Are The 'For The People' Cases Real? Shonda Rhimes' Shows Have Pulled Inspiration From Real Life Before
ABC's For The People joins the ever-successful lineup of Shonda Rhimes-produced shows when it premieres on Tuesday, March 13. The New York City legal drama follows a team of attorneys in the very real Southern District Of New York federal court. Are the For the People court cases real? They will certainly feel real — and with good reason. Show creator Paul William Davies is himself a former lawyer. According to Davies' personal website, he graduated from Stanford University Law School and he worked as an attorney at the prominent international law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP in Los Angeles for over a decade.
The New York Daily News reported that early episodes of For The People will deal with cases such as an accused terrorist who tried to blow up the Statue of Liberty and a wine forger. And yes, wine forgery is a real crime. Just ask Rudy Kurniawan, who was found guilty of fraud in 2013 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling counterfeit wines, according to Wine Enthusiast magazine.
For the People is set in the high-profile Southern District Of New York federal court, which has handled cases such as the sinking of the Titanic, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and the Pentagon Papers, according to the Daily News. The federal district is colloquially known as "The Mother Court," according to the American Bar Association.
The For the People showrunner, Davies, told the Los Angeles Times that the cases will likely be inspired by what is going on in the world at the moment. "The federal judiciary has been more prominent in the news in the last year since [President Donald] Trump was elected, and that to me is something that’s important for us to contend with," he told the newspaper. "We live in our own universe on TV, but a lot of these real-world issues that are coming up are ones we have an opportunity to engage with."
Additionally, Davies told the Daily News that he aimed to show both sides of the courtroom for a more accurate portrayal of the profession. “Instead of being from one side — defense or prosecution — it looks from both sides of the legal process,” he told the Daily News. “I wanted a richer picture of how the legal system works.”
According to Davies' personal website, he previously wrote for the TV series Scandal, which is also executive produced by Rhimes in under her Shondaland banner. Like other Shondaland TV shows, For the People will likely balance storylines about the main cast of characters along with interesting court cases — that just might be inspired by real life. Scandal's protagonist Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) is based on Judy Smith, a real-life crisis management expert and former aide in President George H.W. Bush's administration. She confirmed to the Washington Post that Pope's affair with the president is fiction — and she had a playful discussion about the moment she heard about the storyline in a 2016 interview at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas.
Real-life inspiration inhabits other Shondaland shows as well. People recently reported that Dr. Miranda Bailey's heart attack on Shondaland series Grey's Anatomy was inspired by show writer Elisabeth Finch's own experience with doctors. In November 2017, the Institute for Justice reported that a Season 4 episode of How to Get Away With Murder took inspiration from the institute's class action lawsuit against Philadelphia’s civil forfeiture program.
Like many Shondaland dramas, while many of the cases on For the People might be fictional, it seems like the roots of the show will definitely be grounded in reality.