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Monday, May 26, 2014

New ABC Show on Why Law Students Should Take Professional Responsibility Before Criminal Law

ABC's upcoming show, How to Get Away With Murder, looks like it will be two things: (1) an overly-dramatic reiteration of the second half of Legally Blonde; and (2) a professional responsibility issue-spotter. Here is the trailer:

Consider the third piece of advice that the professor gives to her students: that students "bury" any adverse evidence. This will almost certainly lead to violations of Model Rule of Professional Conduct 3.4, which prohibits attorneys from unlawfully altering or concealing evidence. The comment to the rule acknowledges that criminal defense attorneys may come into possession of incriminating evidence, and while they may perform their own analysis of the evidence, they may not destroy or alter the evidence in the process, and may ultimately be required by law to turn the evidence over to law enforcement.

Even more disturbingly, students taking a criminal law course may be interested in criminal prosecution, rather than criminal defense. If prosecution-inclined students take the "bury" advice to heart and apply it in the prosecution setting, they will commit flagrant Brady violations, leading to reversed convictions and likely sanctions for prosecutorial misconduct. These students will also run afoul of Model Rule 3.8(d), which requires prosecutors to reveal exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys.

It will be interesting to see how this show is received by the legal crowd and the general public. The show seems to focus on law school rather than on practicing lawyers, which is a risky move. But if the trailer is any indication, the show's portrayal of legal education may be so inaccurate that it may end up being a success.

I also look forward to the show's spin-off, How to Get Away With Unconscionability, where the students' contracts professor only lists one phrase on the board: "Arbitration Clause."

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