'The Good Wife': Good Law? -- Season 7, Episode 9
"I like things simple." Sorry, Jason Crouse, but it's The Good Wife's complicated world, and you're just living in it. And that complicated world includes everyone investigating everybody, and everyone trying to manage and use what they learn against everybody else.
Lockhart, Agos & Lee are investigating Chumhum. Alicia and Lucca are investigating Chumhum's employees. Eli is investigating Jason and Alicia's relationship (as well as Alicia's political chances) and Ruth Eastman is investigating Jason himself. All while Jason himself is investigating Alicia, apparently. Here's what everyone found out in last night's episode, entitled "Discovery."
Episode Recap (Spoiler Alert):
It's Louis Canning, along with Alicia and Lucca, versus Lockhart, Agos and Lee again. Only this time, Alicia's old firm has a new ally -- Monica Timmons, the black associate applicant that the firm passed on hiring. As it turns out, Chumhum's map function sorts neighborhoods based on perceived safety, only there's evidence to suggest that the Chummy Maps is racist, or its coders are, at least. And Cary, Diane, and Monica are representing a black business owner who claims the maps function steered customers away.
As the lawsuit unfolds, we get a peek behind the litigation curtain to the discovery process that comes along with lawsuits, although not an entirely accurate one.
Meanwhile, Eli is ever on the hunt for Alicia's next campaign, convening a focus group to gauge voter support. But both Eli and Ruth are worried that a romantic relationship with Jason could scuttle both her and Peter's campaign.
An essential part of every civil lawsuit is the discovery process, through which each side shares documents and information with the other. This way, each party knows what evidence supports or undercuts their legal arguments. The bigger the case, the larger the discovery.
Courts will generally put each side in charge of turning over documents to the other. In this case, Alicia, Lucca, and Louis Canning have to review material from Chumhum and make a decision on whether the material is responsive to the other side's requests or not. As shown, these calls can be dicey, and Alicia's straddling of the fine line between discovery and disguise got her hit with sanctions from the judge.
While we welcome the insight into the discovery process, let's not kid ourselves about who's actually doing the grunt work and reviewing these documents. There's no way Alicia, Lucca, Cary, Monica, or any other associate billing hundreds of dollars an hour is sifting through giga- or terabytes of code and emails looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
As any recent law school grad can tell you, big firms representing big clients in big cases normally farm "doc review" out to contractors. And as someone who worked as a doc reviewer for a few years, I can tell you it is nowhere near as glamorous as it looks on TV.
Tortious Interference: The case at hand has a black restaurant owner suing Chumhum for tortious interference with business expectancy, basically alleging that the company's designation of her business's neighborhood as sketchy or dangerous caused her to lose customers and, therefore, revenue. As the court points out, it is essential for plaintiff in a tortious interference claim to prove that the interference was both intentional and that the defendant knew it was interfering. The show was also accurate in depicting the outcome of the case -- nearly all civil suits end without a trial, and this one was settled at the end.
The old adage is, "It's all about who you know." This week's episode seemed to tweak that to "It's all about what you know." While it seems that some of our favorite characters are worried about what will be discovered, others seem less concerned. In the end, Cary appeared to speak for both he and Alicia: "Screw it."
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.
- Business Liability (FindLaw)
- Civil Contempt of Court (FindLaw)
- How to Uncover Hidden Data Gems in E-Discovery (FindLaw's Technologist)
- An Attorney's Survival Guide to Document Review (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
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