The Appeal – a book with relevance today

With the pandemic, I have been catching up on the many unread books we still have on our shelves. Recently, I finished a book John Grisham published in 2008 called “The Appeal,” that was #1 on The New York Times bestseller list back then.

Even though it is twelve years old, the theme is relevant today. Without giving too much away, a married couple law team in a small town in Mississippi win a court case for their client against a company who had been proven to dump poisonous waste chemicals that made it into her community’s water supply. Their client lost both her husband and son to cancer as did many others in the county. She was awarded $41 million including punitive damages.

While others awaited to file suit, the verdict gave them reason to hope. The verdict was expected to be appealed, so no money traded hands. The CEO of the holding company for the chemical company decided to be proactive at the behest of a senior Mississippi Senator known for his wealth amassed through lobbyist funding. So, the CEO hires a secretive consulting firm whose expertise will help to unseat a less-friendly (to companies) judge running for reelection. Most of the $8 million fee is off shore and never declared.

The consulting firm recruits a young lawyer, with a young family and no baggage or judicial experience. So, he has no rulings that could be highlighted in a negative way. Once on board, they quietly fund his campaign commercials and strategy before announcing his candidacy. In essence, they use a surprise attack and overwhelm the sitting judge who thinks she is unopposed and has not raised funds.

I will stop there. The scary part is how easily this could be done. People were convinced to vote for this young, photogenic judge with a nice family, not knowing he was going to severely limit liability for companies who screwed people like these voters. He was supposed to be their judge.

So, when I see the stated reasons why judges are running, it makes me want to dig further. The true reason for a well-funded campaign is money. What judge will be the most friendly to companies? I have said this earlier, whether it is a supreme court seat or appellate court or some other court, lip service is given to issues that interest the voters. But, what interests the lobbyists is counting on a reliable vote in their industry’s favor.

A Non Sequitur calendar comic says it all about politics

My kids got me a Non Sequitur calendar pad last Christmas, where you peel away each date revealing a new comic scene. Today’s rendition may have been the funniest and most apropos one yet, given the approaching election.

Picture two older, heavy-set white men in suits reading newspapers while sitting in huge leatherback chairs which appear to be in a Members Only Club somewhere. One gentleman places the newspaper on his lap and says the following to the other:

“I think the two-party system is working just fine. Besides, buying a third one would be a bookkeeping nightmare.”