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Magical Legalism:

Someone suggested the name "magical legalism" for stories about law or lawyers that are basically set in the real world but with some magical or fantastic twist. (If you're that "someone," e-mail me, and I'll update the post to give you credit.)

Can anyone point me to examples of this genre, in which I suppose my The Love Charm would fit? One classic example, I suppose, is The Devil and Daniel Webster. Any others?

I'm enabling comments, so please post the answers there rather than e-mailing me. Thanks!

Joshua Macy:
Elf Defense, by Esther Friesner, a novel about a Connecticut divorce lawyer taking on as a client a woman fleeing from the King of the Elves.
1.18.2005 5:19pm
Michael (mail):
Liar Liar (1997) was about a lawyer who becomes physically unable to lie (or even conceal the truth) and the effects it has on his personal and professional life.

Honest Lawyer: Your honor, I object!
Judge: Why?
Honest Lawyer: Because it's devastating to my case!
Judge: Overruled.
Honest Lawyer: Good call!
1.18.2005 5:19pm
Ian (www):
Miracle on 34th Street comes to mind.
1.18.2005 5:24pm
Sean O'Hara (mail):
There's the TV series Angel, in which the lawyers of Wolfram &Hart provided legal cover for creatures of the night. Believe me, you don't want to anger their senior partners.
1.18.2005 5:37pm
Ralph:
Devil's Advocate with Al Pacino and Keeanu Reeves was about a trial lawyer's interaction with the devil.
1.18.2005 5:41pm
jw (mail) (www):


One suggestion - that movie with a slightly over-the-top performance by Al Pacino, "Devil's Advocate", wherein Pacino plays Satan whom is disguised as New York based corporate lawyer named John Milton. Milton, who is obviously aware of the problems of medical malpractice lawsuits, proclaims that lawyers are his Army of Darkness.

"We're coming ouuuuttt!"
1.18.2005 5:45pm
Juliean (mail):
More law enforcement than actual law, but there is a lot of discussion of warrants and environmental law in a fantasy universe:

Case of the Toxic Spelldump, by Harry Turtledove
1.18.2005 5:46pm
jw (mail) (www):

Another suggestions - NBC`s Law and Order. Though this is simply a show about Police and District Attorney`s prosecuting criminals, the show does contain a `fantastic twist`, that being, on the show sometimes justice is actually done.
1.18.2005 5:50pm
ohwilleke:
Dime Store Magic, by Kelley Armstrong. This is the story of a custody fight waged between a soccerer who is a natural father and a witch who was appointed as a guardian by the natural mother. The setting is the contemporary United States and a considerable part of the action is played out in the ordinary legal system. Soccerer's in this world mostly have day jobs as corporate executives and lawyers.
1.18.2005 5:56pm
ohwilleke:
The movie Daredevil, and the comic book series of the same name, describes the life of a not very successful blind plaintiffs/criminal defense lawyer whose accute sense of hearing allows him to know when people are telling the truth or not. When the jury makes a mistake, he uses his "sonar" and special tools to secure vigilante justice.
1.18.2005 6:01pm
ohwilleke:
American Empire:Blood and Iron, by Harry Turtledove, features a recent Northwestern University law school graduate who goes to Canada (which is under military occupation by the United States) to practice territorial/occupation law, the sort of practice an ambitious young lawyer might go to Iraq today to practice. It is set at the turn of the century in an alternate history of North America.
1.18.2005 6:11pm
ohwilleke:
Debt of Honor, by Tom Clancy, involves as a central story line, a product liability suit aimed at a Japanese manufacturer that explodes into an international political incident; the sequel, Executive Orders, has an interesting legal subplot pertaining to succession to the Presidency in a situation where most of the Congress and cabinet are killed in a terrorist attack.
1.18.2005 6:18pm
Jonathan Dresner (mail) (www):
There's a huge literature of fantasy contract law: Deals with Devils. Two examples which come to mind include Heinlein's "Magic, Inc." (I think there's an actually lawyer in there, as well, though it's been a while) and Niven's short story.... the title of which escapes me at the moment but it's something like "vanishing point"
1.18.2005 6:18pm
Doug Sundseth (mail):
Magic, Inc. (see "Waldo and Magic, Inc., Robert A. Heinlein) is good, involving an attempt by the devil to influence the state legislature to change the laws regulating magic.

