Past Installments
Upcoming Events Past Installments

 

 

Tues., 11/11/08 @ 6:00 p.m. (Veterans' Day)

Rules of Engagement, directed by Academy Award® winner William Friedkin, stars Academy Award® nominee Samuel L. Jackson as highly-decorated U.S. Marine Colonel Terry Childers, who led a rescue mission gone bad when his troops took fire while evacuating the ambassador -- Academy Award® winner Ben Kingsley -- and his family from a U.S. embassy in the Middle East, and Academy Award® winner Tommy Lee Jones as U.S. Marine Colonel Hays Hodges, a JAG attorney whose life Childers saved in combat in Vietnam, and who finds himself almost thirty years later defending Childers against a general court-martial in which Childers is charged with 83 counts of murder after ordering his troops to return fire on a crowd of allegedly unarmed civilians.  The supporting cast includes Guy Pearce as the prosecuting Marine JAG attorney and Bruce Greenwood as the National Security Advisor -- both of whom seem bent on a speedy resolution of the case, caring less about Childers's actual guilt or innocence -- as well as Academy Award® nominee Anne Archer, Blair Underwood, and Mark Feuerstein.  A controversial film that is not as well known or well decorated as A Few Good Men or Breaker Morant (both of which also revolve around courts-martial), Rules of Engagement raises issues that are more relevant to contemporary U.S. military personnel on foreign soil who daily face decisions about when and against whom to exercise deadly force.

Discussion Leader: Professor Chris Blakesley

 

 

Sat., 10/25/08 @ 12:15 p.m.

To Kill A Mockingbird Gregory Peck,  Brock Peters 1962 UniversalThe most celebrated American movie about lawyers, To Kill a Mockingbird, adapted by Pulitzer Prize®-winning playwright and two-time Academy Award® winner Horton Foote from Harper Lee's eponymous Pulitzer Prize®-winning novel, stars Academy Award® winner Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, a small-town 1930s Alabama lawyer representing an African-American man, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), falsely accused of raping a young white woman, Mayella Ewell (Collin Wilcox).  His decision to represent Tom Robinson subjects Atticus and his children, Jem and Scout, to the ire of many of their neighbors, but earns them the respect and affection of the local African-American community.  Nominated for eight Academy Awards,® To Kill a Mockingbird garnered Oscars® for  Peck (Best Actor), Foote (Best Adapted Screenplay), and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.  In 2008, the ABA Journal named To Kill a Mockingbird #1 among its 25 Greatest Legal Movies.  In 2008, the American Film Institute voted it the #1 Courtroom Drama, having previously voted it #25 among its 100 Greatest American Movies and Atticus Finch the #1 Movie Hero of the first 100 years of American movies Atticus's stand between an angry lynch mob and the insubstantial jail holding Tom Robinson on the eve of trial, his skillful cross-examination of Mayella and her father, Bob (an unabashed bigot), and his impassioned closing argument are the stuff of cinematic-lawyer legend.  But it is Atticus's  interaction with his children, and with Tom and his family, and his fervent belief that right will prevail that make him a truly admirable person.

Discussion Leaders: Professors Jennifer Carr, Lynne Henderson, and Keith Rowley

 

 

Mon., 10/20/08 @ 8:00 p.m.

Michael Clayton stars Academy Award® winner George Clooney as a major law firm's "fixer" ("I'm not a miracle worker; I'm a janitor.") who must deal with the meltdown of the firm's lead litigator (Academy Award® nominee Tom Wilkinson) in a massive products liability class action law suit, the decidedly unrighteous indignation of two of the firm's important clients, the machinations of his firm's senior partners (the late Academy Award®-winning director/producer/actor Sydney Pollack and Academy Award® nominee Michael O'Keefe) and the class-action client's general counsel (Academy Award® winner Tilda Swinton), his own crises of conscience and confidence, and growing suspicion about and around his work for the firm.  The movie is a cautionary tale about the demands clients sometimes make of their attorneys and that law firms sometimes make of their partners, associates, and counsel and the consequences -- professional and personal -- individual lawyers may face for meeting or failing to meet those demands. It also delves into problems that can arise when an attorney is forced to choose between serving a client and serving truth.  One of 2007's best-reviewed and most acclaimed movies, Michael Clayton garnered a Best Supporting Actress Oscar® for Swinton and Oscar® nominations for Clooney (Best Actor), Wilkinson (Best Supporting Actor), writer/director Tony Gilroy (Best Original Screenplay and Best Director), Best Picture, and Best Original Score (James Newton Howard). In part of his unabashedly 4-out-of-4-star review, celebrated movie critic Roger Ebert declared Michael Clayton to be a "just about perfect" exercise of the "legal/business thriller genre," adding: "I've seen it twice, and the second time, knowing everything that would happen, I found it just as fascinating because of how well it was all shown happening. It's not about the destination but the journey, and when the stakes become so high that lives and corporations are on the table, it's spellbinding to watch the Clooney and Swinton characters eye to eye, raising each other, both convinced that the other is bluffing."

