February 2011 • Vol. 31 No. 2 | An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association

To Be (Competent) or Not to Be (Competent)

Join U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy when he presides over "The Trial of Hamlet" on January 31 to determine whether one of Shakespeare's most famous characters, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, was mentally competent at the time he murdered Polonius. Justice Kennedy's involvement springs from his interest in Shakespeare and how the author and the arts are relevant to audiences today.

As in the case of any jury proceeding, the outcome of this trial will be based on the testimony of expert witnesses, the prevailing legal thought, the composition of the jury, and the persuasiveness of the legal teams.

The LACBA prosecution team, led by Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers, who is a former LACBA president, and former Assistant Attorney General for the tax division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Nathan Hochman, who practices with Bingham McCutchen LLP, will base their arguments on evidence found in the play.

The Beverly Hills Bar Association's team of Richard Hirsch of Nasatir, Hirsch, Podberesky & Genego, and Blair Berk of Tarlow & Berk will head up the defense. Both sides will call upon psychiatrists to testify as expert witnesses.

In Shakespeare's play, Hamlet stabs Polonius, royal advisor and father of Ophelia, whom Hamlet is courting. Hamlet's sanity at the time of the stabbing has sparked literary debate for centuries. Once the legal arguments conclude on January 31, a jury of 12 community members including high school and college students, philanthropists, actors, and Los Angeles dignitaries will decide whether Hamlet will stand trial for murder or be discharged based on mental instability. Although the jury will be sequestered offstage, the audience will watch its deliberations via closed-circuit television.

Will Hamlet stand trial? That is the new question.

Hear the answer at USC Bovard Auditorium on January 31 when the proceedings take place from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Presented by The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles as part of its 25th anniversary season, the event is hosted by the USC Gould School of Law and cosponsored by the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the Beverly Hills Bar Association.

Limited seating is still available. To purchase tickets, visit www.shakespearecenter.org. 

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