Category Archives: Advanced Legal Research

ALR Student’s Corner: 4 Chosen – Lessons in Racial Profiling

This documentary is about four young men, one Hispanic, Danny Reyes age 21, and three African Americans, Jarmaine Grant age 24, Rayshawn Brown age 21, and Keshon Moore age 22. They all grew up in the inner cities of New York. They were basketball players who aspired to play on the college and professional level. In the spring of 1998, they were on their way to North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in order to attend a basketball showcase/tryout.

The men traveled together in a van and while on the New Jersey Turnpike, they were pulled over by a state trooper vehicle. The men were unarmed and assumed this was a routine traffic stop. The driver, Keshon, pulled over south of exit 8. Keshon thought the car was in park but it was actually in reverse, and the car backed into the police cruiser. An officer walked up to the front passenger window and broke the window with his baton.  After that, the officer put his gun through the window and fired 13 shots, changing the young men’s lives forever. The car rolled into traffic while police continued shooting at them and was hit by another car. The car finally came to a stop in a ditch. The men were arrested but released to paramedics for treatment. Keshon was the only occupant of the car who was not shot. He received a ticket for speeding and for driving with a revoked license. He was not charged for any crimes against the troopers. Danny was shot 6 times. Jermaine and Rayshawn were shot several times as well. Because of the incident, they were never able to fulfill their basketball dreams.

The incident as portrayed in the media was that after the van had been stopped for speeding at 74 mph, a shootout occurred between the men and the officers after the men had attempted to run the trooper car over. Also reported was that the trooper car was smashed due to the impact. Initially, David Ironman served as the defense attorney. As the case received national attention, David invited Johnny Cochran as co-counsel and permitted him to take the lead.  Investigation into the incident revealed the shots into the car didn’t add up to what was reported. The trooper car was examined as well. It had sustained no gun shots. The examination of the front bumper revealed that it had sustained impact between 3 to 5 miles per hour.  Also, there had been no radar gun mounted on the dash of the trooper vehicle and no speed recording of the men’s car had been made.

Additional research of the New Jersey police department revealed that 90-100% of troopers stopped only Hispanics and African Americans. Internal research by NJ state police revealed the same statistics and also found that officers falsified reports of stopping white drivers. This incident also resulted in an anti-racial profiling protest led by Rev. Al Sharpton.

The Grand Jury’s investigation revealed that the men’s story was true and that the officer’s shots were unprovoked. The troopers, James Kenna and John Hogan, were indicted for falsifying records. The young men filed a civil lawsuit against the state of New Jersey, alleging racial profiling. The Grand Jury’s decision in the case resulted in one count of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault for each officer. As a result of the incident, the state of New Jersey issued a mandate requiring mounted radar guns on all state trooper vehicles as well as cameras in order to record every traffic stop.

The men settled their civil case for what was a record at that time, $12.9 million. They were informed that the criminal case would continue and that they would have their day in court. That didn’t happen. The judge dismissed all the serious charges and the officers were offered the opportunity to plead guilty to obstruction of justice. They also lost their jobs in law enforcement and were fined $280. The 4 Chosen believed that justice was not served because the officers didn’t serve any time.

The errors that stand out to me were that the two officers falsified the report related to the incident and also gave false statement as to what actually happened. What also struck me was that officers made it a practice to racially profile minorities and falsify reports. The people who are supposed to protect and serve were the ones doing the harm that almost took the lives of four young men.

This film is available as part of the Charlotte School of Law Library DVD collection.

~Morine Etienne, L’15~

Susan Catterall, Esq., Class Advisor

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ALR Student’s Corner: The Lincoln Lawyer & The Rules of Professional Responsibility

“The Lincoln Lawyer” is a story about Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey), a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles and the criminals he defends. The movie is entitled “The Lincoln Lawyer” because Haller primarily operates from his black Lincoln Town Car. Haller’s ex-wife is a prosecutor in Los Angeles County, Maggie McPherson (Marisa Tomei).

