I have been following the new "lawyer shows" on TV for the past three weeks (see here) and, at the risk of getting laughed at, I have say that the one I like the most is "The Defenders"! From the promos I thought this was going to be an over the top, dumb disguised detective show. I was right; but also wrong.
Most lawyer shows are not really about the law, but about the personal lives of the lawyers or they are what I call disguised detective shows - more about "who-done-it" than the legal issues related to the cases. "The Whole Truth" is a good example of this second category. The Defenders has a little of all that, and it is not perfect by any means, but each episode has given me serious material to discuss in class. Granted, the material usually relates to a short segment of the episode, but that is more than I can say about The Whole Truth which has contributed nothing to my class so far.
For example, two weeks ago episode 2 of the Defenders included a story line that combined issues of the duty to safeguard client property, client confidentiality, evidentiary privilege and duties to disclose information to the authorities, among others. In one scene a client brings the lawyer a large amount of money in cash which he says he took from his job's safe, used it to bet on a horse and won. The client's boss reported the stolen money and the cops are now looking for the person who took the money. The client is panicking and brings the money to the lawyer. Because the horse won the client actually has more money than what he started out with. ...So the lawyer then has to decide who has a right to the value added by the horse and whether to keep the money in his office, to give it back to the client or to give it to the authorities. He also has to decide whether to disclose the identity of the client when talking to the authorities. Sounds familiar? These are issues we discuss in class when studying the concepts of confidentiality, privilege and handling of evidence and the case People v Meredith. You'll have to go watch the show to see what happens. You can watch the full episode here. (Select the episode from 9-29-10).
Last week's episode, raised questions about the proper function of the judicial system, the dangers of overzealous prosecutors and overworked public defenders. (I think the criticism of the public defender system was not handled well, but that is a different matter). The episode also dealt with improper conduct by a lawyer and the issue of a lawyer having to testify in a trial while representing one of the parties.
It also had a scene where the lawyers discuss the notion of "truth" as it relates to a trial. This is something I spend a good deal of time talking about in class. Whether it is in the context of litigation, the adversary system, duties during discovery (the problem of "the properly asked question"), conducting client interviews or dealing with possible perjury, the concept of "the truth" is very important. Here is the video of that scene (after a short commercial). If you want to watch the full episode, it should start automatically a few seconds after the scene is over or you can go here. Here is the video:
"The Defenders" is on on Wednesday nights on CBS. Hopefully, it will last longer "than Outlaw"...