She-Hulk # 1

She-Hulk, also known as “Jennifer Susan Walters,” is the cousin of Bruce Banner (aka The Incredible Hulk) and has served as a member of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D, and… an associate at Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway, a firm which, in the Marvel Universe, is one of the most prestigious on the East Coast.  Naturally, there’s a lot of material for Law and the Multiverse here.  In fact, we’ve written a bit about She-Hulk’s issues with legal ethics before.

In issue # 1 of her third solo-series (starting in 2004), She-Hulk was working as an assistant district attorney for New York City. At this point in her life, she was basically living as She-Hulk full-time, only reverting to her Walters form when sleeping (and even then only involuntarily). During closing arguments of a trial, she was called away to help the Avengers save the world from A.I.M. The judge let her do this, because, well, it kind of needed to be done, but he then declared a mistrial when the defense pointed out that the jury could very easily be said to be improperly influenced by the prosecuting attorney saving their collective butts from imminent death. It must be said that defense counsel has a point here, and judges do, in fact, declare mistrials when it seems likely that there is some undue influence going on, something to indicate that the jury is predisposed to favor one side or the other on the basis of anything other than what they’ve seen at trial. So as far as that goes, the writer is correct.

But he’s probably missed something: if a mistrial can be granted because She-Hulk saving the world during trial would improperly influence the jury, then why wouldn’t the jury’s knowledge that she’d done the same thing on countless prior occasions be an issue? One of the things that attorneys ask during voir dire is whether the jurors know basically anyone involved in either side of the case. Having any kind of personal relationship with either attorney would easily constitute grounds to strike for cause, and there would be a good argument for striking jurors whose lives had been saved by the prosecutor. This means that empaneling a jury with She-Hulk as one of the attorneys is going to be almost impossible.

Which, unfortunately, calls into question She-Hulk’s ability to be a litigator at all. This goes beyond just an attorney being a newsworthy figure. Even those attorneys that have attained some kind of media attention for their practice don’t have all that much trouble finding jurors who have never heard of them. Kenneth Starr, the head of the legal team that investigated President Clinton, attained some measure of fame/notoriety, but he’s hardly a household name. But She-Hulk is another matter entirely. She’d be nationally and even internationally known, and she’s definitely portrayed as a celebrity. Everyone knows who she is and what she’s done, though admittedly being seven feet tall and green doesn’t help much there. Showing up as Walters doesn’t necessarily help either, as her mundane identity isn’t secret. So it’s really a question as to whether she could really practice law the way she’s shown to practice it. This is something we’ll probably need to ignore if we want to let the story go on, which is definitely worth doing, because there’s a lot of other stuff in here.

So that’s the first issues of the latest She-Hulk run. The authors get some things right, but so far the presentation of legal issues is only okay.  But to be fair the same can be said of most fictional portrayals of the legal system. We’ll continue to look at this series down the road.

15 responses to “She-Hulk # 1

  1. If She-Hulk were ruled somehow as unable to litigate because of her fame or simply because of who she is, could she theoretically have a civil rights action on her hands over that?

    • Martin Phipps

      I think this question was already covered in “Superhero Rights to Privacy” Parts 1 and 2. The police demand that Spider-Man remove his mask but if somebody were to photograph Spider-Man as he took off his mask then Spider-Man would not be able to prevent that from appearing in the newspaper. Why? Because Spider-Man is a public figure and his identity is considered news. Similarly, She-Hulk herself couldn’t prevent Playboy from publishing candid photos of herself sunbathing on the Baxter Building rooftop because she’s a public figure.

      The fact that She-Hulk is a public figure is the problem, not that she’s a superhero. In order to have an actionable claim of a violation of her civil rights she would have to be a member of a protected class and even though she is a superhero that would not be the reason why she would be being discriminated against. Being a public figure won’t cut it because anybody can become famous. Could you imagine if Donald Trump became a lawyer? Most people know who Donald Trump is and would have some opinion about him one way or the other and the chance that the jury would make the trial about him rather than the defendant is too great too ignore.

      That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me if in real life a lawyer was able to make a civil rights case against a judge who argued that the jury would be swayed because he was black or because she was too beautiful but I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about here, not unless you want to claim that the judge is discriminating against big green people. 🙂

      • Actually, she could claim being part of a protected class and a civil rights issue, being part of the irradiated Gamma Ray types. We have Hulk, Leader, Abomination, etc.

        Granted most are bad or misunderstood guys, but one could make a case.

      • Martin Phipps

        You are missing the point. The fact that she is gamma irradiated is not the reason for the discrimination. She would have to claim she was being discriminated against because she was gamma irradiated in order for her to claim discrimination. It’s like Barach Obama going on to practice law in 2016 and then claiming that he was being discriminated against because he was black when in reality he was just too famous.

  2. Evil Lord Zog

    However, as a post-human/mutate/gammaform/superhero/etc etc, it might be equally valid a point that jurors might be inherently baised against a 7ft tall green woman acting as a litigator regardless of the merits of the case she’s litigating, so presumably the one is deemed to counter the other

  3. Martin Phipps

    The police CAN’T demand…

  4. So, wait, that’s actually an interesting question. What if, say, in 2017 Barrack Obama decided he wanted to start practicing law – say, criminal defense. Would he be banned from arguing in front of a jury, because he’s too well known and polarizing a figure?

    Somehow that doesn’t seem fair…

    • Ryan Davidson

      To whom? Imagine the flip side: imagine you’re a criminal defendant. Now imagine that a former President of the United States is prosecuting you. Aren’t you going to feel just a little upset about how that’s going to play with the jury?

      I don’t think this has ever really been an issue, partly because the few people who are well-known enough to run into this tend not to push their luck this way. Besides, most people that famous can find other things to do with their time, so it’s not exactly like they can’t make a living.

  5. She-Hulk is a superhero. In a world where there are tons and tons of them, and where they save the world every week.

    Sure, she’s in the Avengers and has distinctive looks. I wouldn’t expect the average citizen of the MU to know who’s in the Avengers, though, since there have been so many members go in and out. I find it entirely plausible that there are people who never heard of her. They will, of course, notice she’s big and green once they see her personally, but that doesn’t mean they’ll know anything about her previous activities.

    • Or rather, they’d probably have heard of her, but wouldn’t necessarily be aware of the specific instances in which she’d played a pivotal role in saving their lives, because there are just so many heroes out there.

      • Ken Arromdee

        I don’t necessarily think they’d even have heard of her. There are, maybe, 100-200 prominent superheroes in the MU. That’s too many for the average citizen to have heard all their names (even their codenames). It would be like someone in the real world knowing the name of every country in the world, or of every United States senator. It’s true that superheroes have names that are more catchy than senators, but even so.

      • Martin Phipps

        They may not of heard of her but what if they are biased against her because she is Bruce Banner’s cousin? He’s not particularly popular in the Marvel Universe?

  6. There’s an issue later on where she argues that marvel comics are self-authenticating because the comics code of approval constitutes a government seal. I found that pretty hilarious.

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