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'The Good Wife': Good Law? -- Season 7, Episode 13

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

If Alicia's life had been fraying at the edges this season, we might have finally seen her at the end of her rope last night. Failed love, failed campaigns, and failed revenge plots all came crashing in, and Alicia's professional and personal worlds were collapsing.

As bleak as that sounds, there's just enough hope that our protagonist can climb out of this hole, perhaps finding herself back where it all started. She just has to resolve a few court matters first. Here's a look at the legal aspects of last night's episode, "Judged."

The Good Wife: Good Law?

Season 7, Episode 13

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  • Season 7, Episode 14 (Airs 2/14/2016)

Episode Recap (Spoiler Alert):

Look who's back! It's everyone's favorite bond court villain, Judge Don Schakowsky, continuing the trial of one of Alicia's first clients, some eight months after he was first put in jail. Alicia sees this as an opportunity to help the man out and exact a bit of revenge by filing a Section 1983 claim against Schakowsky for violating the defendant's Constitutional rights. When that goes awry, she's sued by the same defendant for legal malpractice.

At the same time, Diane Lockhart is defending the daughter of an influential client in a free speech case after her school newspaper was shut down. It seems that an editorial on Israel boycotts was too much for the student body to handle.

Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 a citizen can file a lawsuit in federal court if your rights were violated by a government official. In this case, the defendant was claiming Judge Schakowsky violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

The problem is that government officials also have qualified immunity against lawsuits for actions taken during the course of their employment. So the official would have to "knowingly" violate someone's rights to be subject to a suit, and Alicia and Lucca couldn't meat that burden with Schakowsky.

Meanwhile, Diane's problem is that the school threatening to shut down its newspaper is a private institution. While the freedom of the press exists, it is a freedom against government or "state" action, and few private entities can be described as state actors. Lucky for her, investigator Jason Crouse remembers his Supreme Court jurisprudence and hands Diane a nifty end around -- Evans v. Newton, where the Court held that "when private individuals or groups are endowed by the State with powers or functions governmental in nature, they become agencies or instrumentalities of the State and subject to its constitutional limitations."

The Good Wife has been on a nice legal roll the past few episodes. And we hate to say it, but Schakowsky is probably right when he warns Alicia against filing the lawsuit. Section 1983 claims are difficult to prove already, never mind against a sitting judge. We doubt many attorneys, even one as revenge-driven as Alicia, would've filed such a case.

Ex Parte: "Should we get that down on tape, Your Honor," Alicia barks at Judge Schakowsky in the hall, "Your ex parte threats?" And this isn't the first time a character has used the Latin phrase. While ex parte technically means in the absence of one of the parties to a legal matter, it can also be used to cover any motion, hearing, or even conversation held with a judge off the record or outside of the courtroom.

"C'mon Alicia -- come on home." Alicia may be out of options, with no choice but to accept Cary's offer of a junior partner position back at Agos, Lockhart and Lee. The flirtation of a return to the firm has been simmering all season, so this might be the time.

Or, just as likely, Alicia has other plans of how to save her and Lucca's fledgling legal outfit. And speaking of flirtation and cooking analogies, Alicia and Jason's brooding romance finally came to a boil this week. So that will be fun to watch over the show's (eep!) final episodes.

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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