The Most Popular Hollywood Law Movies

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Category: Popular Culture & Law, Public
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Liar LiarThe consensus among film critics seems to be that the “law movie” does not constitute a shaped genre comparable to the thriller or the romantic comedy. However, we can still speak more generally of movies in which a lawyer is a major character, a courtroom proceeding occurs, and the law itself has some role in the plot. Which are the most popular law-related movies of this sort in the history of the American cinema?

One answer to the question can be found on the International Movie Data Base website and on that website’s “All-Time USA Box Office Ranking.” The latter derives exclusively from theatrical box office sales and does not include video rentals, television rights, and other revenues. As of 2014, the most popular law-related movies are in order: “Liar Liar” (1997), “Chicago” (2002), “The Firm” (1993), “A Few Good Men” (1992), “Erin Brockovich” (2000), and “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979).

I’m surprised by the list and by how few of the movies on the list correspond to what I consider the “best” law-related films. I’m also struck by how different the six movies are from one another. Indeed, going back to the notion of genre, with which I began this post, the six movies represent a wide range of genres.

Here’s how I would categorize the movies: Read more »

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Remembering the 1964 All-Star Game

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johnny callison cardLast week’s Major League All-Star Game was pretty entertaining, as All-Star games go. The game was reasonably close throughout, and the outcome was never entirely certain until the final out was made. Even though the American League jumped off to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, by the middle of the 4th inning, the game was tied at 3-3. The AL went back up 5-3 in the bottom of the 5th inning, before the offense disappeared on both sides. Neither team scored after that point, and together they combined for only two hits and two walks.

The 2014 game also ended a string of somewhat one-sided games. In 2011 and 2012, the NL prevailed by margins of 5-1 and 8-0, while last year the American League shut out a hapless NL squad by a 3-0 margin.

Submerged in the discussion of the game were occasional references to the 1964 All-Star Game of fifty years ago. That game, one of the most exciting All-Star games of all time, was played on July 7, 1964, in recently opened Shea Stadium, the new home of the hapless New York Mets. Read more »

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Commonly Confused Words: A Couple, A Few, Some, Several, or Many?

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Category: Legal Writing, Public
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In three previous posts (here, here, and here), I’ve addressed some commonly confused words and how to choose the one that expresses what you really mean. Talking about those posts with some friends prompted this one: what’s the difference between a couple, few, some, several, or many? For example, if someone tells you have a few options, how many do you have? Three? Four? More?

 

A couple: Everyone seems to agree that “a couple” means two. If you have a couple of options, you can safely assume that you will have to choose between A and B, and only A and B.

 

A Few: Here’s where things tend to get confusing. Read more »

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Welcome to the Summer Youth Institute

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Category: Eastern District of Wisconsin, Legal Education, Legal Profession, Marquette Law School, Public
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Welcome to the students participating in the Summer Youth Institute at Marquette Law School. The Summer Youth Institute is a free program for Milwaukee students entering eighth through tenth grade, and the program is in its second year. Students learn about the American legal system, participate in a moot court, and meet judges, attorneys, and law students, as well as other people involved in the legal system. This year the students are touring the federal and state courthouses, Rockwell Automation, and Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan. Students also are paired with a mentor from the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association and are eligible to participate next summer in a law-related internship. The Summer Youth Institute is hosted by Marquette Law School and the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association, in collaboration with Just the Beginning Foundation, Kids, Courts, & Citizenship, and the Association of Corporate Counsel Wisconsin Chapter.

This morning after a warm welcome from Dean Joseph Kearney and Judge Nancy Joseph at breakfast, the students learned how to introduce themselves and shake hands. Students learn important concepts about the law at the SYI, but they also gain confidence in presenting an oral argument. They form bonds with their mentors, who teach them about legal work, but also take them to baseball games and teach them intangible skills they will need to succeed in their work and life. And, finally, they get to know their peers, who, like themselves, are the future of the legal profession and our society.

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Technology at the Court: Riley and Aereo

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Category: Federal Law & Legal System, Public, U.S. Supreme Court
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Like the legal profession generally, the United States Supreme Court has a reputation as slow to embrace new technologies. For example, Justice Kagan shared in an interview last year that the Justices rarely use email. Yet at the end of the recent term, the Court decided cases affecting two evolving technologies: cell phones and streaming video services. Unanimous in the judgment in Riley v. California, the Court held that the search incident to arrest doctrine does not allow police officers to search through the contents of an arrestee’s cell phone without obtaining a warrant. In American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo, the Court concluded that a provider of video streaming services engages in a public performance and infringes copyrights by using dedicated antennae to capture broadcast signals and then transmit them to subscribers over the internet. However, in the opinions in these cases, the Justices seem careful to avoid allowing any personal unfamiliarity with cell phones or with Aereo’s streaming service to affect the quality of their decisions. Instead, the Justices confront the technologies in a pragmatic manner, focusing on the functions easily accessible to average users and avoiding analysis of underlying technological details.

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US Supreme Court Review: Lane v. Franks

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Category: First Amendment, Labor & Employment Law, Public, U.S. Supreme Court
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US Supreme Court logo(This is another post in our series, Looking Back at the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 Term.)

