Issue Guide for “First Monday” – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Issue Guide for “First Monday”

First Monday did not air past the 12th episode, and was cancelled
from the CBS schedule.

First Monday is a television show that airs on the CBS television network.
It began airing in January, 2002. This page is not an episode guide for the
show, as it is more than just a show about the Supreme Court. It is a show
about the people that make up the Supreme Court, and the issues they face in
their lives as well as in court. A traditional episode guide, like that at EpGuides.com, would detail all of
these points. This page will simply discuss the issues. For fans of the ABC
program “The Court,” there is also an issue guide

As a television show, the Supreme Court of First Monday works differently
from the real Supreme Court. In First Monday, cases are heard and resolved
within an hour’s time, usually no more than a few days of “show” time. In
reality, a case heard in October might not be decided until January, or even
later. Enjoy, then, the show as a TV show, which touches on the Supreme Court
and constitutional issues. If you want to know more about the actors and
characters, see the CBS
Web site
. If you’re looking to supplement the show with information about
the real Court, then a few books are recommended:

The Brethren – Inside the Supreme Court by Bob Woodward and Scott
Armstrong. The Rehnquist Choice by John Dean. The Oxford Companion
to the Supreme Court of the United States
by Kermit Hall, et al. Also see
the Books Page.

First Monday Cast of Characters

The Justices: Thomas Brankin (Chief), Henry Hoskins, Jerome Morris,
Esther Weisenberg, Deborah Szwark, Michael Bancroft, Theodore Snow, Brian
Chandler, Joe Novelli.

The Clerks: For Brankin: Julian Lodge. For Novelli: Ellie Pearson, Miguel
Mora, Jerry Klein.

The Senator: Edward Sheffield.

Arc Issue: The first season of First Monday had an arc issue. Senator
Edward Sheffield, apparently unable to prevent Justice Novelli’s confirmation,
makes many unsuccessful attempts to discredit Novelli to prompt impeachment

Episode 1 – “Pilot”

Issue 1: Is it cruel and unusual under the 8th
to electrocute a death row inmate who had been struck by
lightning while under the care of the state? In this case, a man convicted of
killing a young girl while robbing a rural store is set to be executed at the
electric chair. After his conviction, however, he was struck by lightning and
his mental capacity was affected. The Supreme Court refuses to grant
certiorari to the inmate, and despite a last minute change of heart by a new
justice, he is put to death.

Issue 2: A man who fled from Mexico because of his desire to become a woman
tries to have the Supreme Court grant him asylum. The petition is denied,
however, when the Justices learn that the man does not actually desire a sex
change operation, but simply wishes to be a transvestite, and wear women’s

Episode 2 – “Age of Consent”

Issue 1: A pregnant, teenage girl applies to a local court to have an
abortion over the wishes of her parents. The local court agrees to the girl’s
desires, and the parents appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the judge’s
order. Though the issue of abortion muddies the waters, the issue boils down
to that of parental consent versus the girl’s freedom of self-determination.
The Court rules in the girl’s favor and upholds the local judge’s ruling.

Issue 2: Is the speech of a bully protected by the 1st Amendment? The Court ruled that yes, even the
speech of a bully in a school yard is free speech.

Episode 3 – “The Price of Liberty”

Issue 1: 6th Amendment right to witness
confrontation. A drug dealer the government is trying to convict is confronted
by a masked witness. The prosecution refuses to reveal the name of the
witness, for fear that the defendant will find a way to harm the witness.
Three other named witnesses against the defendant have previously been killed,
though there is no evidence the defendant killed them or arranged for them to
be killed. The defense appeals to the Supreme Court. The Court rules that
under the 6th Amendment, the witness must reveal her identity, or she may not

Issue 2: A lawyer accuses his firm of discrimination. He is a dwarf, and
under the color of accommodation, his firm installed a “mini office” for him,
which he said led to him being treated differently, like a side show. The
firm argued that under the Americans With Disabilities Act, they were simply
accommodating his disability. The lawyer argued that he is not disabled. The
Supreme Court rules against the lawyer, saying that the firm made a good faith
effort at accommodation.

Episode 4 – “Crime and Punishment”

Issue 1: Does a so-called three strikes law violate the Constitution? In
this case, a person convicted of a misdemeanor is sent to prison for life,
because he had previously been convicted of two felony counts. The issues
raised included due process (the criminal got a longer sentence than a
first-time offender), double jeopardy (the criminal was sentenced more harshly
because of prior convictions), cruel and unusual punishment (a life sentence
for a misdemeanor), and ex post facto laws (punishing a past crime using
today’s standards). In the end, the Court voted to uphold the conviction.

