breaking bad courtesy of amc
The New Mexico Law Review (NMLR) has published a special issue surrounding legal issues in the popular TV series "Breaking Bad."
Credit: Courtesy of AMC

The University of New Mexico School of Law student-edited general legal journal New Mexico Law Review (NMLR) has published a special issue that analyses contemporary legal issues related to the storyline of “Breaking Bad.”

The articles include analysis of criminal procedure, a hypothetical arrest of Walter White, attorney-client communications, police practices, the war on drugs, and morality and the law, among other critical topics.

“Breaking Bad, with its popularity and association with New Mexico, offers an accessible and unique lens through which to explore traditional legal and social issues,” said NMLR faculty advisor Professor Dawinder “Dave” Sidhu. “I commend the Law Review board and staff for enriching and advancing conversations on law in this creative and innovative fashion.”

Close to 50 abstracts were submitted, from which the editorial team made offers on the eight articles included. 

Editor-in-chief Matthew Zidovsky says that NMLR board was excited about the interest from legal scholars and practitioners around the country. “From the day that we announced our plan to publish this special edition, we received tremendous feedback from the legal community,” said Zidovsky. “As the submissions came in, we were very pleased to have a wide variety of series plotlines and legal issues to choose from.”

Zidovsky says he hopes the articles and essays contained in this issue will trigger discussion related to the power of media to influence public perception of legal and social issues.

Summaries of articles in the NMLR Spring 2015 issue

  • In “Breaking Bad in the Classroom,” UNM Law Professor Max Minzner advocates for the value of video as an effective tool for teaching in the law school classroom and provides a scene-by-scene demonstration of how to use Breaking Bad to convey the substance of criminal procedure.
  • In “Why We Would Spare Walter White: Breaking Bad and the True Power of Mitigation,” Professor Bidish J. Sarma offers a look into the capital sentencing process that would face Walter White following a hypothetical arrest near the end of the series.
  • An article by Mr. Armen Adzhemyan and Ms. Susan M. Marcella is titled, Better Call Saul if You Want Discoverable Communications: The Misrepresentation of the Attorney-Client Privilege on Breaking Bad.”  The authors use various attorney-client communications featured on the show to explore the contours of the attorney-client privilege under federal common law and New Mexico’s state law jurisprudence. 
  • In “The Good and (Breaking) Bad of Deceptive Police Practices,” Professor Elizabeth N. Jones discusses the possible association between depiction in “Breaking Bad” of investigative strategic police deception and the Department of Justice’s recent finding of a “pattern or practice of excessive force” by some Albuquerque Police Department officers.
  • “Stuck Between a Rock and a Meth Cooking Husband: What Breaking Bad’s Skyler White Teaches us About How the War on Drugs and Public Antipathy Constrain Women of Circumstance’s Choices,” by Holly Jeanine Boux and Professor Courtenay W. Daum examines the Skyler White character to highlight how sociocultural expectations, the War on Drugs, and public antipathy intersect to constrain the choices available to women of circumstance. 
  • Professor Jennifer W. Reynolds’s “Breaking BATNAs: Negotiation Lessons from Walter White” examines five scenes featuring negotiations, one from each of the five seasons of the show. 
  • The Political Geography of Plea Bargaining in Federal Death Penalty Cases,” by Professor Greg Goelzhauser uses Breaking Bad’s emphasis on federal law enforcement in New Mexico to motivate an empirical analysis of plea-bargaining outcomes in federal capital cases.
  • Finally, in Don’t Bake––Litigate! A Practitioner’s Guide on how Walter White Should Have Protected his Interests in Gray Matter, and his Litigation Options for Building an “Empire Business” Through the Courts, not the Cartel, Mr. Michael C. Mims, Esq., argues that White’s foray into the world of methamphetamine production could have been avoided if he had consulted legal counsel before selling his shares of Gray Matter Technologies.