What the hell happened to John Grisham?

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to read a book where a character gets wrongfully executed after a lengthy fight with the legal system, only to have it revealed the character was indeed wrongfully executed…all the while, the reader completely couldn’t care less emotionally about the character?

If not, you probably haven’t read The Confession by John Grisham. A book in which the author seemingly set out to answer just that question.

Look, there was a point in which I loved John Grisham. I’ve read everything of his outside of the kids books he is now writing, and some of the non-legal stuff. And, even then I did read A Painted House and Bleachers. Unfortunately. You don’t read that many of one authors works unless at some point there was something real there that I absolutely enjoyed. I can tell you that The Client was the first book I’ve read. I can also tell you the exact location I was when I read one of the Klan scenes in A Time to Kill.

So, there undoubtedly was a point where I considered Grisham really good at what he did. But, reading his work these days, it just feels like he is on auto-pilot. Is it completely silly for me to sit here and criticize that? Absolutely. I wish I had the ability to have an inherent grasp on how to pace a novel so well that he can continue to write a lot of predictable stuff, with fairly vapid characters and not have people call him on it.

But, at the same time, I’ve absolutely read The Associate, The Appeal, The Broker and The Last Juror and can’t tell you a damn thing about them. They resonated with me none. I had high hopes for The Confession as the subject matter was something that should be thought provoking and it seems to be close to Grisham on a personal level. Grisham is active with the Innocence Project, and frankly anything that he can do to bring attention to that great work is undoubtedly needed. I just couldn’t help but not give a damn about the book, though.

I don’t know the exact point in which I think Grisham fell off, but, if I name The Testament, The Brethen, The Street Lawyer, The Summons and The Last Juror, I probably couldn’t really tell you much about them. But, I did enjoy those more than the recent ones that I couldn’t tell you much about.

A Time to Kill is one of my all time favorites. I loved The Client, loved The Runaway Jury, but, he’s been crazy formulaic for a long time now. Yet, I’ve read everything. So, I guess, really, I’m not sure if that says more negative about him or I…and I’m certainly leaning towards myself.

Seriously, why can’t I quit John Grisham?

I guess it’s mainly because you know there is greatness there. That’s obvious. With each new book, I keep hoping to be taken back to a time where Grisham took some risks with what he was writing. It just hasn’t happened.

Jalen Rose gets 20 days for first time DUI…

Saw this on a couple of National blogs, and because most people react with, really, 20 days on a first time DUI? I guess it’s kind of a big deal. Two stories about this, before I briefly comment:

So, there’s the backdrop. And, I guess, a positive note is that Jalen Rose didn’t get favorable treatment because he’s a celebrity. I think, like most people, the outcome of this is a bit surprising to me. The Freep article lists an attorney who says he won’t defend a DUI in Judge Small’s courtroom because of how the Judge handles them. I guess that’s one way to handle the situation.

Here’s another…TMZ has quotes from Jalen’s Attorney, Keith Davidson:

Davidson adds, “[Jalen] was the victim of abuse of discretion; lack of proportionality in sentencing; legislating from the bench & instituting illegal minimum mandatory sentences for DUIs in violation of law. “

And, a quote from Judge Small, presumably during the sentencing, definitely not to TMZ:

“There lies the answer to drunk driving,” Small said. “Send a message out there that there will be serious consequences.”

Does incarceration such as the one Rose received deter drunk driving? Let’s keep quoting…

“The studies show it has no impact,” said James Fell, senior program director for the Alcohol, Policy and Safety Research Center in Maryland. “Jail is really only an effective tool if it is used as a threat to make the drunk driver comply with other orders for probation, treatment, community service, alcohol testing.”

That from the second Freep Article I linked to. The Freep, seem to be all over this story. They even had a piece Monday about another Oakland County Judge finding success with a sobriety court program…aimed at treatment, rather than incarceration.

Where do I fall on this? I find it a bit dubious to believe that Rose’s sentence is going to deter drunk driving, either from Rose himself, or from others. But, at the same time, if we trust our Judges enough to enter into alternative programs, I guess there should be some measure of leeway in the other direction. Even though, 20 days on a first offense strikes me as over the top.

I realize drunk driving is a serious offense, but, we’re talking about the sentencing of a first time DUI and how to best handle the situation for society as a whole. In handling DUI matters, you certainly realize that it’s an offense where a mistake is often made by good people and you want to best get them to avoid those mistakes moving forward.

So, any thoughts on Jalen? Too harsh? Just right? Feel free to comment.

The Last Legal Book I read…

Last week, for some reason, I said the words, “It’ll be book week here.” This is part of an, albeit weak, attempt at “Book Week.”

We’re going straight up Book Review time to kick things off. I have a couple posts on books ready for the rest of the and I didn’t want to start this off with something akin to “yo, I hear Harper Lee wrote a fantastic book!” So, we’ll start with the last Law Book I read, which was The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly.

Like the prior Connelly book that delved into the law rather than focusing on the cops-side of things, a Connelly legal book is a bit less about the murder that his star, Mickey Haller, is defending, and more about the looming potential for more murder.

I could have figured out where the trial was going if I only had the foresight to punch the book title into Urban Dictionary. (Spoiler Alert: don’t punch the book title into Urban Dictionary). Connelly is best known for his Harry Bosch series of books that date back to the early 90s. Bosch is a detective. Haller is his brother, but, Haller doesn’t piece that together until the end of this one, despite their working together and Bosch, who has knowledge of their being brothers, not saying something like, “I’m your brother, man.”

