I have a rule.
I don’t watch TV shows about lawyers. I just don’t do it. Not that they aren’t perfectly good shows, most of the time. But…I am a lawyer. And the closest I have seen anyone come to showing what it’s really like to do my job is either Benched or Night Court, depending on the episode. So I’ve made this rule for myself: I don’t watch TV shows about lawyers. No good can come from it.
So, I’m watching Daredevil, and I immediately realize that I have made a critical error. I was sitting down to watch a comic book hero show. Hell, I was going to watch a show set in the MCU. Oh, I knew Matt Murdock was a defense attorney. But I always figured we’d see about as much of that as we see Bruce Wayne going over the Q3 reports in Batman. He has to actually do that work, but they’re never going to show it, right? It’s a comic-book movie.
I forgot. In my naivete, I forgot that the rest of the world sees my job as interesting. As fodder for storytelling. I see it as mundane and boring, but the rest of the world looks upon me as, well…as kind of interesting. So of course there’s legal drama mixed in.
And now I’m breaking my rule. I’m watching a show about lawyers. And we hatesss it.
“I told you,” says Murdock. “We’re only going to represent the innocent.”
Oh, good for you asshole. You’re going to just go out there and represent the falsely accused. So, of the total population of criminals, you’re going to take the microtessimal fraction, and only build your client base from that? Good luck eating.
That’s my first reaction. It’s snarky. But reaction #2 comes from a much deeper place of rage.
Because according to this show, I am evil. If you’re a criminal defense attorney that represents the innocent, then you’re a champion of the people. Represent the guilty, and you are just as guilty as them. This is the message Daredevil has for me.
Fuck you, Matt Murdock.
Fuck you, because every drug-addicted house burglar I manage to get into a treatment program has a chance to live a better life because of it. Fuck you, because everyone I help in the Drug Court is absolutely guilty and absolutely trying to make themselves (and, ergo, the world) a better place. Fuck you, because the number one rule of being a defense attorney is that everyone deserves representation. If you save someone, and they lead a better life, they get a better world. And so does everyone around him. Beat a bad guy to a pulp, and you’ve just made a pissed-off bad guy. Extend a helping hand, try to help them to find the correct path in life? Maybe you make the world a better place.
And fuck you, because I’m the only thing keeping the power of the government from flying out of control. You know what happens without defense counsel? Prosecutors are free to convict anyone they point at of whatever. Not every prosecutor in the world is the type to abuse that power, but many are. And without me here, riding shotgun, the government gets essentially bottomless authority to fuck with your world. And I can only serve that very important social function of preventing tyranny by representing whoever comes to me, guilty or innocent.
Besides, have you ever listened to criminals and tried to sort the guilty from the innocent? Good fucking luck. Fun fact: criminals lie. And the primary thing they lie about? Being criminals. The vast majority of my clients have some story about why they are wrongly accused. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, this turns out to be bologna. But I can’t ignore it, because what about person 100?
So I don’t sort. I don’t even try to figure out whether a person is guilty or not. I try to serve my function, and provide the best representation I can. I make the State do its job. Sometimes, a guilty man walks free. Know why? Because we err on the side of not convicting the innocent. Doesn’t always work, and most of the time it doesn’t work it’s because someone who sat in my chair slacked off.
So fuck you, Matt Murdock. Take some pride in who and what you are. Because without defense attorneys who represent the guilty, that whole justice system will absolutely fail to work. And in the long run, you can do a lot more good in the world helping criminals be not-criminals than you can donning a mask and whooping ass. I like watch you whoop ass. But fuck you for thinking less of me, because I’ve saved a lot of people too, and I’ve done it by doing the very thing you scorn.
Still, I’m going to keep watching. Because its the MCU. And because I love the MCU. But I’ll always think of Matt Murdock as a bad lawyer, and that’s a problem for this show.