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The Legal Geeks Use Pop Culture To Teach About The Legal System

Ian Cook, played a Mos Eisley Cantina bartender from "Star Wars" who was a witness at a WonderCon mock trial about discrimination against droids, March 2018.
Courtesy of Joshua Gilliland
Ian Cook, played a Mos Eisley Cantina bartender from "Star Wars" who was a witness at a WonderCon mock trial about discrimination against droids, March 2018.

Group will hold panels and mock trial at Comic-Con

The Legal Geeks Use Pop Culture To Teach About The Legal System
The Legal Geeks Use Pop Culture To Teach About The Legal System GUEST: Josh Gilliland, co-creator, The Legal Geeks

Whatever you think of comic book superheroes or a science fiction space warriors I think we can all agree they cause a lot of havoc. So why are they seldom held accountable for breaking laws disobeying orders or destroying the odd city or two. Well you know the old saying You may be able to run through walls but you can't hide from the law. A panel of real life judges and attorneys will be on panels at this year's Comic Con to settle questions like how accurate was the trial of the publisher. And did Luke Skywalker have a legal obligation to save the galaxy from the first order. It's part of the presentation by the legal geeks and joining me is Josh Gilleland. Cocreator of the legal geeks. Josh welcome to the program. Thank you it's a pleasure to be here. You are an attorney but you are also a proud geek. How did you come up with the idea of combining the two. Fun story so I'm a blogger and I have one blog called boat law which focuses on e-discovery issue. So electronic data. I did a host focusing on a case by a federal magistrate judge out of Washington D.C. and he made a cowboy reference. So I did a post about that opinion with lots of cowboy references to different movies including Blazing Saddles. Because again go big. And another attorney from Wisconsin caught that and we started exchanging messages and Jessica Peterson. And based upon that discussion on Twitter that we had I thought like you know what it could be kind of fun if we actually started a blog where we could talk about these things I pitched it to her. She said like yeah I'm on board. And here we are. This is our sixth year we just had our anniversary last week which I was the you know action figure anniversary and just lots of fun being able to blog about these issues. Now you get other attorneys as you just said and sitting judges to participate in the mock trials You've put on how do you get them to take part in this carefully. So there are a lot of judges who grew up loving Star Wars or comic books. You know the funny thing those of us who spent a lot of time reading and going to the movies grew up and became lawyers and we're now at the age for a lot of those people are now judges as well. Tell us about the case you're putting on at Comic Con this year. So this year this is her second time doing a mock trial at Comic Con. We've done them at comic fest before and we're doing the mock court martial of Poe Cameron and from his actions the last Gerano which arguably he commits an act of insubordination when he turns off his radio in general are gonna says break off your attack and then his entire bomber squadron gets killed along with 3 x wings so that's like twenty seven people who die because he disobeyed an order and then they lose about 375 other people because of his attempted mutiny. We thought this is a great teachable moment to show how would the law handle that if somebody did those things because a lot of people left the movie were scratching their head what would happen. And so pop culture is a wonderful way to discuss how the law works and the law goes together very well with Star Wars like Han and Chewbacca. Now well we have a clip from a case the legal geeks presented at this years Wonder Con. It asked the question Can R2 D2 and C3 pro sue the cantina for discrimination. Here's a clip from the opening statement of the lawyer representing the droids and those. Are. Funny. Well obviously there's preparation that goes into presenting a case like this. What do you do. We analyze the facts. You know there's a wonderful wonderful mantra from an old plaintiff's attorney that's had command over evidence wins cases. And so you take a clip such as the cantinas scene from Star Wars or Po' turning off the radio and you break that down into a fact pattern and then you need create witness statements so that way the people who are playing the characters have a universe that can work off of. I used to for five years I coach high school mock trial so that experience was very useful in coming up with these type of hypotheticals. But we create the fact pattern based upon what we have and in the poke case we did a statement for Laya and for po based off the movie the book and whatever was on Wikipedia being able to fill in any gaps that could be useful to explain the actions that were taken in the movie. Now whether the judges hear these cases the mock trial that they're going to hear Comecon have they already made up their minds or indeed are they the trier of fact in this case they're the triers of fact will do little hybrid approach we thought about impaneling a jury because it is interesting to do that to actually know hear what people say but there isn't enough time for that. What we've done it a comic fest. It's fascinating to watch that what we will do this time is he'll pull the audience to get feedback from them because we want to see how persuasive were the arguments because the case against Poe is really strong. I've seen the defense arguments and they are good the lawyers arguing for Poe. Christine Peake who you heard from McManus Faulkner in San Jose greatly admire her. She's a civil rights attorney a great litigator and she framed the issues wonderfully in that case that we did at Wonder Con with the droids for this one and as you know defending Poe she and Steven Chu. Who is who is an assistant U.S. attorney down here. They've put together a really good defense so I'm interested to see how they do swaying everyone. Now you say that you used pop culture in legal geeks to teach people about the legal system why do you think that pop culture helps teach that lesson. Courts are the form of government. Most people interact with the most you know whether it's a parking ticket marriage and you know positive situations divorce and others. Though those things happen and people end up in court. And when you get a letter from a lawyer most people are scared. I mean like that's the feeling a lot of folks have and it's the reputation that up until recently many people have had about lawyers as well. So being able to show how the legal system works. You know what would happen. Not everything's a trial. No. We've done a couple hearings. So being able to make civics fun and accessible is one of my passions because I love the law and I love pop culture. When you take a pop culture issue people understand the facts. And so being able to say like well this is the rule. This was the issue. Now did the Punisher get a fair trial and then we could start breaking down. Here are the elements of a fair trial. Here's what happened here. Yes now and it works. And it's also fun. Yeah we do sneak learning into our extracurricular activities so yes I've been speaking with Josh Gilleland his legal geeks team will be presenting three panels during Comecon 2018 two on Star Wars on Friday and one on Saturday called Defending the defenders. Josh thank you so much. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

How accurate was the trial of the Punisher? Did Luke Skywalker have a legal obligation to save the galaxy from the First Order? Those questions will be answered by real-life judges and attorneys on panels at Comic-Con this week.

Those panels and a mock trial are being presented by The Legal Geeks at the pop culture convention.

The group uses pop culture as the basis for learning about legal issues and processes.

Josh Gilliland, the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, is a San Jose-based attorney who specializes in electronic discovery.

He said courts are the form of government the general population interacts with the most.

"Whether it's a parking ticket, marriage, in positive situations, divorce in others. Those things happen and people end up in court," he said. "Being able to make civics fun and accessible is one of my passions."

A Star Wars panel and mock trial are scheduled for Friday.

The trial involves the mock court-martial of Poe Dameron from his actions in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

"Which arguably he commits an act of insubordination when he turns off his radio when General Organa says 'break off your attack' and then his entire bomber squadron gets killed along with three X-wings, so that's like 27 people that die because he disobeyed an order and then they lose about 375 other people because of his attempted mutiny," Gilliland said.

A Defending the Defenders panel is scheduled for Saturday.

Gilliland joins Midday Edition Thursday to give us details on what The Legal Geeks will be presenting at Comic-Con.