Law on Film

Jonathan Hafetz

Law on Film explores the rich connections between law and film. Law is critical to many films, even to those that are not obviously about the legal world.  Film, meanwhile, tells us a lot about the law, especially how it is perceived and portrayed. The podcast is created and hosted by Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer, legal scholar, and  film buff.  Each episode, Jonathan and a guest expert will examine a film that is noteworthy from a legal perspective. What does the film get right about the law and what does it get wrong? Why is law important to understanding the film? And what does the film teach about law's relationship to the larger society and culture that surrounds it.  Whether you're interested in law, film, or an entertaining discussion, there will be something here for you.

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Episodes

Absence of Malice (1981) (Guest: Brian Hauss) (episode 27)
May 28 2024
Absence of Malice (1981) (Guest: Brian Hauss) (episode 27)
This episode examines Absence of Malice, a 1981 drama directed by Sidney Pollack. After Miami-based newspaper reporter Megan Carter (Sally Field) is tipped off by Justice Department organized crime strike force chief Elliot Rosen (Bob Balaban) about a criminal investigation into the disappearance and likely murder of a local union official, her paper runs a sensational front-page story. But the supposed target of the investigation, Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman), the son of an infamous bootlegger, is innocent; Rosen, the strike force chief, has leaked his name to the press to try to squeeze Gallagher for information. Gallagher is incensed and tries to pressure Megan to reveal her source. Megan initially refuses but later relents after her story unexpectedly leads to the tragic death of a friend of Gallagher's. Gallagher and Megan also become romantically involved. Gallagher hatches a plot to get even and get the government off his back. He causes an unsuspecting Megan to write another sensational story, this time implicating the District Attorney in a bribery scheme that Gallagher has invented. When the truth is revealed, both the prosecutors and the newspaper are humiliated, the victims of their own game of leaking information and reporting about it. Absence of Malice provides an insightful, if unflattering, picture of how newspapers operate and some of the ethical and moral complications that can result from the robust protections afforded the press under the First Amendment.  I’m joined by Brian Hauss, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, who has litigated numerous landmark First Amendment cases. Timestamps:0:00     Introduction3:31     The meaning of “absence of malice” 8:15     Deciding what a paper can print11:22   A skeptical take on the absence of malice standard  15:02   The meaning of “public figure”20:47   A newspaper reporter’s First Amendment privilege?26:10   How the government handles leaks30:20   A troubling increase in leak prosecutions32:31   The “Leaky Leviathan”: How the government uses leaks39:06   The obligations of the press42:43   The legal vs. ethical obligations of the press48:11   Assessing critiques of the absence of malice standard 54:59   Timeless questions explored by the filmFurther reading:Adler, Renata, Reckless Disregard: ‘Westmoreland v. CBS et al. & Sharon v. Time (1986)Barbas, Samantha, The Enduring Significance of ‘New York Times Co. v. Sullivan,’ Knight First Amendment Institute (Mar. 18, 2024) Liptak, Adam, “Clarence Thomas Renews Call for Reconsideration of Landmark Libel Ruling,” N.Y. Times (Oct. 10, 2023)Pozen, David E., “The Leaky Leviathan: Why the Government Condemns and Condones Unlawful Disclosures of Information,” 127 Harv. L. Rev. 512 (2013)Stone, Geoffrey R., “Why We Need a Federal Reporter’s Privilege,” 34 Hofstra L. Rev. 39 (2005)  Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Inherit the Wind (1960) (Guest Nell Minow) (episode 26)
May 14 2024
Inherit the Wind (1960) (Guest Nell Minow) (episode 26)
Inherit the Wind (1960) is a fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial," where a local teacher is prosecuted for teaching about human evolution in public school in violation of state law. The film was directed by Stanley Kramer and is based on a play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee. It stars Spencer Tracy as Henry Drummond (patterned after celebrated defense attorney Clarence Darrow), Frederic March as the prosecutor Matthew Harrison Brady (patterned after famous three-time presidential candidate and renowned fundamentalist Christian spokesperson, William Jennings Bryan); Dick York as Bertram T. Cates (patterned after high school science teacher John Scopes), and Gene Kelly as reporter E. K. Hornbeck (patterned after H.L. Mencken). Fans of the TV series M*A*S*H  will also enjoy seeing Harry Morgan as the trial judge. The film not only provides a glimpse into the role of religion in public life in American in the 1920s; it also contains important messages about conformism and freedom of thought directed at the McCarthyism of its own era—messages that continue to reverberate today. My guest to talk about Inherit the Wind is film critic Nell Minow (bio  here).Timestamps:0.00     Introduction4:52     The era of the Scopes “monkey trial”8:34     The Scopes trial as a “test” case12:25   The decision to exclude evidence of evolution18:40   The later theory of “intelligent design”20:30   Clarence Darrow’s classic cross-examination of William Jennings Bryan23:27   Miracle on 34th Street and how courts resolve disputes about faith24:40   The film as a response to the McCarthy era26:14   The verdict and aftermath30:10   The power and methods of the religious right today 34:22   The impact of Inherit the Wind and other “issue movies”37:06   The film’s continuing relevanceFurther reading:Austerlitz, Saul, "Rethinking Stanley Kramer: How a message-movie humanist became an auteurist punching bag," Moving Image Source (Aug. 25, 2010)Farrell, John F., Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned (2011)Minow, Nell, “‘An Idea Is a Greater Monument Than a Cathedral’: Deciding How We Know What We Know in ‘Inherit the Wind,’” 30 U. San Fran. L. Rev. 1225 (1996)National Center for Science Education, “Ten Major Court Cases about Evolution and Creationism” (June 6, 2016)Sprague de Camp, Lyon, The Great Monkey Trial (1968)Uelman, Gerald F., “The Trial as Circus: ‘Inherit the Wind,’” 30 U. San Fran. L. Rev. 1221 (1996)Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
The Caine Mutiny (1954) & The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023) (Guest: Gene Fidell) (episode 25)
