An upstanding attorney is forced to defend a corrupt judge.
Forced to defend a corrupt judge (John Forsythe) who actually confesses he's guilty of rape, Al Pacino offers a typically powerhouse performance ("This whole trial is out of order!") as the Baltimore attorney battling the corruption and mindless bureaucracy of the United States legal system in this sometimes successful satire.
Jewison directs with an overlit reportage style, while husband-and-wife writing team Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin deliver a screenplay that for the most part resorts to cliché. Pacino's scorching performance won him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, although he lost out to Jon Voight in Hal Ashby's Coming Home.
If an uneasy mix of humour and sadness never quite gels, its message is clear and its cast uniformly strong.