Fictional Attorney of the Month: Frank Galvin

Frank Galvin is a miserable and unhappy attorney in The Verdict. Played by Paul Newman, his personal life and his professional life have fallen apart. But in a beautiful film directed by Sidney Lumet and written by David Mamet, Galvin finds redemption in, of all things, a medical malpractice case.

Galvin is tempted to take a large settlement but rejects it in pursuit of the chance to do something right. The case goes to trial, where the evidence is on Galvin's side, but, as with all trials, things never go smoothly in the courtroom.

Galvin's restoration through the film, culminating before the jury during closing argument, are good enough to make him the Fictional Attorney of the Month.

2016 Fictional Attorneys of the Month

January: Mitch Grinder

February: Troy

March: Herr Huld

April: J.J. Ford

May: Paul Biegler

June: The Blue-Haired Lawyer

July: Mr. Briggs

August: Sally Carrera

September: Abraham Haphazard

October: Jackie Chiles

November: Fred Gailey

2015 Fictional Attorneys of the Month

2014 Fictional Attorneys of the Month

2013 Fictional Attorneys of the Month

After blogging about more than forty fictional attorneys on a monthly basis, I've decided to put FAotM on hiatus indefinitely. It was a delightful effort for many years. But there's a grind to a monthly format, and I've been a bit picky in my selection of lawyers, which dramatically reduces the pool of opportunities to blog and makes next year's efforts fairly daunting. There are, of course, many, many more fictional attorneys out there, and perhaps I'll launch back into the project sometime in the future. But for now, a chapter is closing.

Fictional Attorney of the Month: Fred Gailey

Miracle on 34th Street is an iconic Christmas film starring Maureen O'Hara as Doris Walker and and Natalie Wood as her daughter Susan. The story revolves around a no-nonsense single mother who raises Susan not to believe in fairy tales like Santa Claus.

While much revolves around the life of Kris Kringle and the sales department at a New York City Macy's store, the film's denouement is really a courtroom drama. Doris's neighbor, Fred Gailey (played by John Payne), is an attorney who befriends Kris. When Kris faces legal action declaring him to be insane, Fred quits his job at a law firm and represents Kris in court. In the end, Fred's clever presentation of the evidence (including a display of many mailbags of letters addressed to "Santa Claus") and disarming personality help secure a dismissal.

Fictional Attorney of the Month: Jackie Chiles

Among the more well-known recurring characters in the 1990s television sitcom Seinfeild was Jackie Chiles, an intense attorney who strongly resembled a parody of Johnny Cochran.

His counsel often involves him crying out that something is "outrageous," "egregious," "preposterous," or other colorful adjectives. His lawsuits range from the referential (a lawsuit on Kramer's behalf against a coffee company for coffee so hot it burns Kramer's legs when he spills it) to the absurd (a lawsuit on Kramer's behalf against tobacco companies for second-hand smoke coloring his complexion), with memorable quips ("Your face is my case."). He's even the attorney who represents the Seinfeld cast in the season finale when they violate a Good Samaritan law.

It's the best of mid-90s comedy in deadpan legal delivery, and good enough for this month's Fictional Attorney of the Month.

Fictional Attorney of the Month: Abraham Haphazard

Anthony Trollope writes the story of Septimus Harding is the warden in The Warden, overseeing an almshouse in nineteenth-century England. He is a widower who lives with his youngest daughter Eleanor. The quiet Mr. Harding suddenly finds himself at the center of a public lawsuit when a reformer (and suitor of his daughter), John Bold, challenges how money is being spent at the almshouse.

Sir Abraham Haphazard--pointedly named by Trollope--is a barrister who counsels Mr. Harding in this matter. Trollop describes him with some sad commentary: "Yo would say he was a man to use, and then have done with; a man to be sought for on great emergencies, but ill adapted for ordinary services; a man whom you would ask to defend your property, but to whom you would be sorry to confide your love. He was bright as a diamond, and as cutting, and also as unimpressionable. He knew every one whom to know was an honour, but he was without a friend; he wanted none, however, and knew not the meaning of the word in other than its parliamentary sense."

