From: John Denvir
on Jon-Christian Suggs' article: Adam's Rib & A Time to
I very much enjoyed Suggs' comparison of Adam's Rib with
A Time to Kill but would like to set out another way to
look at Hepburn's performance in Adam's Rib. I think we
can see Hepburn as portraying the lawyer as "trickster."
"Trickster" figures in mythology as folks like Hermes
and Mercuy or the Coyote or Raven in Native American folklore.
Lewis Hyde tells us in "The Trickster Makes this World"
that tricksters are people who intervene when conventional society
comes to gridlock; their intervention is to break up the ossified
status quo to allow a "new world" to emerge, and their
tactics tend to be amoralor at least not bounded by conventional
Isn't that just what Hepburn does. She finds a very solemn legal
system quite self-satisfied with itself by unable to accept the
humanity of women and uses all sorts of "unprofessional"
tactics to humiliate the law (and her spouse) towards the end
of opening the system up to justice.
This might be a much better way for us to view lawyers (like
Johnny Cochran)--people who use unusual tactics to awaken us
to realities we would rather ignore.
From: Brock Malcolm
on James Elkins' article: Are Lawyer Films Anti-lawyer?
I agree that the lawyer films are not necessarily anti-lawyer.
Making a character a lawyer aids the story because it sends certain
signals to the audience, i.e. this character is intelligent,
this character has a lot of money (rarely is the lawyer who struggles
beneath his/her shingle portrayed), and this character holds
someone's life in his/her hands. Lawyers make for good drama
because, even though the bulk of the job (research, interviews,
drafting motions) is usually not portrayed, the law will always
be there to provide that climatic battle. Because a film is a
story, it must have a perspective. This in turn divides the law
into two sidesgood and evil (although I realize that I
am way over simplifying things, you can see my point). Films
take on that anti-lawyer feel because we leave the theater hating
one of the lawyers. As time goes by, we tend to hold on to those
feelings of hatred much longer than we do any feelings connected
with the triumph of good. But it is not the fault of the genre
that the evil lawyer stands out. All through literature (see
Paradise Lost), authors have fought with this problem: Evil is
just more interesting than Good.
From: Stan Ross, University of New South Wales School
on John Denvir's article: The Last Wave
I saw the Last Wave when it first came out. After reading
John Denvir's comments I was drawn to comment and also I will
see the film again. The conflict between Aboriginal law and Western
(Australian law) is frequently in the news. Recently an Aboriginal
elder assaulted a photographer who was taking photos against
his wishes on Aboriginal land. The photographer complained and
criminal assault charges were brought. The case was dismissed
by the Magistrate in the Northern Territory on the basis of Aboriginal
law. This has caused a political storm in the Territory with
the Chief Minister (head of that Government) stating the decision
is wrong and that it shows discrimination in favour of Aboriginals.
In Darwin a constitutional convention is atempting to establish
the Territory as a State. One of the issues that is causing problems
is that the whites are seeking to have a provision included that
will make sure Aboriginals are no different than anyone else.
There appears to be, at least among conservative politicians,
little unstanding of the complexity and relevance of Aboriginal
A recent Australian novel, Al Turello's Wild Justice (Arrow
Press, 1995) involves some interesting legal probems concerning
the death by clubbing of an Aboriginal lawyer. It appears to
be a tribal killing, but there is much more involved. Aboriginal
custom has an important role in achieving a just solution to
There is also a distinct possibility that the Australian government
is preparing to run an early election on the 'race issue'the
right of Aboriginals to have access to land held under long term
leases by graziers, farmers and mining companies. If the present
conservative government prevails the role of Aboriginal customary
law will be greatly diminished.
