Atticus Finch is a fictional character in Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is a lawyer and resident of the fictional Maycomb County, Alabama, and the father of Jeremy Atticus "Jem" Finch and Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. Atticus is a central character in the novel. In 2003, Atticus Finch, as portrayed by Gregory Peck in the 1962 film adaptation, was voted by the American Film Institute to be the greatest hero in American film.
Claudia Durst Johnson noted about available critique of the novel that, "a greater volume of critical readings has been amassed by two legal scholars in law journals than by all the literary scholars in literary journals." Alice Petry remarked that "Atticus has become something of a folk hero in legal circles and is treated almost as if he were an actual person." Examples of Atticus Finch's impact on the legal profession are plentiful. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center cites Atticus Finch as the reason he became a lawyer, and Richard Matsch, the federal judge who presided over the Timothy McVeigh trial, counts Atticus as a major judicial influence. One law professor at the University of Notre Dame stated that the most influential textbook he taught from was To Kill a Mockingbird, and an article in the Michigan Law Review claimed, "No real-life lawyer has done more for the self-image or public perception of the legal profession," before questioning whether, "Atticus Finch is a paragon of honor or an especially slick hired gun."
In 1992, Monroe Freedman, a legal ethics expert published two articles in the national legal newspaper Legal Times calling for the legal profession to set aside Atticus Finch as a role model. Freedman argued that Atticus still worked within a system of institutionalized racism and sexism and should not be revered. Freedman's article sparked a flurry of responses from attorneys who entered the profession holding Atticus Finch as a hero, and the...
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