SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Jewish Cultural Festival (SJCF) will present a Zoom discussion of the 2017 film “Marshall” on Thursday, Aug. 3, at 7 p.m. Marshall is available for renting or purchasing on the internet.
The film tells the story of Thurgood Marshall before he became a Supreme Court Justice, arguing a case for a black man, Joseph Spell, accused of rape in 1940 Connecticut. Marshall was aware of the bias he might be fighting against with a jury comprised entirely of white citizens. He had threats made against his life for taking on such cases in the past and would receive more of that type of threat.
Marshall was representing not only the defendant, but also the NAACP whose cases were usually focused on Southern states. This case reveals how such prejudice was rampant in the North as well.
“It wasn’t the last time Marshall would prove his courage in a challenging case,” says Phyllis Wang, coordinator of SJCF. “He argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court and won 29 of them. The northern media did not do a very good job of looking in their own backyard when it came to racism and segregation.”
“Marshall” was written by a father-son team, Michael and Jacob Koskoff. “Michael, a Connecticut civil rights lawyer, brings insight to the case including the technical arrangement by which the law required a local co-counsel. A Jewish insurance lawyer, Sam Friedman became co-counsel. Josh Gad plays the role in the film.
As Marshall could not personally address the court, he called the shots for Friedman who was initially fearful that trying such an unpopular case would destroy his legal career. He was also less than thrilled to be taking under-the-table orders from the out-of-town stranger,” said Wang. She added, “Friedman’s own experience with anti-Semitism added a natural point of empathy with his client. By the end of the trial, he trusts in Marshall who dictates the closing argument and Friedman infuses his partner’s words with a personal conviction of his own.”