Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Favorite Legal Films (as opposed to the illegal films I watch)

I was watching an old episode of Perry Mason, and you’ll never guess what happened!

Someone hired Perry to take care of a minor legal matter. Then someone was murdered and Perry’s client was arrested for the crime!

In the court, Perry eventually Perry proved his client was innocent and even got the true murderer to confess!

What’s that? You did guess what happened…. How? Oh, that’s right. Because Perry handled hundreds of murder cases in books, TV shows and even movies: and pretty much the same thing happened every time. (Well, Petty did lose one case, but that was his client lied about everything, so that doesn’t really count.)

I find there is something reassuring about the show, thinking that if I was ever in trouble, there would be a perfect advocate by my side. It’s a Biblical desire. In Job 16: 19, Job tells his “friends” who accuse him of some great, but unnamed great crimes that he “Even now my witness is in heaven, my advocate is on high.”

Considering the important (but not primary) role that the Law has in Scripture, it’s not surprising that lawyers, courts and lawsuits all can be found in the Bible.

So if you are looking for a legal story with a little less predictability than is found in Earl Stanley Gardner’s mysteries, you might want to consider Netflicking (or library ordering) one of my five favorite legal films.

5) “My Cousin Vinny” (1992)

This legal comedy, according to many lawyers, gets the legal details right telling the story of a young man from New York traveling through the rural South accused of murder.He calls his cousin to defend him, who is, well, almost a lawyer. Joe Pesci playing Vinny for the Defense is rude and abrasive in genteel court room, but proves an effective advocate.
We need a good advocate when we’re innocent but even more when we’re guilty. (I John 2:1, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”)

4) “The Verdict” (1982)

This is drama about a medical malpractice case brought by a lawyer (Paul Newman) intent on recompense for his clients as well as redemption for himself. (Directed by the late Sidney Lumet, who directed one of the films below.)
God is very concerned about this type of justice as we see in Exodus 23:6, “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.”

3) “The Fortune Cookie” (1966)

This Billy Wilder comedy shows how the legal system can be abused. When photographer Jack Lemmon, he sees an unfortunate minor innocent; his shyster brother-in-law Walter Matthau sees dollar signs.
The Apostle Paul was concerned about this kind of abuse of the legal system, especially among believers. He argued in I Corinthians 6: 7, “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”

2) “12 Angry Men” (1957)

We still hope that truth will prevail in the legal system, especially in the jury room. We hope for a Juror #8 (Henry Fonda). (John 14: 16 Jesus promises, “He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever, the Spirit of truth.”)

1) “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)

But justice is not always done on the courts of earth, even when the great Gregory Peck represents the defense. This wonderful story about justice (and race and family and childhood) reminds us that ultimately, only God will make things right. (Dueteronomy 17:8 If case come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge… take them to the place the Lord your God will choose.)

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