Film Friday: Rendering “The Verdict”

I’m going to come right out and say it: Frank Galvin, the alcoholic, ambulance-chasing disgraced attorney at the center of The Verdict is probably one of my favorite cinematic litigators of all time. The film starts with Frank sitting in a bar, circling death notices before running out to funeral homes where he presses the flesh of the bereaved and forces business cards into their hands, fishing probably for the estate or a quick buck running down a wrongful death settlement, and then back to the bar. He’s a man who lives in a shanty apartment with a run down office and a fake secretary, and who hustles for a living. In one scene, where the opposing counsel is trying to get a feel for him, they say “He’s tried three cases in the last four years, and he’s lost all of them.” He is not treated by the film as a respected attorney.

But he is treated by the film as a fucking human, and it’s a role that lawyers rarely get to authentically play. So I love this goddamn movie.

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Film Friday: Your Cousin Vinny Should Have Been Disbarred

Good morning you lousy shitstains on the ass of humanity known as lawyers. So, we’ve had a bit of a wild ride over the past month or so, starting with furries, moving to master/slave sexual fetishes, and now heading into the critique of films in general with the very first Film Friday, a series that will take a look at how the law and lawyers are being portrayed in popular media of all sorts.

What’s that? Why don’t I use a name other than “Film Friday” if I’m talking about all other forms of media in addition to this one? Well, because fuck you. My blog, my rules, and I’m an advocate of illustrative alliteration when it comes to these things.

So, today we’re going to talk about My Cousin Vinny, a film that recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and has been wildly praised and loved for its accuracy in presenting how to conduct a trial, an effective cross-examination, general courtroom procedure, etc. I mean, attorneys fucking love this goddamn movie. I love it. I own it on VHS, DVD, BluRay, and recently purchased it on Vudu just so I could stream scenes from it if I ever find myself, say, in an airport on the way to a motherfucking furry convention somewhere and, flying United, need something to watch as I’m savagely beaten and dragged from the plane.

Of course, the unspoken part of the appeal is we love the foul-mouthed troll/hobbit hybrid that is early 90’s Joe Pesci, and the fact that he was apparently able to land Marisa Tomei. It almost broke the suspension of disbelief for me.

So, we know that lawyers love the fuck out of this film. We know that it involves scenes that accurately depict the rules of evidence, qualifications of experts, criminal procedure (“He just gave me all this stuff!” Vinny exclaims when the prosecutor makes his standard and procedurally required disclosures), and blistering cross-examination (“ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THOSE FIVE MINUTES?”). Which means, of course, I shouldn’t do what I’m about to do.

Because I’m about to argue that Vinny is unethical, improper, and should never be allowed to practice law again.

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