by Sophie Littlefield
What fictional lawyer would you hire to defend you if you ever get caught?
I'd call my dad.
My dad is a law professor, or more grandly a legal scholar, a guy who thinks about issues of right and wrong for a living. He writes about the law, teaches it, and gives speeches about it; I guess you could say he's got a lock on the contemplation of justice.
Whenever I had an ethical quandary when I was growing up, my dad would not only explain current legal thinking on the subject but also provide historical context. My questions were about things like reporting waitressing tips (no one else did), or paying for things you accidentally smuggle out of stores in the bottom of the cart - nothing earth-shattering, and mostly it was just entertaining to hear how Dad would frame the question, because it was always different from the response you'd get from anyone else.
Bottom line, though, I was confident that Dad always acted within his own moral bandwidth. How many people can you say that about? Not many. I actually consider myself fairly ethically pure, but I fall off my own wagon just about every day.
At times, I've felt that dad is actually ethical to a fault. This might be what prompted my lifelong fascination with vigilantism. I am a firm believer in codes (personal more than societal) but I think that without the freedom to contradict ourselves we lose an important tool in our right-wrong arsenal. The slings and arrows of effective personal justice, in other words, must share the quiver with the occasional act of passion or vengeance or defiance.
But back to the subject - if I'm ever caught (and I must say that I find the question of what I have done in this fictional scenario to be more interesting than the nature of my defense) I'll call my dad. As an academic, he hasn't practiced law in nearly fifty years, which makes him, in my view, a "fictional" lawyer - but I'm confident he'd hold the court in thrall with his analysis of the case. Besides, I've never seen anyone win an argument against him.
(But I've beaten him at Scrabble. Just sayin'.)