May 1 2024
The Caine Mutiny (1954) & The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023) (Guest: Gene Fidell) (episode 25)
The Caine Mutiny (1954) is based on Herman Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name. The film, directed by Edward Dmytryk and produced by Stanley Kramer, portrays the fictitious events on board the U.S.S. Caine, a Navy destroyer-minesweeper in the Pacific during World War II.  Lt. Stephen Maryk (Van Johnson) relieves the seemingly unstable Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg, Captain of the USS Caine, of his command after Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) endangers the ship and its crew . The ship returns to the U.S. and Maryk is court-martialed for mutiny. He is represented by Navy lawyer, Lt. Barney Greenwald (José Ferrer), who despite disapproving of Maryk’s actions, believes Maryk was misled by the ship’s communications officer, Lt. Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray), into believing Queeg was mentally unfit for command. Maryk is acquitted after Greenwald exposes Queeg’s erratic and paranoid behavior. The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023), directed by the late William Friedkin, is based on Wouk’s adaption of his own 1951 novel for the stage. The cast includes Jake Lacy as Maryk, Jason Clarke as defense attorney Greenwald, Monica Raymund as prosecutor Lt. Commander Katherine Challee, the late Lance Reddick as the presiding judge Captain Luther Blakley, and Kiefer Sutherland in a phenomenal performance as Queeg. The films are not only gripping courtroom dramas, but also explore larger themes around military justice, ethics, and morality.  With me to discuss these films is Eugene (Gene) Fidell, a visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and co-founder of the National Institute of Military Justice.Timestamps:0:00     Introduction3:58     What's a court-martial?9:14     The crime of mutiny17:48   Relieving Queeg of his command27:36   Putting Queeg on trial29:33   Taking some poetic license with a court-martial34:44   The defense lawyer’s post-trial critique of the mutiny41:21   The dramatic changes in the Navy and armed forces since the original movie 47:12   More context for the two Caine Mutiny movies50:21   Other great movies about military justice   Further reading:“The Humphrey Bogart Blogathon: ‘The Caine Mutiny’ (1954),” Dec. 23, 2016, https://back-to-golden-days.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-humphrey-bogart-blogathon-caine.htmlKelly, Kevin M., “You Murdered Queeg: Lawyers, Ethics, Military Justice, and ‘The Caine Mutiny,’” 1991 Wis. L. Rev. 543 (1991)Melville, Herman, Billy Budd (1924)Rosenberg, Norman L., “‘The Caine Mutiny’: Not Just One But Many Legal Dramas,” 31 J. Mar. L. & Com. 623 (2000)Wouk, Herman, The Caine Mutiny (1951)Two errata: the reference to a mutiny aboard HMS Tyger but should have been to the HMS Wager; and the unfortunate accused in the USS Somers mutiny was Midshipman Philip Spencer, not Sinclair.Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Miracle on 34th Street and Top Law Movies List (Guest: Ashley Merryman) (episode 24)
Apr 16 2024
Miracle on 34th Street and Top Law Movies List (Guest: Ashley Merryman) (episode 24)
This episode looks at “Law Films You Won't Want to Miss,” a recent list of "the most captivating legal themed movies," published in U.S. News and World Report.  Which movies are on the list? Which didn't make the cut? And what does the list tell us about “law movies”—and of great law movies? One film on the list may be something of a surprise: Miracle on 34th Street (1947) written and directed by George Seaton, from a story by Valentine Davies. In this Christmas holiday classic, the events director of Macy’s Department Store in NYC, Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) hires an old man named Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn, who won an Oscar as best supporting actor) to serve as Macy’s Santa Clause after the prior Santa is fired for being a drunk. Kringle not only closely resembles Santa Clause but believes he is Santa. Kringle is welcomed into Doris’s home and makes a favorable impression on Doris’s daughter Susan (Natalie Wood).  Kringle also makes an impression at work. He advises one customer to go to another store when Macy’s can’t fulfill her son’s request for a particular toy instead of trying to sell her something else. This turns out to be a public relations stroke of genius, demonstrating Macy’s concern for and loyalty to its customers. But Kringle’s success at Macy’s doesn’t last. He gets into a dispute  with another employee who insists Kringle be fired and put into a mental hospital. A civil commitment hearing takes place, where the question centers on whether Kringle’s belief that he is Santa Clause shows he is insane. Miracle on 34th Street raises timeless questions how law should treat beliefs.  I’m joined by Ashley Merryman, the author of the list, “Law Films You Won't Want to Miss.”Timestamps:0:00     Introduction4:21     The top law movies5:16     What makes a great law movie9:19     Witness for the Prosecution and other favorites16:16   Erin Brockovich and why great law movies aren’t always courtroom dramas22:54   Some also-rans29:45   Why Miracle on 34th Street made the list31:53   A take on how politics informs courts and trials35:34   Proving Santa Claus through a federal postal regulation39:47   The legal realism of Miracle on 34th Street41:40   When holiday movies were released in the spring45:34   When courts are the arbiter of beliefs 51:04   Fun facts in compiling the best law movies list57:29   Introducing the new Q & A segmentFurther reading:Davis, Kevin, "The 25 Greatest Legal Movies: Expanding the Boundaries," ABA Journal (Aug. 2018) Merryman, Ashley, “Law Films You Won't Want to Miss,” U.S. News & World Report  (Feb. 1, 2024)Minnow, Nell, “An Idea Is a Greater Monument than a Cathedral: Deciding How We Know What We Know in ‘Inherit the Wind,’” 30 U.S.F. L. Rev. 1225 (1996) Olear, Greg, “‘Miracle on 34th Street’: Best Christmas movie ever,”? Salon (Dec. 24, 2012) Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Eight Men Out (1988) (Guests: Robert Boland and Brett Kaufman) (episode 23)
Mar 28 2024
Eight Men Out (1988) (Guests: Robert Boland and Brett Kaufman) (episode 23)
