Thinking about going to law school? Intrigued about the inner workings and finer points of our justice system? Well, you’re in luck because all you need to succeed is probably on TBS or Spike right now. And if it’s not, check back in a couple hours.
That’s right, the 1992 comedy classic My Cousin Vinny is your premium source for all you need to know about what life is like for an attorney in a courtroom. And none other than U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman will corroborate that claim.
Fishman, the keynote speaker at last week’s Governor Brendan T. Byrne annual lecture at Farleigh Dickinson University, told those assembled at a Q&A that along with the 1987 novel Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (later made into a movie starring Harrison Ford), the most compelling, accurate portrayal of the work of a trial lawyer in all the land is none other than the Joe Pesci-led fish-out-of-water laughfest that featured Pesci in a magenta felt suit, Ralph Macchio in his most well-known role not in a Karate Kid movie, the late, great Fred Gwynne as a southern judge who can’t fathom why some New Yorker pronounces the word youth as “ute,” and Marissa Tomei in the role that won her an Oscar.
Describing a scene in which Pesci’s character cross-examines a witness on how long it takes him to prepare grits, Fishman said, “I have taught trial techniques for 15 years using that because his cross (examination) is terrific. Go back and watch it and see. It’s over the top, it’s outrageous, but the way he does it is great.”
Fishman also said that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had been known to name drop the movie as well. As for Fishman’s favorite scene, it’s a good one. But nothing beats Tomei’s intimate knowledge of cars on the witness stand putting Pesci’s case over the top, a scene so memorable that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick even referenced it in a press conference once. That’s some lawyerly stuff.