The Popular Prosecutor: Mr. District Attorney and the Television Stars of American Law

Ross E. Davies

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty; The Green Bag

October 24, 2012

Green Bag 2d, Vol. 16, No. 1, Autumn 2012, pp. 61-68
George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 12-72

What follows at pages 69-108 is the second installment of Mr. District Attorney on the Job (1941) – the only book of adventures of the fictional prosecutor who starred on radio from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. (He was known only as “Mr. District Attorney” until 1952, when he also became “Paul Garrett.”) He was tremendously popular with the listening public in those days, as leading modern scholars of law and popular culture have noted. Yet, unlike the heroes of some other golden-age radio dramas – Perry Mason, for example, or Joe Friday of Dragnet – Mr. District Attorney did not successfully transition to television. Moreover, in the years since television superseded radio, other fictional lawyers have come to the fore on-screen – Arnie Becker (of L.A. Law), Patty Hewes (of Damages), Charles Kingsfield (of The Paper Chase), Ben Matlock, Ally McBeal, Jack McCoy (of Law & Order), Horace Rumpole (of the Bailey), and the like. Thus, having survived and not thrived for only a few years on television, Mr. District Attorney has been largely forgotten and is today no more than a radio fossil. His place in the minds of lawyers has been taken over by the moderns. Or has it? Who are, really, the fictional television lawyers whose presence in our legal culture is so significant that it translates into appearances in the works of judges, practitioners, and legal scholars? The numbers presented on the following pages are not sufficient on their own to support unassailable answers to those questions, but they might be enough to prompt some preliminary thoughts. [NOTE: For a copy of the story referred to in this article (pages 69-108), please contact the author.]

Number of Pages in PDF File: 11

Keywords: 25 Greatest Legal TV Shows, ABA Journal, Amy Klobuchar, Bobby Donnell, Boston Legal, briefs, David Ray Papke, Defenders, Denny Crane, Hamilton Burger, Harry Stone, Jack McCoy, Lawrence Preston, literature, Night Court, order, Paul Drake, Practice, review, Robert Morgenthau, Sonia Sotomayor, Westlaw

JEL Classification: A20, C15, C80, C93, D01, D03, D23, D71, D72, D80, D81, D83, D87, K00, K2, K21, K23, K40

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Date posted: October 27, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Davies, Ross E., The Popular Prosecutor: Mr. District Attorney and the Television Stars of American Law (October 24, 2012). George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 12-72; George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 12-72. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2166549

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Ross E. Davies (Contact Author)
George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )
3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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The Green Bag ( email )
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