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The Practice

The Practice airs Sunday at 10PM on ABC All times listed are for the Pacific time zone
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Ally McBeal

 

TP-515 "Awakenings"

Doug Salvesen, a litigator at the Boston firm of Yurko & Perry, will tell you if the The Practice still makes perfect.

Archives of The Practice reviews, along with reviews for other legal shows, can be found at FindLaw's Insider Reviews.

February 18, 2001

Awakenings

The writers of The Practice are "baby happy." Ellenor is showing ultrasound pictures of her baby. Rebecca gets lost and finds herself in a maternity ward. And Papa Donnell is carting his baby around gushing that Bobby Jr. is eating like a "hog" (that's an image that I would rather not envision).

Bringing Up Baby

In the central story of this week's show, the father of Ellenor's baby - whom she lovingly refers to as the sperm donor - wants to retain his parental rights with respect to the baby. Ellenor notes that they had a "deal" whereby he gave up all such rights and a "contract is a contract." In fact, the father had signed an agreement giving up all such rights but has changed his mind (apparently, Ellenor didn't call out "no crossies" when he signed the agreement - a common mistake). He files a lawsuit to assert his parental rights and, of course, gets an immediate hearing. In reality, there would be a trial on this issue that would have taken place well after the birth of Ellenor's baby. At this hearing, Ellenor is represented by Jimmy (how does this firm make any money when all they do is represent each other?) who quickly understands, first, that Massachusetts law on this issue is not settled and, second, that a judge is not going to feel bound by such an agreement. Instead, the Court will decide the father's rights based on what is in the bests interests of the child.

In the course of the hearing, Ellenor argues the best interests of the child by attacking the father's character and contending that he is not mature enough to be a caring, loving father. While he had some flaws (and a conviction or two), it seemed to me to be fairly insubstantial stuff when you consider that a California court gave O.J. Simpson custody of his kids. Ellenor also argues that the father is like a sperm donor and should be treated as such.

Interestingly, the father's attorney argues the best interests of the child by citing numerous statistics. These studies allegedly show that a child brought up in a one-parent household is more likely to have a whole lot more problems than a child in a two-parent household. In an actual case, the father's attorney would introduce these statistics through an expert witness - some academic who had actually conducted some of the studies or, at least, was familiar with them in the course of his or her work. Although the first significant case that made use of sociological statistics was the Brown v. Board of Education case, courts remain reluctant to decide the rights of actual parties before it based on statistical surveys - no matter how accurate or predictive they are. As Ellenor points, she is "not a statistic." The Court ultimately agrees and terminates whatever rights the father once had.

Hide and Go Seek with Rebecca

While I was watching The Practice, I began to think that (1) I see religious symbolism everywhere, or (2) I was really tired. Last week, Rebecca was knocked unconscious by a bomb blast. She had been comatose (in other words, dead to the world) for three days. A nurse in the Intensive Care Unit takes Rebecca down to the Radiology Unit for a CAT-scan - where one must be placed in a tomb-like contraption for the CAT-scan. Thereafter, Rebecca appears, miraculously, to have risen up and walked away on her own. See where I am going with this? When Rebecca does "awaken," she finds herself in the newborn nursery unit. She is told by one of the nurses that she has just delivered a baby - which is news to Rebecca because she did not recall conceiving a baby. Luckily for Rebecca, she soon discovers that the nurses had accidentally switched her chart with someone else's, and she has not unexpectedly become a new mother.

Am I reading too much into this? Of course I am (but my Lit professors at college used to eat this stuff up). What else can you do with such an absurd plot? My wife, the maternity ward nurse turned health care educator, swears both that an IC nurse would always be with a comatose patient, so a switch would never happen -and maternity ward nurses always know their patients well enough not to mistake one for another patient in the hospital.

Teaser for Next Week

The last plotline, which is used to set up a future episode, follows Lucy who is called in to handle another rape crisis. This time, it is an eleven-year-old victim who probably is not emotionally stable enough to testify. The child cannot, and does not, participate in a line-up to identify the rapist. (Actually, there are few line-ups these days. Most identifications are done by showing the victim or witness various photographs and having the defendant identified from the array of photographs.) The only witness to the rape is a young woman who appears to be an alcoholic. Will the witness turn up drunk at the trial? Will the child victim be forced to testify? Will a guilty defendant go free? Will Helen Gamble win a case sometime this season? I hope so.

These articles originally appeared on FindLaw (www.findlaw.com)

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Sara Evans
Sara Evans

1. Legal Notice: "The Practice" TM and (or copyright) Fox and its related companies. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, duplication, or distribution in any form is expressly prohibited.; and

2. Disclaimer: This web site, its operators, and any content contained on this site relating to "The Practice" are not authorized by Fox.

Copyright 1998-2001 Arthur Tham arthurtham_misc@pacbell.net All rights reserved.
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