Postscript by Stan Ross on The Last Wave: added September 9,
There have been further developments in the confrontation between
Aboriginal law and 'white man law'. On September 1, 1998 a senior
Aboriginal traditional owner of the Jabiluka uranium mine site
was found guilty of criminal trespass on her own land. Yvonne
Margarula had argued that she was exercising her rights as part
of Aboriginal tradition when she was demonstrating against mining
uranium on her land. The magistrate held that he was 'satisfied
beyond reasonable doubt that the use and occupation the accused
put the land was not in accordance with Aboriginal tradition....
Even if one could form the view that the very use and occupation
was in accordance with Aboriginal tradition, the magistrate was
satisfied those actions would still interfere with the use of
enjoyment of Energy Resources Australia's (the mining company)
interest in the land. Yvonne Margarula is now seeking legal advice
as to a possibly appealing the decision.
From: Matt Zwolinski
on John Denvir's article: Chinatown
I find it difficult to see why John Denvir takes Polanski's Chinatown
to be an indictment of capitalism. Throughout the film, it is
not the free market which subverts the public good; rather, it
is the manipulation of political institutions by persons like
Cross which leads to the exploitation of the many to serve the
interests of the few.
But this is something that advocates of laissez-faire have realized
for years. It has been expressed by persons like William Legget
who, in the Jacksonian era, couched plea for economic liberty
in very populist terms, and it is still being expressed by modern
libertarians, such as Murray Rothbard and others in the Austrian
school of economics. Indeed, much of the insights of public choice
theory are little more than elaborations on the way in which
the government power is manipulated by private interests.
Where those in the classical liberal tradition differ from those
such as Professor Denvir is not in their diagnosis of the problem,
then, but in their perscribed solution. While those in the welfare-statist
wing of the liberal tradition argue that such corruption is best
dealt with by political oversight, classical liberals have long
argued that the only way to limit the abuse of government is
to limit the scope of government. By barring the use of political
coercion as a legitimate means of economic advancement, we pave
the way for a truly "populist" system in which each
person is free to seek her own good in the free and voluntary
exchange of the market.
From: Kevin Crisp
on Rob Waring's article: The Sweet Hereafter
I'm just plain bothered by a film that:
1) portrays people as using the legal system as a salve for their
own spiritual yearnings (the film is about more than particular
loss, it is about the loss of meaning and significance that has
occurred in all areas of modern life),
2) suggests that it is our lack of community that ails us,
3) hints at the role that the modern consumer economy plays in
undermining our humanity (Lawyers comment to father about how
all our kids are dead wandering comatose through shopping malls)
4) then actually makes a great case for the pro-corporate mantra
that what we need is tort reform?
Political Message: If only people couldn't sue (corporations)
to ease their pain, they would be forced to turn back to one
another and re-build their communities. (Conservative version
Why not? If only corporations and the growth of the modern industrial
economy hadn't elevated selfishness and the private family above
community, we would be able to both avoid the emptiness of modern
life AND the callousness of corporate cost-benefit analyses that
make litigation justifiable. (Liberal version of deTocqueville).
Besides that, I liked the film
From: Joel Gomberg
on John Denvir's article: Personal Politics
I really liked the movie Election and Denvir's review,
but I was especially fascinated by his view of "Mr. M"
as the only character with the capacity for change, growth, and
self-awareness. Is it possible, I wondered, whether, presumably
a "popular" professor, identified just a bit with Mr.
While Denvir says that the other characters are not mere cartoons,
he implies that he agrees with Tracy's view [wasn't Reese Witherspoon
terrific?] that Mr. M should never have bothered to play around
with Destiny. The rest of them are doomed to repeat their neurotic
patterns, but somehow Mr. M is exempt? I certainly agree that
just about anything would be better than repeating the neurotic
pattern of "making love" to Mrs. M as she demandingly
cries out "fill me up! fill me up!", but I'm not as
sanguine as Denvir that he might have really learned something
from his experiences. To me, Tammy is the one who managed to
manipulate the situation for her own benefit. She got to go where
the girls are. Why are is Denvir so sure that she won't find
her true soulmate?
