– [Narrator] Thanks to Curiosity Stream for keeping Legal Eagle in the air. – See now, the law calls for
a maximum fine of $85,000. – What?
– And as much as five years in prison.
– What? – What? (light, perky music) – Hey Legal Eagles, it’s
time to think like a lawyer. Today, we are covering the
series finale of Seinfeld. I was never a huge Seinfeld fan, so I haven’t seen that many episodes, and I don’t think I’ve ever
actually seen the finale. – What, why not? – But some of you Legal
Eagles out there told me that it involves some
legal issues and a trial, so I am really looking forward to reviewing what happens in this episode. As always, be sure to comment
in the form of an objection, which I will either sustain or overrule. And stick around until
the end of the video, where I give the series
finale for Seinfeld a grade for legal realism. So, without further ado, let’s dig into the finale of Seinfeld. (Seinfeld show music) Okay, so what has happened
in this episode so far, which is not legal per se, but I think it sets up
the rest of this episode, the gang decides to go
on a vacation in Paris. NBC gives them the use
of their private jet. Because they were screwing
around in the air, the pilot had to do an emergency landing in this very small town in Massachusetts, and so they are just walking
around this random town, deciding what they’re going to do next. And I think this is where the
legal stuff kicks into gear. – Nice day. – Another one?
(audience laughs) – [Carjacker] Alright
fatso, out of the car! – I’m gonna capture this. – Come on!
(driver grunting and yelling) – All right, so we’ve got a carjacking. – Gimme your wallet!
– Don’t shoot! – So the robber has
his hand in his pocket, like there’s a gun. – See the great thing
about robbin’ a fat guy is it’s an easy getaway, you know? They can’t really chase ya.
(audience laughs) – He’s actually doin’– – All right, some kinda
crappy things to say. (audience laughs) – Get your wallet, come on! Come on, come on! – Oh, that’s a shame. – I guess ’cause they’re New
Yorkers they’re not gonna help. – Officer, he’s stealing my car! Officer, I was carjacked,
I was held up at gunpoint, and he took my wallet and everything. – Okay, thanks anyway. They can’t get another plane. – All right, what’s wrong
with they plane we got? They’re just checking– – ‘Kay, there’s videotape evidence. All right, I think I
know where this is going. – I’m not getting on there. Come on, let’s get something
to eat here in Sticksville. – All right, hold it right there. – Okay, why isn’t the
police officer calling in for backup and chasing down this guy who just committed a carjacking here? You’d think that, if
someone was robbed at, ostensibly, gunpoint, we didn’t see a gun, but the guy had his hand in his pocket and gesturing it towards the
poor guy who is being robbed and makes it seem like there’s a gun. That is armed robbery. That is grand larceny in the first degree, and that’s a major felony. So I don’t know why this police officer’s being so nonchalant about
a first-degree felony that has just occurred, and
he’s letting the bad guy get away here. – Hold it right there. – What? – You’re under arrest. – Under arrest? What for?
– What? – Article 223-7 of the
Latham County penal code. – What? No, no, we didn’t do anything. (Kramer scoffs)
– That’s exactly right. The law requires you to help
or assist anyone in danger – What?
as long as it’s reasonable to do so. – I never knew that.
– No, that’s not a thing. – It’s called The Good Samaritan Law. – Okay, this is really
interesting from my perspective. So the writers of the show
are conflating a couple of different things here. First of all, there is such a
thing as Good Samaritan laws. A Good Samaritan law is an exception to a general responsibility
when you choose to act. To back up a little bit
further, in American law, generally, you do not have an obligation to help anyone under any circumstances unless you undertake some action and the law imputes a duty to you. So the classic example in law school is if you see someone drowning in a pool. You are not responsible for
helping them out of the pool. But if you choose to
actually help them get out of the pool where they’re drowning and you do so in a negligent way, well, then you can be held responsible for the damages that you cause to this poor person that was drowning, even though you undertook
to save their life. And so the general rule is
you do not have any kind of obligation to help your fellow man. And as New Yorkers, they’re clearly exercising
that normal right. Now a Good Samaritan law is
an exception to that rule that says if someone is in danger or you undertake to help that person where you wouldn’t normally
have an obligation, you are protected by law so
that they can’t turn around and sue you if you help them
get out of a drowning pool or you perform CPR on
someone that was drowning or you perform the Heimlich Maneuver. Normally, without a Good
Samaritan law, you might be liable for negligently performing
the Heimlich Maneuver or negligently performing CPR. But a Good Samaritan law is a defense for good samaritans who help out. Okay, so that’s the first thing. That’s what a Good
Samaritan law actually is. Now, number two is that, generally, there are no affirmative
duties like this police officer has said, that there is some law that says that you have to undertake
to actually help people. Now there are a couple of
exceptions to that rule, but let me see if they talk about this so-called Good
Samaritan law in more detail to get an idea of what
they’re dealing with here. – A Good Samaritan law? Are they crazy? – Why would we wanna help somebody? – I know.
