4 Legal Terms You May Have Heard on Better Call Saul

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Apr 08

Lewis & Laws

4 Legal Terms You May Have Heard on Better Call Saul

by Lewis & Laws

4 Legal Terms You May Have Heard on Better Call Saul

When entertainment media tries to tackle complex subjects like the law, they often get it wrong. It’s not their fault—most lawyers couldn’t write a comedy pilot, either—but it does mean that when a television show about a lawyer actually gets some things right, it’s worth taking note.

Better Call Saul: One Of The Good Ones

Better Call Saul, the new prequel to Vince Gilligan’s acclaimed Breaking Bad, is only in its second season—but already, it’s gotten the attention of those in the legal field, who find it much more tolerable (and even enjoyable!) than most TV shows about crime and justice.

“The show doesn’t just rip headlines but does its homework,” notes the Wall Street Journal’s Jacob Gersham. “Jimmy, played by Bob Odenkirk, cites real case law, legal theories and New Mexico criminal code and navigates actual civil procedures.”

Legal Terms You May Have Heard

What can a regular, non-attorney civilian hope to learn from watching Better Call Saul? Here are a few of the key terms you may have picked up.

RICO: Possibly one of the most notable legal terms used in Better Call Saul, RICO isn’t so much a word as an acronym referring to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.  We’ve previously explained racketeering on this blog, (which is also a major part of BCS; in one scene, he even cites both Sedima, S.P.R.L. v. Imrex Co. and Holmes v. SIPC, both of which are prominent racketeering cases), but RICO is slightly different. Chiefly, it typically refers to organized crime which break federal laws, in addition to state laws.

Embezzlement: Another topic we’ve covered on this blog, embezzlement comes in many different forms. In the case of Better Call Saul, it’s a major plot point in the first season, wherein Jimmy desperately tries to secure the subjects of a high-profile criminal case as his clients. Craig Kettleman is accused of embezzling $1.6M from the county treasury—a hefty sum that was unlikely to go unnoticed.

Like most embezzlement cases, the person who’s accused is in a position of money handling (in this case, he’s the treasurer) and has been entrusted with the safekeeping of money that wasn’t his. How he somehow ended up with it all in cash, though, is not made clear.

Spoliation of evidence: This is probably one of the least-known terms used in BCS, but one that is definitely important in criminal trials. When Jimmy accuses the people at Sandpiper Crossing of spoliation, he’s referring to the fact that they’re shredding evidence.

The shredding that occurred before Jimmy’s demand letter might not have been illegal —spoliation refers to evidence being hidden or destroyed during a criminal proceeding, and prior to writing his toilet paper letter, that wasn’t quite a known fact—could possibly have been permitted, but the ongoing destroying of evidence could definitely land Sandpiper in trouble.

Cease and Desist: Jimmy receives a cease and desist order from Hamlin, Hamil & McGill after his billboard is perceived to be actively and purposefully infringing on the firm’s intellectual property, including a trademarked color they created for their branding. Cease and desist letters don’t always require that the recipient cease what they’re doing, but they do always need to be addressed. In Jimmy’s case, HH&M’s request is deemed to be valid, and he’s legally compelled to remove the billboard. 

Of course, Better Call Saul is far from perfect—this blog about the ethics of the show is a great read—and a viewer should certainly never take legal advice from a TV show. If you’ve got questions about legal terms or if you’re facing legal charges, contact our attorneys. We’ll be glad to talk you through it. 

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