Court Tourism

Posted on Categories Popular Culture & Law1 Comment on Court Tourism

A phenomenon called “court tourism” has emerged.  Growing numbers of individuals are going to their local courthouses for several hours at a time to prowl the halls, watch the proceedings, and contemplate the human stories being played out.  Many of the “court tourists” are unemployed or retired, and almost all have no legal backgrounds.  A few were recently interviewed on the Canadian public radio program “Definitely Not the Opera,” and the interviews can be downloaded from the December 13 broadcast at

The phenomenon intrigues me.  I don’t think it compares to the practice dating back to the earliest decades of the Republic of gathering to watch major trials.  After all, the great majority of proceedings in today’s courthouses are not trials, and the court tourists watch whatever they can find, regardless of how trivial it might be.  Perhaps court tourism was prompted by the extensive media coverage of the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson trials.  Alternatively, court tourism might be inspired by the ubiquitous pseudo-court shows such as “Judge Judy” and “Judge Joe Brown,” to name only two.   Whatever the inspiration, today’s court tourists want to be entertained.  A trip to the courthouse is cheap recreational activity.

We must surely have become a postmodern society when legal proceedings no longer seem the path to justice, but rather serve as a source of escapist titillation.

How Family and Office Roles Mix

Posted on Categories Labor & Employment Law, Popular Culture & LawLeave a comment» on How Family and Office Roles Mix

Simpsons_family_dynamic Interesting article on this topic in the NYT last week.

Some highlights:

THE office joker. The mother hen. The king. The rebel. The gossip. The peacekeeper. The dude.

Anyone who has ever been part of a workplace culture can probably recognize at least one of those characters in the cubicle next door.

But workplace roles and the dynamics among colleagues can go much deeper than those somewhat superficial stereotypes, especially in a nation where many people spend as much time with colleagues as they do with their families, where the office so often mirrors the family.

Continue reading “How Family and Office Roles Mix”

Studs Turkel’s Impact on Telling the Stories of Workers

Posted on Categories Labor & Employment Law, Legal History, Popular Culture & LawLeave a comment» on Studs Turkel’s Impact on Telling the Stories of Workers

Studs As many of you are probably aware, last week saw the passing of an American icon, Studs Turkel. Mary Dudziak of the Legal History Blog relates that the author and radio host died this past Friday at the age of 96. From his website:

In 1952 Terkel began working for WFMT, first with the “Studs Terkel Almanac” and the “Studs Terkel Show,” primarily to play music. The interviewing came along by accident. This later became the award-winning, “The Studs Terkel Program.” His first book, Giants of Jazz, was published in 1956. Ten years later his first book of oral history interviews, Division Street : America, came out. It was followed by a succession of oral history books on the 1930s Depression, World War Two, race relations, working, the American dream, and aging. His latest book, Will the Circle Be Unbroken : Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith, was published in 2001. Terkel continues to interview people, work on his books, and make public appearances. He is Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the Chicago Historical Society.

Mary observes this from the Chicago Tribune:

“At his bedside was a copy of his latest book, ‘P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening,’ scheduled for a November release.”

From a labor perspective, Turkel made many important contributions in putting together oral histories of the life of workers, including Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do and Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression.

Thanks to Mary for pointing out that recordings from Terkel’s radio programs and oral history interviews are here.

Hat Tip: Patrick O’Donnell

Cross posted at Workplace Prof Blog.

The Paper Chase: What Does the Film Tell Us About Contemporary Legal Education?

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Popular Culture & Law9 Comments on The Paper Chase: What Does the Film Tell Us About Contemporary Legal Education?

I recently screened The Paper Chase (1973) in one of my law school classes.  While the majority of current law students are more familiar with recent pop cultural portrayals of legal education such as Legally Blonde (2001), The Paper Chase seems to me to set the stage for those portrayals, especially through the character of Professor Kingsfield and the images from his menacing Socratic classes.  I interpret The Paper Chase as the fictional story of a law student encountering and then overcoming the dehumanizing forces of legal education. Continue reading “The Paper Chase: What Does the Film Tell Us About Contemporary Legal Education?”

Russian Officials to South Park: “Respect My Authoritah!”

Posted on Categories Popular Culture & Law, Religion & LawLeave a comment» on Russian Officials to South Park: “Respect My Authoritah!”

One of my guilty pleasures – and the guilt is substantial – is the animated series “South Park.” I fully admit that the show is occasionally offensive and often tacky, but the laughs are worth it.

Everyone doesn’t agree. Via the indispensable Religion Clause Blog, we learn that authorities in the Basammy region of Russia want to ban the show, citing an episode called “Mr. Hanky’s Christmas Classics,” which contains some faux Christmas carols (on which I will not elaborate) that certainly might offend certain religious sensibilities (although it is hardly the most offensive bit of the South Park library). The effort apparently rests upon a 2006 law that prohibits “the abasement of national dignity” and “inciting religious and national hatred.” Continue reading “Russian Officials to South Park: “Respect My Authoritah!””