At Fordham Media & Entertainment Law Society Film Festival’s Opening Night, I was captivated by the first episode of the HBO TV miniseries John Adams. The movie told the story of a relentlessly principled man, bound in all his decisions by his love and respect for the law. Throughout the entirety of the movies, the episode took the viewer on a nerve-racking journey through the difficult decisions and complex mind of John Adams. However, even through conflicting emotions and tension filled scenes, the viewer was constantly reminded of Adams’ almost unnatural unwavering commitment to the law- the truth- regardless of the consequences.
His adherence to the law went beyond what many would consider an inherent human inclination towards self-preservation in the face of great danger. In deciding to defend the British army, against the advice and protests of his closest friends and family, Adams not only put himself, but his entire family directly in the line of danger. When he decided to take the side of what he defined as justice in direct opposition to the side of the yelling crowd – a crowd arguably justified in their anger, Adams literally chose the search for truth over his own life.
In my reading of Oedipus, that same unnatural drive to figure out the truth resurfaced. Even though prophets, his wife, and countrymen begged him to stop his search and leave the truth alone. Oedipus refused. Notwithstanding the consequences, Oedipus relentlessly surged forward to find out the truth – a truth that ended in the lost of eyes, the death of his wife/mother, and his exile.
If one is to believe, like Adams, that lawyers in defending the law are in fact seeking and defending the truth, then it is not tenuous to conclude that these two completely unrelated stories, have one mutual purpose: they are commentaries about the role and duty of truth seekers. They both make a blatant, imposing, and arguably daunting statement about true advocacy, about what it truly means to be lawyer.
All of my analysis, debating, and (admittedly) rambling, ultimately brings me to these complex questions about our profession:
Fellow law students, lawyers, and advocates for the truth, would you defend an enemy at great risk to your life and/or the lives of your family OR seek the truth against the will of your country and family when it most likely has dark, fatal consequences? Is a disregard for self-preservation in the hunt for true justice what it means to be a true advocate of the law? Is that even the standard we are held to today in our practice?
I am sure that both John Adams and Sophocles, the author of Oedipus Rex, would say yes. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the defending the law is synonymous with defending the truth, what would you say?