Eight Men Out (1988) is a dramatization of professional baseball’s infamous Black Sox scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. The film, which was directed by John Sayles, is based on Eliot Asinof’s 1963 book, Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. It recounts how a group of White Sox players conspired with an array of gamblers, including notorious underworld financier Arnold Rothstein (a/k/a “The Big Bankroll”), to throw the series in return for cash. After the Sox, who some consider one of the greatest baseball teams of all time, lose the series, suspicions grow that there had been a fix based on rumors and the nature of some players’ poor performances. Eight players are charged with conspiracy and tried in Chicago in 1921. Although the players are all acquitted, baseball’s new commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banishes them all for life from baseball, a bold move that some believe saved the game of baseball, which was still in its relative infancy, and enabled it to become “America’s pastime.” Debates around the events continue to this day, including over the level of involvement of some players and the draconian nature of the punishment. With me to discuss this movie are Robert Boland and Brett Max Kaufman.  Timestamps:0:00      Introduction4:19      Baseball circa 191910:30   Betting and game fixing in baseball17:43   The reserve clause 20:17   Unpacking the verdict at the Black Sox trial22:48   Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis: Baseball’s first commissioner31:35   The treatment of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and the Black Sox35:35   Sportswriters  40:18   The reemergence of sports gambling50:32   A memorable John Sayles film53:34   Class and culture in baseball55:18   The lasting impact of the Black Sox scandal Further reading:Asinof, Eliot, Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series (1963)Lamb, William F., Black Sox in the Courtroom: The Grand Jury, Criminal Trial, and Civil Litigation (2013)Linder, Douglas, The Black Sox Trial: An Account (2007) Pachman, Matthew B, “Limits on Discretionary Powers of Professional Sports Commissioners: A Historical and Legal Analysis of Issues Raised by the Pete Rose Controversy,”  76 Va. L. Rev. 1309 (1990)Pollack, Jason M., “Take My Arbitrator, Please: Commissioner ‘Best Interests’ Disciplinary Authority in Professional Sports,” 67 Fordham L. Rev. 1645 (1999)Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Anatomy of a Fall (France) (Guests: Fred Davis and Sam Bettwy) (episode 22)
Mar 7 2024
Anatomy of a Fall (France) (Guests: Fred Davis and Sam Bettwy) (episode 22)
Anatomy of a Fall (2023) is an acclaimed French drama directed by Justine Triet, from a screenplay she co-wrote with her real-life partner, Arthur Harari. The movie centers on the criminal trial of a writer (Sandra Hüeller) who is accused of killing her husband (Samuel Maleski) in a small town in the French Alps. The film operates on multiple levels. On one level, it dissects the circumstances surrounding Samuel’s death. What caused him to fall from the window of their chalet? Was he pushed? Or did he jump? On another level, the film dissects the deteriorating marriage between Sandra and Samuel and the complex family dynamics surrounding their 11-year-old-son Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner). The film offers a close look at a French criminal investigation and trial. More broadly, it raises questions about the reliability of human memory, the elusive nature of truth, and the complex relationship between law and justice. My guests to discuss Anatomy of a Fall are Fred Davis and Samuel Bettwy.Timestamps:0:00     Introduction3:59     Coming up with a defense strategy9:17     A case about doubt11:36   Pretrial investigations in France15:56   Victims’ counsel (partie civile) in France18:50   The role of the investigating magistrate22:03   The presiding judge and the other participants at trial 26:39   Unpacking  the seeming “chaos” in the courtroom29:07   Why defendants testify at trial in France34:06   Liberté de la preuve and the treatment of evidence  39:17   The treatment of juveniles under French law43:39   Daniel’s pivotal testimony46:13   Appeals of acquittals by the prosecution47:15   Influences on the director 50:37   Expert testimony52:51   The justice system as metaphor Further reading:“Anatomy of a Fall asks the question, ‘Would you like to be judged like that?,’” Actu-Juridique.fr  (interview with Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse) (Sept. 11, 2023)“‘Anatomy of a fall’: to judge or to administer justice?” Dalloz Actualité (Mar. 4, 2023)Bettwy, Samuel W., Comparative Criminal Procedure Through Film: Analytical Tools & Law and Film Summaries by Legal Tradition and Country (2015)Bordages, Anaïs, “’Anatomy of a Fall,’ the anti-trial film,” Slate (May 21, 2023)Dervieux, Valérie-Odile, "'Anatomy of a fall' or fantasy justice," Actu-Juridique.fr (Aug. 24, 2023) Kirry, Antoine, Davis, Frederick T. & Bisch, Alexander, “France,” in The International Investigations Review (Nicolas Bourtin ed.) (10th ed. 2020)    Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Killers of the Flower Moon (Guest: Wilson Pipestem) (episode 21)
Feb 29 2024
Killers of the Flower Moon (Guest: Wilson Pipestem) (episode 21)
Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) describes the series of murders of members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the early 1920s. Because tribal members retained mineral rights on their reservation, they became extraordinarily wealthy after oil was discovered on tribal land. This leads a corrupt local boss, William K. Hale (Robert De Niro), to conspire with others in the community to deprive the Osage of their wealth by murdering them. Directed by Martin Scorsese and based on the 2017 book by David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon focuses on the plot by Hale and his two nephews, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Byron Burkhart (Scott Shepherd), to take the oil rights of one Osage family. Hale's scheme is for Ernest to marry one of the sisters in the family, Mollie (Lily Gladstone), and then kill her other family members before finishing off Mollie herself so that Ernest can inherit Mollie's headrights. Eventually, federal agents come to Oklahoma to investigate the murders and uncover Hale’s plot, saving Molly and uncovering evidence to prosecute Hale and Ernest. But this is only after many Osage are murdered and their wealth stolen in a chilling story of violence, greed, and the racially motivated devastation of the Osage Tribe. I’m joined by Wilson Pipestem, a partner at Pipestem Law and citizen of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and an Osage headright holder, who has dedicated his career to protecting the rights of tribal governments and American Indians.Timestamps:0:00     Introduction4:26     The historical context and Osage tribal rights14:35   The stereotype of rich Osages15:25   Legal trusts