Sunday, June 08, 2008

Louisiana v. Kennedy; Boston Legal and the SCOTUS

This is way, way overdue, but I figured I'd throw it up there for anyone that missed it.  

Boston Legal - that silly show on ABC about a Boston BIGLAW firm and stars William Shatner and James Spader - had an interesting and surprisingly accurate, in a way, take on the high court of the Nation in an episode titled "The Court Supreme."  Basically, what happens is that (for some reason) Alan Shore, the show's most gifted attorney, gets assigned to handle the appeal of a capital case of a man sentenced to death for raping a minor.  

Incidentally, the facts of the case are eerily similar to those of Kennedy v. Louisiana, which the court heard arguments for back in April.  The case is significant because the settled interpretation of Coker v. Georgia is that you can't be put to death for rape; the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment", forbids it.  The state supreme court of Louisiana disagreed, and attempted to distinguish the facts from those in Coker.  A decision should be coming to (along with the anticipated DC v. Heller case).

Anyway, back to the show.  The speech that Spader's character gives before the court is, in our opinion, spot-on.  Unfortunately we couldn't find a clip of the entire thing, but in the first half he explains why Coker basically says that applying the death penalty in this case would be unconstitutional.  In the second half (below) he blasts the Supreme Court and calls out several of the justices (Alito, Roberts, Thomas, and Scalia) by name on some of their various (and awful) decisions, everything from the pending Exxon Valdez case to Scalia's failure to acknowledge (several) conflicts of interests, Bush v. Gore ("You guys rewrote - sorry - invented - the law to decide a Presidential election!"):  

Apparently other people were impressed as well. From

Even Stanford Law School professor Jeffrey Fisher [whom many of us remember as the author of our Evidence textbook and supplement], who argued the real child rape case on April 16, has seen and was impressed by the episode -- though he distanced himself from the more outrageous aspects. Fisher also argued in the Exxon Valdez case. "It was striking how closely the episode hewed to the real facts in Kennedy, down to the most minute detail, and (certain rants aside) to the real legal arguments the parties are advancing," Fisher said in an e-mail. "The producers obviously had studied our briefing quite closely -- same for the quick blurb about Exxon."

Great.  And one last bit: "I'm curious, you all as a group . . . how many executions have you actually witnessed . . . . I've seen five - and it's the most inhumane, cruel, and unusual hypocrisy  of a system that promises to be just."

Thoughts?  Also, if anyone finds the full clip . . . that'd be nice. 


puja said...

if that actor wasn't so painful to watch...

Rule 12 (f) said...

I actually think Spader is pretty good, esp. in the clip