SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Television

‘The Court Supreme': Boston Legal Invades One First Street

Supreme Court Boston Legal Times Tony Mauro David Kelley.jpgCameras in the courtroom at the U.S. Supreme Court? Over Justice Souter’s dead body.

So you’ll have to settle for fictional depictions on television. From a very interesting report by Tony Mauro, for the Legal Times:

Nearly a decade ago, when his show “Ally McBeal” was at its peak, lawyer-turned-Hollywood-producer David E. Kelley was invited to dinner at the home of then-Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

There, Kelley recalls, he got to chat with four or five justices along with other D.C. luminaries.

But now, Kelley says in an exclusive interview with Legal Times, “I’ve probably disqualified myself” from any justice’s invitation list for a return visit.

That’s because of an April 22 episode of Kelley’s current hit show “Boston Legal,” which included one of the most vociferous popular-culture critiques of the current conservative Supreme Court since John Roberts Jr. became chief justice in 2005.

Yum, dinner at SOC’s house. Did you try the salmon?

The anti-Roberts Court screed, improbably enough, is delivered to the justices to their faces during the episode titled “The Court Supreme.” Co-star James Spader, who plays Boston lawyer Alan Shore, lights into the Court as he argues before look-alike justices on behalf of a Louisiana child rapist facing the death penalty. The episode aired just six days after the real Court heard arguments in Kennedy v. Louisiana, an actual child rape/death penalty case.

A sample of the rhetoric: Shore attacks the “overtly and shamelessly pro-business” Court, and takes a sharp detour from the rape case to slam Justice Antonin Scalia for his seemingly likely support for Exxon Mobil in the case -also argued recently-involving punitive damages awarded after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Don’t try this at home, kids — or in real life. The nine current justices are, for the most part, a good-humored group. But they probably wouldn’t appreciate being called “overtly and shamelessly pro-business” — at least not in open court.

(Save it for the pages of the New York Times. Jeffrey Rosen, holla.)

Discussion continues, below the fold.


Back to Shore’s little tirade from the show:

“Nineteen years after the Valdez oil spill and the plaintiffs are still waiting to be fully compensated,” Shore says.

When the Scalia character interjects sharply, “You are getting so far off point,” Shore shoots back: “My point is, who are you people? You’ve transformed this court from being a governmental branch devoted to civil rights and liberties into a protector of discrimination, a guardian of government, a slave to monied interests and big business and today, hallelujah, you seek to kill a mentally disabled man.”

“[W]ho are you people?” Uh, we’re the Supreme Court. Note how the first word in our name is “Supreme.” And even if you don’t like our decisions much, good luck getting rid of us. There’s this thing called the Good Behavior Clause, you see….

The episode had the show’s usual zany angles, including flatulence inside the Court chamber, courtesy of Shore’s partner Denny Crane, played by William Shatner.

Lovely. But it’s too bad it’s not one of the justices who passed gas. Those black robes are great for trapping inappropriate emissions.

Speaking of crudeness, when Crane first talks to Shore about the exciting prospect of arguing before the Court, he says the Court clerk is “this really pretty woman” who starts Court sessions by crying out, “Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes!” Crane adds, “It’s like sex, Alan!”

Shore has to break it to him: “It’s not ‘Oh yes.’ It’s ‘oyez.’” And parenthetically it’s the marshal, not the clerk, who opens the session with the ancient cry. Her name, not mentioned on the show, is Pamela Talkin.

Why does everyone get so aroused when they step into the courtroom at One First Street? Think about all those hottie-seeking Craigslist “missed connection” postings (e.g., here and here). As we’ve said before, the judicial power of the United States is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

When Shore begins to tell the Court that his client probably did not even commit the rape, the character playing Justice Samuel Alito Jr. interjects sternly, “Factual innocence is not something you get to argue.” Shore exclaims, “How silly is that? You’re deciding whether or not to kill someone and his possible innocence is irrelevant?”

The “chief justice” has had enough. “Mr. Shore, I don’t like your demeanor, your tone,” he says angrily. “I would remind you of where you are.”

That’s what launches Shore into his tirade. “I know exactly where I am,” he says. “And let me tell you, you folks are not as hot as all get-out.”

Well, some of them are. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Souter are, respectively, the fifth- and fourth-hottest men in the federal judiciary! And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a cheerleader back in the day.

It’s a very interesting article, and we’ve given you mere excerpts. Read the whole thing over here.

We also missed the episode of “Boston Legal” in question. But if you were lucky enough to see it, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

David E. Kelley’s ‘Boston Legal’ Takes on the Roberts Court [Legal Times via BLT]

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