A Manifesto for Visual Legal Realism

19 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2007


The shift to visual representation and visual advocacy in contemporary legal practice has the potential to introduce an aspect of law that has long been under-represented in academic circles, namely: the aesthetic power to embody legal truth on the screen as a visual enchantment. A stable society agrees upon a shared repertoire of rhetorical moves, "a lexicon of normative action," that it recombines and supplements to meet the needs of changing times. In a visually literate society, these rhetorical moves build upon a visual code that over time is unconsciously assumed. What we see on the screen may appear real, but like the physical act of perception itself, it is, to a significant degree, artificially constructed and incomplete.

It behooves legal advocates and cultural critics alike to understand how we get our visual knowledge from the screen, and what kind of knowledge this is. Only then can the gaps and distortions in such knowledge be consciously confronted and perhaps corrected by other, more accurate sources.

Keywords: law and technology, evidence, legal studies, law and society, cultural legal studies, law and film, law and popular culture, ethics

Suggested Citation

Sherwin, Richard Kenneth, A Manifesto for Visual Legal Realism. Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Vol. 40, 2007, NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07/08-2, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1004307

Richard Kenneth Sherwin (Contact Author)

New York Law School ( email )

185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
United States

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