(chuckles) – That’s what nuns and
Red Cross workers are for. (audience laughs)
– The Samaritans were an ancient tribe,
very helpful to people. (audience laughs) – All right. (sighs with exasperation) Um, excuse me? Hi. Could ya tell me what kind of law this is? – Ooh, yeah, let’s hear
about the law! (claps hands) – Well, they just passed it last year, and it’s modeled after the French law. – Okay, that’s new.
– I heard about it after Princess Diana was killed, and all those photographers
were just standing around. – Oh, yeah.
– Oh, yeah. (audience laughs)
– You’re the first ones to be arrested on it,
probably in the whole country. – Oh.
(Elaine laughs) – Okay, so it’s not often
enforced; that makes sense. – Well, let’s pay the fine or something and get the hell outta here. – Well, it’s not that easy. See now, the law calls for
a maximum fine of $85,000, – What?
– and as much as five years in prison.
– What? – What? – Oh, no, no, no, no. We have to be in California next week! We’re starting a TV show! – California? Oh gosh, I don’t think so. You know, my guess is
you’re gonna be prosecuted. (laughs) Better get yourselves a good lawyer. – Okay, all right, let’s
unpack this a little bit here. So what they’re talking about here is not actually a Good Samaritan law. It’s actually what’s called
a Duty to Rescue law. As I said before, normally,
you don’t have a duty to rescue people. You are free to walk by an injured person without having to help,
and a Good Samaritan law is the thing that actually
gives you a defense if something goes wrong when
you choose to help someone. But a duty to rescue does impute a duty on you as a passerby
to actually intervene. Now those are very, very rare
because we don’t want people to have to intervene in all circumstances, especially in instances like we saw with an armed carjacking. What were they supposed to do there? Presumably, the guy had a gun. So the Duty to Rescue laws exist, but they’re very, very rare. I know that California does
actually have a variation on a Duty to Rescue law. It’s not a duty to rescue
and certainly nothing like what you’re seeing in Seinfeld, but it is a duty to
report in the wake of some of the reports of child
abuse and child endangerment. California passed a law that said that you had to report
certain crimes being committed against a child under the age of 14. But even there, it’s not a felony to fail to report the crime. It is, I think, a misdemeanor
and a fine of 1,500 or $2,000. There’s no way that you’re likely going to have an American law somewhere that says it is a major felony, up to five years in jail,
to fail to intervene in another felony being committed. – Who told you to put the cheese on? Did I tell you to put the cheese on? I didn’t tell you to put the cheese on. (audience laughs)
(buzzer buzzes) – [Receptionist] Jerry
Seinfeld on the phone. – You people with the
cheese; it never ends. (audience laughs) Hello? Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. – So this guy is clearly like Johnny Cochran.
– Good Samaritan law? I never heard of it. You don’t have to help anybody. – Yeah.
– That’s what this country is all about.
