Fictional Lawyer Face-Off: Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman vs. The Wire’s Maurice Levy

THE CONTENDERS

Saul Goodman, nee McGill
Source: Breaking Bad, AMC TV Series 2008–2013, portrayed by Bob Odenkirk.
Jurisdiction: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Maurice “Maury” Levy
Source: The Wire, HBO TV Series 2002–2008, portrayed by Michael Kostroff
Jurisdiction: Baltimore, Maryland

THE WEIGH-IN

Two of the most critically-acclaimed television series of this century have focused on the drug trade, and both series have had an unscrupulous lawyer on the side of the dealers. The Wire’s Maury Levy represented various players in the Baltimore drug trade, from the Barksdales in the early seasons to final archvillain Marlo Stansfield.

Breaking Bad‘s Saul Goodman is a catchphrase-wielding, local-tv-ad-buying, ambulance chasing attorney-of-all-trades who routinely saves the bacon of Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, and their meth-cooking cronies. But he’ll also take your common DUI case or pain and suffering complaints from the “victims” of an airline crash.

SUCCESS RATE

[Before getting into this section, I feel I should issue a blanket (see ethical issues)]

Levy’s job is more about damage control than it is about winning cases, but he is extremely skilled in that area. His specialty may be witness suppression, pulling strings to properly intimidate nicked members of the Barksdale organization into silence. Levy does have one notable failure in the courtroom when his client Bird Hilton is sentenced to life in prison for murder, after Omar Little humiliates Levy from the witness stand with a moral condemnation for his role in “The Game.”

Similarly, Saul Goodman’s success rate is not necessarily a fair representation of his effectiveness as counsel, because his greatest skills lie outside the courtroom. He seems to be the most connected man in Albuquerque, initiates the successful laundering of White’s drug money, and finds a replacement crew when he restarts his operation in Season 5.

ETHICAL ISSUES

In this face-off, it;s unclear if the contender with the GREATER sin should be crowned the victor in this category, because choosing the lesser of two ethics-violators in this case is an exercise in futility. They’re both well past the point of no return. Obviously facilitating criminal activity is unethical for lawyers. And let’s be real here: these guys are both criminals in their own right.

Either way, it’s too close to call.

POINTS FOR STYLE

Levy, despicably, puts on airs of being a respectable servant of the justice system above reproach despite his countless misdeeds. He’s one of the least sympathetic characters in The Wire, a series which has no shortage of villains.

Goodman, for the most part, owns that he is a scoundrel, as well as a low-rent strip-mall lawyer. His charisma generally outpaces his obnoxiousness. It really helps that he’s one of the greatest (only?) sources of comic relief in the extremely bleak series.

WINNER: SAUL GOODMAN

Obviously. It helps when only one of the two lawyers is even remotely likable. While anything could change in the final episodes of Breaking Bad [Note: this piece was written before the penultimate episode aired], the fact remains that only one of these guys is getting his own spinoff series. I’m calling it for Saul.

CASE CLOSED.

[Image via Shutterstock]

Robin Hitchcock is an American writer living in Cape Town, South Africa. She is an inactive member of the bar which makes her much less bitter than working lawyers. Robin writes sketch comedy for the Pittsburgh-based all-female troupe Frankly Scarlett and performs improv comedy with Cape Town's The Long Shots. Robin is also a staff writer for the feminist media criticism site Bitch Flicks. You can find more of her writing at her blog, tumblr, and Twitter.

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