Under Analysis: A new television law show?

By Mark Levison

The Levison Group

I met some of the young associates in the Levison Towers cafe while they were bemoaning the end of the “Lost” television series. I remarked that I never really got the whole show. Kevin, the smart aleck from William and Mary, said that maybe I was too old for new TV. He will have an opportunity to think that remark through while he carries out the firm’s pro bono work, drafting wills for sewer workers in Haiti. Thanks for “volunteering” Kevin.

“Lost” is very edgy — the kind of television show that goes beyond quirky. It completely ignores the laws of gravity and physics. Millions of viewers suspend disbelief every week to watch when they should be hitting the “you can’t do that” button on the remote. It dawned on me that there will be a hole in programming when “Lost” goes off the air this year. I remember the hole left in my life when “L.A. Law” ended so long ago, and therefore offer you, Gentle Reader, a sneak peek of the pilot script for my new project: “Lawst.”

Scene: a musty courtroom somewhere in middle America. Probably in eastern Oklahoma. At one dark counsel table sits Sean Latch, a blue suited lawyer from a white shoe law firm. Latch is defending Gregg Corporation, whose timekeeping software is alleged to have caused a series of late meetings and one plane disappearance. Latch is a reformed thug from the wrong side of the tracks, not the typical streetfighter one would expect in a trial lawyer. He hides his past from the partners at his upper crust law firm, often to the point of appearing mousey.

At the opposite counsel table sits Zach Vephard, lawyer for the plaintiff. Zach has feathered hair, circa 1980s, and a suit to match. Zach, like Sean, is not what he appears to be, albeit in reverse. Contrary to the typical plaintiff’s lawyer motif, Zach is a trust fund baby from New England, Rutgers educated and Princeton Law Review. He relocated to Oklahoma to hide from his parents’ legacy. His client is the widow of Mr. Erbie, whose plane vanished after defendant’s scheduling software tried to shave some time from the flight.

Bailiff: All rise!

Judge Hemmil enters the court room. Hemmil is a man with a perpetual scowl. He not only dislikes lawyers, he dislikes people. He would happily retire when his appointment to the bench is over, but he was appointed for life. Most in the legal community hope his replacement is chosen next week.

Judge: Gentlemen, why are we here?

Zach: Do you mean existentially, Your Honor, or this morning?

Judge: Counselor, do I look like I am in the mood for frivolity?

(He doesn’t. He actually looks like his morning oatmeal has lodged somewhere)

Zach: Sorry, Your Honor. Actually, defense counsel and I are only here to work out a minor problem.

Judge: (in a voice reserved for calling children to dinner the third time) Is this a discovery dispute?

Sean: No, Your Honor. We have provided all of the items plaintiff requested, without objecting. We even gave up the super secret software codes to them.

Zach: They did, Your Honor. And after reading through the 17 boxes of documents and taking seven depositions of engineers, we decided to dismiss our claim for punitive damages. The defendant made a mistake, that is all. This isn’t a case where they should be punished.

Judge: Does that mean that we are only going to trial on the negligence count?

Sean: Your Honor, my client admits that the software was faulty. Gregg Corporation is going to voluntarily pay the survivors and families of crash victims to help compensate for their losses. We are also establishing college funds for the children of the victims, and promise to help them find work after college.

Zach: Judge, the payments from Gregg Corporation are so fair that I am going to reduce my fee to make sure more money goes to the victims.

Judge: Are you sure, counsel? Reducing fees sets a dangerous precedent.

Zach: I am, Your Honor. My client doesn’t want me to, but I think it is only fair.

Judge: (smiling) Well then. Looks like there isn’t much to do here today. Shall I sign a dismissal?

Sean: (somewhat sheepishly) Judge, we do have one issue that still needs some oversight from the court.

(A man in a seersucker suit moves to the podium)

Man: Your honor, I object to this settlement.

Judge: And who are you, dare I ask?

Man: I am the president of the Alliance of Major Manufacturers, Chemical Coatings, Lead Paint Distributors and Well-heeled Mass Marketers.

Judge: And what is your objection?

Man: We demand that the case be certified as a class action and that our constituent members be allowed to pay all costs and attorneys fees, before any dismissal is entered.

Judge: Is this some kind of joke?

(Zach and Sean look at each other and wince.)

Man: No, Your Honor. We just were moved by Gregg Corporation’s action, and want to do our part as well. Corporations are people too, you know.

Judge: (sighing)

Suddenly, the back door of the court room opens and a llama with a blue rayon messenger bag around his neck walks in. He is wearing a NASCAR hat, with holes cut for his ears. (Fade to commercial.)

While I have tried to make my script as edgy and hard to believe as “Lost,” I think I may have gone too far. Everyone knows llamas are allergic to rayon. Stay tuned.

Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St. Louis, Missouri. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent to this newspaper or directly to the Levison Group via e-mail at comments@levisongroup.com. © 2010 Under Analysis L.L.C.

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