Yes, it has been awhile. In our legal life, I have been hard at work on a series of cases that have required a great deal of travel and time. And it means we missed a lot. From police shooting unarmed civilians to Wrestlemania, to the end of Better Call Saul and the debut of Daredevil. There is a great deal going on out there and we will try to touch on a little of it here.
Better Call Saul.
From the creators of the award-winning BREAKING BAD, AMC has another prestige prize in BETTER CALL SAUL (“BCS”). The show is well written, well cast, well acted and a lot of fun. Prequels are always tricky business because you already know where several characters are going wind up. But, when done right, we can see a fascinating journey for both James “Slippin Jimmy” McGill (played by Bob Odenkirk, who may never known for comedy again after this) and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks, proving again he is pure gold). A journey that shows how the future Saul Goodman (Jimmy) was once a man who desperately wanted to be respectable and how his efforts failed and led him to the criminal he would become.
What I find as a solid plus to the show is how well it shows the legal profession. We see the large reputable law firm for which Jimmy’s brother, Chuck, is a name partner and leading rainmaker. We see the power and prestige of those larger firms and how they can, on occasion, show disdain for the little guy. But, it goes deeper. We learn how some of those big firm boys and girls actually come to like and respect Jimmy because of his intelligence and tenacity. When we meet him he is working from the back of nail salon. Admittedly, I actually live in a house and most small firm or solo lawyers I know do as well, but the idea of having to bust your hump to find the right way to become a quality player in the legal field really resonates.
Until THE PRACTICE, television shows about Law firms tended to show the glitz and the glamour. Rarely did they show the drudgery or even the fear of the law. Yes, this business can be scary, especially when you lack the pedigree of coming from the right schools, or right firms, or even the right families in some cases. BCS does that and more. Including Jimmy’s search for the right area of law in which to focus his practice, a problem many a lawyer has gone through.
I confess, Daredevil is one of my favorite comic book heroes of all. Every year I re-read Frank Miller’s run on the book, especially the incredible BORN AGAIN saga. Because the Ben Affleck film was such a disappointment, I had high hopes for the new series on Netflix. And my hopes are met. It is a dark series and for the first half of the series, it is more of a great crime and action show than a super- hero show. The show draws heavily upon Marvel lore to establish each of the players and is pretty well grounded or as grounded as you can be with a protagonist who is blind but has enhanced senses and a radar sense.
As a legal show, while it shows the work of Franklin “Foggy Nelson and his blind partner, Matt Murdock, early in their careers, it does not spend a great deal of time going in-depth with the law. This is a shame because to see how the law is used or abused in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of just how it functions can lead to a variety of intriguing storylines. We may see more of it as time goes on, since it Nelson and Murdock are the lawyers of record for many of the inhabitants of the Marvel Universe. Combined with the contradictions of Matt’s double life and his conflicted existence of lawyer by day and law breaking vigilante by night, I think there is room for a good legal show inside this series.
Sorry, folks but this is going to take a whole new post to address. Since we were last here we have had the unique experience of watching a police officer actually get charged for murder. Again, were it not for the existence of citizen’s video this would have never happened. First, it involves police officers. Secondly, there is the racial component (white officer vs. dead black guy, cops account wins out) and, finally it was in South Carolina. These three factors historically lead to cursory investigations that always presume the killing is justified because the officer said so instead of looking at any evidence that may say otherwise. In this case, the video directly contradicts not only the officer who did the shooting, Michael Slager, but the second officer on the scene as well.
This is tragic on more levels than we can count because it comes right after three other high-high profile police related slayings of unarmed individuals and just before the Freddie Gray matter in Baltimore. These incidents do a great deal of harm because slowly but surely trust in law enforcement is getting eroded. Police rely upon judicial and statutory rulings that encourage the use of deadly force first. These rulings reduce the chances that law enforcement will be given less lethal tools to do their jobs, including training in de-escalation. The history of officers willing to cover for each other or at least turn a blind eye to the wrongdoing of fellow officers is long and the backlash against those who say anything about police wrongdoing within those departments is also long. This mistrust then increases the danger to officers because at some point the public sees that badge, gun, and uniform and becomes automatically frightened. Or I should say some members of the public because it also painfully obvious that the police have a pretty good idea of who they can get away with abusing and who they can not.
Part of this tragedy is that there are many departments who have made concerted efforts to not be invading armies, but be protective members of the whole community. They are trained in cultural awareness in order to reduce misunderstandings. They have encouraged officers to move into the cities and neighborhoods they patrol. They have learned ways to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations while also remaining well versed in the use of physical or deadly force because, sadly, at some point any officer can be in the situation where there truly will be no choice but to use that force.
What we should be asking for, no, what we should be demanding is better training so that officers are not making these kinds of errors. We should give them tools to make better decisions. We should not have officers afraid of showing remorse and saying, “I thought it was him or me and I was wrong. I am sorry”. And yes, that might mean writing a big check, but ladies and gentlemen we are doing that anyway. Police departments across the nation pay big time for settling lawsuits because of either unlawful deaths caused by officers or other illegal actions. And the individual officers never pay a dime for that. The cities and counties do, and in turn, that money is taken from that law enforcement agency’s budget. So next time you hear police complaining that the department has no money, go look up how much money was paid settling lawsuits.
In short, these things are costing us all something. Life, liberty, money, or trust. We are all paying for this. Well, almost all. And if we do not get a handle on it, it is going to cost much more.