Film / ...And Justice for All

Judge Rayford: Mr. Kirkland, you are out of order!
Arthur Kirkland: YOU'RE out of order! YOU'RE out of order! The whole TRIAL is out of order! THEY'RE out of order!

A 1979 courtroom drama directed by Norman Jewison, starring Al Pacino and John Forsythe.

Arthur Kirkland (Pacino), a very moral public defender in Baltimore, is growing sick of all the evils inherent in the justice system.

One of his clients is a man wrongly imprisoned due to a name mix up and frame job, and whom the Jerkass Judge Henry T. Fleming (Forsythe) won't release due to a minor technicality. A close friend has a mental breakdown when a client murders again after being acquitted, and Kirkland watches as one of his cases goes to an apathetic lawyer. He's also in trouble with the state bar ethics committee, for snitching on a client (after he learned that someone was forcing people to put lit cherry bombs in their mouths at gunpoint... just like the client had repeatedly fantasized about doing).

While Kirkland is in this happy place, he learns that Judge Fleming has been arrested for rape. Not only that, but to his gaping incredulity, he learns that Fleming wants Kirkland to be the defense attorney. Fleming, though he loathes Kirkland, feels that if he's seen representing him, it will make people think Kirkland believes he's innocent and help the case, since why defend a man he so despises otherwise? Kirkland can't get out of it either, because Fleming has friends in high places, and great sway over the ethics committee (he is also the one that brought the client-snitching to their attention), as the judge reminds him.

Stress and frustration mount up as one client commits suicide and another is killed in prison. Meanwhile, Kirkland gets more and more proof that Fleming is guilty as hell. Then, just before Kirkland stands up to give his opening statement on Fleming's behalf, the judge says he'd be happy to "meet" the victim again sometime...

Not to be confused with Metallica's 1988 album of the same name.

  • Actually Pretty Funny: The man with diabetes even gets the cop testifying against him laughing when he calls the judge a douchebag.
  • Amoral Attorney: Kirkland's girlfriend Gail Packer, who works on the ethics committee, is arguably one of these. She points out to him that much of what disgusts him about the justice system is, in fact, legally and procedurally correct. Of course, as Kirkland counters, that doesn't make it right...
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Fleming tries this on Kirkland, and it might've worked too, if he would have only shut up.
  • Big Bad: Judge Henry T. Fleming.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kirkland will probably be disbarred, but he has kept his integrity.
  • Black Comedy: The film has a fair amount of this. Rayford's suicidal tendencies are a good example.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Pacino's over-the-top performance as Kirkland. But given what his character's going through, this was probably the best way to play it.
  • Confess in Confidence: After Kirkland confronts Fleming with some incriminating photographs he's gotten, Fleming confesses to having committed the rape, which Kirkland cannot disclose by law. However, he would be legally required to turn over photographic evidence to the prosecution...
  • Deus Angst Machina: If you're a client of either Kirkland or one of his friends, the best way to be found guilty is to be completely innocent, or vice-versa.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: In one scene where Kirkland visits his grandfather at the nursing home, a Christmas tree is visible in the background. No other mention of the holiday is ever made.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ralph Agee
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The only logical way Fleming could make that last little comment.
  • Frame-Up: Jeff had the knife which a guard was stabbed with planted in his cell, leading him to be sentenced to five years in prison.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Played completely straight with Arthur Kirkland. Every client we see him defend is either innocent or very sympathetic, until he's blackmailed into representing Judge Fleming on rape charges, leading to his infamous breakdown.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The entire legal system, as depicted in the film, combines this with copious amounts of Crapsack World and World Gone Mad. The judges are either borderline insane like Rayford, or downright evil like Fleming. The prosecutors are more interested in punishing people for minor offenses while pursuing high-profile cases that make them look good in the press. Most of the public defenders have either surrendered to apathy or are so swamped with cases that they can't apply any sound judgment handling them, and even the ones who want to do good like Kirkland can't break through the wall of corruption and incompetence overwhelming the courts.
  • Hanging Judge: Fleming.
  • Heroic BSOD: Kirkland, about halfway into the movie and well up to the moment Fleming pushes him over the edge.
  • Hollywood Law: It doesn't seem that Kirkland should be in danger of losing his license over telling the police his former client was probably the one forcing lit cherry bombs into people's mouths. Attorney-client privilege only applies to past crimes, and this was a crime the client fantasized about committing in the future. In that case, attorneys are actually required to notify the police of what their client plans.
    • Some of the evidence Kirkland digs up on Fleming should have been turned over to the prosecutor's office.
  • Important Haircut: Jay Porter shaves his head after flipping out over a client who murdered two children after he got him off.
  • Jerkass: Fleming is initially depicted as this. By the movie's end, when he makes that horrifying remark about his rape victim, it's confirmed.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Jeff was arrested due to Mistaken Identity (he had the same name as a suspect) then framed by other inmates for a prison guard's stabbing. Kirkland can't get him out due to the evidence clearing him coming in too late, leading Jeff to snap, taking hostages after being gang-raped by fellow prisoners and is then shot dead by a police sniper.
  • Mood Whiplash: From zany comedy to heavy drama and back again.
  • Off on a Technicality: Cruelly inverted with Jeff, whom Kirkland can't get off although he's innocent because of a technicality.
  • Parental Abandonment: Kirkland was abandoned by his parents as a child and raised by his grandfather, who was the one who encouraged him to become a lawyer and put him through school.
  • Prison Rape: What drives Jeff over the edge.
  • Signature Line: "You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order!"
  • Tearjerker: The death of Jeff.
  • Title Drop: The opening credits are accompanied by voice overs of children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which naturally ends with the title phrase.
  • Transsexual: One of Kirkland's clients, Ralph Agee, is a black man who presents as female. He commits suicide after being sent to prison for 5 years due to incompetence by Kirkland's colleague.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Kirkland bitchslaps Fleming with this; even though the latter is evil, he's still a judge.
    Kirkland: You son of a bitch! You're — you're supposed to stand for something! You're supposed to protect people! Instead you FUCKING MURDER THEM!!!