When Haller is hired to defend Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) scion of a wealthy Beverly Hills family, he happily takes the case.  Roulet had been accused of beating Regina Campo, a prostitute. Roulet insists he is the innocent victim of a frame-up. Haller and Levin, Haller’s investigator, see photos and evidence of Roulet’s case. The case reminds Haller of a former client, Jesus Martinez (Michael Peña), who Haller persuaded to plead guilty to the murder of a prostitute in order to avoid the death penalty.

When Haller visits Martinez in prison and shows him Roulet’s photo, Haller asks Martinez whether Roulet was the other man, at the bar, talking to the prostitute on the night of the murder. Martinez refuses to answer. Haller now believes that Roulet is the killer in the Martinez case, and starts to feel guilty. However, due to the duty of confidentiality that all attorneys owe to their clients, Haller cannot reveal what he knows.

After breaking into Haller’s house, Roulet admits to Haller that he committed the murder for which Martinez has been convicted. The next day, Levin is found shot to death immediately after Levin left Haller a voicemail message informing Haller that he located Martinez’s “ticket out of jail.” Haller is convinced that Roulet shot Levin.

Fulfilling his duty to zealously represent his client, Haller continues his representation of Roulet.  Roulet is set free after the case is dismissed. Immediately after the case is dismissed, Roulet is arrested for the Martinez murder because of testimony that Haller elicited from the informant who testified in the current case. Roulet is eventually released for the second arrest because there is not sufficient evidence; he then threatens to kill Haller’s ex-wife and daughter.  When Roulet arrives at McPherson’s house, Haller is there, and a group of bikers that Haller defended in the past show up and beat up Roulet.

It turns out that McPhereson found a parking ticket given to Roulet next to the previous murder victim’s house; this was the evidence needed in Roulet’s pending murder trial that would support the innocence of wrongfully convicted Martinez.  Haller discovered Roulet’s mother at Haller’s home, and Roulet’s mother shoots Haller and admits to killing Levin. Haller then shoots Roulet’s mother, killing her. Martinez eventually gets released from prison. The District Attorney then seeks the death penalty against Roulet in the previous Martinez murder case.

Rule Misstatements

At one point in the movie when Haller realized that Roulet lied to him, Haller asks Roulet why he would ever lie to him.  Haller then tells Roulet, “everything you tell me is confidential.” This, however, is a misstatement of the Rules of Professional Conduct because there are certain circumstances in which an attorney may disclose information exchanged between him and the client.

Under the California Rules of Professional Conduct, specifically Rule 3-100: Confidential Information of a Client, may (but is not required to) reveal information obtained by attorney-client privilege “to prevent a criminal act that the member reasonably believes is likely to result in death of, or substantial bodily harm to, an individual.”

In addition, Haller misstated the rule regarding payment of attorneys’ fees. Upon the initial meeting with Roulet to discuss his case, Roulet’s mother gives Haller a check as a retainer fee. Haller refuses to accept it, by stating that the fee must come from the client.  Haller’s statement, however, was inaccurate.  Under the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, fees may come from a third party so long as the client gives informed written consent and this arrangement does not interfere with the lawyer’s ability to represent the client.

However, under the California Rules of Professional Conduct on the California State Bar website, there was no comparable rule discussing a third party’s right to pay the attorney’s fee so long as the client gives informed written consent.

Haller finds himself in an ethical dilemma when Roulet informs Haller that Roulet murdered the prostitute for which one of Haller’s former clients, Martinez, was currently serving time.  Under California’s Rule 3-310: Avoiding the Representation of Adverse Interests, “A member shall not, without the informed written consent of each client: … Accept or continue representation of more than one client in a matter in which the interests of the clients actually conflict.”  It seems, however, as though Haller could have withdrawn from the case regardless of the fact that he had already agreed to take on Roulet as a client under this rule.

This film is available as part of the Charlotte School of Law Library DVD collection.

~Alexandria Andresen, L’15~

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ALR Student’s Corner: And Justice for All – A Review

“Don’t you care? Don’t you even care? They’re people you know? They’re just people… He’s dead! Half hour after they put him in the lockup he hanged himself. God damn it!”

