Americans find themselves more and more in the toils of the law while getting less justice, declares labor attorney Geoghegan (In America’s Court: How a Civil Lawyer Who Likes to Settle Stumbled into a Criminal Trial, 2002, etc.).
Elaborating on themes from such earlier books as Which Side Are You On? (1991), the author looks at the massive changes in American society wrought by the implosion of the union movement (wounded by gutted legal protections that were weak to begin with) and by the economic, legal and social anomie of the middle class. Noting the nation’s current, dramatically skewed distribution of income, Geoghegan argues that we now have a serious sense of disconnect between effort and reward. The U.S. has shifted from a contract-based society with a stable of reasonably well-known rewards to a tort-based crapshoot, in which more people invoke the legal process but less justice is achieved. The mediating influence of many institutions—including unions, of course—has waned. Geoghegan makes no bones about being an unreconstructed liberal of the bread-and-butter variety. He is openly contemptuous of the collapse of fiduciary law as it applies to corporate leadership, of our lengthy discovery-driven legal proceedings, of the diminishing use of injunctions to achieve justice and of the arbitration that was supposed to effectively and efficiently substitute for litigation. This might be unbearably grim, were it not for a writing voice that positions the author as someone with whom you would cheerfully spend four or five hours in a bar somewhere, arguing the whole time, who would then send you home to the sound sleep of the just, confident that civilization was probably still more or less salvageable, if only Geoghegan would either lead, shut up or simply get out of the way.
Will clean out your political cholesterol and make you think about the long-term, systemic effects of the legal and cultural wars in which we are now engaged.