“The Good Wife” Ethics, Season #2: Alicia, Kalinda, and Pretexting

The acclaimed CBS series “The Good Wife” premiered last night, with an episode called “Taking Control.” The title is ironic in one respect. Because the legal profession regards lawyers as being in control of the non-legal staff that works for them, good wife and whiz-bang attorney Alicia Florrick (played by Juliana Margulies) violated one of the most important legal ethics rules in the very first episode. This was far from unrealistic, however. Her ethical breach is not only a common one, but also one that many lawyers are careless about. It is also unethical conduct that the public assumes is standard practice for lawyers…because movies and TV shows make it seem that way. Continue reading

More “The Good Wife” Ethics

The CBS legal drama “The Good Wife” has a good cast, well-scripted stories, and apparently a preference for misleading the American public on attorney ethics. Here’s the setting for its most recent set of gaffes: attorney Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) and her supervising partner are battling an evil insurance company (you didn’t really think Hollywood would stay on the health care reform sidelines, did you? With a big vote coming up? ) that refuses to pay for in utero fetal surgery necessary to save an unborn baby from certain death. The insurance company’s attorney has a strong case, but offers a deal: it will pay for the surgery if Florrick’s firm will drop a class action lawsuit against the company. The partner, Will Gardner, refuses the offer: many other desperate members of the class need to make the insurance company pay for treatment, and besides, the law firm, which is in dire financial straits, needs the income that the class action might generate.

There are three things ethically wrong here: Continue reading

“The Good Wife” and Bad Ethics

Julianna Margulies’ latest attempt to find another hit series after “ER” is a lawyer drama, “The Good Wife.” It tells of the travails and trials of a former litigator who returns to law firm practice after her prosecutor husband, played by “Mr. Big” Chris Noth, is sent to the slammer in a scandal that also involved marital infidelity. As lawyer dramas go, “The Good Wife” is fairly good about not distorting the legal ethics rules. It still slips up, however, as this week’s episode showed. Continue reading