And I don't necessarily agree that "dumb as a stick"
Paul was too nice to be successful in politics. Certainly, the
Nixon type can't afford to be nice, but how about Reagan? He
was Mr. Affable, letting his henchman do the nasty stuff. If
you're dumb enough, you can be oblivious to what your underlings
are doing in your name.
These disagreements aside, it's clear that Denvir is one of the
most insightful critics of his generation.
From: Bill Rubens -
All Of Me
on Robert Waring's article: Swimming With The Bottom Feeders
As an interesting comparison to Liar Liar, how about All
Of Me (1984) with Steve Martin? Besides
Liar Liar, AOM is the only magical-intervention-causes-usually-lying-lawyer-to-tell-the-truth
movie I know of.
Premise: Rich Lily Tomlin wants to have her soul placed into
young woman's body when she (Tomlin) dies but the soul is put
into Steve Martin's body by mistake. Martin is introduced as
a PI specialist who will bend the truth to get a favorable settlement
for clients. One of the high points in AOM is a courtroom
scene: wife seeking large amount in divorce settlement from husband,
whose extramarital affairs figure importantly into the alimony
settlement. Steve Martin's character, exhausted from all the
preparation he's been doing on the case, falls asleep and the
"other half" of his body (Lily Tomlin's character)
takes over and tells the truth to the court. (the husband in
the divorce case was Tomlin's own lawyer when he was alive so
she knows him quite well). It's a great scene---- Martin playing
Tomlin inside his own body. Inspiration/borrowing for Liar
Liar? Not sure, but I can't watch one without thinking of
Trivia: Jason Bernard, who played the judge in LL, was
Steve Martin's best friend in AOM!
Bill Rubens, Taiwan
From: Arlyn Gonzalez-Diaz, Law Student
on John Denvir's article: Red Corner
Last summer I studied at China with a Duquesne Univ. Program
abroad. I'm a law student at P.R. (both civil and common law
traditions) I went to a criminal case trial. The atmosphere was
just the same I saw at Red Corner. No jury, no visitors,
just us with special permission. The trial was really fast, I
mean 2-3 hours. Three judges, two prosecutors and a legal representant
provided by the PRC which probably was not even a lawyer (some
judges even now with the new lawyers' law have never been at
college or studied law). This woman was old and did not say a
word through the process. The poor man was incarcerated. The
conviction...7 years for stealing a bicycle and a cellular phone.(The
translator told us that the real conviction should have been
10 years but they gave him 7 because he had some Americans watching.
Anyway I'm doing research for a paper I'm writing here on the
accuracy of the movie and the law in China. I'll let you now
the details when I'm done. Thanks for your page, Arlyn
From James Frieden
on Michael Asimow's article: Dangerous Beauty, The Trial
Of A Courtesan
Dear Mr. Asimow, It was a pleasure to speak with you last night
at the CLE meeting. I have looked at your site and it is great.
Your article on Dangerous Beauty is excellent. I definitely
would like to link from teachwithmovies.org to articles on your
site. Even if we don't recommend the film as suitable for parents
or teachers to show to children because of violence or sex or
historical inaccuracy, we like to provide information on the
films. Your article on Dangerous Beauty is perfect. I
don't think people need permission to link to other sites, but
if you have a problem with it, please e-mail me. We are always
trying to generate more traffic and would be pleased for you
to place any of our Learning Guides on your site or to link to
them. I am thinking particularly of the Learning Guides to Inherit
the Wind and Judgment at Nuremberg both of which have
a lot of substance to them. Sincerely yours, James Frieden
From: Mike Newman
on Dr. Paul Mason's article: Men, Machines And The Mincer: The
"This article was fantastic. Thanks Paul for writing one
of the rare pieces on prison films. Your work has proved invaluable
for the assignment I am doing for you."
From: D. Hutch
on Chris Jackson's article: Judging Judging Amy
I thought this article was a thoughtful and insightful. The author
Chris Jackson obviously knows what she is writing about! It was
witty and creative. I loved it!!"
