The Law Firm, 8/4/05: Have you heard the one about the Lawyers, the Dominatrix and the Terrorist?
Welcome back to The Law Firm, a series where young lawyer have enormous ambitions overshadowed only by their super-sized egos. Our associates vie for $250,000 in prize money and a job with legendary trial lawyer Roy Black. Last week my co-counsel Mariner introduced you to our firm. The idea is that the two teams split up and handle both sides of two controversies, one a trial and the other an arbitration. This seems strikingly similar to The Apprentice, including the conference room dismissal. I wonder if The Donald and Mark Burnett’s attorneys are viewing it as homage or as a future case on this show.
Flashes of Brilliance: Only the most overused method of picking teams ever
This week we pick teams schoolyard style, with last week’s superstars Barrett and Michael picking their teams. We know they were Black’s favorites from last week as he said that they displayed “flashes of brilliance.” Of course heat lightening and disco-tech strobe lights with disco balls also display flashes of brilliance, but I wouldn’t want them representing me in court. Unless of course it was dance court and we needed to present the best looking electric slide for the jury. It’s Electric: Boogie Woogie Oogie. Oh, sorry, thought I was recapping Dance 360 for a minute there.
Deep and Regina play my old role in the schoolyard drama of being picked last. Looks gloomy for them, doesn’t it? Ah yes, it’s Mariner’s old pal Foreshadowing, or perhaps Foreshadowing’s buddy, Misdirection. Which is it? Well, if I told you that, there would be no point in continuing, as the show itself isn’t that terribly interesting.
Here are our teams this week: Barrett gets to choose first and picks cocky Oliver, who seems to be auditioning for a role on Boston Legal rather than interview for a job as an actual attorney. The rest of her team is Elizabeth, Anika and Deep. Michael picks Keith, Elaine, Chris, and the absolute worst pop-up catcher in t-ball, Regina. I’m sure Regina can handle a pop-up just as well as she took being picked dead last, as she shrugged it off and walked over to Michael’s team without waiting to be called over, red rover style.
Wanted: One Sense of Humor. The Trial Case of Graves v. Hicks
Store owner Hicks lives in a small rural town and was social friends with a customer, Graves. As a joke, Hicks goes a little photo-shop crazy and makes up a “Wanted” poster featuring a picture of Graves in a cornfield holding a beer, saying that he’s a terrorist for an organization with the acronym EAT ME prominently displayed on the poster. This poster was displayed in Hicks’ store last year, which for people reading this in the distant future, was 2004.
Aptly named Graves saw the poster and got mad, then sued for all sorts of damages to his reputation and ability to get a good night’s sleep. He didn’t sue for loss of consortium, however, as apparently being accused of being a terrorist didn’t hurt his action with the ladies.
Anika, Elizabeth and Deep are representing Hicks and travel to interview him. Hicks is an affable guy who is still surprised that his old friend Graves is suing him over this silly practical joke. Hicks says that he’d helped Graves out when he was low on cash (which happened often), even helping him find jobs, and that they’d make jokes and small talk on Graves’ frequent trips to Hick’s store. No good deed will go unpunished, I guess.
Michael, Keith and Allaine interview Graves and see a humorless cad who’s looking for a cheap buck at the expense of his old friend. Even Graves’ aunt is prepared to testify that all damage to his reputation occurred from his own actions, not the wanted poster, and that he is out for money. I’m really looking forward to Thanksgiving at the Graves family gathering.
We never get to see Aunt Rebecca roast Graves, though, because on direct exam Deep can’t formulate a non-leading question for which he has established a foundation for her to be able to answer. Michael objects to every single one of his questions, Judge Burton Katz sustains, and by the end of the testimony, we’re not even sure if she’s really his aunt.
Elizabeth’s examination of her client Hicks is as humorless as Ant three weeks into Last Comic Standing II. The obvious defense for Hicks is that the poster was complete parody, on par with Mad magazine or perhaps unbiased news reporting on Fox. Elizabeth’s direct exam is about to spontaneously combust due to extreme dryness, and she fails to even mention the practical joke poster’s big punch-line that the terrorist organization’s name spells EAT ME, displayed in huge letters across the middle of the poster.
Who wouldn’t snicker and chortle at the mention of EAT ME? Anika for one. Her idea of cross-examination of Graves run totally contrary to their entire strategy of showing the poster to be a ridiculous, completely ludicrous joke. She instead decides to focus on the fact that Graves sometimes carries a Bowie knife and that perhaps he IS a terrorist, as he’s a rather scary dude. Not funny. And entirely out of synch with the only effective defense to this case. While truth is a complete defense to liable, I think it will be rather tough for Anika to prove that the poster wasn’t hurtful because he actually IS a terrorist. See, it’s not a ludicrous poster, because this beer-swigging hunter just might be the red-neck Bin Laden. Nice strategy.
Deep redeemed himself from his terrible cross-exam with a decent closing argument that actually hits on the EAT ME chorus. As a capper, Deep tells the judge that if you can’t even make a joke about terrorism between friends, then the terrorists have won.
The plaintiffs get much less air-time, but we do see a couple of highlights. Michael defended the direct exam of Aunt Rebecca with cat-like agility, and Ailine shows the poster to be as non-funny as the rest of this case. As you can tell, I have no idea how to spell her name. I’m sure she doesn’t have a sense of humor about that either, so I’ll be sitting by my door, waiting for the process server to let me know I’ve been sued for negligent fact-checking in a reality tv show recap.
