12 Angry Men at the 2010 Fordham Law Film Festival

The showing of 12 Angry Men at the 2010 Fordham Law Film Festival was my first time viewing this movie. In addition to the privledge and honor of seeing Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor speak, the other main thing I came away from this experience with was the question, “How had I not seen this movie before?” It was truly exceptional. Amongst the many important legal themes and commentaries on the law presented in this movie, I found two to be of particular interest. First, on more than one occasion one of the jurors said something along the lines of, “If that is such a good point, why didn’t the lawyers involved think of that?” For me this spoke to the faith and confidence society had in attorneys’ expertise at the time this movie was made. I also found it interesting that other jurors disregarded such ideology, seeing it as their


12 Angry People?

I saw 12 Angry Men for the fourth or fifth time at the Fordham Law Film Festival. Oddy, this was the first time that prompted me to think about how differently the deliberations might have gone had the jury been partially made up of women, or even all women. Perhaps in the past I had taken for granted the fact that in the1950′s, when the film was made, it was par for the course that juries would be comprised of men. Indeed, during the discussion after the screening, Justice Sotomayor noted that in recent history, women could excuse themselves as jurors simply because they were female. If the jury had been co-ed, would the result have been different? Would the vote have broken down along gender lines?It is hard to say, especially since it would be important to take the traditional gender roles of the 1950′s into account. Would the


A Reflection on "The Pawnbroker"

After watching Sidney Lument’s dark classic “The Pawnbroker,” I must admit that I was rendered almost mentally paralyzed by the heart-crushing and agonizing existence of “waking dead” Sol Nazerman. But then again what other reaction can a movie about the Holocaust elicit? I immediately thought of Thane’s article condemning the movies that depict a “skewed” perspective of the Holocaust. Although laudable for having widened the scope of discourse about this darkest of stains in twentieth century history, these movies usually end with a redemption of mankind typical Hollywood movies. It was not until I finished “The Pawnbroker,” stifling back tears, that I realized that this is what a movie about the Shoah should aim for: not a celebration of the possibility of absolution and the goodness of man, but rather an acknowledgment of the darkest recesses of the human soul that taint the victim forever. There are too few movies


Screening of "…And Justice For All"

After the screening of “…And Justice For All,” directed by Norman Jewison, Thane Rosenbaum discusses the film with Jeffrey Tambor and Neal Gabler. Here is a summary of excerpts from their conversation. Thane Rosenbaum: Jeffrey, this was your first film and you’ve told me that you had a great relationship with Al Pacino. Jeffrey Tambor: Yes, to prepare for the film, we went to law courts. I wasn’t sure if this story was too much. One of the first cases we went to was about a turtle. They were trying to figure out the value of a turtle by counting the rings, and I thought “oh, we’re going to be fine.” TR: Neal, where does this film fit within the landscape of American film? Neal Gabler: There are two great eras of American film. The first is the 1930’s. Each studio was turning out fifty films per year. Now they


Alfred Uhry and Morris Dickstein Discuss the Social Protest in the

The 1937 classic film “They Won’t Forget”, based = on the true story of Leo Max Frank, a Jewish-American businessman who was accu= sed of the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, was presented during the 2010 For= dham Film Festival. Leo Frank’s lynching by a mob of prominent citizens in= Marietta, Georgia after the real trial shed light on American Anti-Semitism and led to the founding of the Anti-Defamation League. A conversation with special festiva= l guests, Alfred Uhry and Morris Dickstein followed the movie. The panel was = led by Thane Rosenbaum, Director of the Forum on Law, Culture & Society at Fordham Law.   Alfred Uhry, who remains one of the most decorated intellectuals in= the United States and the only individual to receive an Academic Award, Tony, and Pulitzer fo= r his play, “Driving Miss Daisy”, shared with the audience his personal story of the Leo Frank


Confusion in the Court

Are the courts a bewildering maze to everyone other than judges, lawyers, and court officers?  Franz Kafka, in The Trial, explores this concept as he tells the tale of a man who is processed by the judiciary system and ultimately sentenced to death, all without ever knowing what charges are brought against him.  Frustratingly, the main character attempts to out smart the system, but fails as he is faced with an unreasonable and infinitely confusing court system.  While the vast majority of people that he encounters are somehow connected to the courts, no one is willing to provide a clear explanation of how the legal branch works.  At first blush I thought this was completely unrealistic, but then I noticed in court the other day, at a courthouse that I had visited numerous times while working for a prosecutor’s office, that the defendants and visitors seemed completely lost.  They entered


Screening of “They Won’t Forget” with Alfred Uhry

“They Won’t Forget” is a classic 1937 film with movie star Lana Turner. The film tells the story of a small-town prosecutor who takes on the scandalous case of a local teenage girl’s murder in order to make it to the press. The film is based on the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish-American businessman who was lynched to his death after being framed for the murder of Mary Phagan. Thane begins the conversation with Alfred and Morris, noting that Abe Foxman was not able to attend tonight because he is in Israel. Thane to Alfred: were you influenced by Leo Frank’s case? Alfred: Yes, because Leo Frank had a factory near my mother’s house. So much of the story was pure politics. Thane: There was a famous NY attorney in Leo Frank’s case? Alfred: No, he was a southern lawyer but seen as a Yankee lover. Anyone with


Screening of "Amistad" with Annette Gordon-Reed

After the screening of Amistad, directed by StevenSpielberg, Thane Rosenbaum spoke with historian, Annette Gordon-Reed, recently named a MacArthur Fellow, and a Pulitzer Prize winning author (among many other distinguished accomplishments). Here is a summary of the conversation (notdirect quotes). Thane Rosenbaum: As a historian, in what way does this film reflect the actual story of the Amistad? Annette Gordon-Reed: Like any piece of historical fiction, there are several moments of artistic license. Legal procedure was morecomplicated. Roger Sherman Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey) was actually very much involved in the abolition movement, not anambulance chaser, as portrayed. This choice shows adherence to a popular movie convention: he has to grow and be redeemed. John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) was more involved in the case earlier in the process. He was not indifferent to the question of slavery,but his character had to grow in the movie, too. The defendant would not have


The Movie That Made a Supreme Court Justice

The New York Times covered the film festival’s Sunday showing of 12 Angry Men, which brought Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Fordham Law. —————— By KIRK SEMPLE Around the time that Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor was entering college, the man who would eventually become her husband took her to see a film by Sidney Lumet. It was “12 Angry Men,” from 1957, about a jury deliberating on the case of a young man accused of murder. Read full article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/18/nyregion/18sonia.html


The Greatness of Democracy is the Jury System

The Greatness of Democracy is the Jury System. This is one of the major lessons that the film 12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet, works to teach us. As law students and future lawyers, we are told that this is not what a jury room will likely ever look like. After all, Hollywood loves the drama of a lawyer story but tends to leave out the tedious and time-consuming part of the job of being a lawyer. And yet, there is a romantic idea to it that all law students feel at one point: justice trumps all. The true glorious message of 12 Angry Men is more of a reminder about just how wonderful our Jury system is in America. It is flawed, of course. All things are. But, as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor quoted in the questioning segment after the movie, “We all want to believe in