We often become too familiar with our jobs. That along with losing passion, fatigue, personal issues, and conflicts may cause us to bring down our standards. Laws form the boundaries of our society, structure our government, maintain order, guarantee our rights and the freedom of private enterprise, regulate complicated affairs, and punish wrongdoers. However, what drove most of us, or at least many, to pursue a career in law is the idea of justice. Justice can be defined as the truth pursuant to the evidence, what is right under the totality of the circumstance, or what the law interprets as permissible based on the facts presented.

In “And Justice for All,” Al Pacino plays defense attorney, Arthur Kirkland, who has a reputation for having a high moral standard. He is also known to have bad blood with an authoritative judge named Henry Fleming, who is accused of raping and assaulting a woman. Unfortunately, Kirkland is forced to represent Fleming because the judge threatened to disbar him for breaking client confidentiality unless he takes the case. Because he is tied up with the big case, Kirkland asks a friend to fill in for him on a case involving a gullible transgender defendant who is accused of robbery and is petrified of how other inmates will treat him if he is convicted.

The lines quoted at the beginning of this article are from the scene where Kirkland finds out that his friend has neglected to request probation before judgment and the transgender defendant has committed suicide after being sentence to serve time. Not knowing all the facts, the friend yells, in response, that it’s just nickel and dime.

Defense attorneys make deals with prosecutors to request a favor in return, prosecutors want to be a star by convicting a judge, defense attorneys and prosecutors both fabricate or hide evidence to win the case. Kirkland says in his opening statement that the intention of justice is that the guilty people are proven guilty and the innocent are freed. He adds that the only problem is that both sides would like to win regardless of the truth, regardless of who’s guilty, because winning is everything.

The adversarial system has its merits. The procedural laws have its merits. If anyone’s been in an actual hearing or a trial in session, they would realize that nothing would be done without the strict rules governing the process, and the truth is often revealed during the cross-examinations and the presentation of evidence by the adverse parties. The courts also rule not only based on the law but on equity. The law is not only prescribed and remedies are ordered according to what is reasonable.

Then what is it that makes people fear the law yet not respect lawyers? Why do we entrust so much power to a profession that is not so trusted? Is it because lawyers are not honest?

Sam, Kirkland’s grandfather asks him if he’s a good, honest lawyer. Kirkland answers with a sarcastic tone that being honest doesn’t have much to do with being a lawyer. Sam replies back, “if you’re not honest, you’ve got nothing.” However, if all attorneys are completely honest, many defendants will not get a fair trial. We don’t want that. The issues and disputes that end up in court may be extremely complicated and confusing. Anyone can be the defendant – whether they meant to or not, and more importantly, judges will be more prone to be wrong if they only hear one side of the story. In that sense, although TV ads make you feel otherwise jaded, thank God there are plenty of defense attorneys.

If it’s not the law, and if it’s not the lawyers, why is it so difficult to achieve justice? Is the blindfold on lady justice getting in the way when she reads the scale and strikes that sword? I believe that regardless of how we might feel about the justice system we are on the right track and it’s a process in which we will ultimately build the most ideal system to achieve justice. Developments in technology, open public discussions, political debates, and new laws protecting individual rights are all examples of how we can and are advancing to construct a better justice system.

In “And Justice for All,” the defendant judge passes the polygraph although he later admits that he raped and assaulted the victim. Today’s DNA testing technology, and more advanced polygraph tests could have helped the prosecutor in cases like the one in “And Justice for All” where there were no witnesses other than the one planted by the defendant. Forensic use of DNA technology in criminal cases began in 1986, whereas the movie took place in 1979. North Carolina also permits the use of DNA evidence. As for polygraph (aka lie detector) test results, in many states including New York, Texas, Illinois, and the District of Columbia they are generally inadmissible. Some states do recognize them as admissible evidence and some permit them only to support probable cause for warrants.

Although I’m not sure how the law was back then, now no one in a courtroom would be able to shout things out, make comments, laugh and whistle without being held in contempt.

Human history is not that lengthy. Yet even after including prehistoric times, humans have been on this earth for only about 30 seconds out of a day in Earth’s time. Although we have achieved so much during the past few millennia, we are only discovering what we can do with what we have, not only with tangible materials but also with the products of our minds. As one of the greatest inventions and tools that was essential to our development and prosperity, the law and the justice system have evolved greatly, and will continue to change to one day achieve justice for all.