Discussion Leaders: Professors Keith Rowley and Jeff Stempel

 

 

Mon., 9/15/08 @ 8:00 p.m.

Legally BlondeLegally Blonde stars Academy Award® winner Reese Witherspoon as a former "Miss Hawaiian Tropic" runner-up who decides to go to Harvard Law School ("What? Like, it's hard?") to win back her former boyfriend, despite her father's admonition that "Law school is for people who are boring and ugly and serious; and you, button, are none of those things."  I can't imagine anyone now or recently in law school not having seen this movie; but, in case you haven't, it's Clueless meets The Paper Chase, with dashes of The Graduate, My Fair Lady, and The Truth About Cats and Dogs thrown in for good measure.  Selma Blair, Jennifer Coolidge, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber, Ali Larter, and Luke Wilson co-star.

Discussion Leaders: Professors Peter Reilly and Elaine Shoben

 

 

Thurs., 3/26/07 @ 5:00 p.m.

A Time to Kill, starring Matthew McConaughey and Academy Award® nominee Samuel L. Jackson in Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldman's and director Joel Schumacher's adaptation of John Grisham's first (and best) legal thriller, asks whether an African-American man (Jackson) accused of killing two white men can get a fair trial from an all-white, small-city Mississippi jury, a white judge (two-time Emmy® winner Patrick McGoohan, as the ominously-named Omar Noose), a white D.A. (two-time Academy Award® winner Kevin Spacey), and a white defense attorney (McConaughey).  The acts of violence that lead to the trial and the uncertainty whether justice can be color-blind in this case are set against a backdrop of a long-simmering racial divide and of the slow, often small, steps individuals make to try to bridge that chasm.  It also addresses some of the prejudices and pressures a white attorney faces -- from a predominantly white legal, business, and social establishment, from members of the African-American community, even from his own client -- championing an African-American client accused of killing two white men.  (We saw many of the same tensions in Ghosts of Mississippi, where Bobby DeLaughter's tenacious digging angers many of his white friends and family, while his motives prompt suspicion among many African-American community leaders and members of Medgar Evers's family.)  Two-time Blockbuster Entertainment Award® winner Sandra Bullock, two-time Golden Globe® winner Donald Sutherland, and multiple Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominee Oliver Platt also star, respectively, as idealistic Ole Miss law student Ellen Roark, who volunteers to assist Jake with the case, Jake's disbarred mentor Lucien Wilbanks, and cynical divorce attorney Harry Rex Vonner, who may be Jake's only true friend among the local legal establishment.  Emmy® and Golden Globe® winner Keifer Sutherland turns in a disturbing performance as a local KKK activist whose brother was one of the men Carl Lee killed.  This is not a film for the faint-hearted or the closed-minded.  Tonya's rape and another scene later in the film involving Roark are particularly disturbing.  Characters' lives are destroyed or permanently damaged.  Antagonists employ terror tactics, hurl racial slurs, and try to bully one another, those involved in the case, and those whose only "transgression" is being friends with the wrong person or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Mayhem erupts outside the courtroom.

Discussion Leaders: Professors Mary Berkheiser and Keith Rowley

 

 

Fri., 3/2/07 @ 6:00 p.m.

