On this week’s episode of For The People we gain insight into Judge Nicholas Byrne, an interesting secondary character brought into the forefront of the episode—and for good reason. The episode focuses on one big case, which involves Judge Byrne and leads to a new matchup between Seth and Jay. We also get more personal information and and see personal development among other characters.
The big focus of the episode is on Judge Byrne and the growth he undergoes in this episode. The episode opens with a look into his morning, which is relatively peaceful and normal—he even brings a brown bag lunch into work every day. Early on, he learns that Julian has died while in prison. Julian was sentenced to 10 years in prison because he was caught playing video games at his neighbor’s house and it had drugs in it. It seems that Byrne was the person to sentence him and is affected by the news. At the same time, Seth and Jay learn that they are going to be involved in a case about a young man, Rodrigo, who was caught with 57 grams of meth. Rodrigo was trying to earn some money for his family and did not ask what was in the package. He was trying to get by, but made a wrong decision. Judge Byrne is also presiding over this case and is unhappy that the sentence–a 10-year mandatory sentence–does not match the crime. With a surprising move, Judge Byrne tells Seth that he will not be sentencing Rodrigo to 10 years in prison.
He meets with Jill, the head of the public defenders and Roger, the head of the Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) and reiterates this point to them both. We also learn that Roger was once an AUSA and Judge Byrne was his boss. Roger and the District Attorney’s office will not back down and the case is taken to trial. During the trial, Judge Byrne decides to take matters into his own hands and begins to question the witnesses—much to Roger’s irritation and objections. The whole group (Judge Byrne, Roger, Seth, Jay and Jill) meet in his office to discuss Byrne’s actions, which have gone too far. Rather than backing off, Byrne reveals that he plans to expose the potential sentencing to the jury before a verdict is reached. This is very much illegal and spurs Roger to file a writ, which will essentially end Byrne’s career. At this point, Byrne is in need of a good pep talk, which he receives from Ms. Krissman. She tells him that he will do people more good by being a judge than making a point in this case. During the sentencing, Judge Byrne makes a big speech where he talks about the unfair nature of sentencing with certain charges and that he wants to speak out to try to resolve the issues. Despite his feelings and protests, Judge Byrne is forced to sentence Rodrigo to 10 years in prison.
The other big case in the episode went to Leonard, who was tasked with finding evidence that a congressman used campaign funds as hush money to cover up an affair. Although Roger was tasked with finding the evidence, he attended the congressman’s wedding and hands the case to Leonard. Leonard is thrilled to be given a chance to impress anybody and everybody, so he dives in head first to the case. There are two main issues Leonard faces with this case. One of them is the fact that finding actual evidence of misappropriation is very difficult. Although he interviews several people, he will not be able to charge the congressman unless he has physical evidence.
The other big issue involves his mother, Senator Knox. After Leonard attends a fundraising event to woo donors for his mother, Senator Knox advises her son against filing charges. When Leonard learns that the congressman’s biggest donor is also his mother’s biggest donor, he is unsure if she is advising him to protect his future or her own. The subsequent argument between Leonard and his mother provides some subtle insight into Leonard’s childhood. Most of his life and actions involved helping his mother in some way. Despite all of this, Leonard decides that he doesn’t have enough evidence to file charges against the congressman.
One of the best parts of this week’s episode is the continued development of Leonard and Kate’s relationship. We also get to learn more about Leonard’s feelings toward Kate. At the end of last week’s episode, Kate asked Leonard out to drinks as a way to test his feelings for her, and Leonard shot her down. This week, Kate is very cold and distant to Leonard and he notices. There’s a lot of sexual tension and insults thrown, but we learn that Leonard may have feelings for Kate. He is afraid that if they get into a relationship and it doesn’t work out it, will ruin their friendship. Kate denies any feelings for Leonard, saying that she was just trying to be friendly and turns him down. Hopefully there will be more interactions between these two as the weeks go on.
The episode also features a lighter storyline with Allison and her case. She is tasked with being “on duty” this week, making Sandra very happy. Her case involves a wine forger, Toby, who also happens to be very attractive (which everyone notices). There’s not a lot of focus on the case itself. When Allison meets with Toby, he explains why he is involved in wine forgery. He tells her that he’s very passionate about wine and was so angered by the rampant forgery. This anger inspired him to get into the fraud business as revenge. He is very knowledgeable about wine and even offers Allison some of his wine as a gift. Allison realizes that her best defense is to show Toby’s passion about wine to the jury. Not only does she have Toby demonstrate his skill, but she also offers a clever deal. She believes Toby’s knowledge could be more useful to prosecutors to help uncover a bigger fish in the wine forging business rather than putting him in prison.
Overall, this week’s episode provides not only a deeper understanding of some of our favorite characters, but also a look into some of the underlying issues facing our legal system today. Hopefully as the season continues, we’ll see more of the balance between soapy drama and tackling realistic issues.