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

Issue Guide for “The Court”


Note: As of the third episode, The Court has been placed on hiatus. The
Issue Guide will be updated if any further episodes air.

The Court is a television show that airs on the ABC television network. It
began airing in March, 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 CBS program
“First Monday,” there is also an issue guide

In the first episode, The Court focused more on the confirmation process
than on the workings of the Supreme Court, and it is as yet unclear how the
workings of the TV court will match or deviate from that of the real court. You
can find out more about the show at the ABC Web
. 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.

The Court Cast of Characters

The Justices: Amos Townsend (Chief), Bob Martinez, Lucas Voorhees, Angela
Desett, Kate Nolan, Shays, Riddle, Bernstein, Fitzsimmons.

The Clerks: Alexis Cameron, Christopher Bell, Dylan Hirsch.

The Reporters: Harlan Brandt, Betsy Tyler.

Episode 1 – “Life Sentence”

Issue 1: In the case of Charlene Grissom, the question is whether her life
without parole sentence, imposed after being convicted of a seventh minor
felony, is a case of cruel and unusual punishment as defined in the 8th Amendment. After newly confirmed Associate Nolan
acquaints herself with the legal arguments in the case, and listens to oral
arguments, she presses for the unusual move to have the case reargued.

Episode 2 – “Due Process”

Issue 1: In Pennsylvania, a pregnant woman is severely hurt in an attack. A
Pennsylvania law makes the attacker liable for a murder – that of the woman’s
fetus, which miscarried. The court agrees to grant cert, though Nolan is upset
because she sees the case as a criminal law issue, whereas other justices want
to hear or avoid the case because of the potential consequences to Roe v Wade.
Unfortunately, Nolan’s clerks, whose opinions helped guide the grant, did not
realize that the original case focused on an equal protection claim, and the
appeal focused on a substantive due process claim. In appeal, only original
arguments can be raised. The Court has to “DIG” the case (dismiss as
improvidently granted).

Episode 3 – “The Stay”

Issue 1: Jimmy Wheeler is scheduled to die in a Texas prison for a
rape/homicode, and Nolan covers his circuit. DNA evidence used against him was
recently proven to not implicate Wheeler. When he requests a stay of his
execution, the clerks and Nolan must make several determinations. First, does
he pass through the innocence gateway – based on the new findings, would one
juror vote to acquit? After determining that one would, his constitutional
question, that of ineffective counsel, is examined. The lawyer was a friend of
the judge, and had prosecuted the defendant in another case, but the trial
record shows no incompetence or bias on the part of the lawyer. Despite her
misgivings, Nolan finds that the law shows that Wheeler’s case cannot be
challenged, and he is put to death. In an ironic twist, another stay request
from a brutal ax-murderer must be granted when it is found that the judge
issued a clearly unconstitutional instruction to the jury.

Episode 4 – “Snakes in the Grass”


Episode 5 – “A Wing and a Prayer”


Episode 6 – “Back in the Bottle”