GandhiGandhi stars Academy Award® winner Ben Kingsley in the eponymous title role.  This epic motion picture, which captured 8 Academy Awards®, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Kingsley), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director (Richard Attenborough), traces the adult life of Mohandas K. Gandhi from his career as a lawyer in South Africa through his return to British-occupied India, his life's work as arguably the Twentieth Century's greatest proponent of nonviolent civil disobedience (or "non-cooperation," to use Gandhi's term), his role in winning India's independence from British colonial rule, and his struggle to keep what was so dearly won from being torn asunder by sectarian violence and political intrigue.  The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. held Gandhi in great esteem and adapted many aspects of Gandhi's philosophy and his nonviolent tactics to the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.  Gandhi's life and teachings similarly inspired Stephen Biko and other leaders of the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.  When Time magazine published its Person of the Century issue (Dec. 31, 1999), Mohandas K. Gandhi was one of three featured "finalists" -- along with Person of the Century Albert Einstein and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Gandhi features an all-star supporting cast, including Academy Award®-nominee and five-time Emmy Award® winner Candace Bergen, Emmy Award® winner Martin Sheen, three-time BAFTA® winner Edward Fox, Academy Award® winner John Gielgud, Ian Charleson, Academy Award® nominee Trevor Howard, Academy Award® winner John Mills, and South African playwright Athol Fugard, a six-time Tony Award® nominee.  When the American Film Institute compiled its list of the 50 greatest motion picture heroes of all time, "Mahatma" (Great Spirit) Gandhi, as portrayed here by Ben Kingsley, was one of three lawyers listed -- trailing only the fictional Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird) for the unofficial honor of most heroic lawyer.

Discussion Leader: Professor Marty Geer

 

 

Fri., 2/2A Man for All Seasons/07 @ 6:00 p.m.

A Man for All Seasons stars Academy Award® winner Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII, who was stripped of his title and ultimately martyred for refusing to acknowledge Henry's right to break with the Roman Catholic Church and appoint himself supreme pontiff of the Church of England.  More, a lawyer and author, whose book Utopia (1515) was required reading for centuries, was canonized some 400 years after his death.  This epic adaptation of a multiple Tony Award®-winning play, which won 6 Academy Awards®, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Scofield), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), and also earned Robert Shaw and Wendy Hiller Academy Award® nominations for their performances as Henry VIII and Alice More, begins with More's appointment as Lord Chancellor in 1529 and ends with his execution in 1535.  On the scaffold, More declared himself "the King's good servant, but God's first."  In between, we see More becoming the King's closest and most powerful advisor, falling increasingly out of favor for disapproving of Henry's efforts to end his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in an at-all-cost quest to sire a male heir, withstanding all manner of pressure -- including midnight inquests, false accusations, imprisonment, and public ridicule -- to capitulate to Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn, and finally his trial for high treason -- which ended in a preordained guilty verdict, based in part on perjured testimony, despite a brilliant defense by More.  A Man for All Seasons is a terrific study of self-conviction in the face of unrelenting political and personal pressure and helps to explain why Thomas More is the patron saint of lawyers.  It is also, as its many awards suggest, a great movie -- one that, like To Kill A Mockingbird (10/25/08), 12 Angry Men, The Paper Chase (10/24/03), Judgment at Nuremburg (11/11/04), and Philadelphia (3/8/06), every law student and lawyer should see.

Discussion Leader: Professor Tom McAffee

 

 

Sat., 1/20/07 @ 6:00 p.m.

The Merchant of VeniceWilliam Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice stars Academy Award® winners Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, and Lynn Collins in the first feature-film adaptation since the silent movie era of what has become arguably Shakespeare's most controversial play.  Directed by Academy Award® nominee Michael Radford, this visually sumptuous film contextualizes, rather than trivializing or ignoring altogether, the systemic prejudice Shylock (Pacino) and his fellow Jews faced as "necessary evils" in Sixteenth Century Venice and some of the particular indignities that drive Shylock to seek his "pound of flesh" from Antonio (Irons), the titular merchant.  In addition to presenting a rich -- albeit fictional -- case study in de jure and de facto discrimination, The Merchant of Venice's characters are caught (or catch themselves, as the case may be) in a web of interesting legal questions, including a dead father's right to dictate from beyond the grave the circumstances under which his daughter might marry and her husband might inherit his fortune, a lender's right to demand security (in lieu of or in addition to charging interest) and to "foreclose" on the security in the event the debtor or his surety defaults, a contracting party's right to insist upon strict judicial enforcement of the contract's terms, the nettles into which one who chooses to represent himself in court may fall -- particularly if the judicial system from which he seeks remedy is inherently biased against him -- and the role of "experts" in assisting a court adjudicate a dispute.

