The Civil Action (1988) is film that based on a true story of an environmental lawsuit, which took place in Woburn, Mass. In this movie, Jan Schlittman, a personal injury lawyer, agrees to represent a group of families whose children died from leukemia after a large corporation carelessly deposed toxic chemicals damaged the water supply for Woburn, Mass. This case becomes Jan’s obsession, even to the extent that he is willing to give up everything. When we look at the case in ethical way, we can find several individuals and entities acting unethically. In this paper, we are going to discuss three unethical activities and entity occurred in the movie, including the ways local tanneries deposed toxic chemicals, and try to cover it after the lawsuit has been filed; the defendant attorney’s behaviors throughout the movie; the judge’s position in the case.
First unethical activity is the ways local tanneries ...view middle of the document...
In the movie, the defendant attorney tries to give Jan Schlittman an offer to settle the case twice, before the trial and during jury deliberation. These offers clearly show that he know his clients were wrong. Therefore, by taking this client, he is ethically wrong. Also, the movie has shows some scenes about how the defendant attorney teaches in the law school. In his class, he stated that it does not matter if the other party is right or wrong, you should objected. He said, “The most important thing in the court room is not the true, is objection… best evidence? Objection… if you fall asleep during the court session, the first thing you say when you wake up is objection…” This is absolutely unethical. As a professor, his words will put significant influence to his students, in this case, the negative influence. It might not cause any problem now. However, he is creating a good number of unethical lawyers in the future.
The last unethical activity is the judge’s position in the case. In general, basic rule or requirement of judge is to be fair with any parties, plaintiff and defendant, and take no bias or personal assumption on neither side. However, in this case, by the conversation between the judge and the defendant attorney, it clearly shows that the judge is in favor of defendant because the defendant attorney seems to be one of his best friends. In my point of view, the judge should report this situation to his supervisor or upper level, and resign himself from the case to avoid the interest of conflict, and be fair to both parties. However, the judge did not take any appropriate action to avoid the interest of conflict. This is a model of unethical behaviors.
In short, the three unethical activities that we discussed in this paper are only few examples from the movie. Overall, this movie is a good example to show us that unethical activity or behavior in real life situation. Let us know that unethical activity or behavior happening anywhere, anytime, and all around us, sometime even we will face a situation that we will need to make an ethical discussion. Therefore, we should think twice before we make any discussion or action because we are responsible for it.