Civil Trials: A Film Illusion?

19 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2017

See all articles by Taunya Lovell Banks

Taunya Lovell Banks

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

Date Written: February 7, 2017


The right to trial in civil cases is enshrined in the United States Constitution* and most state constitutions. Most people, laypersons and legal professionals alike, consider trials an essential component of American democracy. But real life civil trials are disappearing from the American legal landscape. Films, like books designed for consumption by the general public, are cultural documents that embody a society’s attitudes about and views of the law and the legal system. Courtroom films are the most easily recognizable and popular subset of films about law because they provide the stage for an examination of some aspect of a trial — juries, lawyers, litigants, laws or the legal process itself. Some legal commentators contend that legal films have the capacity to teach and encourage film audiences to think more critically about the legal system. But most trial films involve criminal cases. Thus this essay asks whether the distinction between criminal and civil films trials is important when determining the impact of the decline in real-life civil trials on American popular culture and courtroom films in particular.

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. U.S. CONST. amend. VII.

Keywords: Civil Jury Trial, Courtroom Films, Trial Films, Legal Movies, Law Drama, Law and Popular Culture

Suggested Citation

Banks, Taunya Lovell, Civil Trials: A Film Illusion? (February 7, 2017). Fordham Law Review, Forthcoming; U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-1. Available at SSRN:

Taunya Lovell Banks (Contact Author)

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States

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