The Underlying Cause

Creator: Nancy Brennan
Age rating: 17 and older
A U.S. District Court judge from Chicago is elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court and once she discovers that justice is for sale to the highest bidder, must decide whether to risk everything to expose the truth.
Synopsis: Rebecca Callahan is a United States District judge from Chicago with a shady defense attorney husband, Michael, and a 16 year-old daughter Angie. Michael manipulates Rebecca into swinging cases for “the good of the public.” When she renders a ruling on gun control, she’s thrust into the national scene and a reporter from the Washington Post, Dan, shows up to interview her, which makes her very uneasy.

When a U.S. Supreme Court Justice dies in a questionable hunting accident, Rebecca is brought to Washington D.C. by the President to interview for the job and is chosen as the President’s candidate. While she’s in D.C. preparing for the judicial committee hearings, Senior Aide to the Senate Judicial Committeeman, Charles Lattimore, works in the background to make sure the candidate confirmation goes off without a hitch. Dan seems to be an unwelcome presence to Rebecca, always poking around and trying to give her a guilty conscience.

During one prep session, Rebecca convinces her sponsor to take a break and goes for a walk, and feeling smothered by her bodyguards, ends up ditching them while in a museum. She is approached by George, the former clerk for the dead justice. He slips Rebecca a note to meet him in the hotel convenience store the next day to talk. She meets George, with Dan secretly watching nearby, and George tries to warn Rebecca of the situation she’s getting herself into. Dan knocks over some cans, startling George and he grabs Rebecca and pulls her with him to escape down a service hallway, and Dan pursues them. The group exits the hotel and suddenly a taxi veers toward them. George is hit but Dan pulls Rebecca back, saving her life. The bodyguards catch up and take Rebecca, shove her into an SUV and peel out of there.

Rebecca is sworn in and quickly learns that she’s supposed to follow orders and not ask too many questions. The justices only have access to those documents approved by Chief Justice Cunningham but when Rebecca mistakenly receives an off-limits file on the big case at hand, her suspicions grow to the point she can’t ignore them anymore and she starts to dig for more information. Dan follows right behind her until he gets heat from his editor to back off. Of course he doesn’t and is quickly muzzled. When Dan sneaks into Rebecca’s car to convince her to expose the ugly truth, another car comes from the side and T-bones them. When Michael comes to the hospital, he warns Rebecca to stop talking to the reporter or else. She doesn’t take this kindly.

Rebecca and Michael’s marriage suffers as a result of them not speaking to each other. When their daughter Angie goes to a party with Tommy, a White House intern she’s dating, Tommy drugs her and she ends up in the hospital. Michael vows to get revenge on Tommy and Lattimore, both of whom have been co-conspirators with Michael on this charade from the beginning. Rebecca suspects that Tommy was the one that drugged Angie and she asks Dan to check his phone records. Dan then sneaks into the hospital but tells her that Michael was involved as well. This is too much for Rebecca to bear and she leaves the hospital with Dan, overcome with guilt.

The two of them escape to figure out their next steps when Michael visits Angie in the hospital and, by his demeanor, Angie immediately knows something’s up and calls Rebecca. Michael plots his revenge and when Tommy and Lattimore are together in a public place, Michael phones in a 911 call in order to get the police and media to show up. He approaches them and makes a scene while police surround him. With cameras rolling, he apologizes to Rebecca and takes the blame for the whole mess and provokes Lattimore to confess as well. In the confusion, the gun goes off and hits Tommy and Lattimore and the police open fire and kill Michael.

While in the car on their way to find Michael, Rebecca and Dan hear the news about the shooting and it’s clear to them what happened. Rebecca is finally ready to lay it all on the line and tell the President. As a result, the President stays all Supreme Court cases for a full investigation. Dan regains his investigative credibility and Rebecca and Angie decide to return to Chicago where they belong.

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