Texas Wesleyan Law Review


Robert Batey

Document Type



For as long as I have taught law and literature, I have held strong opinions about two fictional criminal defense attorneys, the world-famous Atticus Finch of the novel and film To Kill a Mockingbird' and the less celebrated Boris A. Max, Bigger Thomas's attorney in Richard Wright's Native Son.' Atticus and Max, both white, courageously defend black men charged with capital crimes by a racist legal system, both are vilified by the public, and both of them see their clients die at the hands of the state. But despite their courage, my opinion of each was that he failed his ethical duties as an attorney. It took me several years to realize that these strongly felt opinions were inconsistent. I was damning Atticus for failing to be more like Max, and damning Max for failing to be more like Atticus. This article attempts to address that inconsistency, first by presenting, in parts II and III, the cases against Atticus Finch and Boris A. Max and then by exploring where the true course of ethical representation might lie, in part IV.



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