Legal society uses media to examine law

By and

A new law society on campus is combining “Seinfeld,” “The Simpsons” and criminal statutes to help students better understand the law.

The Jackie Chiles Law Society, under the S.J. Quinney College of Law, is a newly formed group that aims to analyze legal issues through the lens of popular culture.

The goal of the society is to show how pop culture portrays lawyers and to let students have some fun with the law, said Tyler Buswell, second-year law student and president of the society.

The society’s inaugural event on Sept. 21 invited law professors to debate the merits of the trial of Krusty the Clown in an episode of “The Simpsons” before an audience of 100 students and faculty.

“This event was meant to introduce students to the society and show how the media affects law,” said Buswell.

“The media has a great effect on law,” said Erik Luna, a law professor. Justice, equality and the court system are interpreted by the media, which makes understanding the connection between law and culture crucial.

“If you want to see how television has influenced the legal system, look at the program ‘C.S.I.’ as an example,” said Daniel Medwed, associate professor of law.

“Juries now have what is referred to as the ‘C.S.I. effect’ because they have seen so many episodes that they come to think every case will have fingerprints and biological evidence, which is usually not the case,” Medwed said. “Jurors are now questioned and possibly dismissed based on (whether) they watch this television show.”

The Law Society started out following an episode of “Seinfeld,” Buswell said. Named for the “Seinfeld” character Jackie Chiles, the group seeks to dispel stereotypical ideas about lawyers and to relate law to society.

“After an episode of ‘Seinfeld.’ I realized I couldn’t even watch television without seeing how the media portrays lawyers and the law in general,” Buswell said. “So I decided to create a group where people can discuss and engage the law and how pop culture perceives it.”

Discussions and events for the group will include monthly movie nights with professors to talk about legal and cultural issues as well as partnerships with groups across campus and the state, including the minority law caucus.

The society is open to all students, not just those studying law, Buswell said, because the issues we discuss extend beyond just law students.

“The media’s interpretation of the law is everywhere,” he said, “and this society gives students a chance to engage these misconceptions in a fun way.”

Students interested in joining the Jackie Chiles Law Society can contact Buswell at [email protected].