(audience laughs) – This lawyer is right. (audience laughs)
– Unfathomable, improbable. Hold on. Susie, cancel my
appointment with Dr. Bison, and pack a bag for me. I wanna to get to Latham,
Massachusetts right away. – Nice. So clearly, a lawyer (laughs) who is in the mold of the
famous Johnny Cochran, who was passed away but was well known for being OJ Simpson’s attorney. I probably would have had
a very similar reaction to that phone call, that
that’s a ridiculous law that doesn’t exist anywhere. In reality, we’d probably be right. (laughs) And number two, doesn’t matter. If your client’s in jail,
you get outta your office and you go to your client, and
you deal with whatever kind of local nonsense is going on. So yeah, I kinda like
that lawyer character. – So they got Jackie Chiles, huh? – Mm-hmm, you know what that means. This whole place is gonna be swarming with media by the time this thing is over. You’re not gonna be able to
find a hotel room in this town. – Astute Legal Eagles will
recognize that character actor, whose name escapes me at the moment, but he was the expert
witness in My Cousin Vinny, talking about the tire marks that were made in front of the Sack of Suds. So it’s good to see that he got promoted from expert witness to
local district attorney. – The whole country is
going to be watching us. Now we gotta do whatever–
– (laughs) And I think he’s using the same accent, too. – No matter what the cost. You know, now the big issue in this trial is going to be character. – Mm, that is absolutely
not true. (laughs) Character actually is figuratively
the least important thing in a criminal trial. And, in fact, the prosecution
doesn’t even have the option to bring in character evidence
in a situation like this. – Fourth District County
Court, Latham, Massachusetts, is now in session. Your honorable Judge
Arthur Vandelay presiding. (audience laughs) – Vandelay? The judge’s name is Vandelay? – Vanda-who? – Jerry, did you hear that?
– Yeah, yeah. – I think that’s a good sign. – Is the district
attorney ready to proceed? – We are, Your Honor. – So are we starting trial here? They’ve just totally
skipped the indictment, the arraignment, all the
pretrial exchange of material, Brady disclosures,
investigations. (laughs) It’s a comedy, I know. No one’s gonna wanna watch
all the procedural stuff. This isn’t Law & Order, and, even then, they will skip through
everything, but man. This appears to be happening
all in the same day. So that’s a little unrealistic there. – Ladies and gentlemen, last year, our city council, by a vote of 12 to two passed a Good Samaritan law. Now essentially, we made it a crime to ignore a fellow human being in trouble. Now this group from
– It’s a bad law. – New York not only ignored but, as we will prove, they
actually mocked the victim as he was being robbed at gunpoint. I can guarantee you one other
thing, ladies and gentlemen. This is not the first time they
have behaved in this manner. – Oh, objection! Improper character argument. – Of mocking and maligning. This is a history of selfishness, self absorption, immaturity, and greed. (audience laughs)
– Uh… (laughs) – You will see how everyone
who has come into contact with these four individuals
has been abused, wronged, deceived, and betrayed. – That is completely improper. The American system recognizes that, just because you have acted
in a certain way in the past under different circumstances, that doesn’t mean that you
are going to act in conformity with that character on a given instance. Generally speaking, criminal
defendants never have to face the burden of overcoming
the prosecution entering in bad character evidence
because the prosecution is never allowed to bring
in character evidence against the accused because
it’s just not simply relevant. As regular people recognize
that it might be relevant in an abstract sense, but
we have decided as a society that it is not relevant for the
purposes of a court hearing. Now there is an exception
in that the defendant has the option to bring in
evidence of good character. If you’re simply saying that
they are such a good person that they couldn’t
possibly have committed it, well, that option resides
with the criminal defendant. And when you do that,
you open the floodgates, and then the prosecution is allowed to rebut evidence of good character with evidence of bad character. But you’re not allowed to guild the lily and say not only did they
commit this specific act or, in this case, an omission,
but they’re also bad people. You’re not allowed to do that. So the rest of it is
just complete nonsense. – I am shocked and chagrined! (audience laughs)
(laughs) – It’s very much like
Johnny Cochran; I love it. – This trial is outrageous! It’s a waste of the
taxpayers’ time and money. It is a travesty of justice
that these four people have been incarcerated
while the real perpetrator is walking around laughing,
lying and laughing, laughing and lying. – I love it. You might remember that Johnny
Cochran, the real attorney, was famous for these alliterative phrases that he would use in court. And often, people derided
that as being childish. But it’s a little brilliance in trial because there are a million
things that are going on, and it is so important to allow the jury to hang their hat on something and to be able to get through to the jury and give them something simple, a theme or a phrase that you
can hammer home at every turn. It’s definitely good trial practice. So I like what he’s doing. He’s shocked and chagrined. – You know what these four people were? They were innocent bystanders. – Yeah.
– Now you think about that term. – Innocent bystanders.