"Dr. Jackson appears to have a good handle on Maxine and
her clan". It is difficult for me, a female person of the
older generation, to allow Amy to be the star of this program
when Maxine (Tyne Daly) has finally become the most wise leader
we always knew she could be. Dr. J. has given good comparisons
between Practice, Law & Order,&Povidence. Judging
Amy could be changed to "Guiding Amy" with no problem.
From: Tammy found us through: Search
Amy Grant is a "Christian" Pop Music artist ....Amy
"Grey" is the character you speak of in this article...
From: Robert Chaires found us through: World of mouth.
on the articles: Legally Blonde roundtable
I really liked the movie. So did my wife who is also a lawyer/professor.
We viewed it as a meaningful comment on how undergraduates tend
to judge people by their major-and for a 'teaching moment' that
that people come to the law in strange ways and for strange reasons.
Karen Greenbaum-Maya found us through: World of mouth.
Paul, nice job here. I would add only a few things: 1. It was
Cyndi Lauper, not the immaterial girl, who did the Girls Just
Wanna Have Fun number. Persnickety, eh? 2. As pernicious as the
notion that being smart gets you farther than learning something
is the film's characterization of "high-brow" people
as discriminatory snobs. My experience is that intelligent people
who have actually studied something are a good deal more open
to a variety of folk than the socially adept members of the popular
crowd, who were deeply exclusionary. Bullies, anyone? Now they
blame their limited adult success on the people they picked on
in the first place-sweet.
Paul Joseph's response: "Thanks for the comment,
Karen. We have fixed the error!"
Judith Grant found us through: E-Mail list.
Film's inspiring message: Despite the handicap of being blond,
beautiful, and rich, you can still make it America. You've come
a long way, baby!
From: Sharon found us
through: Random surfing.
As a previous blonde law student often compared to Marilyn Monroe,
I was prepared to point out the inaccuracies of your review of
Legally Blonde. A fellow writer at Picturing Justice - John Owens
- does an ample job of explaining that this movie is based on
The 179 LSAT score and representing a criminal defendant in court
may not be realistic...but it allowed a plot and a lot of humor.
This is a comedy after all...things are exaggerated. My Civil
Procedure teacher looked and acted exactly like the one in the
movie-even though I never saw her hit anyone on the head with
a pencil. (Probably only because she was afraid of a battery
charge). The essence of law school - the competition, the holier-than-thou
attitude, the feigned serious personalities, the belittling professors,
Most importantly, what someone that looks like "Barbie"
but has an IQ of 160 goes through is real. The challenges from
their inner self and others is real.
When Callahan hit on Elle in the movie, I bawled. I lived those
moments of self-doubt when accomplishments were invalidated by
males. Reality is that if you are a woman with a certain look,
especially blonde, no matter what your grades, intelligence,
or accomplishments, people will attribute your success to being
wanted (or sleeping) with a man.
I get a double whammy - blonde jokes and lawyer jokes. The movie
was a refreshing reminder to me that I'm not the only person
who goes through what Elle did. You are a man..you just couldn't
possibly understand. Law students need all the laughs they have
time for. Your female students could benefit from this movie
and in particular, your blonde students.
Meredith Lobel-Angel found us through: Link from other site.
"LOVE IT!". I, too, went to Stanford Law and Amanda's
book is virtually my right of passage "Catcher in the Rye."
I am brunette and no sorority queen - but anyone who feels "different"
can relate. My daughter and I do the "Bend and Snap"
and re-enact the orientation where Elle meets her classmates
for the first time.
From: Julia Baugher
found us through: Search Engine.
I am a senior at Georgetown University, currently studying for
my Constitutional Law midterm (tomorrow). In desperate need of
a study break, I thought it would be amusing to type in "The
Law is reason free from passion" - a quote from Aristotle,
but more importantly, from my favorite movie, Legally Blonde.
