, will be available for circulation to the Law School community and alumni.
Law has been a source of popular interest for centuries. From tabloid journalism to serious news coverage to everything in between, legal conflicts and controversies have been capturing the public’s imagination ever since the nation’s inception and, arguably, before. With the advent of movies, radio, and television in the twentieth century, popular representations of law have become commonplace, but even before these technologies were invented, the law had considerable popular appeal. Unable to appreciate the spectacle of courtroom justice via satellite from their homes, people in the nineteenth century satisfied their curiosity about recent legal developments by attending trials in person and by keeping up with the flood of newspaper and magazine articles devoted to legal events. Helping fuel an unquenchable demand for law-related stories, book publishers like Beadle and Adams churned out thousands of dime novels whose plots revolved around crimes, while artists and craftsmen made their own contributions in the form of public statues, coins, paintings, and medallions devoted to legal themes. Virtually no area of life was unaffected by the popular obsession with the law. During the infamous trial of the preacher Henry Ward Beecher for adultery in 1875, for example, the law even found its way into a popular playground rhyme that “testified” to the preacher’s integrity: “Beecher, Beecher is my name – Beecher till I die! I never kissed Mis’ Tilton – I never told a lie!”
In spite of, or perhaps because of, the law’s widespread appeal as a topic of lurid as well as serious concern, the relationship between law and culture, both high and low, remains obscure
While there are no shortage of television shows, films and/or other mediums that deal with the practice of law and how law is exercised and applied, our goal here is to look at law more broadly and how norms play a regulatory and advisory role in everyday life. This might include observing how rules of conduct may be created and extrapolated from the conduct of individuals. Imagine, for example, a television episode that displays a managers proper or improper handling of an incident constituting sexual harassment in the workplace without ever dealing with a litigation that could arise from such facts. In so doing, the television program still engages in legal storytelling and conveys something about what norms should or should not be pursued.
Encyclopedia of Television Law Shows: Factual and Fictional Series About Judges, Lawyers and the Courtroom, 1948-2008, by Hal Erickson – paperback. – “This book is an alphabetical examination of the nearly 200 shows telecast in the U.S. from 1948 through 2008 involving courtrooms, lawyers and judges, complete with cast and production credits, airdates, detailed synopses and background information. Included are such familiar titles as Perry Mason, Divorce Court, Judge Judy, LA Law, and The Practice, along with such obscure series as They Stand Accused, The Verdict Is Yours Sam Benedict, Trials of O’Brien, and The Law and Mr. Jones. The book includes an introductory overview of law-oriented radio and TV broadcasts from the 1920s to the present, including actual courtroom coverage (or lack of same during those years in which cameras and microphones were forbidden in the courtroom) and historical events within TV’s factual and fictional treatment of the legal system.”