and exploitation of the guardianship system22:17   How limits on federal and tribal jurisdiction led to violence and impunity26:30   Fear and terror in the Osage community29:48   The federal investigation32:06   The level of local complicity in the Osage murders33:55   The treatment of the Osage as “incompetent” under the law38:33   Capturing Osage tradition and belief on screen41:27   Mollie and Ernest’s complex relationship45:50   How the Osage overcame a legacy of violence and impunity 48:50   The role of law and lawyers51:58   How Martin Scorsese listened to and engaged the Osage peopleFurther reading:Bahr, Sarah, “What to Know About ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’: A Guide to the Osage Murders,” N.Y. Times (Oct. 23, 2023)Blackhawk, Ned, The Rediscovery of America: American Indians and the Unmaking of U.S. History (2022)Fletcher, Matthew L.M., “Failed Protectors: The Indian Trust and ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’” 117 Mich. L. Rev. 1253 (2019)Grann, David, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (2017)Strickland, Rennard, “Osage Oil: Mineral Law, Murder, Mayhem, and Manipulation,” 10 Nat. Resources & Env’t. 39 (1995-96)Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Oppenheimer (Guest: Audra Wolfe) (episode 20)
Feb 21 2024
Oppenheimer (Guest: Audra Wolfe) (episode 20)
Oppenheimer (2023) stars Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American theoretical physicist known as the “father of the atomic bomb” for his role as director of the Los Alamos Laboratory during World War II . The film was written and directed by Christopher Nolan, based on the book, American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. The film traces Oppenheimer’s early life, his rise to world prominence through the Manhattan Project, and his subsequent downfall after being stripped of his security clearance in 1954 due to his alleged past communist sympathies and outspoken criticism of the nuclear arms race. The cast includes Emily Blunt as Oppenheimer’s wife “Kitty”; Matt Damon as General Leslie Groves, the Manhattan Project's director; Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss, chair of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and rival of Oppenheimer; and Florence Pugh as Oppenheimer’s lover and former Communist party member, Jean Tatlock. The film provides a window not only into one of the 20th century’s most iconic figures, but also into the political and social forces that surrounded the birth of the Atomic Age and America’s transition from World War II to the Red Scare and Cold War.  My guest is Audra Wolfe, a writer and historian who focuses on the role of science during the Cold War.Timestamps:0:00         Introduction4:01         Reinvigorating debates about the bomb7:48         Oppenheimer’s views in context14:46      The factors driving the decision to drop the bomb17:32      Was secrecy really required?19:49      Science in Germany vs. the Soviet Union24:14      FBI surveillance of Oppenheimer and other scientists28:46      Revocation of Oppenheimer’s security clearance37:37      Oppenheimer’s complicated legacy41:09      Castle Bravo and nuclear testing: another seminar Cold War moment45:01      Leslie Groves, Oppenheimer, and scientists with leftist affiliations51:20      Vannevar Bush and other early Cold War science figures53:45       Congress’s hearing on Lewis Strauss’ cabinet nomination1:00:17   The film’s broader messages and lessons for today1:04:37   Making nuclear weapons front and center1:08:26   “Barbenheimer”Further reading:Bernstein, Barton, “The Oppenheimer Loyalty-Security Case Reconsidered”, 42 Stan. L. Rev. 1383 (1990)Bird, Kai & Sherwin, Martin J., American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (2005)Curtis, Charles, The Oppenheimer Case: The Trial of a Security System (1955)Sims, David, “‘Oppenheimer’ Is More Than a Creation Myth About the Atomic Bomb,” The Atlantic (July 19, 2023)Wellerstein, Alex, Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the United States (2021)Wolfe, Audra J., Freedom's Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science (2020)  Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Eye in the Sky (Guest: Craig Martin) (episode 19)
Feb 7 2024
Eye in the Sky (Guest: Craig Martin) (episode 19)
Eye in the Sky (2015), directed by Gavin Hood from a script by Guy Hibbert, depicts the operation of a multinational team aimed at high-level operatives from the Al-Shabaab terrorist group in Nairobi, Kenya. When the British army learns of the location of the suspects,  it plans to capture them. But surveillance reveals the suspects are preparing two new recruits to carry out a suicide bombing. British military officials, with their U.S. partner, seek to shift the operation from capture to kill. Officials must decide whether to authorize a lethal drone strike to avoid a possible terrorist attack, despite the possibility of civilian casualties, including of a young girl who is nearby. Eye in the Sky, which stars Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi, and Alan Rickman (in his last screen role), depicts the new reality of drone warfare and the complex legal and moral issues it raises. I’m joined by Craig Martin, Professor of Law at Washburn University School of Law and the creator and host of the JIB/JAB: The Laws of War Podcast (https://jibjabpodcast.com), which features top and upcoming experts in different aspects of the laws of war.Timestamps:0:00     Introduction4:41     Background for the military operation6:42.    Does the law of armed conflict even apply?13:14   A drone strike in a friendly country not at war16:54   Why Kenya’s consent and involvement matters19:10   Who is targetable under IHL?26:31    Applying the jus in bello factors30:42    The policy and strategic issues34:40    "Revolutions are fueled by postings on YouTube"36:52    The “Trolley Problem”40:27    Is targeted killing a misnomer?44:23   "Group Think” in drone operations47:00    The impact of drone warfare on the participants51:44    The role of lawyers55:22    The “double tap” and the movie’s clear war crime58:43    Other great movies about the laws of war Further reading:“‘Eye in the Sky’ film puts the use of drones in the spotlight,” PBS News Hour (Mar 18, 2016) (transcript)Martin, Craig, “A Means-Methods Paradox and the Legality of Drone Strikes in Armed Conflict,” 19 Int’l J. Hum. Rights 142 (2015)Melzer, Nils, Targeted Killing in International Law (Oxford Univ. Press 2009)Milanovic, Marko, “Eye in the Sky,” EJIL: Talk (May 9, 2016)Stimson Center, Recommendations and Report of the Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy (2d ed. Apr. 2015) The White House, Remarks by the President at the National Defense University (May 23, 2013)Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Norma Rae (Guest: Fred B. Jacob) (episode 18)
