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One judge takes her precious little pooch with her to the bench. Another decides the merits of cases while talking on his cell phone. A defense attorney breaks down in court and exposes herself to the jury. Another appears to exchange sex with a comely prosecutor for a lighter sentence for his client during a steamy plea negotiation session. Just another day in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas … according to Steven Bochco’s new legal drama, “Philly,” which debuted Tuesday on ABC-TV. The show stars “NYPD Blue” veteran and Roxborough native Kim Delaney as Kathleen Maguire, a criminal defense attorney whose law partner and mentor is shipped off to a sanitarium after a revealing first sequence. With Maguire overextended by the additional caseload, former Public Defender Will Froman (Tom Everett Scott of “That Thing You Do”) seizes the opportunity to become her new partner. The Legal Intelligencer invited four criminal defense attorneys to view the pilot episode at a special screening last week: Jeff Lindy, a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association Board of Governors; Isla Fruchter, public defender and former chairwoman of the bar association’s criminal section; private practitioner Wayne Sachs; and his office suite mate Kathleen Martin. Martin was shadowed for a day earlier this year by series co-creator and head writer Allison Cross. So, much of what Martin saw during the screening was no surprise to her. “They told me the focus would be more on the personal aspects of the characters rather than the legalese,” Martin said. “And Allison Cross does know a lot about the legal community. Her husband is a lawyer. She was looking for tips about Philadelphia and the criminal justice system here. What she did was just exaggerate the reality for entertainment purposes.” The defense attorneys-turned-critics felt that the show captured the chaos of their daily routine. And the production staff produced strikingly authentic replications of City Hall’s stairwells, hallways and courtroom. “You mean that’s not City Hall?” Lindy asked. But those were the only genuine slices of life as a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer. Almost every courtroom in “Philly” is headed by an eccentric judge, complete with oddball behavior that brought uproarious laughter to our panel of expert viewers. Another bone of contention was the lead character’s limited experience when taking into consideration her hefty caseload. In one scene, Delaney is talking with a new client who inquires about how long she has been practicing. “Long enough,” Delaney’s Maguire replies. When the client presses her for specifics, she admits to only being a lawyer for 11 months. “There’s no way that someone with 11 months’ experience would be out on her own, handling a caseload like that,” Fruchter said. “And there’s no way she would talk back to a judge like she did.” While the others were able to view the show as mere entertainment, Sachs said he always has trouble watching legal dramas that deal with the criminal justice system. “I have trouble distancing myself from shows like this, so I rarely watch them because I get upset when I see such unrealistic portrayals,” Sachs said. “I watched “L.A. Law” because it rarely dealt with criminal cases.” Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham is already on record as saying she hopes the show is canceled quickly. That was after she had heard about the scene in which the defense attorney has sex with a prosecutor when the two are sent in to a back room to hammer out a plea agreement. “I rarely agree with Lynne Abraham on anything, but that scene was so demeaning to lawyers in general,” Sachs said. “I think you have to allow for some exaggeration because the main goal of the show is to entertain,” Martin said. “So I was entertained watching the show. But that one scene was a bit too much. It was offensive.” All four said they would watch the show in the future, but only if there is more character development than what was offered in the pilot. And the potential is there with Maguire’s arrogant former husband, Daniel X. Cavenaugh (Kyle Secor), head of the trials unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and their 10-year-old son, Patrick (Scotty Leavenworth). Both appeared only briefly in the first episode. “This is a show where you let yourself go a little bit, get some popcorn and watch it with some friends who are involved in the system,” Lindy said. “You can get a good laugh out of it. This was the hook show. Now that they have everyone in, I’d only continue to watch it if the characters were developed a little more and it was a little more realistic.”

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