In our report earlier today about Supreme Courtships, a forthcoming television show about “the personal and professional lives of six Supreme Court clerks and their supervisors,” we looked back on two failed TV shows about the Supreme Court: “First Monday” and “The Court.”
Judicial groupies were thrilled to see two shows about the Court on national television (despite the many inaccuracies and ridiculous plot lines). But their joy was fleeting.
Now, this correction. Not everyone who follows the Supreme Court was so pleased by the attention from Hollywood.
From a January 2002 article by Tony Mauro:
Complete with James Garner as a chief justice who smokes (like the real one), Joe Mantegna as an Italian-American associate justice who attends Mass (like the real one), and a Court with two women and one black justice (like the real one), [“First Monday”], if it succeeds, will probably impart more information about the nation’s highest court to the general public than a decade’s worth of routine activity by the real Supreme Court.
And that is what worries people like Carter Phillips of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, a veteran Supreme Court advocate who is among a small number of Washington lawyers who have seen rough cut tapes of the first two episodes.
“Unbelievably smarmy,” says Phillips, who is not usually given to outbursts of hyperbole. “Vomitous.”
Look, it could have been worse. At least Phillips didn’t use profanity, as he has done before (in open court). He could have called the “First Monday” producers “motherf*****s” and told them to “eat s***.” Instead, he temperately dismissed their show as “vomitous.”
Why was Phillips so upset? Per Mauro:
Phillips confesses that he is a stickler for accuracy, and as such could not abide the slew of details that come out wrong in the show.
For one, the first episode was based erroneously on the premise that it takes five justices to grant review in a case, not four.
Relax, Carter! Look at the glass as half-full. You should have been pleased that the word “certiorari” was even uttered on national television, on a channel other than C-SPAN.
Another issue with “First Monday”:
Garner’s chief justice, an inveterate Oklahoma football fan, precedes the first Court session with a football-huddle-style handshake among the nine robed justices and the rallying cry “Let’s go out there and make history!”
Yes, this sounds ridiculous. But is it really so impossible to imagine? If Harriet Miers, with her cheerleader-ish tendencies, had been confirmed to the Court, group hugs might have become de rigeur at One First Street.
Will New Supreme Court TV Show Make It Past Its ‘First Monday’? [Law.com]
C-SPAN’s Potty-Mouth Broadcast [Washington Wire]
Carter G. Phillips bio [Sidley Austin]
Earlier: “Supreme Courtships”: A Show About SCOTUS Clerks, Take Three