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Cinema of Law 2014

Welcome to the Cinema of Law 2014

Films about the law will be shown in the auditorium of the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield again this year on Tuesdays in March. The series is co-sponsored by the Berkshire Bar Association, the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum and the Berkshire Law Library. Presentations begin at 6 p.m. and the movies follow.

March 4   A Civil Action  (1998) 
Chris Dodig, speaker

Based on a book by Western Mass. author Jonathan Harr, the film details a class-action court case involving the chemical pollution of an aquifer in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Film critic Roger Ebert says about this film: “ ‘Civil Action’ is like John Grisham for grownups. Watching it, we realize that Grisham's lawyers are romanticized hotshots living in a cowboy universe with John Wayne values. The real world of the law, this movie argues, has less to do with justice than with strategy and doesn't necessarily arrive at truth. The law is about who wins, not about who should win. For the facts, read the book or study the case; the movie is more concerned with how the law works, and how perhaps the last thing you want is a lawyer who is committed heart and soul to your cause. What you want is a superb technician.”

Chris Dodigis the current President of the Berkshire Bar Association and an attorney and partner of the law firm of Donovan & O’Connor, LLP. He graduated from the Albany Law School in 1990.  The majority of his law practice is devoted to personal  injury and wrongful death cases.


March 11   Class Action   (1991)
David Murphy, speaker

Gene Hackman stars as the lawyer for the injured lead plaintiff in a class action personal injury case against an automobile company.

The central issue of the trial in the film Class Action is reminiscent of the defect in the Ford Pinto in the late 1970s that caused its gas tank to explode upon rear impact, due to bolts protruding from the car’s differential.  Ford Motor Company had known about the problem, but decided not to implement a design change that would have prevented deaths, because a cost/benefit analysis showed that it was cheaper to pay for court costs and damages related to injuries than to fix the design. The case calls into question the ethics of using a cost/benefit analysis where human life is concerned.   

David Murphy is a Managing Partner of Katz, Murphy & Greenwald, a law firm in Pittsfield.  He graduated from Boston College in 1976 and New England School of Law cum laude in 1983.  His general practice concentrates in civil litigation, personal injury law, divorce, real estate and probate. 


March 18   The Other Side of Immigration (2009) 
Joseph Best, speaker

A documentary about the conditions encouraging illegal immigration, this film presents the economic and political reasons for the illegal immigration of Mexican workers to the U.S.

The Other Side of Immigration is a documentary based on interviews with men and women in the Mexican countryside. The film explores why so many people leave small Mexican towns to work in the United States and what happens to the families and communities they leave behind. By understanding ‘the other side’ of the story, we’ll begin to think about new and more creative ways that the U.S. and Mexican governments can work together to develop new solutions."

Joseph E. Best is an immigration and family law attorney, and managing partner of the law firm Best & Associates, LLP. He earned his law degree from Villanova University School of Law in 2008.  In addition to practicing law, he has worked as a community AIDS activist, and in antique importing, real estate sales of historic properties and business management consulting. 

March 25   The Rainmaker   (1997)
Buffy Lord, speaker

Based on a book by John Grisham, this is a film about a young man with leukemia who is denied coverage by his insurance company for a life-saving bone marrow transplant. 

Grisham has said that he feels that The Rainmaker is the best adaptation of any of his books. The character in the story representing the plaintiff is Rudy Baylor, a newly graduated lawyer from an abusive home in a slum. The Rainmaker raises the specter of Rudy’s disillusionment with the justice system, and the ability of the unscrupulous and powerful to manipulate the system for personal gain. This film is directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

Buffy Lord is an attorney working for the firm Donovan and O’Connor.  She graduated from Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.