Also, you might try the Lord Darcy stories, by Randall Garrett. They're detective stories, but address questions of proof in a magical universe.
1.18.2005 6:40pm
pete (mail) (www):
There is also the Simpsons halloween episode based on The Devil and Daniel Webster where Lionel Hutz defends Homer from the devil after Homer sells his soul for a donut. After pointing out that Homer gave his soul to Marge when they married the jury rules that the soul is legally the property of Marge.

Also in the Harry Potter books several people including Potter are put on trial for various magical offences.
1.18.2005 6:56pm
Jerry:
There is of course always Wolff &Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre. Very funny. Might be a bit too far for magical legalism, though.
1.18.2005 7:51pm
Ashley Doherty:
Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute" is, inter alia, a fantastic story about a child custody case and what today are called "fathers' rights."
1.18.2005 7:53pm
Dan Goodman (mail) (www):
The Larry Niven story Jonathan Dresner is thinking of is probably "Convergent Series."

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Stephen Vincent Benet's "The Devil and Daniel Webster."

James Blish's novel Black Easter.
1.18.2005 8:22pm
Dan Goodman (mail) (www):
Argh -- "The Devil and Daniel Webster" was mentioned before the comments began! I need more tea before I comment!

Benet's "Daniel Webster and the Sea Serpent" may also be in this category; I haven't seen it.

Manly Wade Wellman, "The Shonokins". Shonokins are the original inhabitants of the Americas; among other oddities, all of them are male. They want their property back.

Arthur Porges, "The Devil and Simon Flagg."

Isaac Asimov, "The Brazen Locked Room."

I wish I could remember title and author of a 1960s story in which the only survivors of WW III are a group of Satanists. One of them sells his soul to an angel.
1.18.2005 8:36pm
Sean O'Hara (mail):
Little known fact -- Law and Order is set in the same universe as The X-Files. It's true! Richard Belzer played the character of John Munch in both series, along with Homicide: Life on the Street. And since Mulder and Scully appeared as characters in The Simpsons....
1.18.2005 8:48pm
owlish (mail) (www):
Stealing the Elf-King's Roses by Diane Duane is partially set in the real world, although it may be more fantastic than you are looking for. Justice is directly invoked in the courtroom, and carries out the sentence.
1.18.2005 11:04pm
Fred Vincy (www):
How about Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, where Frankenstein allows the family maid to be tried and executed for his creation's crime?
1.18.2005 11:21pm
Will Malverson:
"Legal Rites" by Isaac Asimov is about a ghost that sues for the right to haunt a house.
1.18.2005 11:46pm
Eric Jablow (mail):
Charles Harness has written a number of law-based sf and fantasy stories. A couple I remember from 1980s Analog magazine was The Venetian Court and H-Tec.

Frank Herbert wrote The Dosadi Experiment, which ended in an unusual trial.

Cordwainer Smith [Paul Linebarger], in his Instrumentality of Mankind stories, wrote a few set around trials. See Drunkboat, though that seems more like canon law then secular law.

Certainly Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll [Charles Dodgson] is worthy of mention. It's even been referred to in legal briefs.
See the book Judgment at Berlin, about a US judge summoned to Berlin to preside over a hijacking case in the early 80s for an example.
1.19.2005 12:56am
Evelyn:
Kafka goes without saying, and obviously Bleak House has elements of the fantastical (the spontaneous combustion scene); if memory serves, there's a great farcical trial scene in Gombrowicz' Ferdydurke. And there's a Kleist story whose title I can't remember ... anyone?
1.19.2005 3:57am
Jeff Boulier (mail) (www):
In the thirteenth-century Icelandic Njal's Saga, Njal was

[S]o well versed in the law that he had no equal, and he was wise and prophetic, sound of advice and well-intentioned, and whatever course of action he counselled turned out well.

It's a great read. Everytime someone gets whacked, there's lawsuit for wrongful death.