Haphazard is a deeply successful and credentialed attorney, and he provides exactly the kind of advice to be expected, as he speaks at a time when the lawsuit is dropped. Move on, he explains, because Harding has won and is entitled to the money he receives as Warden. ButHarding conscience has persuaded him that even the appearance of conflict is too great. Haphazard provides poor counseling and advice, as he seems much more intent on satisfying his own expectations within the law (and, incidentally, furthering his own reputation) than in assisting his client moving forward in resolving conflicts in his affairs.

Fictional Attorney of the Month: Sally Carrera

Pixar's Cars might not always be at the top of adults' favorite Pixar films, but it's always at the top of Pixar's licensed goods for kids. But who can resist the story of a sleepy town of misfits tucked away on historic Route 66?

Sally Carrera, a sporty Porsche, seems out of place in a town that time forgot. But she explains that she was once a high-profile attorney in Los Angeles until she felt burned out on the legal profession. She went out for a drive, and when she ended up in little Radiator Springs, she couldn't go back to life in the fast lane. She fell in love with the quiet, rural life and chose to leave legal practice behind.

That doesn't mean she forgot about law. The film's hero, Lightning McQueen, ends up lost in Radiator Springs and wrecks the town. The local judge is prepared to let him go and get him out of town, but Carrera delivers a impassioned oratory to persuade the judge to make him fix the street--and wins. Not bad for a retired California lawyer.

Fictional Attorney of the Month: Mr. Briggs

Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre may not be remembered as a legal thriller, but an attorney does seem to intervene at some of the most crucial moments of the novel. Mr. Briggs is John Eyre's attorney, and John Eyre is Jane's aunt.

He ably handles the estate when Mr. Eyre passes and leaves much to Jane. But it also means he has a curious ability to find out all of the important details of the goings-on surrounding Jane, especially concerning Mr. Rochester.

When Jane prepares to wed Mr. Rochester midway through the novel, Mr. Briggs swiftly arrives to inform her of Mr. Rochester's living wife. In "a sort of official, nasal voice," he read out the details of the wedding. When pressed that it did not prove she was alive (told to produce or go to hell, Mr. Briggs dryly opts for the former option), Mr. Briggs, ever prepared, called forward a witness who, encouraged by Mr. Briggs to have courage and "speak out," described the living wife.

Leave it to the lawyer to arrive well-armed with the facts and law to thwart an otherwise happy marriage.

Fictional Attorney of the Month: The Blue-Haired Lawyer

He's no Lionel Hutz. Instead, he's the recurring character on The Simpsons with a high degree of competence, known only as "The Blue-Haired Lawyer," or sometimes "Mr. Burns's Lawyer."

The Blue-Haired Lawyer has a whiny New York accent who provides some combination of dry humor and clever legal argumentation. In one episode defending Mr. Burns, he reminds the court, "Your Honor, my client has instructed me to remind the court how rich and important he is, and that he is not like other men."

He crops up at inopportune moments to impart legal advice. When the Simpsons' principal makes a Disneyland reference, the lawyer chimes in, "Principal Skinner, "The Happiest Place on Earth" is a registered Disneyland copyright." Principal Skinner assures, "Oh now, gentlemen, it's just a small school carnival." To which the attorney answers, "And it's heading for a great big lawsuit."

A nameless recurring cartoon character--good enough for the Fictional Attorney of the Month.

Fictional Attorney of the Month: Paul Biegler

Anatomy of the Murder is one of the very best courtroom dramas ever filmed. It concerns a homicide in Michigan's rural Upper Peninsula, an Army Lieutenant accused of killing an innkeeper. The defendant's wife contacts Paul Biegler, played by Jimmy Stewart, to represent her husband.

Biegler faces off against the sophisticated prosecutor Claude Dancer, portrayed by George C. Scott, called in to help the small-town case. Dancer and Biegler are formidable foes for one another.

The film is notable not simply for its dramatic courtroom scenes but also for the charged topics it deftly introduces, especially a rape allegation that provides the bulk of the defense's case. Biegler perhaps stretches his ethical bounds in an attempt to zealously represent his client in a case that takes him in directions he'd never have anticipated.

It's a phenomenal script for a film beautifully shot with a stellar cast, but a movie often forgotten today. But Biegler's memorable role make him this month's Fictional Attorney of the Month.