What is jurisfiction?
What is “jurisfiction”?
It’s a term I coined to describe the genre of legal fiction – fiction with a law-related theme. My focus on this site is on books, but I’m also planning on including movies and even music.
Erle Stanley Gardner was one of the first jurisfiction writers of our era. He created lawyer-detective Perry Mason,who appeared in over eighty novels and short stories, usually with a plot involving his client’s murder trial. Gardner was one of the best-selling authors of all time, and his books also spawned some very popular radio and TV series. The Perry Mason TV series starring Raymond Burr had a famous intro theme – you won’t be able to get it out of your head.
Harper Lee wrote the jurisfiction masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, in 1960. It won the Pulitzer Prize and became a classic work of modern American literature, with themes of racial inequality and the destruction of innocence. Atticus Finch, a lawyer and the narrator’s father, is a moral hero for many readers. Book Magazine’s list of The 100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900 lists Finch as the seventh best fictional character of the twentieth century.
Going further back in time, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (written in 1598) is a jurisfiction classic: the court must allow moneylender Shylock to extract a pound of flesh from debtor Antonio until lawyer Portia points out a flaw in the contract: the bond only allows Shylock to remove the flesh, not the blood, of Antonio. This unforgettable scene spawned the term “pound of flesh” for a legal but unreasonable debt – still in use today.
Jurisfiction goes all the way back to biblical times – as in the King Solomon story in which two women both claim to be the mother of the same baby boy. King Solomon rules that he will cut the baby in two and give half to each. One woman agrees to the ruling. The other insists that he give the live baby to the other woman. King Solomon gives her the baby, recognizing that the real mother would protect her child.
John Grisham is today’s top jurisfiction writer – and his new book, The Litigators, was recently released. Scott Turow is another acclaimed jurisfiction writer, best known for Presumed Innocent and The Burden of Proof. It’s a popular genre and there are many choices for interested readers: this site aims to give you plenty of info to make your selection.
The law defines us. It expresses our most deeply held beliefs. While the law itself can seem dry and boring, nothing raises passions like a good legal battle. That’s why jurisfiction has always captured the public’s imagination – and always will.