I reccommend the "Penguin Classics" version translated by Robert Cook.
1.19.2005 3:57am
Eric Muller (mail) (www):
Eugene, I can't remember the title, but there's a wonderful story about a White House Counsel who endorses torture and calls the Geneva Conventions "quaint," and then -- and this is the magical and fantastic twist -- gets confirmed as Attorney General of the United States! Really!
1.19.2005 10:10am
Gary (mail):
It's 90% pure fantasy, but Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos has a small amount of legal procedure and police action in a magical USA.
1.19.2005 1:09pm
JimH (mail):
There are several (original) Star Trek episodes set in the courtroom and in which specific points of law are key to the development of the story: Spock's courtmartial, Kirk's courtmartial...
..and some in which a trial takes place, but not critical to the story: "Space Seed" (Khan's 1st appearance)
1.19.2005 1:19pm
Brian O'Connell (www):
Each of the Star Trek series had courtroom drama episodes. Possibly the best was "Measure of a Man" from The Next Generation, where the android Data's status as a person was determined.
1.19.2005 3:09pm
ZM Ward (mail):
"The Master and Margarita," is of course a classic. Deals with the trial of Christ and the Devil's influence on some Russian folks. It's been a while since I read the book, but it is wonderful.
1.19.2005 4:39pm
Syd (mail):
One of H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy books has a trial to determine an alien species' sapience.
1.19.2005 4:58pm
Syd (mail):
The (really bad) Burt Reynolds Movie "Skullduggery" has a trial to determine the legal-rights of a semi-human tribe.
1.19.2005 5:10pm
Alan (mail):
There's an episode of the original Outter Limits called "I, Robot" (no relation to the Asimov story or Will Smith movie of the same name) where a robot is on trial for murder.
1.19.2005 7:15pm
Dan Fox (mail):
How about Dracula? Jonathan Harker, who narrates the first part of the book, is a solicitor. His firm sends him to Castle Dracula to do a real-estate transaction with the Count. There he learns that lawyers are relative amateurs when it comes to bloodsucking.
1.19.2005 10:05pm
Dan Fox (mail):

Come to think of it, one of the main characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is Utterson, Jekyll's lawyer. And Jekyll's will -- holographic, because Utterson refuses to draft it -- provides a minor plot point.
1.19.2005 10:26pm
Dastardly Dan:
The film 'A Matter of Life and Death' (1946) with David Niven, Kim Hunter and Richard Attenborough, about a British wartime aviator who cheats death, then must argue for his life before a celestial court.
1.20.2005 8:05am
PhotoLex (mail):
There was another Asimov story about a bank robber, a Mr. Stein, who zapped himself 7 years and one day into the future to bypass the statute of limitations. The prosecution argued that since he hadn't aged 7 years, the limitations didn't apply. The defense argued that seven years had elapsed since the crime, so the defendant was no long prosecutable.

The judge ruled (please forgive Issac for this one...)"A niche in time saves Stein."
1.20.2005 10:07am
cathyf:
Well there is the rather obvious recent liturature, The Thornburgh Report, which claims that it can't be known whether the Killian "memos" are fake. The only way that the Killian "memos" are not fake is if Jerry Killian had magical powers.

cathy :-)
1.20.2005 11:17am
Joshua Elder (mail):
Someone already mentioned Daredevil, but there are a few other comic book characters who practice law when they're not out battling the forces of evil. Marvel's She-Hulk (a cousin of Bruce Banner who gained Hulk powers through a blood transfusion) works at a law firm that specializes in "superhuman law". In the pages of her most excellent series she's helped Spider-Man sue the Daily Bugle for libel, persuaded a judge to let a ghost testify at his own murder trial and defended a superhero (the demigod Hercules, actually) in a civil suit filed by a supervillain for use of excessive force.

Another currently ongoing comic series set in the DC Universe called "Manhunter" stars a frustrated DA who hunts down and kills the supervillains who routinely manage to escape justice by way of manipulating the law.

Another great comic series that dealt with "fantasy law" is "Top 10" by the legendary Alan Moore. It was a cop drama set in a town populated entirely by superfolk called Neopolis. Defense lawyers from the law firm of Fischmann (a humanoid shark), Goebbels (I'm guessing some kind of Nazi) and Metavac (a brain in a jar) all make frequent appearances.

Hope that helps.
1.20.2005 3:01pm