– Innocent bystanders,
(audience laughs) because that’s exactly what they were. We know they were bystanders;
nobody’s disputing that. (laughs)
So how can a bystander be guilty? No such thing! Have you ever heard of a guilty bystander? No, because you cannot be
a bystander and be guilty. Bystanders are, by definition, innocent. That is the nature of bystanding! – And that is a great
summary of the status quo of American law, absolutely right. Innocent bystanders are,
by definition, innocent. In the absence of this
crazy Massachusetts law that doesn’t actually
exist, that’s 100% accurate. – Is the prosecution ready
to present its first witness? – We are, Your Honor. Call Officer Matt Vogel to the stand. – All right.
– Call Matt Vogel. – So the police officer is
not a character witness. This guy would absolutely
be allowed to testify because he was a percipient
witness to what happened. – Did one of them have a video camera? – Yes. – Your Honor, with the court’s permission, we would like to play back that video and enter it into evidence as Exhibit A. – Proceed. – They haven’t established
the proper chain of custody there. Generally, records that
are created outside of court qualify as hearsay. Regardless of the fact
that it is a recording, it’s still considered a statement for the purposes of the hearsay rule. But given that it was
taken by the defendants, arguably, that is an admission by a party or a statement of a party,
so it’s probably proper for that to come in, assuming
proper chain of custody is made, which the police
officer should establish. – Come on!
– Okay, I’m getting out, I’m getting out.
– Well, there goes the money
for the lipo. (snickers) – [Elaine] See, the great
thing about robbin’ a fat guy is it’s an easy getaway. They can’t really chase ya.
(Jerry and Elaine laugh) – But just because you’re a bad person doesn’t mean you committed a crime. And arguably, if I was
the defense attorney here, I might stipulate to the fact
that it’s unfairly prejudicial for the audio to be played
because it’s not relevant to their actions. You can see from the tape that
they did not help this person who was being carjacked,
but the things that they are saying are so unfairly prejudicial that it outweighs the probative value of the statements that
are actually being made. And it’s unfair character
evidence to come in. So I think that the
attorneys here really should have made an objection and fought over at least the audio portion of that tape. – Call Mabel Choate to the stand. – Call Mabel Choate! – Who? Who is this person?
– Your Honor, I most strenuously and vigorously
object to this witness. She was not present at
the time of the incident, her testimony is irrelevant, irrational, and inconsequential. (audience laughs)
– Yep, 100%. Great objection.
– The prosecution has gone to great lengths
and considerable cost to find these character witnesses. It is imperative that we establish this is not merely an isolated incident. It’s part of a pattern
of any social behavior that’s been going on for years. – No.
– Objection overruled. – Pfft.
– I’ll hear the witness. – Yeah, so just because
the prosecution goes to great expense to find a witness, that has nothing to do
with whether that witness can actually testify at court. The judge here is supposed to act like a gatekeeper and keep out unfair, extraneous evidence like this. – Now, Mrs. Choate, would
you please tell the court what happened the evening of January 4th? – I was at Schnitzer’s Bakery when I got accosted by that man. – [District Attorney] What did he want? – My marble rye. Someone help! – Shut up, you old hag! – Not admissible. Funny vehicle for the
finale, but totally improper from a trial perspective. – I dated Mr. Seinfeld for several weeks in the autumn of 1992. – Then the evening of October 28th, there was an abrupt end
to that relationship. Tell us what happened. – The four of them made a wager to see who could go the longest
without gratifying themselves! (audience laughs)
(laughs) – Okay, improper character witness. – [Donald] I challenged him
to a game of Trivial Pursuit. – It’s Moops.
– The Moors! (audience laughs)
– Help, someone! – Also improper character witness. – Mr. Kramer gave you a used wheelchair? – That’s right.
(audience laughs) (wheelchair screeching)
(woman screams) – Not relevant. – So she pretended to trip,
and she fell into your breasts. – Yes.
(courtroom murmuring) He sent her in there to
find out if they were real. – Not admissible. – He was a communist.
– No. – She exposed her nipple.