Discussion Leader: Professor Keith Rowley

 

 

Fri., 10/20/06 @ 6:00 p.m.

Lone StarLone Star stars Academy Award® winner Chris Cooper and Elizabeth Peña, with strong supporting performances by Joe Morton, Ron Canada, Matthew McConaughey, and Academy Award® winners Frances McDormand and Kris KristoffersonWritten and directed by two-time Academy Award® nominee John Sayles, one of the truly great independent filmmakers whose work will stand the test of time, Lone Star follows Sam Deeds (Cooper), reluctantly elected to serve as sheriff of fictional Rio County, Texas following the death of his father, legendary sheriff Buddy Deeds (McConaughey), as he investigates human remains found in the desert between town and the nearby Army base.  Unearthing the skeleton means unearthing the unpleasant past of Rio County -- lawless law enforcers, political corruption, racial intolerance, and gross mistreatment of illegal aliens who made the mistake of crossing the Rio Grande into Rio County -- particularly during the tenure of Buddy's predecessor, Sheriff Charlie Wade (Kristofferson).  All the while, Sam is dealing with political corruption, racial intolerance, and disdain for illegal aliens -- sometimes from the least expected sources -- in present-day Rio County.

Discussion Leader: Professor Leticia Saucedo

 

 

Wed., 3/8/06 @ 5:00 p.m.

PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia stars multiple Academy Award® winners Tom Hanks (who won the first of two consecutive Best Actor Oscars® for this performance) and Denzel Washington, with strong supporting turns by Antonio Banderas and Academy Award® winners Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, and Joanne Woodward, and directed by Academy Award® winner Jonathan Demme.  This movie, which tells the story of a Philadelphia attorney who is fired by his law firm after he begins to manifest symptoms of AIDS and who sues his firm for disability discrimination, is among the handful of movies that every law student and lawyer must see.

Discussion Leader: Professor Ann McGinley

 

 

Tues., 11/29/05 @ 4:15 p.m.

Two Weeks NoticeTwo Weeks Notice stars Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock as, respectively, a self-absorbed real estate magnate driven to exceed people's low expectations of him and an attorney who he hires, despite her record of opposing his company and all it stands for,  to bring her skills and her sensibilities to his company.  Some of the issues raised by this movie should resonate with anyone who has read the U.S. Supreme Court's recent eminent domain decision, Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), attended the Federalist Society's Nov. 17th debate, during which Professor Pindell and Boyd alumnus and Nevada Assemblyman William Horne discussed Kelo and some of its implications, or has an interest in urban "renewal" and preservation.

Discussion Leader: Professor Ngai Pindell

 

 

Sat., 11/12/05 @ 6:15 p.m.

Absence of MaliceAbsence of Malice stars multiple Academy Award® winners Paul Newman (nominated for Best Actor for this film) and Sally Field, Academy Award® nominee Bob Balaban, and everyone's favorite crusty old guy, Wilford Brimley, in a scene-stealing performance, and takes its title from the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark defamation decision in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), which held that, absent proof of malice, a public official could not recover for defamatory statements published about him or her.  The movie explores the role of the press in reporting government investigations, the sometimes delicate relations between state and federal investigative agencies and prosecutors, the effects on involved and uninvolved parties of making "confidential" investigations public through strategic leaks, some clever ways to avoid being railroaded by overzealous crusaders.

Discussion Leader: Professor Sylvia Lazos

 

Sun., 11/6/05 @ 7:15 p.m. (Green Valley Ranch Theatres)

North Country stars Academy Award® winners Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, and Sissy Spacek and Academy Award® nominee Woody Harrelson, in a film about the events that gave rise to the first successful sexual harassment class action lawsuit in U.S. history: Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co., 130 F.3d 1287 (8th Cir. 1997).

Discussion Leaders: Professors Ann McGinley, Elaine Shoben, and Jean Whitney

 

Fri., 4/1/05 @ 6:30 p.m.

