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  • Writer's pictureKevin Huffman

Respect for Authority? Well...

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

I don't want you to think that I don't have respect for authority. But sometimes in this world of documentary making, a healthy disrespect for authority comes in handy. It's how you get behind the scenes and bear witness -- and eventually call attention to injustice.

I grew up in a working class neighborhood of first and second generation immigrants who were taught to obey the laws, listen to their bosses, listen to their priests, pay attention to teachers and generally. don't rock the boat. It worked for my parents, but didn't make sense to me. There were too many things going wrong in all of those areas -- jobs were being lost, churches were hollow and corrupt, schools were becoming factories.

What does this have to do with a doc series about young lawyers? Well, I saw many of these lawyers, especially the one's from Brooklyn Law, hold on to their idealism while fighting the constraints of courtroom procedure, case law and precedent. They got into law to change things in this country and witnessing them learning how to make change in well-argued increments and never lose sight of the bigger picture, just warms my heart.

It reminded me of my struggles with the constraints of working for a news network -- at CNN, for instance, the first answer to any question was "no." At CBS and NBC, there was a not so subtle reluctance to do story about people of color or a controversial topic - just keep to the safe stuff that gets ratings. So, I learned to make small incremental changes and insert messages into every story that subverted the system. Eventually I moved away from that world to find a home in independent film and now, audio production where I can be more forthright.

I'd make a terrible lawyer because there is something inside of me that bristles at constraints. I would certainly be kicked out of court for arguing with the judge. But these students have learned to use the legal system to achieve social change one decision at a time. Yes, there is, occasionally, large sweeping civil rights legislation, but it usually comes after hard working lawyers make steady, incremental change in a courtroom.. And that involves learning how to work within the system and working the system.

So, as Tony Serra says, be a radical lawyer! Fight, get in their face. But don't get kicked out of court if you can help it. Stay in the fight.

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