My very own Law & Order |

My very own Law & Order

Meredith Cohen

It is entirely possible that my role as a legal maestro was pre-ordained. Before ever setting foot in an actual court of law, I had two pseudo-courtroom experiences that gave me a great deal of knowledge about the U.S. justice system: I occasionally freelanced as the production coordinator on the set of NBC’s “Law and Order” and I once played an O.J. juror in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. With experience like that, is law school really necessary?The TV judicial exploits helped prepare me to be an almost-juror. The first time I was ever summoned to fulfill my civic duty, I gave the obligatory grumble to anyone who would listen about dreading the day I had to schlep down to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan to sit around for a week. Secretly, however, it was an assignment I eagerly awaited. I pictured Sam Waterston and Alan Dershowitz leaping up out of their chairs, strenuously objecting while Judge Ito asked Jodi Foster if she needed a minute to gather herself on the witness stand after identifying Theodore Kaczynski in the orange jumpsuit and shackles as her assailant. I wanted to be the foreman. I was questioned along with about 75 other potential jurors for a federal drug case, although none of the real-life lawyers looked like Arnie Becker or Perry Mason and the judge bore absolutely no resemblance to any judge I had ever seen (Wopner or Judy). The real-life accused drug dealers were dressed neatly and sat with their hands politely folded on the table in front of them. Although I tried to make eye contact with them, knowing I could determine their guilt or innocence with a good, hard stare, they never met my gaze – not even to give me a menacing, “if you convict me, I’ll break your knees” look. Unfortunately, the defense and/or the prosecution must have sensed my keen grasp of the criminal justice system, as I was not among The Chosen to sit on the jury.Not to worry, as it became obvious to me last week that my legal destiny was much larger than simply sitting in a jury box. I was flown to New York for my second ersatz Perry Mason experience. To date, it was the greatest (albeit the only) legal performance of my non-existent legal career. It was a moment for which I had spent years preparing. All those hundreds of hours spent watching “Law and Order” repeats on TNT and the USA network finally had a purpose. And thankfully, I had seen almost an entire season of “Ally McBeal” about five years ago. But my real ace in the hole was that I had read The Starr Report not once, but twice. The opposing counsel would not get me to fall into the same kind of traps into which the FBI led Monica Lewinsky – no President would be impeached following my testimony. I knew there wasn’t a chance I would crack under pressure like Jack Nicholson being cross-examined by Tom Cruise.The opposing counsel kept trying to twist my words. But phrases like “I don’t recall,” “I wouldn’t characterize the situation that way” and “I cannot answer that question with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no'” flowed effortlessly off my tongue. The more he grilled me, the calmer I became. Beads of perspiration formed on his brow. The right side of his upper lip started twitching. He gulped his water and tapped his pen incessantly on the table. He asked for a recess. But none of his attempts at distraction mattered when I pulled out my pièce de résistance – it was an aha! moment reminiscent of Marissa Tomei solving the murder mystery on the stand in “My Cousin Vinny.” My performance made the eyes of the one of the attorneys on my side grow moist with a mixture of pride and wonder. A star witness was born. Ever since last week’s stunning display of legal acumen, I’ve seriously considered starting a business in which I make myself available as a professional witness or witness consultant. After all, it seems a shame to let all these years watching Greta Van Sustern, Nancy Grace and Court TV go to waste. Meredith Cohen did not attend law school, but her sister AND cousin did. Questions and comments can be e-mailed to

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