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'The Good Wife': Good Law? - Season 6, Episode 12

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on January 12, 2015 2:55 PM

What happens when an episode of "The Good Wife" begins with on-screen disclaimers? In this case, you get a "ripped-from-the-headlines" subplot that (a) threatens to derail Alicia's latest campaign event (a televised debate) and (b) overshadows the few moments of actual legal drama.

Here's what you need to know from last night's episode, entitled "The Debate":

Episode Recap (Spoiler Alert!):

As Alicia prepares for a debate against Frank Prady (played by David Hyde Pierce), subplots unfold: A reporter has pictures of Peter Florrick with Ramona, longtime client Neil Gross isn't happy about his divorce negotiation, and there's a grand jury decision due any minute about the death of an unarmed black man during a scuffle with police.

The Good Wife: Good Law?

Season 6, Episode 12
"The Debate"

Legal References:


More Legal Analysis of CBS' "The Good Wife":

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The grand jury news pre-empts the debate, but Alicia and Frank engage in an impromptu debate in the venue's kitchen about their plans if elected. Just before Peter addresses a crowd protesting the grand jury decision, he dumps Ramona.

Back at Florrick Agos & Lockhart, Diane celebrates Cary's return to work, then intervenes when Neil Gross' divorce talks hit a snag. In the end, Neil is forced to pay much more than the $15 million he'd hoped for, and angrily fires the firm. David Lee, who was representing Neil's wife, accepts Diane and Cary's offer to join the firm. This surprises and upsets Alicia when she returns to the office from the canceled debate.

Legal Roots:

There are multiple references to the events in Ferguson, Missouri; the first disclaimer even explains that "This episode was written and filmed prior to the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island." The cellphone video seen in the episode is similar to video of Eric Garner's "chokehold" death on Staten Island last summer. However, aside from using this as a "ripped-from-the-headlines" subplot, the episode did not offer any legal insight into those incidents.

Legal Fiction:

Alicia is upset that she wasn't consulted about David Lee joining the firm -- and that's pretty much how the episode ends, with Alicia being frustrated with Diane and Cary. This is likely a setup for more drama later on -- though in reality, having partners go behind another partner's back could lead to legal consequences; at the very least, it's something that needs to be addressed right then and there.

Legal Fact:

Neil Gross' divorce negotiation shows how, even with a prenup in place, it's wise for each spouse to have his or her own lawyer to hammer out the specifics of how marital assets will be split.

Legal Babble:

Noncompete: Corporate noncompete agreements typically bar an employee from working with a business' competitors. In this episode, it's claimed that Neil Gross' wife was sleeping with someone who worked at a ChumHum competitor, which violated her noncompete agreement.

The Verdict:

Despite some commentary about the Ferguson incident and how best to fix "the system," this episode didn't offer much in terms of legal insight. The real winner of the Florrick/Prady debate was MSNBC's Chris Matthews, whose larger (and louder)-than-life cameos stole the show.

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.

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