Jan 31 2024
Norma Rae (Guest: Fred B. Jacob) (episode 18)
Norma Rae (1979) describes the struggle of Norma Rae Webster (Sally Field), a factory worker with limited education, to unionize a textile mill in North Carolina. The film was directed by Martin Ritt from a screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr., and is based on the true story of Crystal Lee Sutton (as told in the 1975 book Crystal Lee, A Woman of Inheritance by New York Times reporter Henry P. Leifermann). Reuben Warshowsky (Ron Leibman), a union organizer from New York City, persuades Norma to help him organize a union. But Norma and Reuben must overcome a series of obstacles, including pressure and harassment from management as well as internal divisions among the textile workers. Norma, moreover, must navigate issues in her personal life, including with her new husband Sonny (Beau Bridges), who resents Norma’s growing commitment to the union. Ultimately, Norma succeeds as the workers vote to unionize. The film offers a snapshot of the labor movement on the cusp of the Reagan era in American and features a memorable, Oscar-winning performance by Sally Field in the title role. My guest is Fred B. Jacob, Solicitor of the National Labor Relations Board and labor law professor at George Washington University Law School. Fred’s views on this podcast are solely his own and not those of the National Labor Relations Board or the U.S. Government.Timestamps:0:00        Introduction3:33        An inflection point in U.S. labor history6:40        Unionizing the textile industry13:29      The clash between culture and economics14:03      Organizing a workplace 21:08      How unions are protected24:17      A snapshot of the middle of the J.P. Stevens campaign27:08      How the law operates in Norma Rae28:38      Management’s pressure tactics31:09      Why you need a “Norma Rae” when trying to organize people32:46      The film’s iconic moment of worker power35:30      Violence against the labor movement40:17      Management’s exploitation of racial divisions49:58      How the union helps empower Norma 53:57      What happened next at the factory59:30      Crystal Lee Sutton: The real Norma Rae1:01:36   Unions today1:05:14  How the National Labor Relations Act helps people to be brave1:08:51   Other great labor moviesFurther reading:Allan, Angela, “40 Years Ago, ‘Norma Rae’  Understood How Corporations Weaponized Race,” The Atlantic (Mar. 2, 2019)Dray, Philip, There is Power in a Union (2011)Dubofsky, Melvyn & McCartin, Joseph A., Labor in America: A History (9th ed. 2017)Fry, Naomi, “The Ongoing Relevance of ‘Norma Rae,’” New Yorker (Aug. 4. 2020)Kazek, Kelly, “When Hollywood came to Alabama to film 'Norma Rae,'” Al.com (May 3, 2019)Leifermann, Henry P., Crystal Lee, A Woman of Inheritance (1975)Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
A Civil Action (Guest: Jennifer Corinis) (episode 17)
Jan 16 2024
A Civil Action (Guest: Jennifer Corinis) (episode 17)
A Civil Action (1998) is based on Jonathan Harr’s critically acclaimed book of the same name. Written and directed by Steve Zaillian, the film starts John Travolta, and features supporting performances by Robert Duvall (who was nominated for an Oscar), William H. Macy,  James Gandolfini, John Lithgow, Kathleen Quinlan, and Tony Shalhoub. The film tells the true the story of the court battle over environmental pollution in Woburn, MA, in the 1970s and 1980s, where trichloroethylene (TCE), a solvent used in industrial operations, contaminated the local water supply, leading to numerous fatal cases of leukemia (including in small children) and other health problem for Woburn residents. Personal injury lawyer Jan Schlichtmann, brought suit on behalf of a group of victim families against two large corporations, Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace, to hold them responsible for the pollution (a third company previously settled). But the suit ran into dogged resistance from large and powerful law firms on the other side, including WilmerHale (then Hale and Dorr) and one of its star litigators, Jerome ("Jerry") Facher (Robert Duvall). The film offers a dark view of the U.S. legal system's ability to uncover the truth and provide justice to victims. I'm joined by Jennifer (Jen) Corinis, an attorney at Greenberg Traurig, who has extensive experience litigating cases in the private sector and as an attorney for the U.S. government.Timestamps:0:00        Introduction5:29        Can law remedy pain and suffering?7:18        Who makes a "good" victim in a personal injury suit13:04     Why Jan Schlichtmann takes up a case no one else wants17:23     Litigating against large corporations19:33     The different approaches of Schlichtmann and the legendary Jerry Facher23:19     The Rule 11 motion26:40      Bifurcating liability and damages35:15      What might have motivated the jury 37:47       Proving contamination with scientific evidence and expert testimony41:35       Schlictmann's  problematic handling of a settlement offer48:44       Anne Anderson and Woburn’s other advocates56:53        Is a court the place to look for the truth?1:02:07    Comparison with the big tobacco litigation1:07:40    Subsequent litigation and later eventsFurther reading:Blomquist, Robert F., “Bottomless Pit: Toxic Trials, the American Legal Profession, and Popular Perceptions of the Law,” 81 Cornell L. Rev. 953 (1996) Chase, Anthony, “Civil Action Cinema,” 1999 L. Rev. Mich. St. U. Det. C.L. 945 (1999)Harr, Jonathan, A Civil Action (1995)Mayer, Dob, “Lessons in Law from ‘A Civil Action,’” 14 J. of Legal Studies Education 113 (1998)Schlictmann, Jan R., “Law and the Environment: Reflections on Woburn,” 24 Seton Hall Legis. J. 265 (2000)   Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Indiana Jones Trilogy (Guest: Lucas Lixinski) (episode 16)
Dec 5 2023
Indiana Jones Trilogy (Guest: Lucas Lixinski) (episode 16)