House of Sand and FogHouse of Sand and Fog, directed by Vadim Perelman, stars Academy Award® winners Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley and Academy Award® nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo.  Kingsley, Aghdashloo, and composer James Horner were nominated for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Score, respectively, for this work on this film.  Amazingly, despite the fact that author Andre Dubus III received more than 100 offers from film studios who wanted to make this book into a movie, the finished product was not nominated for Best Screenplay.  House of Sand and Fog tells the story of a woman (Connelly) who is evicted from her home for failing to pay taxes and her personal, legal, and extra-legal attempts to regain the house from the family who purchased it at a foreclosure sale (Kingsley, Aghdashloo, and newcomer Jonathan Ahdout).

Guest Host and Discussion Leader: Professor Katherine Porter

 

Sat., 3/5/05 @ 6:15 p.m.

The InsiderThe Insider, directed by Michael Mann, stars Academy Award® winners Russell Crowe and Al Pacino.  Crowe portrays Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, a research scientist for Brown & Williamson, who eventually gives in to persistent questioning by "60 Minutes" producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino) to produce confidential documents supporting his claims that "Big Tobacco" knew the health risks associated with cigarette smoking for decades.  Emmy® winner Christopher Plummer stars as "60 Minutes" anchor Mike Wallace who, after initially balking at the story because of pressure from CBS corporate, finally tells Wigand's story, triggering and bolstering a series of major lawsuits against the tobacco industry. While the facts are, no doubt, tinkered with a bit for dramatic effect, this movie is based on a true story, and presents a fairly uncompromising look at all of the major players.  The Insider explores a variety of issues relevant to law students -- many of which will resonate with those of you taking Professional Responsibility or who will be studying earlier that day for the MPRE -- including confidentiality, privilege, duty of loyalty, inducing someone to breach a confidentiality agreement, threatening civil suit as a means of keeping a whistleblower quiet, using documents obtained in violation of a confidentiality agreement, perjury and suborning perjury before a court of law and before Congress, balancing one's duty to the truth to one's duty to one's employer, and corporate social responsibility.

Discussion Leader: Professor Keith Rowley

 

 

Tues., 11/30/04 @ 4:00 p.m.

Erin BrockovichErin Brockovich, directed by Academy Award® winner Steven Soderbergh and starring Academy Award® winner Julia Roberts and Academy Award® nominee Albert Finney, is based on the real-life story of scrappy-while-poorly-dressed paralegal Erin Brockovich (who appears in the movie as a cafe waitress ironically named "Julia") and small-firm practitioner Ed Masry (who cameos in the movie) who developed a toxic tort case against Pacific Gas & Electric that led to what was, at the time, the largest direct (i.e., non-class) action lawsuit settlement in U.S. history.  Packed with interesting environmental law, discovery, arbitration, and other legal issues, Erin Brockovich also features biker-with-a-heart-of-gold Aaron Eckhart, "CSI" star Marg Helgenberger, and the ever-creepy Tracey Walters.  For more information about the movie and back story, see http://www.erinbrockovich.com/home.html.

Discussion Leaders: Professors Tuan Samahon, Jean Sternlight, and Pavel Wonsowicz

 

 

Thurs., 11/11/04 (Veterans' Day) @ 6:00 p.m.

