Most folks know 1992's My Cousin Vinny as the Joe Pesci-starring comedy that earned Marisa Tomei an Oscar. But to the United States attorney for the District of New Jersey, it's a teaching tool thanks to how accurately it portrays the life of a lawyer.
As NJ.com reports, Paul J. Fishman made his comments at Fairleigh Dickinson University as part of the Governor Brendan T. Byrne Annual Lecture last week. At that event, crowd members asked what pieces of pop culture best represent the legal profession.
"Every profession in the room watches TV, movies, reads books and says, 'That's not the way it is at all,'" Fishman said, adding that My Cousin Vinny and Scott Turow's 1987 novel Presumed Innocent provide good portrayals.
For the uninitiated, My Cousin Vinny revolves around a pair of young New Yorkers mistakenly accused of murder in rural Alabama. Their cousin, Vinny (played by Pesci, a Jersey native), ultimately comes to defend them, and does a great job in Fishman's estimation — especially in the film's courtroom interrogations.
Fishman specifically referenced a scene from the movie in which Pesci's character questions a witness who says he saw the murder in question occur. In that scene, the argument comes down to the preparation of grits, with Pesci uttering the famous line, "Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than anywhere else on the face of the Earth?"
"I have taught trial techniques for 15 years using that because his cross [examination] is terrific," Fishman said. "Go back and watch it and see. It's over the top, it's outrageous, but the way he does it is great."
Fishman, NJ.com reports, also pointed out that he isn't the only Jersey boy in the legal profession to take inspiration from My Cousin Vinny. Late US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia also referenced the film in a 2006 case regarding a defendant's right to choose the lawyer he wanted, though he referred to it at the time as "My Uncle Vinny."