This episode explores the iconic Indiana Jones trilogy, some of the most popular and well-known movies of all time. The trilogy consists of the first three movies in the series: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984); and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). The films are based on a story by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg. They feature archaeologist (and adventurer) Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) as he travels across the world in the years before World War II to obtain valuable historical, cultural, and religious artifacts. The trilogy (and especially the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark) is the cornerstone of the Indiana Jones franchise, which includes two additional films (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and Dial of Destiny (2023)) as well as a TV series, video game, comic books, novels, theme parks, and toys. The films have inspired countless filmmakers and had a significant effect on cinema and popular culture. They also have important, if less discussed, legal dimensions. This episode examines the trilogy from the perspective of international heritage law (or cultural property law), the body of law centered around the preservation of property with historical, cultural, and/or religious significance. My guest is Lucas Lixinski, Professor at the Faculty of Law & Justice at the University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia.Timestamps: 0:00   Introduction4:19   Defining international heritage law (or cultural property law)5:53   The pre-UNESCO and post-UNESCO periods8:00    What the Indiana Jones films tell us about international heritage law11:06  How Raiders of the Lost Ark frames the collection of artifacts16:17  The fine line between looters and collectors24:12  The questionable claim of saving cultural property from destruction 27:55   The power of Christian artifacts in Raiders and Last Crusade.31:19   The problem of downplaying the importance of heritage35:43   Why most items in museums can’t be viewed by the public38:44  Temple of Doom and a different view of Indy41:40   Indy’s interaction with non-western and indigenous populations44:49   Indy's legacy for archaeology46:53   A victor’s perspective?49:29   Favorite Indiana Jones film?Further reading:Esterling, Shea, “Indiana Jones and the Illicit Trafficking and Repatriation of Cultural Objects,” in Courting the Media: Contemporary Perspectives on Media and the Law 127-48 (Nova 2011)Killgrove, Kristina, “The Enduring Myths of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’” The Smithsonian (June 8. 2021)Lixinski, Lucas, “Moral, Legal and Archaeological Relics of the Past: Portrayals of International Cultural Heritage Law in Cinema,” 4(3) London Review of Int’l Law 421-37 (2016)Nayman, Adam, “Digging Into the Cinematic Archaeology of the Indiana Jones Movies,” The Ringer (Jan. 7, 2019)Smith, Laurajane, Use of Heritage (Routledge, 2007) Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Courted (L'Hermine) (France) (Guests: Fred Davis & Sam Bettwy) (episode 15)
Nov 21 2023
Courted (L'Hermine) (France) (Guests: Fred Davis & Sam Bettwy) (episode 15)
Courted (French: L'Hermine), a 2015 French drama directed by Christian Vincent, is centered around a criminal trial in France. The accused, Martial Beclin (Victor Pontecorvo), is charged with manslaughter, which carries a possible twenty-year prison sentence, for allegedly kicking his seven-month-old daughter to death. The trial is conducted in France’s cour d’assises, which hears more serious crimes. The president and senior judge, Michel Racine (Fabrice Luchini), runs a tight ship. Courted offers valuable insights into judges, jurors, and criminal procedure in France, and provides a vehicle to compare criminal trials there to those in the United States. The film also contains a romantic sub-plot that traces Judge Racine’s relationship with one of the jurors and an old friend, Ditte Lorensen-Coteret  (played by the Danish actress, Sidse Babett Knudsen). My guests to discuss Courted and comparative criminal justice in films are Fred Davis, an international lawyer and Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School, and Sam Bettwy, an Adjunct Professor at the University of San Diego Law School and the Thomas Jefferson School of Law.Timestamps:0:00     Introduction5:55     Comparing criminal justice through film10:57   Learning from another country’s criminal justice system13:56   The cour d’assises and jury trials in France18:32   The European Court of Human Rights’ ruling in Taxquet v. Belgium20:06   Comparing the French and U.S. criminal justice systems through film25:56   The judge’s role in France30:00   Compiling the dossier in French criminal investigations 35:20   How other countries view the right against self-incrimination40:27   Juries in the French system 45:34   Who the hero is at trial and what it signifies50:28   Appealing an acquittal in France52:57   Fulfilling one’s role in the systemFurther Reading:Bettwy, Samuel W., Comparative Criminal Procedure Through Film: Analytical Tools & Law and Film Summaries by Legal Tradition and Country (2015)Donovan, James W., Juries and the Transformation of Criminal Justice in France in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (2010)Kirry, Antoine, Davis, Frederick T. & Bisch, Alexander, “France,” in The International Investigations Review (Nicolas Bourtin ed.) (10th ed. 2020)Prot, Bénédicte, “L'Hermine, a gentle film,” Cineuropa, https://cineuropa.org/en/newsdetail/298323/Robert, Philippe, “The French Criminal Justice System,” in Punishment in Europe: A Critical Anatomy of Penal Systems (Vincenzo Ruggerio et al. eds) (2013)Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Guest: Alexa Kolbi-Molinas) (episode 14)
Nov 7 2023
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Guest: Alexa Kolbi-Molinas) (episode 14)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) centers on the struggles faced by 17-year-old Autumn Callahan (Sidney Flanigan) to obtain an abortion after learning that she’s pregnant. Autumn travels from her small town in central Pennsylvania to New York City, where she seeks to obtain the abortion, accompanied by her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder). Autumn and Skylar must overcome a series of obstacles and persevere in what is ultimately a traumatizing experience. Written and directed by Eliza Hittman, the film was released in the twilight of the Roe/Casey era, the nearly 50-year period when abortion was recognized as a constitutional right in the United States before the Supreme Court eliminated the right in 2022 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The film not only offers a window into this critical period but also highlights the real-world obstacles many women continue to face in obtaining abortions even in states where it remains legal. Our guest to talk about the film and the current state of reproductive freedom in America is Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, Deputy Director of the Reproductive Freedom Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.Timestamps:0:00     Introduction3:35     Abortion at the time of the film’s release in 20206:53     Even before Dobbs, abortion was out of reach for many women8:20     