– Hm-mm. – Seinfeld told me to change
the menu to Pakistani, (audience laughs)
but nobody came. – Ugh, improper character. – Cock fighting? – Cock fighting? – Improper character. – She tried to smother me with a pillow. – Improper character. – Well, I invited him to
attend my son’s birthday party. – Fire! (audience laughs)
(kids screaming) – Improper character. Oh, charlie horse. (laughing in pain) Jesus. – This courtroom and everyone
who’s attended this trial is still reeling from the endless parade of witnesses who’ve come
forth so enthusiastically to testify against these four
seemingly ordinary people. One even had the feeling
that if Judge Vandelay didn’t finally put a stop to it, it could’ve gone on for months. – So this is why you don’t allow irrelevant
character witnesses, regardless of the expense
of the prosecution in finding all of these people. It never ends. It’s a parade of people who
really can’t answer the question of whether the defendants
committed the act that they are accused of
in this specific instance. They might be horrible people, but it has no relevance to
their criminal prosecution. So all this is improper. Whew, moving on. (light, tense music) So does the defense not get to make a closing
statement here? (chuckles) We’re just going straight
to jury deliberation. – Will the defendants please rise? And how do you find with respect to the charge of criminal indifference? – We find the defendants guilty. (chuckles)
(courtroom gasps) – Well, as the crime was laid
out, they were guilty of it. It’s just a law that is stupid and should not be on the books. – I do not know how or under
what circumstances the four of you found each other, but
your careless indifference and utter disregard for everything that is good and decent has
rocked the very foundation upon which our society is built. (audience laughs) I can think of nothing more fitting than for the four of you
to spend a year removed from society so that you can contemplate the manner in which you
have conducted yourselves. – So in real life, there would be a separate
sentencing hearing. In most places, there are
guidelines that you have to follow to make sure that there aren’t
manifestly unjust sentences that are brought down. You wouldn’t have the sentencing hearing immediately following the actual
guilt portion of the trial because there are all
kinds of other factors that go into how much
of a sentence they get. The judge here has decided a year on a maximum of five years,
whereas you’re gonna have to take into account a
lot of different kinds of evidence than what was elicited at the actual initial trial. So that would take place
weeks or months later. There would be probably
an immediate appeal given the ridiculous number
of character witnesses that were called in,
which was clearly unjust and unduly prejudicial. And yeah, this conviction is totally gonna get overturned on appeal. (bright, upbeat, plucky music) Okay, that was the series
finale of Seinfeld. Funnier than I remember. I might have to actually go back and watch a few more episodes of Seinfeld because maybe I just
couldn’t appreciate it when I was a younger man. But now it’s time to give Seinfeld a grade for legal realism.
(gavel bangs) On one hand, you have a discussion of laws that kind of exist in some circumstances. There’s no such thing
as criminal indifference that I’m aware of in any US
jurisdiction, maybe in France. But there are Duty to Report laws, and so there are sometimes duties that are imputed to individuals who would otherwise be
an innocent bystander. And I really liked the
character of Jackie Chiles. He is a simulacrum of Johnny Cochran, same initials, same litigation style. It’s a little cartoonish,
but also indicative of some really good trial
practice in there as well. On the other hand, you have
dozens of improper witnesses. You have a law that would
not exist in real life. So the whole premise for the show is thrown into question,
and you have a timeline where they are convicted of
a major felony in the span of 48 hours, maybe? So all in all, I’m going to have to give the finale of
Seinfeld a D plus for realism. No soup for you! That’s a Seinfeld thing, right? – No soup for you! (snaps fingers) (bag crinkles loudly) – Now if you liked Seinfeld,
which is a story about nothing, you’ll love the documentaries
on Curiosity Stream, which are stories about something. One film I’ve really been
enjoying ever since I did a review of Star Trek: The Next
Generation is called Trek Nation. It’s all about the history of Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry as told by his son. It’s about Star Trek,
but it’s also the story of what it’s like to be the
rebellious non-Trekkie son of Gene Roddenberry and
Majel Barrett and how he came to understand why Star Trek
means so much to so many people. There are tons of
interviews with the people that made Star Trek what it is today, like Ronald D. Moore, Jonathan Frakes, – Would you display this as a trophy? Do you have a pet? Do you have a sweet tooth? – and JJ Abrams. So if you want a
documentary that is actually about something, you’ve gotta
check out Curiosity Stream. Legal Eagles get a free account for 30 days by clicking the link below or by using the promo code LegalEagle. Using the promo code really
helps out this channel. So click on the link below and get Curiosity Stream for free. I bet Jerry and the gang would really like to watch all of the
award-winning documentaries on Curiosity Stream while
they spend the next year in jail for criminal indifference. – I don’t think it’s that bad. – Do you agree? Leave your objections in the comments, and check out my other
real lawyer reactions over here where I will see you in court.