Which Justice is this? You’ll have to watch to find out. Puppy and Supreme Court Last2Week_Tonight_with_John_Oliver

Which Justice is this? You’ll have to watch to find out.

Today’s post is of the type for which Change of Venue Friday was created. I’m guessing you’ll like it.

There is a video going around, viral-like, from the TV program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. In fact, so viral it is, and so many lawyers have mentioned it to me, that I hesitated to offer it here. But finally I examined the matter and applied high editorial values, and I saw that the content includes puppies. So you’re welcome.

The challenge faced by the show’s producers—and by any American who cares about American justice—is that the U.S. Supreme Court will not allow cameras in its august chamber. So the show decided to create a courtroom mockup and have dogs sit in the justices’ seats. They then could use the official audio from the actual courtroom to make history come alive for all of us.

Watch below.

As if that’s not enough, the patriots at the Last Week Tonight show did this: They offered a video of the dogs “deliberating,” entirely without audio. Why? They explain:

“We have provided this footage for you to do your own Supreme Court reenactments. Please feel free to use it, post your videos, and tag them #RealAnimalsFakePaws so we can find them.”

Here it is:

Enjoy? Go here to see more of what the show is up to.

And be sure to get the official audio from the Supreme Court (capable of puppy-purposing) here.

Have a fun—and chew-toy-filled—weekend.

Chalk this up in the unexpected results category.

Over the past few years, animals—usually dogs—have been used more and more in courtrooms around the country, even in Arizona. It’s been discovered that they have a soothing effect on parties and other trial participants. Thus, in their own unique way, dogs may contribute to the administration of justice.

Rosie, who comforts traumatized children and aided a teenager on the stand in a rape trial, outside the Dutchess County Courthouse in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with Dale Picard. (Kelly Shimoda for The New York Times)

Former State Bar of Arizona President Ray Hanna wrote on the topic last year. He described pioneer steps taken by courts in Florida and Washington State to integrate dogs into the courtroom. (It also allowed him the opportunity to feature a photo of his own beautiful dog.)

Ray Hanna and companion in a 2010 President's Message

This week, though, I came across a blog post written by an Arizona lawyer, Howard Snader. In it, he describes the question of fairness that such a dog may present in a courtroom.

As the author writes:

“Some criminal law attorneys feel the use of therapy dogs in the courtroom is a violation of the defendant’s rights to a fair trial and that the dog, with its cuteness and subtle communication about the victim and truth of testimony, will prejudice the jury. Criminal defense lawyers have complained about the negative effects created against the criminal defendant by the presence of a therapy dog in a criminal trial.

“This factor has unknown impact against the work of a criminal lawyer to defend their client and obtain a fair trial. Attorneys are citing the conviction results of a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., rape trial as proof that the effect of the presence of [therapy dog] Rosie influenced the trial outcome.”

The New York trial he refers to was covered by The New York Times here.

The reporter writes:

“Prosecutors [in Dutchess County, N.Y.] noted that [Rosie] is in the vanguard of a growing trial trend: in Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana and some other states in the last few years, courts have allowed such trained dogs to offer children and other vulnerable witnesses nuzzling solace in front of juries.

“The new role for dogs as testimony enablers can, however, raise thorny legal questions. Defense lawyers argue that the dogs may unfairly sway jurors with their cuteness and the natural empathy they attract, whether a witness is telling the truth or not, and some prosecutors insist that the courtroom dogs can be a crucial comfort to those enduring the ordeal of testifying, especially children.”

Read the blog post and the NYT article and let me know what you think. Do you agree with the concerns raised? Would a juror be swayed by the presence of a therapy dog? Do these animals have a place in the courtroom? If they do, should their use be modified?

And for more information on Howard Snader and his practice, click here.