The challenges for minors and women in abusive relationships10:03   A pitch perfect depiction of a crisis pregnancy center14:00   Medication abortions17:03   Parental consent requirements, Casey, and the undue burden test25:47   The obstacles Autumn faces in the film33:56   Navigating the unwelcome advances of the male teen Jasper37:07   The real-life experiences women go through to get abortions40:11   “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”44:56   The care people in abortion clinics provide for their patients50:02   The increased demand for abortion in states where it is legal53:48   Abortion after Dobbs57:21   Abortion wins at the ballot Further reading:Cohen, David S., Donley, Greer & Rebouché, Rachel, “The New Abortion Battleground,” 123 Columbia L. Rev. (2022)Fry, Naomi, "Never Rarely Sometimes Always: A Human Tale of Reproductive Rights” The New Yorker (Apr. 13, 2020)Human Rights Watch, “Human Rights Crisis: Abortion in the United States after Dobbs” (Apr. 18, 2023)Wayne, Miriam, “Burying Abortion in Stigma: The Fundamental Right No One Wants to Discuss; Abortion Portrayal on Film and Television," 16 Va. Sports & Entertainment L.J. 216 (2017)Wilkinson, Alissa, “Why Hollywood keeps getting abortion wrong,” Vox (Aug. 9, 2022)Ziegler, Mary & Siegel, Reva, “How the end of Roe turned into a threat to American democracy,” L.A. Times (June 23, 2023)Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
The Rack (1956) & The Manchurian Candidate (1962) (Guest: Lisa Hajjar) (episode 13)
Oct 24 2023
The Rack (1956) & The Manchurian Candidate (1962) (Guest: Lisa Hajjar) (episode 13)
The Rack (1956), directed by Arnold Laven and written by Rod Serling (originally for television) tells the story of a decorated war hero Captain Edward W. Hall, Jr. (played by Paul Newman), who returns home after being captured and held prisoner in the Korean War. While a POW, Hall was subjected to mental torture and collaborated with his captors. Hall is court-martialed; his attorney (Lt Col. Frank Wasnick, played by Edmond O’Brien) tries to justify his conduct by showing the pressure he was under. Hall, however, is found guilty because he concedes could have resisted more, as soldiers who experienced physical torture did. The Manchurian Candidate (1962), was directed and produced by John Frankenheimer from a screenplay by George Axelrod, based on Richard Condon’s 1959 novel. The film centers on a decorated soldier, Sergeant Raymond Shaw (played by Laurence Harvey) who was captured during the Korean War. During captivity, Shaw and other members of his army platoon, including Maj. Bennett Marco (played by Frank Sinatra) were psychologically manipulated or “brainwashed” by their Chinese Communist captors. Shaw was programmed to serve as a sleeper agent and a pawn in a communist plot to take over the U.S. and impose martial law by exploiting a wave of anti-communist hysteria. The twist is that his handler in the U.S. is none other than his mother, Eleanor Shaw (played by Angela Lansbury), who schemes to have her alcoholic and McCarthyite husband, Sen. John Iselin (played by James Gregory) become Vice President and then President, courtesy of a well-timed assassination by Raymond (acting under her spell).  Our guest is Lisa Hajjar, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.Timestamps: 0:00     Introduction5:12     Two films about the Korean War7:23     Psychological manipulation of POWs10:59   Mental torture and the new duress15:36   A soldier’s breaking point21:41   The U.S. Army’s distorted view of torture as limited to physical pain25:35   The SERE and MK-Ultra programs28:24   The mind as a Cold War battlefield36:38   A satire of America’s Cold War fears of communist domination39:01   Hyper-patriotism is the perfect foil for treason44:17   The remake of The Manchurian Candidate47:10   Conspiracy theories48:40   Psychological torture resurfaces after 9/11Further reading:Dougherty, Sara Harrison, “Early Cold War Combat Films and the Religion of Empire.” (PhD dissertation, Dep’ of History, Univ. of Rochester, 2012)Hafetz, Ben, “The Glitz and Glam of Ideology: How the CIA and Department of Defense Use Hollywood Blockbusters as a Way of Propagating the Ideology of the American War Machine,” (B.A. thesis 2019)Hajjar, Lisa, “From The Manchurian Candidate to Zero Dark Thirty: Reading the CIA’s History of Torture through Hollywood Thrillers,” Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal, v. 47, no. 2 (Winter 2017), 41-54 Seed, David, Brainwashing: The Fictions of Mind Control: A Study of Novels and Film (Kent State Univ. Press 2004)Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
Michael Clayton (Guest: Peggy McGuinness) (episode 12)
Oct 10 2023
Michael Clayton (Guest: Peggy McGuinness) (episode 12)
The title character in Michael Clayton is a “fixer” for a prominent New York City law firm. Michael Clayton (George Clooney) helps the firm’s managing partner Marty Bach (Sidney Pollack) and his colleagues navigate tricky situations for the firm’s wealthy clients, while seeking to manage challenges in his own personal and family life. The firm’s top litigator, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) discovers that one of the firm’s major clients, U-North, knew that its weed killer was carcinogenic and caused hundreds of deaths. When Arthur threatens to blow the whistle, U-North's General Counsel Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) tries to silence him, with deadly consequences. Michael is forced to make a tough moral choice and decide who he really is.  Written and directed by Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton provides a gripping account of the shadowy intersection of law and power in America. Our guest to talk about this acclaimed film is Professor Margaret (“Peggy”) McGuinness of Saint John’s University School of Law.Timestamps:0:00        Introduction4:24        Capturing the vibe of “big law” in New York7:15         The role of a “fixer”15:19      Class and power in New York City law firms19:08      Michael Clayton’s many talents21:51      Tony Gilroy’s understanding of the milieu22:53      Straddling different worlds29:04      Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) discovers corporate wrongdoing31:33      Should the “smoking gun” document have been disclosed? 35:40      Marty Bach (Sidney Pollack): a master of the game40:40      Did Marty know about the corporate espionage?43:39      How Michael ensnares U-North's Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton)48:18      What has changed for women in big law, and what hasn’t52:52      Michael Clayton resolves his moral dilemma56:08      Film noir and the lawyer as outsider58:03      Lawyers crossing ethical lines1:01:22  A lesson about power and power structures1:03:19  A great legal film without any courtroom scenes1:07:26  “An extremist version of a vibe that is real”Further reading:Denby, David, “Lost Men,” New Yorker (2007)Herman, Donald H.J., “Character or Code: What Makes a Good and Ethical Lawyer,” 63 S.C. L. Rev. 339 (2011)Kamir, Orit, “Michael Clayton, Hollywood’s Contemporary Hero-Lawyer: Beyond Outsider Within and Insider Without,” 42 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 829 (2009) McMillan, Lance, “Tortured Souls: Unhappy Lawyers Viewed through the Medium of Film,” 19 Seton Hall J. Sports & Ent. L. 31 (2009)Monson, Leigh, “Even Ten Years Later, ‘Michael Clayton’ Remains Utterly Enigmatic” (Oct. 2017), https://substreammagazine.com/2017/10/ten-years-later-michael-clayton/ Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
