Picturing Justice, the On-Line Journal of Law and Popular Culture

THE PRACTICE, Season Premiere, Sept. 23, 2001

Picturing Justice has asked a number of commentators to discuss The Candidate, the stimulating two-hour season premiere of The Practice on September 23, 2001.

Like many episodes of this show, the premiere was loaded with difficult questions of professional responsibility in criminal law. When Ellenor Frutt arrives at the crime scene, well ahead of the police, she finds a dead body and a family frantically destroying evidence. Who did it--the distinguished state senator, his wife, his teen-age daughter? Nobody is talking.

As always, the lawyers of The Practice struggle in the ethical twilight of representing clients who may well be guilty and who may be planning to commit perjury. They find themselves representing an entire family when the interests of each family member may conflict with the others. Prosecutors push the envelope of what is legal and ethical when witnesses are lying and covering up for one another. Both sides contaminate the jury pool by trying their case in the press.

Watching The Practice, we are reminded of the harsh fact that criminal practice is not about finding the truth but instead consists of following a set of conventions and procedures that often obscure and distort the truth. What does it do to a human being to engage in this kind of law practice, day in and day out?

We welcome contributions from our readers to add to this roundtable. Both rants and raves are equally welcome.

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Posted October 17, 2001

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