Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Riding in style

This past Saturday night my wife ran off to the grocery store while I got the girls ready for bed. After the nighttime routine was over my wife told me she had rented a movie from one of the red boxes and she was hoping we hadn't watched it already.

She had come home with The Lincoln Lawyer.

I hadn't seen it and knew next to nothing about it. When I first heard the name of the movie I thought it was a movie about Abraham Lincoln. There were some e-mails on the listserv about it, but I never bothered reading any of them. I was quite surprised when I saw an ad on Facebook that mentioned Matthew McConaughey starred in it. That didn't seem like a movie about Lincoln.

As a rule I try to stay away from television shows and movies about lawyers and criminal law. It drives me crazy watching it. I will admit, though, that I do watch Law and Order: UK on occasion and I did like George Clooney's movie Michael Clayton.

My wife kept asking me during the movie if that's how things really are. I told her no. Well, that's not exactly true. Courthouses do have metal detectors.

The movie itself was fairly entertaining. The characters were interesting and it moved at a pretty good pace. But I was very troubled by the way in which Mr. McConaughey's character resolved his little moral and ethical dilemma.

We deal with some rather shady characters and some pretty bad circumstances at times. Let's face it, most of your neighbors probably aren't getting arrested and carted off to jail. But what would you do if you found out that your new client committed the murder for which you encouraged an old client to plea to? What if you found out that your old client really was innocent and was sitting in prison because of what your new client did?

The first thing the attorney should have done was withdraw from the case. There is obviously a conflict. I understand the reluctance to part ways with a six-figure fee, but you can't represent the new client if it puts you in a conflict with your old client.

Eliciting testimony that you know is perjured is also frowned upon - especially when the witness got the story from an agent of yours. It's all well and good that you manufactured a dismissal when you impeached the snitch - but still. Would you really want to go before the disciplinary committee and explain that away?

Finally, setting up your client to be arrested and then beaten down is generally frowned upon in the legal community.

Now I would agree that no one really wants to sit down and see what a day in our lives is really like. It'd probably be more palatable to watch sausage being made. I also understand that Hollywood's protagonist must be on the side of "justice" in order to sell a film in which the man seems so damn seedy. But what you're left with is a lawyer who sold his client down the river and violated every ethics rule in sight (not to mention a few provisions of the penal code).

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