In this season's third episode, "The Good Wife" continues to juggle multiple storylines but finds time to showcase some solid legal drama.
As the episode's title suggests, "Dear God" also features a new, spiritual twist to the typical courtroom setting, portraying a slightly dramatized version of an increasingly common real-world form of dispute resolution.
Episode Recap (Spoiler Alert!):
Similar to last week's episode, "Dear God" continues to highlight Alicia's uncertainty regarding Eli's suggestion she run for State's Attorney, publicly denying that she is planning to run despite Eli's not-so-subtle preparations for her campaign. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem appears in an almost deity-like guest role, urging Alicia to run both in person and as an angelic avatar of Alicia's internal desire to accept the challenge.
Alicia and this season's new addition, Taye Diggs as Dean Levine-Wilkins, are also forced to reckon with another deity, when the patent case they are litigating is moved to a so-called "binding Christian arbitration" process. Alicia consults her devout teenage daughter Grace for Biblical precedent for their case, while Dean reveals that he almost became a pastor before deciding on the law after reading "To Kill a Mockingbird." Although Cary is present during the arbitration, his mind is elsewhere as his bond in his ongoing drug case is in danger of being revoked.
By the end of the episode, both Cary's bond issue and the arbitration get settled and perhaps more importantly, Alicia seems to decide to run after being confronted by her would-be opponent in the race, James Castro.
The patent lawsuit that is the subject of the binding Christian arbitration involves a farmer accused of illegally obtaining and replanting patented GMO seeds. The case appears modeled after the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case Bowman v. Monsanto. In that case, the Court ruled that a farmer who had purchased soybeans intended for consumption but instead used them to obtain genetically modified seeds without licensing them from the seeds' patent holder, Monsanto, had committed patent infringement.
The episode's portrayal of two parties whose patent dispute has gone to trial suddenly deciding to move their dispute to arbitration, mid-trial, is the sort of convenient court-show plot device that is very unlikely to ever occur in actual civil litigation.
Although the episode's portrayal of the parties' agreement to enter into arbitration is fictionalized, increasingly civil disputes are being settled by alternative dispute resolution, which includes arbitration and mediation. The rules for an arbitration proceeding can typically be contractually agreed to by the parties, which can allow for faith-based arbitrations such as the one portrayed in this episode.
Rule 804: A witness testifying in the patent case begins to testify (both during the trial, and later during the arbitration) regarding something her deceased husband had told her when defense counsel objects to the testimony as being hearsay -- an out-of-court statement made to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Dean counters that the testimony should come in under "Rule 804," which refers to Rule 804 in the Federal Rules of Evidence, allowing certain statements that would otherwise be hearsay to be admitted if the person who originally said the statement is "unavailable," which includes being dead.
The convenient resolutions in "Dear God" definitely reek of divine intervention, but the acting and writing are solid enough to help even the most devout realist suspend disbelief.
What did you think of this week's episode of "The Good Wife"? Is the show guilty of making any legal mistakes? Check back here for more legal recaps of "The Good Wife," and send us a tweet at @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #TheGoodWife.