VOTE: The Most Despicable Defense Attorneys on 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'
Collection Photo: NBC
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Donna Emmett (Viola Davis)
Fantastic actress, sure. But Viola Davis, who played opposite über-bitch Lorna Scarry (Mariette Hartley) in the S4 episode 'Doubt,' (Davis would go on to score an Academy Award nomination for her performance in another production entitled 'Doubt') can sure get under your skin, concocting one lame defense theory after another. In one episode, she represents a lunatic physician (Martin Mull) who refuses to acknowledge the existence of AIDS, instead encouraging his patients to take yogurt as a homeopathic cure for HIV symptoms (what?!?!). Only when presented with irrefutable evidence does Emmett agree to take a play deal. Davis hasn't returned to the SVU set since scoring her second Oscar nomination for 'The Help.' Here's hoping she'll come around soon.
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 7
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Roger Kressler (Ned Eisenberg)
One of those characters that is so off-putting, the mere sight of them alighting from one of the courthouse elevators can send you frantically searching for a piece of drywall to punch. Kressler is as slimy as they come, standing up for serial killers, pedophiles, teenage sadists and, virtually, any scumbag with money. One prime example of said sliminess occurs in S2 episode 'Closure.' Harper Anderson (Tracy Pollan) accuses Kessler's client of defending a serial rapist.
Anderson: 'I've seen you in court, Mr. Kessler. You're a very famous man. You're gonna burn in Hell.'
His retort: 'I'm Jewish, Ms. Anderson. There is no Hell.'
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 21
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Lionel Granger (David Thornton)
Marrying Cyndi Lauper is the smartest thing David Thornton ever did. In second place: taking the role of consummate asshole Lionel Granger, one of the biggest turds in the New York judicial system. Slick, unethical and easily up for any legal challenge, Granger once accused St. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) of murdering a sexual sadist that forced his female victims to marry him in a dungeon (turns out it was Jacqueline Bisset...or Samantha Mathis). He has even joined forces with fellow scumbag Roger Kressler (Ned Eisenberg), playing duplicitous defender to a pack of homicidal teenage girls who beat one of their friends to death and proceeded to stab her corpse hundreds of times with a pair of manicure scissors. His defense? Extreme emotional distress. Stay classy, Granger.
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 10
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Carolyn Maddox (CCH Pounder)
Another great actress, CCH Pounder has carved herself a reputable television career playing doctors (ER), police detective (The Shield), and other good-guy roles. To witness such a superb reinvention, like morphing into Carolyn Maddox, is not for the squeamish. In S5 episode 'Carless,' Maddox defends an incompetent social worker (Julie Hagerty) who neglects her supervisory duties and, as a result, allows an abused child to be suffocated to death at the hands of his adopted mother (Malinda Williams). Rather than fall on her sword, Maddox insists that the system is to blame. In fact, Maddox frequently pulls out the 'fight the power' defense card, rarely winning.
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 5
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Rebecca Balthus (Beverly D'Angelo)
Oh man! I love Beverly D'Angelo. 'Coal Miner's Daughter?' Anybody who can hold their own as Patsy Cline alongside Sissy Spacek's Loretta Lynn is aces in my book. Then again, it's a testament to her fine acting abilities because Rebecca Balthus is such a delusional asshole. A seemingly novice attorney who is always seen toting stacks of heavy files to and from court (get a briefcase, dummy!), Balthus is usually first in line to proffer the most obscure and useless factoids, supported by irrelevant case laws, and to slap the insanity defense motions onto ADA Novak's desk. Granted, many of her clients are in dire need of mental assessments. But still.....
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 5
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Trevor Langan (Peter Hermann)
Aside from being a total babe, Trevor Langan (Peter Hermann, aka Mr. Mariska Hargitay) is a huge dick who happens to have an answer for everything. Even Novak couldn't resist those eyes...remember when Benson and Stabler caught the two of them out on a date? Anyway, Langan really sprung up on my radar when he defended this crusty, upper-class Madison Avenue-type widow that owned slaves. Like, bought undocumented children to clean her brownstone. Langan called the transaction 'a misunderstanding.' Too many examples of his douchebaggery to list. Don't let that chiseled jawline fool you. This guy is trouble.
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 27
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Xander Henry (Gary Cole)
Another singular appearance by this dud. I can't remember if Henry is in actuality a lawyer, but he does agree to represent the college fraternity brother of his murdered son. Seriously. He defends his own son's killer. WHAA?! It takes a lot of balls to walk into a courtroom with those facts in order, but in the end, after receiving a swift heart-to-heart with Elliot Stabler, he intentionally (or unintentionally) entraps his client, allowing for a piece of damning evidence into the fray, sealing the murderer's fate.
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 1
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Chauncey Zierko (Peter Riegert)
Oscar nominee Peter Riegert's Chauncey Zierko is as twisted and soulless as they come. A defender of Billy Tripley (Will Keenan), a creepy Michael Jackson-like figure who so obviously molests sick and vulnerable children from low income families, Zierko is quick to deny any public allegations, but can draw up a non-disclosure agreement faster than you can say 'hush money.'
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 6