It is often said, Ignorance of the law is no excuse. So while there is plenty of information out there about all the TV lawyers you should avoid, namely those from popular police procedurals like Law and Order, L.A. Law, Homicide: Life on the Streets, Matlock…ok, I’m dating myself here, lawyers on TV do go beyond shows that start with “doink doink”.
Let’s take a look at some of the worst television lawyers you’ve never heard of (if you have a life). The ones who slipped through the cracks. The ones that are blinder than Lady Justice and just as absurd.
Gomez Addams, by John Astin (The Addams Family)
The two most important things to have as a member of the Addams family are immortality and a good lawyer. This gothic clan’s penchant for inflicting homicidal horrors upon each other as if they were hugs is evidence enough that they have invulnerability locked down, but how do they keep their indestructible selves out of lockdown? Well, while we don’t ever see him defending his own kin, petrifying patriarch Gomez Addams is actually a practicing lawyer! Gomez brags about having put many criminals behind bars, which is an obvious, but not a particularly obnoxious boast…until you note that he is a defense attorney. This might explain why he was voted by his fellow prospective legal eagles voted him “Most Likely to Never Pass the Bar” in law school. Unfortunately for his clients, unless Gomez is appearing in court without a license, it would seem they were incorrect.
Kovat, by Fritz Weaver (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
When Chief O’Brien is ambushed on route to a vacation with his always-annoyed wife, arrested, tortured, and imprisoned on the Cardassian homeworld, things look pretty bleak for our favorite Irish engineer, especially when one remembers that trials on Cardassia Prime begin with a per-determined verdict of “guilty”. A silver lining seems to appear on the edge of this absurd alien legal circus, as the Chief is assigned Cardassia’s most famous defender, Kovat, but his hopes for freedom are short-lived, as it is revealed that Kovat has never won a case and only facilitates the prosecution of his clients in a most efficient and entertaining way. Kovat’s losing streak comes to an end when, against his objections, Odo and Commander Sisko introduce new evidence proving O’Brien to be innocent.
Lilah Morgan, by Stephanie Romanov (Angel)
For a young lawyer, impressing the senior partners of the firm to which you pledge loyalty can seem like a matter of life and death. For Lilah Morgan and the other folks at Wolfram and Hart, it literally is a matter of life and death, seeing as the senior partners are apocalyptic demons from Hell. The occupational hazards of working for such a firm hardly seem worth whatever worldly and supernatural compensation is offered as retainer, but knowing that the bosses can and will be the ones ripping out your throat allows one to give them a wide berth. For a human, and a lawyer, Lilah is especially devious and, in a surprising turn of events, directly causes one of the most gruesome creatures in the show’s run to be released, causing her direct harm, and losing favor at her firm. Morgan tortures one of the show’s few truly defenseless characters in order to blackmail soulful vampire Angel into releasing a boy named Billy from a Hell dimension. Sounds pretty benign, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, Billy is a half-demon misogynist (the second part seems worse), who convinces one of Lilah’s co-workers to commit one of the show’s most disturbing assaults. Lilah, holed up in her apartment, tells Angel that she won’t help him send Billy back to Hell, out of loyalty to her firm.
Romo Lampkin, by Mark Sheppard (Battlestar Galactica)
If you haven’t seen the finale of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, you may ask if it is fair to compare the mysteriously alien Colonial laws to our own. How can they be related at all? Well, fire up that last episode, and get ready to be really annoyed because, among other reasons, they are (spoiler alert).
When the human race dwindles down to a number smaller than can fit in the most modest sports arena, it is not surprising that the few lawyers left are under constant threat of unfortunate accidents and assassination. When, after what must have been his seventh or eighth act of capital treason against the whole of humanity, series villain Gaius Baltar is finally put on trial for his misdeeds, his defense counsel soon finds itself at the business-end of a big bomb. New representation is needed and Romo Lampkin is assigned the case. After an emotionally stirring opening by the prosecution, Lampkin’s first move is to actually change Baltar’s plea to “Guilty”, after the trial has begun. On Earth, a lawyer can’t change a plea without consent from the accused, but they haven’t found Earth yet, so I guess this one can slide. Next Lampkin enlists the aid of Leland Adama, Admiral Adama’s son, noted hater of Gaius Baltar, and general not-lawyer. “Apollo” has had an interest in law since he was a child, but if that made somebody qualified, I would still be pursuing my boyhood dream job of Astronaut Ninja Chef. With little more than his grandfather’s law notes, Lee joins the defense and but minutes after “suiting up”, is called to take the stand by Romo Lampkin! Lee gives an impassioned speech, asking for straight-up jury nullification, while Lampkin continues to milk an injury he received earlier in the trial from another failed assassination attempt. Even for a civilization starved for entertainment, this trial is a bit much. The worst part of all this? It works and Baltar walks, able to continue his constant betrayal of the last remnants of the human race, and Lampkin is soon after elected President of the Twelve Colonies.
Leland Palmer, by Ray Wise (Twin Peaks)
What is it with guys named Leland? You might have forgotten that Leland Palmer was a lawyer, after all, as he has only one client: the most evil person in Twin Peaks (a town full of them), Ben Horne. Leland doesn’t practice much law during the show’s run, as he becomes mentally unhinged after learning of his daughter Laura’s brutal murder minutes into the show’s first episode, and becomes progressively crazier throughout Twin Peak’s only two seasons. During this epic nervous breakdown, piles of suspicion are rightfully heaped onto Leland’s only client. Mr. Horne, it would seem, had the motive, opportunity, and means to commit the murder of Laura Palmer, the town’s golden girl, and also had numerous shady dealings and questionable quirks exposed during FBI Agent Cooper’s investigation; an investigation that a sane lawyer, aka anyone other than Leland Palmer, would’ve avoided and/or put a stop to. It’s hard to blame Leland for being such a bad lawyer, as he was obviously so deeply disturbed by his daughter’s murder that he went into Lynch-level hysterics. That is, until you find out that it was Leland who killed his daughter, having molested her for years, all the while possessed by an evil entity known as BOB. Spoiler alert! Sorry about that, I was distracted by my inability to trust my television set ever again. Thanks, David Lynch!
Mike Monroe, by Anthony Edwards (Northern Exposure)
Lawyer Mike Monroe moves to Cicely, Alaska to escape his extreme allergic reaction to, well, everything. He’s known as the Bubble Man due to his permanent residence in a plastic bubble to hide from the contaminants that found their way even up to the Great White North. His condition, or phobia, as it increasingly seemed to be, stopped Mike from practicing any law at all, until friendship and kindness “cured” Mike of his allergies, at which time he immediately abandoned the community that liberated him from the bubble and joined the crew of a Green Peace ship. Though Mike didn’t practice much law in Cicely, it would seem that any lawyer, bad or good, would’ve been able to find someone to sue. Living in the 80’s, at a time when chemical and pharmaceutical companies were just beginning to become the economic leviathans that currently crush the common man under their capitalist cleats, Mike could’ve lived in a domed city, populated only by himself and immaculate gynoid robots who would dispense love, affection, and hand sanitizer from their every orifice.
In TV land, bad lawyers flout the law, etiquette, logic, and even common human decency (and/or mortality). They are so bad that they can only be the work of fiction, thankfully. But you know what? They seem to win an awful lot. If you find yourself in legal trouble in deep space, among demons and supernatural creatures, or in the American Northwest, you could do worse than to be represented by the lawyers on this list. But not by a lot, so keep your nose clean, ok?