This past year has been another active one for labor and employment law cases at the United States Supreme Court.  Decisions have ranged from public employee free speech to the collection of dues by public-sector unions to the fiduciary duties owed under employee benefits law when a plan fiduciary invests in company stock.   This blog post focuses on the public employee free speech case, Lane v. Franks, No. 13-483 (June 19, 2014), while two subsequent posts will discuss the labor law cases of Harris v. Quinn and NLRB v. Noel Canning, and finally the ERISA case of Fifth Third Bancorp v. DudenhoefferRead more »

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The Importance of Document Design

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Category: Legal Practice, Legal Writing, Public
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helvetica-1

Jim Dimitri’s article, WordWise:  Best Practices in Document Design, is a must read for any lawyer interested in taking advantage of document design in drafting legal documents. Dimitri advises that a writer should “use the most readable font” and “use effective vertical and horizontal spacing” in designing a legal document. Dimitri’s article is useful not only for the advice he gives, but because he defines key concepts in document design, such as monospaced fonts (which “use the same width for each letter”) and proportionally spaced fonts (which use “different widths for different letters”). Dimitri suggests that a writer use proportionally spaced fonts because they are easier to read.

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US Supreme Court Review: Constitutional Criminal Cases

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Category: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Process, Judges & Judicial Process, Public, U.S. Supreme Court
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(This is another post in our series, Looking Back at the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 Term.)

In my previous post, I discussed the Court’s recent Fourth Amendment decisions.  Here are this term’s other criminal cases that also center on constitutional issues (excluding habeas decisions):

  • Kansas v. Cheever, 571 U.S. __ (2013) (prosecutors could use testimony based on court-ordered mental examination of defendant in order to rebut defendant’s intoxication defense).
  • Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. __ (2014) (in capital case, state may not categorically limit intellectual disability defense to individuals with an IQ score of 70 or lower — see my earlier post here).
  • Kaley v. United States, 571 U.S. __ (2014) (when trying to overturn pretrial asset freeze affecting funds to be used for legal representation, defendant may not challenge grand jury’s probable cause determination).
  • Martinez v. Illinois, 572 U.S. __ (2014) (after jury empaneled and sworn, judge’s grant of defendant’s motion for “directed findings of not guilty” counted as acquittal for double jeopardy purposes and precluded appeal by state).

A notable recurring theme across this set of decisions is the Court’s desire to maintain a particular competitive balance at criminal trials.

Read more »

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Chevron and the Hobby Lobby Decision

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Category: Business Regulation, Public, Religion & Law, U.S. Supreme Court
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Hobby Lobby logoThe majority opinion in the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case is founded on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the restrictions it places on the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) when she regulates and enforces the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While the issues raised by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion as to the battle of interests protected by the Constitution are significant, an important practical legal issue that was not addressed in the Hobby Lobby case is the power of HHS to interpret the meaning of the ACA. Considering the majority’s reliance on two terms that go undefined by the Court — “sincere religious belief” and “closely held corporation” [see page 29 of the slip opinion and footnote 28] — and the fact that none of the other Hobby Lobby opinions address the meaning of these terms, it is essential that these terms be defined as they fit into the ACA context.

The Court’s failure to address how HHS might interpret the meaning of these terms is reasonable considering that HHS has not acted to interpret the meaning of a “sincere religious belief” or a “closely held corporation” in the context of the ACA. In fact, the majority states explicitly that courts will be able to separate those with “sincere religious beliefs” from those who do not. However, despite the majority’s reference to the ability, and impliedly the power, of courts to interpret the terms “sincere religious beliefs” and “closely held corporations,” terms such as these have been regularly interpreted by federal agencies as they apply to the statutes these agencies enforce. Read more »

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US Supreme Court Review: Fourth Amendment Cases

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Category: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Process, Public, U.S. Supreme Court
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US Supreme Court logo(This is another post in our series, Looking Back at the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 Term.)

On the criminal side of the Court’s docket, I found this term’s statutory interpretation cases more interesting than the constitutional cases. In the latter category, the Fourth Amendment decisions were probably the most significant. They were:

  • Fernandez v. California, 571 U.S. __ (2014) (police permissibly conducted warrantless consent search of home notwithstanding objection of one occupant).
  • Prado Navarette v. California, 572 U.S. __ (2014) (anonymous 911 call sufficiently justified stop of vehicle).
  • Riley v. California, 573 U.S. __ (2014) (warrant required for search of arrestee’s cell phone).

In reviewing these three cases, I think the most intriguing comparison is between Fernandez and Riley. The two decisions serve to highlight apparent inconsistencies in the Court’s stance toward search warrants.

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Welcome to Our July Blogger

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July 4th FireworksOur July guest blogger with be rising 3L Joel Gracyk. Joel hails from Chaska, Minnesota, and is interested in constitutional law and legal writing. He is the incoming Editor in Chief of the Marquette Law Review.

And a belated thank-you for the excellent series of posts from our previous guests, Ric Gass ’70 and 2L Danielle Nardick!

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US Supreme Court Review: Should the Court Care How Effective a Statute Is?

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Federal Criminal Law & Process, Public, U.S. Supreme Court
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US Supreme Court logo(This is another post in our series, Looking Back at the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 Term.)

In my previous post, I noted a number of the considerations that the Supreme Court emphasized in its criminal statutory interpretation cases from the past term. In this post, I will highlight one recurring point of controversy, that is, whether the Court should try to maximize the effectiveness of statutes in achieving their overarching purposes.

Abramski, the firearms purchase case, provides a good illustration.   Read more »

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