I've watched the first two episodes of ABC's "Scandal" now, which is about a D.C. fix-it firm headed by Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington). She's a lawyer and DC insider who left the White House on her own, due to romantic entanglement with the still-married President. The show has taken great pains to have Pope emphasize that they are lawyers, but they aren't practicing law. Instead, they help powerful people manage scandals.
In the second episode, the two storylines, which invariably converge, involve a Tenth Circuit judge who's just been nominated to the Supreme Court but has an uncovered dark secret, and a DC madam who's facing prosecution. The local US Attorney badly wants to get his hands on her client list. You can guess who's on the client list. . . .
Anyway, it held my attention -- enough to keep a season pass on my TiVo -- but the attention paid to the accuracy of the legal issues was absurdly bad.
1) At one point, the US Attorney shows up at Pope's office to arrest her client. She keeps him away by asking if he had an arrest warrant, which he conceded he did not. But there's no need in general for an arrest warrant, unless you're arresting someone in his or her own house. See U.S. v. Watson, 423 US 411 (1976); Payton v. New York (1980). This one I can let pass because it's sort of inside baseball for lawyers.
2) In the very beginning of the episode, introducing the Tenth Circuit judge, a TV broadcaster referred to him as "Tenth Circuit Justice Keating." People who sit on the Tenth Circuit are "judges" not "justices." I saw an oral argument once where a lawyer inadvertently referred to a circuit judge as "justice" and the judge made fun of the lawyer for having promoted the judges. Again, this is not that big of a deal, especially since one could always argue that it was the TV broadcaster who messed up (i.e., the writers did this intentionally).
3) At another point, the U.S. Attorney shows up at Pope's office to serve a subpoena on her for the client list. The U.S. Attorney is going to serve a subpoena? Really? That would be like having the CFO of a corporation personally delivering annual reports to shareholders.
4) Speaking of the U.S. Attorney, at yet another point, Pope makes a comment to him that he was angling for an appointment to be Attorney General in the next Democratic administration. This makes ZERO sense. The writers have made clear that the current President is a Republican (which, by the way, raises the question, is Olivia a Republican as well, since she previously worked in his White House?). U.S. Attorneys are appointed positions, and they are pretty much aligned with the President. When Bill Clinton assumed office in January 1993, he immediately fired EVERY U.S. Attorney so that he could appoint his own. So the U.S. Attorney here is assuredly a Republican. Why would he expect to be appointed AG by a Democratic President? That makes no sense.
5) Speaking of making no sense, if Judge Keating is such a perfect jurist -- non-partisan, reflective, scholarly, etc. -- there would be no reason for the Democratic Senators to oppose confirming him. If they did manage to "Bork" him with the prostitution incident (which it turns out isn't even about him, only his wife), the next appointee could be more more ideologically conservative.
6) Um . . . Pope may say they're lawyers but they aren't practicing law, except there's a scene that sure looks like her colleague (Desmond from "Lost") was practicing law in a courtroom. Moreover, she's constantly talking about her clients and claiming lawyerly privileges and things. Yet, she has a massive conflict of interest in representing the D.C. Madam on the one hand (and seeking to protect the list and all that), and blabbing about Keating's presence on the list to the President on the other hand. Moreover, she actually starts working toward helping Keating even though that may be to the detriment of her client!
7) Finally, the resolution of both cases involves going to the clients on the list, who are mostly powerful DC insiders, and letting them know how important it was that the case against the DC madam go away, as well as supporting Judge Keating's nomination. Sure looks like she's blackmailing the various Congressmen. It's true that the state bars are pretty lame about going after lawyer misconduct, but I have a hard time believing she'd remain a lawyer after pulling a stunt like that.