Judge Katz shows himself to be completely devoid of humor as well and awards $5,000 for damages (for which we saw no proof of loss) plus required a “sincere apology” with a potential additional $2,000 in damages if he isn’t convinced of its sincerity. As if money damages weren’t enough, Hicks apologizes and wishes Graves would have taken his dispute to The People’s Court or Judge Judy or anyone, any show that wouldn’t have saddled him with three nincompoop attorneys who lost a slam-dunk of a case.
I Am The Internet: Arbitration case of Sabrina the Dominatrix v. Jason the Webmaster
And now, in the Arbitration case for this episode, we get an epic tale of kinky proportions. Jason (sans the Argonauts) went on a quest to put more porn on the internet. The Golden Fleece is what Sabrina charges her clients for the privilege of accessing this website.
Sabrina is a professional Dominatrix who had made some type of agreement with a techie guy named Jason to set up an interactive website for all of her lawyer clients who love to download pictures of her in latex suits, thigh-high boots, and all sorts of diapers and other odd apparel. We have no idea whether the “agreement” was that they’d be business partners or whether the Webmaster was hired to do IT work for Sabrina’s business or what.
Sabrina is suing Jason (who has this “deer in the headlights” gaze) for damages to her business after he took down the website. Generally a lawyer’s first step would be to read the contract. I don’t see anyone with a contract or even asking about its whereabouts. I guess we’re too busy being “trial attorneys” on this show to care about reading contracts.
Oliver and Barrett interview their client Sabrina and get a tour of the dungeon. Oh what wonderful sex toys await in the dungeon, but alas, no mention of the contract. Who agreed to do what for whom?
Chris and Regina represent Jason and are concerned that he won’t make a very good witness because he’s not really a people person. He’s more of a computer guy who likes porn. You know what would be great evidence for your case, Chris and Regina? The CONTRACT. Oh, never mind, that’s too boring to discuss. We gather that there is a disagreement about who owns the rights to the website that Jason set up for Sabrina.
Rather than finding out about the actual contract between the two parties, the focus is on video testimony of another dominatrix. Our second dominatrix testifies that “Jason was not a partner” but there is an email in which the witness refers to him as a partner. Oliver is all over Regina about her source of the impeachment testimony and tries to derail the deposition by grilling her about the source of the email rather than allowing her to depose the second dominatrix. It doesn’t phase Chris and Regina, and the video testimony continues. You know what would have totally thrown them off their game? Focusing on the contract. What’s that? The contract? Why would they care about that.
We meet the nameless arbitrator who seems inordinately interested in seeing the content of the website. Jason is a completely spacey guy. He says that he doesn’t know if he knows the defendant, but that he was friends with someone who looks like the defendant. Jason also doesn’t know what kind of contract he has (although apparently someone has a copy, which indicates it is a licensing agreement). What were her responsibilities? Making a fan base. Jason, who owned the website. Jason answers: “I AM THE WEBSITE.” Despite the brief appearance of the Licensing Agreement, Jason testifies that there was no written contract. What, there is no contract? Then it would make it hard to enforce, wouldn’t it.
The Arbitrator can’t figure out a clear-cut contractual relationship, so the defense (Jason of the Internet) wins. Oliver is very pissy, yells profanities at the arbitrator, and storms off and and slams doors. Don’t get your briefs in such a bundle, Ollie. Barrett is embarrassed, but can’t help but feel that she’s safe despite losing her case as nothing she did compares to Oliver’s temper tantrum. Chris and Regina do a happy little dance.
You Both Can Eat My Shorts: Dismissal of the weakest links
Roy Black grills the associates:
Oliver, how could you use profanity against a judge who just tried your case?
Regina – what do you think about Oliver? I think he should be fire immediately.
Three represented Hicks, what was his defense?
Anika – why did you bring out that he was a dangerous guy?
Deep – how can you take both sides?
Elizabeth – didn’t prepare your client to be a witness and let Hicks down. The guy had to apologize to a jerk who sued him over a practical joke.
Anika defends her stupid tactics of portraying Grave as a dangerous guy by saying that it never occurred to me to take this as a joke. Black points out that 9/11 was referred to dozens more times than EAT ME, and that set the tone on the seriousness of terrorism rather than the absurdity of the poster itself. Black pointed out that they should have been channeling Robin Williams and screaming EAT ME during the whole trial.
Anika was so absorbed in her part of the case didn’t consult with rest of her team. Anika is out.
Elizabeth didn’t make a strong enough case for her client. Nothing is more important than preparing our clients. Elizabeth didn’t prepare her witness, so she’s out of here.
Oliver, you’re not fired, but that doesn’t mean I approve of . . . . Then my TIVO konks out. Maybe my warranty contract has expired and I just missed the window to extend it. You know those contracts, who reads them until it’s too late.
Here is the part in the recap where I’d say “tune in next week as Mariner picks up the action” but unless you have Bravo, there will be no next week for this show, as NBC has dumped it. Oh well, what are the contestants going to do, sue NBC? They wouldn’t get very far, because NBC has them under CONTRACT, oh yes, those pesky little details that our contestants don’t bother to read.