Judgment at NurembergJudgment at Nuremburg, directed and produced by nine-time Academy Award® nominee and Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award® winner Stanley Kramer, was nominated for eleven Academy Awards®, and won for Best Actor (Maximilian Schell) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Abby Mann).  A timeless classic, Judgment at Nuremberg stars two-time Academy Award® winner Spencer Tracy, Academy Award® winner Burt Lancaster, Academy Award® winner Schell, Academy Award® nominee Richard Widmark, and Academy Award® nominee Marlene Dietrich, and features supporting turns by Judy Garland (nominated for Best Supporting Actress), Montgomery Clift (nominated for Best Supporting Actor), and William Shatner (yes, that William Shatner).  Based on actual events, Judgment at Nuremberg tells the tale of a Maine state court judge (Tracy) who is called to serve as part of a three-judge panel presiding over the trial of four prominent German judges who are charged with war crimes for enforcing the laws of the Third Reich.  Judgment at Nuremberg is a cautionary tale that clearly evidences that "I was only following orders" is no more successful a defense strategy for judges than it was for the hundreds of German officers and Nazi party officials tried and convicted during several years' worth of proceedings following the end of World War II and that criminal conspiracies -- and particularly conspiracies to commit crimes against humanity -- often include participants who, by all appearances, are at complete odds with the more visible and voluble leaders of the conspiracy.  Ernst Janning (Lancaster), an internationally-renowned legal expert and author of numerous significant judicial opinions and legal texts, could not seem less like Adolf Hitler and the historically-prominent members of Hitler's high command.  And yet, in the end, Janning and his co-defendants may have been more guilty, in some sense, because they clearly knew that the laws and edicts they were enforcing were contrary to any legally-recognized concepts of justice and equity.  Judgment at Nuremberg is also an object lesson for lawyers and lawyers-to-be in its depiction of the lead prosecutor (Widmark) and defense counsel (Schell), the tactics each was willing to employ to serve what they believed to be the best interests of their clients, and their motivations for doing their jobs with the vigor and rancor they displayed; the judges, the extreme and changing political pressures brought to bear on them, and the effects of their daily interaction with post-War Germany and its people; and the daunting task of balancing punishment and reconciliation.  For more information about the movie and its historical roots, see http://www.usfca.edu/pj/articles/Nuremberg.htm.

Discussion Leader: Professor Chris Blakesley

 

 

Fri., 10/22/04 @ 6:00 p.m.

Presumed InnocentPresumed Innocent, directed by three-time Academy Award® nominee Alan J. Pakula, and starring Academy Award® nominee and Cecil B. DeMille Award® winner Harrison Ford, Golden Globe® winner Brian Dennehy, Emmy® and Golden Globe® winner Raul Julia, Golden Globe® nominee Bonnie Bedelia, Emmy® winner John Spencer, Emmy® winner Greta Scacchi, and Academy Award® nominee Paul Winfield, is based on Scott Turow's award-winning novel of the same title.  The movie, while not quite able to live up to the caliber of the book, provides excellent discussion points in criminal law, criminal procedure, professional responsibility, and evidence, as well as both office politics and electoral politics.  This is a taut legal thriller that will leave some viewers wondering "Who dunnit?," others wondering "Will the killer get away with it?," and the rest wondering "Did the person responsible for Harrison Ford's hairstyle ever work in movies again?"

Discussion Leader: Professor Katherine Kruse

 

 

Fri., 10/1/04 @ 3:00 p.m.

Gideon's TrumpetGideon's Trumpet, the 1980 film adaptation of Anthony Lewis's eponymous 1964 Pulitzer Prize®-winning book, starring Academy Award® winners Henry Fonda as Clarence Earl Gideon, Jose Ferrer as attorney (and future Supreme Court justice) Abe Fortas, and John Houseman as Chief Justice Earl Warren, is based on the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), which our 1Ls read during this year's Introduction to Law Week, and is almost always a source of lively in-class discussions in Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure courses.  (For film trivia buffs, the movie is also the final screen appearance of Fay Wray, the original object of King Kong's desire.)
Discussion Leader: Professor Lynne Henderson

 

 

Thurs., 4/15/04 @ 5:00 p.m.

The Milagro Beanfield War

Discussion Leader: Professor Bret Birdsong

 

 

Thurs., 4/1/04 @ 5:00 p.m.