I must politely disagree with the author's conclusion - that
she is not "hip" to popular culture. Had I been in
her first year torts class, I would have been rolling on the
ground with laughter and relief, knowing that one of my professor's
has at least a decent sense of humor. I saw Legally Blonde for
the first time with a 2nd year Catholic U. law student. Then
I saw it with my father, a lawyer. I have since seen it with
many aspiring law students and I must say, I have no idea who
the young people were in your class, but they must lead awfully
boring lives. I hope you get an Elle Woods in your class one
day - near-perfect LSAT score and all.
From: Alyson Dion found us through: Search Engine.
on the articles: The Man Who Wasn't There roundtable
I had the opportunity to view the film yesterday. After reading
both movies reviews on this site, it seems to me that both authors
acknowledge the presence of the stereotypical defense attorney
(the best that money can buy), but neither address the probate
and real estate attorney who is a blatant alcoholic. His life
is pathetic: he barely pays attention to his talented daughter,
tells his friend Crane not to have faith in the government system
(public defender), and believes that you "pay lawyers to
mess things up and then pay them to un-mess things up."
His character, his behaviors, and his beliefs about a failing
justice system, where only money and lies can set you free, all
contribute to society's increasing disbelief in our judicial
attorneys. I fully understand that this was a satirical, noir
film and that one should not take all the characters seriously.
However, how many people, including those who find company with
Jerry Springer, will realize that this film attempts to portray
lawyers with a sense of humor, instead of a sense of truth? After
viewing the O.J. Simpson trial (and not through personal experience),
much of society may unfortunately relate to the theory that money
is the key to success in the courtroom and that lawyers are shysters
that are paid to "mess and un-mess" things.
on the articles: Erin Brokovich
It's too bad that you raise a question without attempting to
provide the answer, which is relatively simple. Settlement proceeds
are to be placed in an attorney's client trust account and disbursed
from there. Any interest made on the funds are required to be
paid at the end of the year to the State Bar Association. These
client trust accounts are very closely monitored and misuse of
funds or settlement proceeds can be a basis for sanction, discipline
or even disbarment.
From: Amanda found us through: Link
from other site, Random surfing.
on Chris Jackson's article: Picturing the President-West Wing
Excellent article-I liked the way the other movies were brought
up as a tie-in from big screen to small screen, then from real-life
news to the Bartlet White House. I found one mistake-"President
Bartlet doesn't hold grudges-that's what he pays me for"
was said by Josh, not Leo. I assume this was a typo, as the next
line begins with "Josh also..." I just thought I'd
mention it. All in all, it's very well-written. I enjoyed reading
an article that deals with the show not as something people watch
for brain-candy during Wednesday prime-time, but as the artistic
program it is-full of symbolism, parallels, and just plain artistic
From: John R. Curd found us through: Search Engine.
on Rob Waring's article: The Winslow Boy, Trial Of The
Over 1 hour ago I asked "GOOGLE" to search for 'Winslow
Boy! It returned about! 12,400 result. Fate had me choosing /pj/winslowboy-waring.htm.
The page presented a very good review with many interesting facts
and commentary. Is RW English? The vocabulary and composition
felt far more English than American. So then I wondered round
the Universite but I must get into the garden (is that yard?).
The rain has stopped and the sun is shining; for the records
Sunday 3 March 2002 10:51 GMT!
Rob Waring's response:
Thank you for your kind words. The sun is shining in San
Francisco, too. I am English, in that all my ancestors came from
England, but I was born and raised in America. My maternal grandparents
immigrated just before the Great War. My father's family came
over about 1660, to Virginia. I sometimes feel more English than
American, and I enjoyed the film because it portrayed a time
when my grandmother, a suffragist, was politically active in
England. There are several other articles about The Winslow Boy
on the PJ site; it apparently struck a cord with our contributors.
Regards, Rob Waring