Episode 5 – “Family Affairs”

Issue 1: In a case where a man took two wives, sanctioned by his religion,
the Court hears arguments from the state that religious beliefs cannot be
restricted, but that religious practices can be. Also, that despite the fact
that some unusual religious practices had been allowed by the Court, most of
those had been designed to target a specific practice. In this case, no one is
permitted by law to have two spouses. From the defense, the main argument was
that the man and his family were not harming the community in any way, and that
the bigamy was faith-based. The Court decided to uphold the bigamy conviction
when one justice decided the man’s faith-based claim was specious.

Episode 6 – “Dangerous Words”

Issue 1: The justices decide to hear a case where the wife of a murdered
abortion doctor has sued and won a $6 million case against an extreme pro-life
web site that advocated the killing of her husband and several other doctors.
The case becomes personal when a web site operator posts threatening pages
targeting Justice Novelli, and when someone places a bagged human fetus in
Novelli’s daughter’s school bag. In oral arguments, the basic dispute is
whether the original web site is protected by the 1st
or whether the site’s postings were beyond the protection of the
1st. A closely-split Court decided that the site was not to blame for the
murder, that the pages are protected, and struck down the suit against it.

Episode 7 – “Right to Die”

Issue 1: In a dispute between a wife and a daughter, the Court is asked to
choose who should be able to make a medical decision for a patient who has been
in a “twilight coma” for nine years. The wife, who says her husband discussed
his wishes not to remain alive in such a state, wishes to remove life support.
The daughter, who says she has seen glimpses of life in him over those years,
wishes him to remain on life support. Justice Hoskins champions the daughter’s
case, arguing that the Constitution offers no “right to die.” But in the end, a
5-4 Court decides that the wife should have the right to make medical decisions
for her husband.

Issue 2: Justice Novelli’s wife, who is a realtor, sells a $2.2 million home
to a leader of an anti-smoking organization. When the Justice informs her that
he has a case pending regarding cigarette companies, and that he will have to
now recuse himself, she returns her commission and quits her job.

Episode 8 – “Court Date”

Issue 1: In the case of DeShawn Green, a high school junior basketball star,
the Supreme Court is asked to rule on whether the NBA’s rule barring high
school-age players from entering the draft is a violation of anti-trust laws.
The arguments for the player include the right to work and illegality of the
agreement between the NBA and the player’s union which allows the bar. The
arguments against the player include the societal right to have kids finish
their education, the declining favor of school for sports in the black
community, and the rule of reason. In the end, the swing vote, Chief Justice
Brankin decides that the rule of reason must apply, and Green should be forced
to finish high school before being eligible for the draft.

Episode 9 – “Secrets and Lies”

Issue 1: Is Megan’s Law, which requires those convicted of sexual offenses to
notify the police of their whereabouts after they are released from prison,
constitutional? The question balances public safety with the right to privacy.
Are released sexual predators to be treated differently from other felons who
are not required to register with the government? The Court decides to let
Megan’s Law stand, on the argument that public safety outweighs the due process
concerns of the ex-cons.

Episode 10 – “Unprotected Speech”

Issue 1: A teenager digitally placed the faces of classmates over those of
adult actors in a pornographic film. The teen was convicted under a law
preventing not only child pornography, but also simulated child pornography. Was
the act protected speech, or was it constitutionally unprotected because of the
subject matter? Though the original vote seemed to be between overturning both
the conviction and the law, or not, the final vote was 7-2 in favor of
overturning the conviction on very narrow grounds, hopefully sending a signal to
Congress that the law was too broad and needed to be readdressed.

Episode 11 – “Strip Search”

Issue 1: A small-town police force regularly tests discarded blood samples
from a hospital in an attempt to match DNA with that of a serial rapist. One
person whose blood was tested, but found to not be a match, challenges the
practice as an illegal search done without his consent. When the sheriff
violates the state court’s order to stop the testing, and gets a match, the
Court decides to expedite oral arguments and conference. In arguments and
conference, the issues involve whether the plaintiff had a reasonable
expectation of privacy when he gave the blood sample as part of a routine
physical, or whether there should be no expectation of privacy for such a
sample. The Court decides 5-4 that the DNA was improperly obtained. In the
case of the accused rapist, his wife turns over DNA evidence untainted by the

Issue 2: Justice Novelli’s teenage daughter Beth refuses to take a drug test
in order to play high school soccer, citing the unfair singling out of athletes.
When the news media gets a hold of the story, it draws unwanted attention to the
Justice’s family. Mrs. Novelli, fearing the refusal is not just on principle,
demands Beth take the test. Justice Weisenberg uses Beth’s refusal as one of
her deciding factors as the swing vote in the DNA case.

Episode 12 – “Showdown”

Episode 13 – “Family Secrets”