Eight Men OutEight Men Out, which two-time Academy Award® nominee John Sayles adapted from Eliot Asinof's eponymous book and directed, is based on the real-life 1919 Chicago "Black Sox" Scandal, in which several members of what might well have rivaled the 1927 Yankees as the best team in major league history conspired with gamblers to throw the world series.  A grand jury indicted eight players, who stood trial for conspiracy to commit a confidence game.  In addition to a sideshow-like trial, the scandal also led to the appointment of Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis as the first truly independent commissioner of major league baseball (or, for that matter, any American sport).  For those of you more familiar with Field of Dreams, this is a largely factual account of the fall of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson from the pinnacle of American baseball (his swing, which Field of Dreams told us Babe Ruth copied, produced the third highest career batting average -- .356 -- in major league history) to banishment from the sport he so loved and played so well.  The movie stars John Cusack, Golden Globe® winner Charlie Sheen, Academy Award® nominee David Strathairn, D.B. Sweeney, Emmy® winner Gordon Clapp, and others as the players, Golden Globe® nominee John Mahoney as manager "Kid" Gleason,  Pulitzer Prize® winner Studs Terkel and Sayles as sportswriters Hugh Fullerton and Ring Lardner, who uncover the scandal, and Academy Award® nominee Michael Lerner and three-time Emmy® winner Christopher Lloyd as the gamblers who financed the scheme.  While largely overlooked by the Academy (it came out in the days before "independent films" were all the rage), this is arguably the best baseball movie ever made.  It also evenhandedly tells the story of one of the two most significant legal cases involving baseball (the other being Curt Flood's challenge to the "reserve clause," Flood v. Kuhn, 407 U.S. 258 (1972), which led to the advent of free agency).

Discussion Leader: Professor Keith Rowley

 

 

Mon., 2/16/04 (Presidents' Day) @ 6:00 p.m.

AmistadAmistad, directed by two-time Academy Award® winner Steven Spielberg, is based on the real-life case The Amistad, 40 U.S. 518 (U.S. 1841), which former President John Quincy Adams argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of a group of slaves who had mutinied while being transported to Cuba aboard La Amistad and were found adrift by a U.S. Coast Guard surveying vessel, whose crew claimed the right of salvage not only of the ship but also of the slaves, which it deemed to be chattels.  Thus, the Supreme Court was faced with, among other lofty issues, the question of whether slaves were people or property.  Amistad -- an excellent, if somewhat embellished (see Douglas O. Linder, Salvaging Amistad, 31 J. Mar. L. & Com. 559 (2000)), film that raises important issues of property rights, civil rights (more accurately, in this context, "natural law"), maritime law, and the roles of lawyers, politicians, and courts in shaping both the law and, in this case, social and international policy -- stars Academy Award® winner Anthony Hopkins as Adams (our first son of a president to be elected president); Matthew McConaughey, as attorney Roger Baldwin, who first took the case on behalf of the mutinous slaves; two-time Academy Award® nominee Djimon Hounsou as Cinque, the erstwhile leader of the mutiny; and Academy Award® winner Morgan Freeman, as a fictional abolitionist, most of whose good deeds can be attributed to real-life white abolitionist Lewis Tappan (who Stellan Skarsgård portrays in the film).  Amistad also features former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun as fabled Justice Joseph Story, Academy Award® nominee Nigel Hawthorn as then-President Martin Van Buren, Academy Award® nominee David Paymer as Secretary of State John Forsyth, and Academy Award® winner Anna Paquin as Queen Isabella II of Spain.
Discussion Leader: Professor Sylvia Lazos

 

 

Mon., 1/19/04 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) @ 6:00 p.m.

Ghosts of MississippiGhosts of Mississippi is based on the successful re-prosecution some thirty years after the fact of white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, after two all-white, all-male juries refused to render verdicts.  Academy Award® nominee Alec Baldwin stars as Hinds County Assistant DA Bobby DeLaughter who, on his own initiative, reopened the case, reinvestigated, and retried it.  (DeLaughter is currently a judge on the Mississippi Court of Appeals.)  Two-time Academy Award® nominee James Woods, one of my favorite actors, plays De La Beckwith well -- not as some monster, but rather as someone who simply viewed shooting a black man to be no different than shooting a pesky squirrel that keeps eating all of the bird seed.  Academy Award® winner Whoopi Goldberg plays Myrlie Evers, Medgar's widow, who is first skeptical that the whole thing is a political ploy, but ultimately comes to trust and support DeLaughter.  The  cast also includes Emmy® winner Craig T. Nelson as DeLaughter's boss, Academy Award® nominee William H. Macy as one of DeLaughter's investigators, Academy Award® nominee Virginia Madsen, Susanna Thompson, and several people who were involved in the case, many of whom play themselves.  Ultimately, DeLaughter disproves De La Beckwith's statement that "No jury will ever convict a white man for killing a black man in Mississippi."  This is a good film that will get you thinking about the law and lawyers' roles both in shaping the law and, in some cases, society at large.  I will add what insights I can from having lived and taught in Jackson for two years not long after the trial and my conversations with Pat Bennett, a former colleague of mine at Mississippi College, who was almost called in to take over the case when local African-American politicians accused the DA's office of not taking the case seriously.

