In the twenty second edition of his weekly column in Law360, DOAR’s real-life New York City Jury Consultant and Psychologist reviews the fictional NYC Jury Consultant/Psychologist on the television series “Bull,” focusing on what litigation is really like in the trenches.
After a full season of ethically challenged behavior, Bull and his team spend an episode pondering the morality behind what they do. Why, this should be the most intriguing hour of television since — nope, then they stalk, bug and arrest their own client.
The Case of the Unsavory Client
In this episode, Bull and his team wrestle with an actually accurate issue in jury consulting, and the legal professions in general: Should we work with an unsavory client?
In this case, a bomb goes off in a building, and Bull’s new client may have information about the alleged eco-terrorists on the company’s encrypted server. The legal question is whether the company should have to show law enforcement its server, and that causes lots of discussion among Bull’s staff (which seems to be infused with a huge amount of extras this week) about privacy versus law enforcement. Before they get to that though, they wrestle with whether to defend this potentially bad company that apparently does bad things elsewhere.
This is an interesting question that plays out in jury consulting firms on a regular basis. We see on the show what happens in real life, which is that consultants have varying views on this and it drives wedges between people in a company. Consultants are frequently approached by groups and individuals who are accused of being somehow involved in terrorism or the financial support of terrorism. In the era of Occupy Wall Street and populist anger, consultants are often asked to defend individuals and corporations charged with securities fraud, and must wrestle with their own political leanings. Some take the view that everyone in America deserves legal defense, and others decide that they cannot work for the wrong side.
Bull’s staff has this debate, and Cable, who has done legally and ethically untoward activities all season, takes a stand against Bull stating that she will not work for a bad corporation. She even gets to make a speech about what is right. We get to see the supremely confident Bull become flabbergasted and even threaten to fire Cable.
After all of this soul-searching, however, they just go back to their old ways. Cable helps Bull after all. Danny ends up placing a bug on their own client.
The Trick Ending
As usual, the team wins in court, but in the last 10 minutes Bull explains something about this bugged client having some people killed by the bomb, and the FBI steps out from behind a door. There was no eco-terrorism after all, but more importantly for the viewer, there were, as usual, no viable clues to what was going on that led to this conclusion other than a scene of the murderer sitting in the bathtub thinking really hard once. This weird ending is just sprung on the manipulated viewer. As is typical for this show, the viewer sees an interesting setup resolved incomprehensibly and unsatisfactorily in a manner that shows off Bull’s supposed genius.
Most importantly, though, one might think that people looking for a jury consultant may realize that Bull will usually have you arrested right after the verdict. For many, that would be a deciding factor in jury consultant choice.
Is That What Jury Consulting is Like?
In the courtroom, we get to see a little voir dire scene in which Bull wants to see where jurors stand on privacy issues. Bull is a genius, of course, so we know he will come up with the perfect way to get at this issue with subtlety and nuance, right?
Appallingly (so that would be a no?), his attorney asks potential jurors to raise their hands if they like to watch porn and then to raise their hands again if they subscribe to porn websites. They actually make a joke about why these would be ineffective questions when they show one stereotypical “fat internet porn fan” stop himself from raising his hand in front of the others. One might think that genius Bull would be able to think of something other than asking about porn in open court to get at jurors’ views on privacy. Instead, we laugh at a fat guy.
And speaking of laughing at a fat guy, next week will be the season finale and column finale. You are invited to email any last comments, questions and requests, through your tears.