Al Pacino stars as criminal attorney Arthur Kirkland, a controversial counselor who has just spent a night in jail for contempt of court. He was sent there by Judge Fleming (John Forsythe). But when the judge is arrested for raping and battering a young girl, he wants Kirkland to defend him. In return, the judge offers to reconsider the case of a client Kirkland believes has been wrongly imprisoned. Meanwhile, the client (Thomas Waites)has attempted to escape from prison, is holding hostages and will talk only to Kirkland.