Discussion Leader: Professor Keith Rowley

 

 

Fri., 12/5/03 @ 6:00 p.m.

Wall StreetWall Street stars Michael Douglas, who won a Best Actor Academy Award® for this film (and whose character, Gordon Gekko, was voted the #24 movie villain of the 20th Century by the American Film Institute), Golden Globe® winner Charlie Sheen, Emmy® winner Martin Sheen, former mermaid Daryl Hannah, three-time Emmy® winner James Spader, Academy Award® nominee Hal Holbrook, and a number of director Oliver Stone's "repertory" cast in a film about corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, insider trading, and the drive to become what Tom Wolfe, in his masterpiece The Bonfire of the Vanities (not to be mistaken for the wretched movie of the same title) called "Masters of the Universe."  Directed by three-time Academy Award® winner Oliver Stone, Wall Street is a taut, cautionary tale about the unwavering drive for MORE, at any cost.

Discussion Leader: Professor Bob Lawless

 

 

Tues., 11/11/03 @6:00 p.m.

Class ActionClass Action, directed by Michael Apted, stars two-time Academy Award® winner Gene Hackman and Academy Award® nominee Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as father and daughter attorneys who face off against each other in a products liability class action suit.  Hackman plays Jed Ward, who sues corporate giant Argo Motors on behalf of a class of persons killed or injured due to an alleged defect in the Argo Meridian's turn signal assembly that makes the car vulnerable to explosion if it is struck while the turn signal is activated.  Mastrantonio plays Jed's daughter, Maggie, who is being groomed for partnership at a major San Francisco law firm and is lead defense counsel for Argo, though she is preparing and defending the case under the close supervision of both the head of the litigation section and the firm's managing partner -- Argo being the firm's largest single client.  As we follow the case through document production and review, evidence tampering, depositions, pretrial motions, and trial, the film raises a number of interesting procedural, ethical, tactical, evidentiary, and tort issues.  There are also some wonderful insights into how tightly-knit the practicing bar really is (even in a city as large as San Francisco) and how one's prior behavior can come back to haunt you (and your client) sometime later.  The managing partner of the first firm I worked for in Houston talked about "The Favor Bank" and the importance of making "deposits" (i.e., granting reasonable requests for additional time, not opposing perfectly reasonable motions, and generally not being obstinate solely for the sake of making opposing counsel's -- or worse, a judge's -- life more difficult) whenever doing so did not compromise your client's position because you never knew when you might need to make a "withdrawal."  A strong supporting cast includes Academy Award® nominee Laurence Fishburne as one of Jed's associates, Donald Moffat as the managing partner of Maggie's firm, celebrated Australian actor Colin Friels as Maggie's supervising partner, former U.S. Senator Fred Dalton Thompson as Argo's chief of research and product design, and pseudo-Las Vegan Robert David Hall as the lead plaintiff whose wife and children were killed and whose own injuries confined him to a wheelchair.  (Ironically, Hall, who plays crutch-wielding coroner Dr. Albert Robbins on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, had both of his legs amputated after suffering burns over 65% of his body as a the result of an automobile accident.)

Discussion Leader: Professor Jeff Stempel

 

 

Fri., 10/24/03 @ 6:00 p.m.

The Paper ChaseThe Paper Chase, directed and adapted by two-time Academy Award® nominee James Bridges from John Jay Osborne, Jr.'s eponymous novel, and starring Timothy Bottoms and John Houseman, who won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award® for his portrayal of the mythical Professor Charles W. Kingsfield, Jr., is the iconic film about life as a 1L.  Next to the CBS/Showtime series of the same name, The Paper Chase is the most realistic Hollywood depiction of the life of a law student.  Unlike more recent movies that feature law students (e.g., Soul Man, The Pelican Brief, Legally Blonde), the characters, while eccentric, are not satiric stereotypes, nor do any of them sleep with their law professors (although one does sleep with a professor's daughter).

Discussion Leader: Professor Keith Rowley

 

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