In 350 BC, Aristotle wrote "the rule of Law is better than the rule of any individual." The goddess we refer to as "Lady Justice" carries a set of balance scales because justice is equal before every citizen. She wears a blindfold because justice is blind and is to be meted out objectively. Finally, she carries a sword because her judgment is swift and final.
A useful definition of the Law is "a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced by social institutions and govern behavior and relations between people". The study of law is one of the most rich and complex of scholarly inquiries. Law involves economic analysis, sociology, knowledge of history, philosophy, ethical considerations, fairness, equality, and the elusive concept of justice.
With such a wealth of material to draw from, it is little wonder that legal dramas have always held so much fascination. Most of the stories and shows in our collection deal with criminal law, the part of the legal system which deals with behavior that is harmful to social order. It is also the part of the legal system that demands that the guilty party be punished for their misdeeds whether through fines, imprisonment, or for highest crimes, through the forfeiture of the criminal's life.
The Legal Collection presents shows from all every aspect of the justice system- "from crime to punishment". One of the earliest programs in our collection is the real life stories dramatized on Calling All Cars, based on actual cases of the Los Angeles Police Department. Beginning in 1933, Calling All Cars presented the crime and the methods that the police used to solve the case. The famous Gangbusters premiered in 1935 and focused more on the dedication and determination of the cops who pursued the bad guys.
Gangbusters was originally conceived to profile the cases of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but the show became too sensational for the FBI, so creator Phillips H. Lord began using stories from state and local police. The Bureau was much happier supporting This Is Your FBI and The FBI In Peace And War. Both programs emphasized the honor and determination of the Agents, as well as their modern and scientific crime fighting methods. The classic police radio show is Jack Webb's Dragnet; for this collection we had selected a number of Sgt. Joe Friday's two-episode adventures.
For even more Police reality, enjoy Nightwatch, which presents actual recordings of police radio traffic and interviews of actual calls answered by the Culver City Police. Some Nightwatch broadcasts can be difficult to listen to because they show stark human tragedy. Some are rather amusing, like the night the police catch up with a nude prowler!
Police and Federal Agents were not the only ones to investigate crime. Frank Lovejoy as reporter Randy Stone on Nightbeat came across more than his share of crooks. At the end of each episode, he typed up the story of their capture as the sun rose over the City with Big Shoulders. The journalists in Big Town find their share of criminals while reporting for Edward G. Robinson's newspaper.
Crime fighting falls to a few "freelancers" on the radio. Some of the all time greatest Private Eyes are in our collection. One of Philip Marlowe's adventures is protecting a witness in a murder trial.
Catching wrongdoers is only part of the legal system. The trial and conviction portion of the system can just as fascinating and exciting. A good trial to begin with is the classic American tale, "The Devil and Daniel Webster" on Columbia Workshop. Other notable trials are dramatized on Cavalcade of America, and some famous trials from history are dramatized on the historical reenactment program You Are There. The courtroom is also the center of action on Famous Jury Trials, You Are The Jury, and Order In The Court.
In contrast to the shows about the legal system, Crime Classics is about the people against whom the legal system is protecting us. The program profiles notorious criminals from history, dramatizing events from their careers and exploring the events that set them on their unsavory path.
We will need a legal system as long as we are living together as a society. In many fundamental ways, the law is what keeps us together. Hearing these thrilling stories will not only educate us about our legal system, they also provide hours of entertainment!
See also: Legal Comedies.