This film is available as part of the Charlotte School of Law Library DVD collection.

~Inchang Moses Sye, L’15~

Class Advisor – Susan Catterall, Esq.

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ALR Student’s Corner: Amazing Grace: One Man’s Fight Against All Odds

William Wilberforce’s struggle to end slavery was one that required determination, perseverance, and most of all, heart.  Wilberforce’s enduring battle for over fifteen years buttressed him against tremendous odds.  Although in the beginning of his fight many rallied their support around him, as time went on public sentiment faded, accusations were hurled, and he had to hold onto his belief in God and that freedom was fit for all.  The movie, Amazing Grace, encapsulates William Wilberforce’s steadfast and resolute stand.

As the movie opens, two unsavory characters beat a black horse in the cold and never-ending rain of England.  Befittingly, William Wilberforce came across these two men and although outnumbered and outsized, he confronted the cruelty and coldness of heart displayed.  Although the men stopped their harsh treatment of the horse, William Wilberforce’s uphill battle to end slavery in England took much more than a conversation and a chiding of deplorable behavior.

Amazing Grace is a well written, true to life movie that heralds William Wilberforce as the heroic man who spearheaded freedom for all.  The movie accurately depicts Wilberforce’s trials and the adversity he had to overcome throughout his efforts to end slavery.  Many people turned against him. He was accused of sedition and even lost his best friend for a time.  The movie addressed the mindset that Wilberforce had to reform.

In 1782, Wilberforce had no access to technology; instead, he and his supporters used ingenuity and craftiness.  During one brief scene, Wilberforce took the very wealthy on a tour around the English harbor.  Unbeknownst to the sightseers, their vessel steered right beside a slave ship and the privileged individuals had to confront the true atrocities of slavery.  Wilberforce worked within the means of his day and tried to shift public sentiment by employing popular means of his such as distributing pamphlets and writing songs.  Wilberforce was not the only one to do this. The famous song, “Amazing Grace” was birthed in the time of William Wilberforce.

John Newton, a former slave trader, penned “Amazing Grace” as a poem after he left his lifestyle of cruelty and mercilessness behind and became a monk.  John Newton was not only a transformed man, but also a mentor to Wilberforce with regard to emancipation.  Newton helped guide and steer Wilberforce to never give up the fight and to continue to stay the course.  Although this poem and many other forms of literature were written during Wilberforce’s fight to emancipate slaves, had Wilberforce taken his stand in today’s society, many more avenues would be at his disposal.

The American Journal of Legal History published an article, “Legal Borrowing and the Origins of Slave Law in the British Colonies.” written by Bradley J. Nicholson.  Obviously Wilberforce did not have access to this article since it was written in 1994, but if he had, he could have helped educate the populous on the origin of slavery in England.  He could have illuminated that the barbaric practice of slavery traced its roots back to the 1500’s in England.  Furthermore, if this movie was set in today’s time, social media could be used and instead of relying on drawings and oral accounts of the treacherous conditions, actual photographs and video could be used to show the realities of slavery.  In addition, as Wilberforce and Thomas Jefferson corresponded by letter in regard to emancipating slaves, today’s electronic communication could have been faster and would have allowed for English and American support to join forces.  Although Wilberforce did not have access to the technology that is so readily available today, he persevered and tirelessly fought for the rights of every man, woman, and child to live in freedom.

Although William Wilberforce lived in the 1700 and 1800’s, his story transcends time and generations.  This movie shares the story of a man who stood for truth and did not shrink from adversity or hardship.  This movie brings encouragement when one may face insurmountable odds.  It also portrays the realistic fight one man mounted and never surrendered until triumph was tasted.

To read the actual speech Wilberforce gave to The House of Commons, cut and paste the following link into your browser:

For more information in regard to William Wilberforce’s life, please see the links below:

Original poem of “Amazing Grace” by John Newton

This movie is part of the DVD collection which is available at the CSL Library.