This seemed a bit more of a legal drama than the previous attempt, as I think Lincoln Lawyer (now a movie!)  was a bit too much like a Bosch-series book, and this one I really found myself connecting with Haller a lot more. The looming murder loomed a little less, I guess. This was more along the lines of standard legal fiction, in a good way.

Here’s where the Haller series is a good read for the legal stuff: His courtroom moments are really good. There are definitely moments where it seems like Connelly is just fitting evidence/facts to what he wants his characters to accomplish, in the sense that as a lawyer I read it and see what he’s doing, but, would know how to respond and his lawyers don’t…yet, overall, there are some really good tendencies in this book. The biggest is probably the way in which Connelly writes misdirection as a trial technique.

It’s fun seeing Connelly write for a defense attorney after all those Bosch books where trust of the legal system is a bit lacking. Like most Connelly books, I don’t think they are great, but, they are paced phenomenally and you’re likely not going to regret having spent the time reading it. Connelly is also solid with generating characters where you want to see what happens next. Haller’s recovery from pain killer addiction in this novel, and his hiring a new driver based on that was a good addition.

I feel like Connelly has pumped out a ton of material and is finding new ways to event himself, the Haller series being one, compared to other writers that we’ll touch on this week in that regard. Connelly has a good grasp on the creative sense of criminal defense work, and that shines through in this book. Overall, a good read.

Great Moments in (fictional) Courtroom History

I’m going to try and run one of these every Friday morning. Straight forward, whatever I can find on YouTube that I enjoy, to fit in with the talk we’ll have here about legal moments in the movies, TV and more.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEuljvGB-YU]

We got a request last week for a clip from Big Daddy in this section. And, let’s face it, if there’s one thing I know I can do…it’s shamelessly pander to people who actually visit this blog.

“If OJ can get away with murder, why can’t Sunny have his kid? This guy knows what I’m talking about.”

Lockout over? Time to sue the NFL!

Football fans are likely rejoicing as the NFL Lockout slowly moves towards its inevitable end as if it were what the media wanted carmageddon to be. It’s Thursday morning and I don’t know whether the Lockout is officially over, but, according to guys who talk on TV, it’s a done deal. So, owners and league representatives can now breath easy, just in time to turn their attention to getting sued over concussions.

Seventy-five former pro football players claim in a lawsuit that the National Football League covered up information about the harmful effects of concussions. The suit claims the NFL knew of problems since the 1920s, but concealed the facts, TMZ reports.

Anyway, I don’t want to go too in depth on this, but, did just want to get this up as a quick post because the Slate article about the lawsuits is a great read. The article covers a lot of ground on the lawsuits and does so in a fairly compact way that is easy to read.

They start by talking about the claims the NFL could bring with the lawsuit: claiming fraudulent concealment and also negligence. The article lists the fraudulent concealment claim as the more dramatic of the two, one that could bring about more in punitive damages, if held against the NFL. From there, Slate lays out some of the possible defenses that the NFL could bring against the lawsuits.

Concussions are a huge issue in the NFL, right now, because of all the advances in science. Sure, in the 1920s the NFL certainly knew hard tackles might have some negative effects on folks, but, now, science is starting to present what those negative effects are. It hasn’t exactly been pretty. The NFL has seemed, from a distance, to be taking a good approach towards wanting to address the issues, but, for something like this, it’s always a murky area given the inherent dangers of the NFL.

Thoughts on the Slate article, the lawsuits or just the Lockout in general?

Borders Books Closing

A big story this week in Michigan was the announcement that Borders Books would be closing. This is disappointing on a lot of levels. The obvious being the immense loss of jobs, particularly for a Bookstore that opened their first store in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But, also from a larger sense. Everyone knows that bookstores are threatened by Amazon and those eReading things.

Forbes has an article up about what the demise of Borders holds for the bookstore business as a whole. I do hope that most of what they write, about how Borders over-reached and went beyond just books, is right. I like doing a lot of things from my cell phone. I’m not sure if I want to read books from it, though.

Then again, part of the reason why I say that is I’m not even tempted to get an e-Book when the prices are what they are currently. Seriously…right now on Amazon you can get a Hardcover George R.R. Martin for 19 bucks and the Kindle version for…gulp…15 bucks. That book is their #5 current Hardcover bestseller. Their #6 is a book that goes for 15 bucks hardcover and $13 on the Kindle. In fairness, the #2 bestselling Hardcover is only 8 bucks on Kindle. But, that book is already out on paperback. If you peruse other paperback bestsellers, the Kindle price is actually MORE expensive.

Which amazes me. I don’t think Bookstores or actual books on paper will die with those kinds of prices, but, books have certainly spent way too many hours late night in the ER.

This might be the point where you ask, why am I reading about a bookstore on a Law Blog? To which I respond simply that you must have missed the Ghostbusters II clip we had up on Friday. But, yeah, if part of the reason I am keeping this blog is to revive my interest in writing, it kind of follows that I enjoy books. And, bookstores. But, in the early days of this blog, I too have neglected them at the expense of Television and Movies. Sure, maybe books lack the same appeal the movies do, but, that would change once Michael Bay really sat down and devoted himself to figuring a way to get CGI into a print form, right?

Anyway, next week, we spend some time with books. It’ll be book week here. I’ll probably talk about John Grisham. A lot. Can’t wait.