Supreme Court of the United States in fiction

Supreme Court of the United States in fiction

Like many institutions that draw public interest, the Supreme Court of the United States has frequently been depicted in fiction, often in the form of legal drama. In some instances, real decisions rendered by real Courts are dramatized, as in "Gideon's Trumpet" and the seminal trial in "The People vs. Larry Flynt". Other depictions are purely fictional, but center on realistic issues that come before the Court. Television series centered on dramatizing the happenings of the Court have proven to be short-lived, likely due to a combination of legal inaccuraciesFact|date=April 2008 and overall negative critical reaction. [ [ TV Reviews: 'First Monday' guilty of mediocrity] , January 15, 2002; [ FIRST MONDAY!! Talk Back!!] , January 15, 2002.]

Television series

*"First Monday" (13 episodes in 2002, starring Joe Mantegna and James Garner). Mantegna portrayed a fictional Joseph Novelli, a moderate and potential swing vote appointed to a Supreme Court evenly divided between conservatives and liberals. Garner was the conservative Chief Justice.
*"The Court" (3 episodes, also in 2002, starring Sally Field)
*Two episodes of "The West Wing" ("The Short List" in 1999, and "Celestial Navigation" in 2000) center on the nomination of "Roberto Mendoza," played by Edward James Olmos, as the first Hispanic Justice. A third episode, "The Supremes" in 2004, dealt with the issue of preserving ideological balance on the Court. The President makes a deal with the Republican Congress to simultaneously appoint a very liberal judge "Evelyn Baker Lang" (played by Glenn Close) as the Court's first female Chief Justice, and a very conservative judge, "Christopher Mulready" (played by William Fichtner) as an Associate Justice. The 2000 episode "Take This Sabbath Day" opened with a scene depicting the Court's main chamber.
*In "The Simpsons" episode, "", Bart Simpson is shown as ultimately becoming Chief Justice of the United States.
*In the "Picket Fences" episode "May It Please the Court", broadcast on November 18, 1994, defense attorney Douglas Wambaugh (played by Fyvush Finkel) and District Attorney John Littleton (played by Don Cheadle) engaged in oral arguments before the Court (with actors playing the real justices); Supreme Court oral argument veteran Alan Dershowitz guest starred as himself, advising Wambaugh on strategy for addressing the Court. The case dealt with the admissibility of a murderer's confession.


Completely fictional depictions

*"First Monday in October" - this story about the first woman on the Supreme Court came out in 1981, the year Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman on the court. The film was based on a Broadway production which had opened in 1978.
*"Swing Vote" is a 1999 TV movie in which the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the "Roe vs. Wade" decision and thrown the issue of abortion rights back to the individual states. Alabama has subsequently outlawed abortion on demand prosecutes for first degree murder when a woman terminates her pregnancy. Newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Joseph Kirkland (Andy Garcia) will turn out to be the deciding vote in a case that could reinstate a woman's right to choose but Kirkland finds himself surrounded by proponents of both the pro-choice and pro-life agendas, with his fellow justices, his secretary and even his wife trying to influence his vote.
*"The Pelican Brief" - a 1993 feature film in which a major plot point is the assassination of two fictional Supreme Court Justices.

Fictionalized accounts of real cases/events

*"Gideon's Trumpet" - fictionalized account of the events of "Gideon v. Wainwright", in which the Supreme Court held that an indigent had the right to court-appointed counsel.
*"Amistad" - former Justice Harry Blackmun played the role of Justice Joseph Story in this fictionalized account of the real case, wherein the Court upheld the liberation of native Africans who had been kidnapped and brought to the United States after the importation of slaves had been prohibited.
*"The People vs. Larry Flynt" - the film features a fictionalized portrayal of the real case of "Hustler Magazine v. Falwell", in which the Court found that the First Amendment protected the right of "Hustler Magazine" to print emotionally distressing (but unbelievable) falsehoods.
*"Separate But Equal" - fictionalized account of the events of the "Brown v. Board of Education" desegregation case.
*The 2000 made-for-TV movie, "Nuremberg", while not depicting a U.S. Supreme Court case, has Alec Baldwin portraying Justice Robert H. Jackson, who had taken leave from the Supreme Court to serve as a prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials. The earlier film version, "Judgment at Nuremberg", has a fictional character in that position.


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