~Amanda Cordell, L’16~

Susan Catterall, Esq., Class Advisor


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ALR Student’s Corner: What’s A Good Legal Movie Without A Little Misconduct? Professional Responsibility in The Client

I’ve been a John Grisham fan ever since my grandfather gave me my first copy of The Firm while I was still an undergrad. I was instantly ensnared by Grisham’s fast paced and intricate legal dramas that explore how traditional ideas of right and wrong tend to flex within the constraints of the law. As with any good legal thriller, Grisham’s novels are usually filled with high stakes crime, mobsters, and unsavory attorneys with questionable ethics. The 1994 adaptation of The Client is no exception to the Grisham best seller recipe, and tells the tale of a poor Memphis boy, Mark Sway, who is targeted by the Italian mafia for knowing damning information that could destroy the criminal organization in New Orleans.

Obviously, legal dramas that lack the gritty and devious excitement that comes with unethical behavior would hardly have movie goers flocking to the theaters. True to form, the plot of The Client is built upon a sleazy and cowardly lawyer’s violation of the most fundamental rule of professional conduct, attorney client confidentiality (Rule 1.6 under the ABA Model Rules). In the film, the highly intoxicated Jerome Clifford, attorney for Barry “The Blade” Muldano, tells young Mark, in a suicidal last confession, that Muldano admitted to the highly publicized murder of a state senator and buried the body in Clifford’s own back-yard boat shed. As a result, Mark is thrust into a tug of war between Barry the Blade, threatening to kill Mark if he breaks his silence, and Roy Fultrigg, a formidable U.S. Attorney demanding that Mark tell him the location of the body so that he can prosecute Muldano for the senator’s murder and bask in the political glory of a conviction.

Although the unethical misconduct in The Client starts with Clifford’s suicidal confession, it is hardly the most egregious offense in the film. As Mark begins to understand the predicament he’s in, he hires Reggie Love, a recovering alcoholic and juvenile advocate, to fend off Fultrigg and his pack of FBI lackeys. Fultrigg is the next lawyer who we see blatantly disregard the Rules of Professional Conduct when he attempts to question Mark without his mother being present, and specifically tells Mark he does not need an attorney (in violation of Rule 4.3 Dealing with Unrepresented Person, Rule 4.1 Truthfulness in Statements to Others, and Rule 8.4 Misconduct). Unfortunately for the smooth talking Reverend Fultrigg, Reggie anticipates his bad behavior and catches him in the act by having wired Mark and recorded the entire unethical encounter.

Interestingly enough (but perhaps not surprisingly), it is the film’s flawed heroine, Reggie Love, who commits the most serious violations throughout the film. After catching Fultrigg red-handed, she immediately threatens to expose him with the tape, essentially blackmailing a federal prosecutor. However, this is a minor infraction compared to what she does as the danger to Mark and herself intensifies as the film progresses. Reggie’s next major offense occurs when she barges in to the juvenile judge’s chambers and attempts to sway him in her favor based on their standing friendship (in violation of Rule 3.5 Impartiality And Decorum of the Tribunal). Yet, it isn’t until the film heats up in anticipation of the climatic discovery of the senator’s body that Reggie really throws the rule book out of the window. She harbors a now-fugitive Mark, drives him across state lines, trespasses on private property, and helps him break into Clifford’s boat shed in order to find the body all in a race against time and the advancing mafia hit men.

When looking at the characters collectively, it is clear that none of the attorneys have much respect for the Rules of Professional Conduct and instead base their actions on the ultimate pursuit of justice, whatever the cost. The battle between right and wrong and its operation within, and often times outside of, the constraints of the law is a common theme in all of Grisham’s stories. For Fultrigg, justice means a conviction for the murder of the state senator and the unraveling of an extensive crime syndicate. For Reggie, justice means protecting the civil liberties of an innocent boy who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both characters are driven by their own personal beliefs of what justice truly is, and how far they are willing to go to achieve it.

At the end of the day it’s quite clear to anyone familiar with the Rules of Professional Conduct that all of the attorneys in the film would likely be disbarred for their actions in the real world, but then again, what fun would that be to watch?

Note: The DVD, The Client, is available as part of the Charlotte School of Law Library collection.

~Christine Houston, L’15~

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