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"The Good Wife" came marching into its fifth season on Sunday with a fast-paced episode that covered death row appeals, employee privacy, and law firm politics.
To kick off this new season, here's our legal breakdown of "Everything is Ending":
Death row appeals sure are tense. Especially when -- as the episode pointed out -- Alicia's firm has had 10 years to properly appeal the case, yet the lion's share of the work is done in days. At the same time, Alicia tries keep the firm's partners unaware that she's about to leave, taking with her most of the fourth-year associates and many of their clients.
The death row case is pretty similar to a "botched" execution that occurred in 2009, when prison officials were unable to find a usable vein for a man convicted of rape and murder. According to The New York Times, the man's lawyers called the 90-minute attempt to insert the IV "torture," which may explain why Diane emphatically cites the case -- Broom v. Strickland -- when her client's execution lasts more than two hours.
Most of the "clever" ways in which the death row client's execution is delayed are fun to watch -- but legally improbable. Will and Alicia are able to shoehorn the issue into an Eighth Amendment death penalty class action suit by claiming that the State is attempting to "destroy evidence."
This is just as silly as it sounds, and a real civil judge -- no offense to Jeffrey Tambor -- probably would not have allowed the case to be co-opted by a bare attempt to stall for time. Then again, judges can be unpredictable in their rulings, which is one reason why appeals exist.
Despite the smug way in which Diane, Alicia, and Will mount a defense in a matter of days (that they should have taken care of years prior), Eighth Amendment claims in executions are very real. If the Broom case is any example, death row convicts have a constitutional right to an execution that isn't cruel or unusual, and that typically involves having a medical professional that can properly administer an IV.
Back in the firm's office, partner David Lee is gathering up the phone data from the scheming firm-to-be associates, and he has the law on his side. Employees -- even at high-powered firms -- don't have much of any privacy rights in their use of company phones.
The final twist of "Everything is Ending" is courtesy of 49 USC Section 5101, one of many federal laws preventing hazardous substances -- like the potassium chloride used in executions -- from being shipped like any Amazon package.
Stipulation: The State eventually stipulates -- or concedes the point -- to testimony about the death row client in order to remove the issue from being litigated.
Fiduciary duty: As a partner, Alicia has to act in the best interest of the firm, which is complicated by her plot to leave and start her own firm.
Dramatic, but with some good legal facts. It helps that the episode nicely ends on a more realistic note; what ultimately saved the firm's client was a governor's pardon, not last-minute legal antics. We anticipate much more to talk about as Alicia struggles with leaving the firm.
What did you think of this week's episode of "The Good Wife"? Is the show guilty of making any legal mistakes? Check back here for more legal recaps of "The Good Wife," and send us a tweet at @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #TheGoodWife.
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