The Mauritanian (Guests: Nancy Hollander & Mohamedou Ould Slahi) (episode 11)
Sep 26 2023
The Mauritanian (Guests: Nancy Hollander & Mohamedou Ould Slahi) (episode 11)
The Mauritanian (2021) recounts Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s nightmare journey of secret rendition, torture, and detention at Guantanamo Bay—an odyssey that lasted 15 years, until Mr. Slahi was finally released in 2016, never having been charged with a crime. The film is based on the book, Guantanamo Diary, which Mr. Slahi wrote and had published while still a prisoner at Guantanamo. The book became a critically acclaimed international bestseller. The film was directed by Kevin Macdonald and features Tahar Rahim as Mohamedou Slahi, Jodie Foster as Nancy Hollander, Mr. Slahi’s lead lawyer, Shailene Woodley as Teri Duncan, her co-counsel, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Ltn. Col. Stuart Couch, the military officer assigned to prosecute Mr. Slahi. The film was nominated for and won numerous awards, including a Golden Globe for Jodi Foster’s portrayal of Nancy Hollander. Our guests are Mohamedou Slahi, the former Guantanamo prisoner and now world-famous author, and Nancy Hollander, Mohamedou’s attorney and a leading criminal defense attorney.Timestamps:0:00.       Introduction7:11        Mohamedou’s nightmare begins10:47     What law?12:43      Habeas petition granted, but imprisonment continues18:51      Endless interrogations25:19      Mohamedou first hears he will face the death penalty28:08      Military prosecutor Stuart Couch takes a stand against torture32:19      Writing Guantanamo Diary in a new language34:34       “My life, 24/7 in darkness”37:01       “I have a vow of kindness”38:59:      Getting Mohamedou’s story out of Guantanamo43:33        Mohamedou sees his book’s success on Russian TV at Guantanamo48:17        The freedom that is inside you49:48        An advocate for Mohamedou before the Periodic Review Board50:57        “I needed a miracle” 53:26         Americans are supposed to be the good guys56:29         The near impossibility of leaving Guantanamo58:41         Mohamedou and his former guard, and friend, Steve Wood1:00:52     Don’t give up; miracles can happen1:02:49     The long shadow of Guantanamo1:04:02     To be free again1:06:26     Capturing the small details about Guantanamo1:08:31      A small nit about the film1:11:14      What it’s like to see yourself being portrayed on screenFurther reading:Bravin, Jess, “The Conscience of the Colonel,” Wall St. J. (Mar. 31, 2007)Coll, Steven, “An Eloquent Voice from Guantánamo,” N.Y.R.B. (Jan. 14, 2016)Hafetz, Jonathan, Habeas Corpus after 9/11: Confronting America’s New Global Detention System (2011)Rosenberg, Carol, “The Legacy of America’s Post-9/11 Turn to Torture,” N.Y. Times (Sept. 12. 2021)Slahi, Mohamedou Ould, Guantámao Diary (Larry Siems, ed.) (2015)Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast
My Cousin Vinny (Guest: Judge Jed S. Rakoff) (episode 10)
Sep 12 2023
My Cousin Vinny (Guest: Judge Jed S. Rakoff) (episode 10)
My Cousin Vinny (1992) tells the story of two college students from New York (played by Ralph Maccio and Mitchell Whitfield) who are mistakenly arrested and charged with the murder of a store clerk in Alabama. They turn to one of their cousins, Vincent (“Vinny”) LaGuardia Gambini, played by Joe Pesci, for help. Vinny is a personal injury lawyer from Brooklyn who is newly admitted to the bar and has virtually no experience. But somehow Vinny, with the assistance of his savvy fiancé Mona Lisa Vito, played by Marisa Tomei in an Oscar-winning role, turns in a brilliant courtroom performance and gets the case dismissed. The script is by Dale Launer and direction by Jonathan Lynn.  Lane Smith plays the prosecutor and Fred Gwynne plays the judge whom Vinny spars with throughout the film. Our guest to discuss this classic American comedy about the law and lawyers is the Honorable Jed S. Rakoff, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York, one of the country's most prominent and influential jurists.Timestamps:0:00     Introduction    5:39     A fantastic—and funny—law movie  7:45     Vinny crossing the witness on the southern delicacy of grits11:12   The problem of wrongful eyewitness identification14:17   Vinny crossing the witness on her need for better glasses20:07   Judge Rakoff reflects on one his favorite cross-examinations21:47   Mona Lisa Vito’s expert testimony25:16   Unpacking the Daubert standard29:09   One questionable ruling in the movie 32:33   The local community in jury trials35:47  A comedy about wrongful convictions40:00   A great trial movie but trials are vanishing43:11   No substitute for trial experience Further Reading:Anderson, Judge Joseph F. Jr., “Ten Things Every Trial Court Lawyer Could Learn from Vincent La Guardia Gambini,” South Carolina Lawyer (Jan. 2017)Bailey, Jason, “‘My Cousin Vinny’ at 30: An Unlikely Oscar Winner,” N.Y. Times (Mar. 11, 2022)Bergman, Paul, “Teaching Evidence the ‘Reel’ Way,”  21 Quinnipiac L. Rev. 973 (2003)Farr, Nick, “Abnormal Interviews: My Cousin Vinny Screenwriter/Co-Producer Dale Launer,” Abnormal Use: An Unreasonably Dangerous Products Liability Blog (Mar. 14, 2012)Greene, Andy, “‘What is a Yute?’: An Oral History of ‘My Cousin Vinny,’” Rolling Stone (Mar. 7, 2022)Welk, Brian, “‘My Cousin Vinny’ 25th Anniversary: Behind the Scene that Won Marisa Tomei Her Oscar,” The Wrap (Mar. 13, 2017) Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember. For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio: https://law.shu.edu/faculty/full-time/jonathan-hafetz.cfmYou can contact him at jonathanhafetz@gmail.comYou can follow him on X (Twitter) @jonathanhafetz You can follow the podcast on X (Twitter) @LawOnFilmYou can follow the podcast on Instagram @lawonfilmpodcast