Supreme Court of the United States in fiction

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Like many institutions that draw public interest, the Supreme Court of the United States has frequently been depicted in fiction, often in the form of legal drama. In some instances, real decisions rendered by real courts are dramatized, as in Gideon's Trumpet and the seminal trial in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Other depictions are purely fictional, but center on realistic issues that come before the court. Television series centered on dramatizing the happenings of the court have proven to be short-lived, and have tended to receive overall negative critical reaction.[1][2] One reason that has been suggested is that the Supreme Count is a court of appeals, whereas most legal drama portrays trial courts. Appeals may appear "bookish" in contrast to the theatrical storytelling of trials, especially juries. Furthermore, American audiences are not very knowledgeable about or interested in the Supreme Court.[3]

Television series[edit]


Completely fictional depictions[edit]

  • First Monday in October (1981), this story about the first woman on the Supreme Court came out in 1981, the year Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman on the court. The film was based on a Broadway production which had opened in 1978, and starred Jane Alexander as the central Justice Ruth Loomis.
  • Swing Vote, is a 1999 TV movie in which the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the Roe vs. Wade decision and thrown the issue of abortion rights back to the individual states. Alabama has subsequently outlawed abortion, and prosecutes for first degree murder when a woman terminates her pregnancy. Newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Joseph Kirkland (Andy García) will turn out to be the deciding vote in a case that could reinstate a woman's right to choose but Kirkland finds himself surrounded by proponents of both the pro-choice and pro-life agendas, with his fellow justices, his secretary and even his wife trying to influence his vote. Other fictional justices portrayed in the film are: The Chief Justice (Robert Prosky)); Justice Clore Cawley (Ray Walston); Justice Will Dunn (Harry Belafonte); Justice Daniel Morissey (James Whitmore); Justice Sara Marie Brandwynne (Kate Nelligan); Justice Hank Banks (Albert Hall); Justice Eli MacCorckle (Bob Balaban); Justice Benjamin "Rip" Ripley (John Aylward), and retired Justice Harlan Greene (Milo O'Shea).
  • The Pelican Brief, a 1993 feature film in which a major plot point is the assassination of two fictional Supreme Court Justices, Rosenberg and Jensen.
  • In the 2002 Steven Seagal movie Half Past Dead, Linda Thorson plays Supreme Court Justice June McPherson, who must be rescued after being kidnapped by terrorists while attending the execution of a killer whom she had previously sentenced to death.
  • In the 2006 film, Idiocracy, after 500 years of dumbing down, the United States has replaced the Supreme Court with the "Extreme Court", which sentences the protagonist of the film to a "rehabilitation" death match.
  • The Talk of the Town, a 1942 film with Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and Ronald Colman. Grant plays a radical fugitive who takes refuge at Jean Aurthur's home, which is being rented by Supreme Court nominee Colman. He is seated as an Associate Justice in the final scene.

Fictionalized accounts of real cases or events[edit]


  1. ^ TV Reviews: 'First Monday' guilty of mediocrity, 15 January 2002
  2. ^ FIRST MONDAY!! Talk Back!!, 15 January 2002.
  3. ^ Olsen, Michelle (29 September 2010). "Why TV Shows About the Supreme Court Tank". LexisNexis. Retrieved 9 May 2016. 
  4. ^ Hibberd, James (6 October 2010). "NBC putting 'Outlaw' on production hiatus". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 8 October 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2010. 
  5. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (6 October 2010). "NBC's 'Outlaw' Goes On Production Hiatus". Retrieved 7 October 2010.