The Case of the Fictional Lawyers

Who are your favorite attorneys from pop culture?

At least she didn't mention Arnie Becker.

Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor revealed during her confirmation hearings Wednesday that watching TV lawyer Perry Mason inspired her to become a prosecutor. (Never mind that Raymond Burr's character was a defense lawyer who almost never lost a case.)

The moment spurred newly minted Sen. Al Franken's first attempt at humor since taking office, offered a tad more insight into Sotomayor's mindset and briefly lightened the proceedings.

For us, naturally, her comments prompt a sidebar discussion on the influence of fictional lawyers.

Lawyers, in pop culture, have gone from truth-seeking heroes like Perry Mason and father-and-son team of "The Defenders" to ambitious professionals with feet of clay, in such shows as "L.A. Law," "Ally McBeal" and "Boston Legal." Perhaps that’s a reflection of the esteem in which lawyers are generally held these days, or a more realistic storytelling style.

Prosecutors, for the most part, come across as honorable in the many "Law & Order" editions – would Jack McCoy ever forget his principles in his briefcase? – even if the defense attorneys usually don't.

For every Atticus Finch (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) there's at least one Dan Fielding (remember “Night Court?”) lurking in the halls of justice.

So we ask: who are your favorite fictional lawyer characters from TV, film, literature and stage?

Use the comments section below to weigh in – a future Supreme Court justice might be looking for a role model.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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