Not so much a courtroom drama, but a novelisation of corporate America’s manipulation of the justice system.

A state jury has just awarded a massive award for damages, in a tort case involving a company whose toxic wastes have polluted a town’s water supply. The company lawyers decide to appeal, and at the same time, the billionaire behind the company decides to manipulate the Justice system by making sure to appoint a judge, who is likely to rule in his favor, to the court of appeal.

An interesting way to introduce readers, especially non-US citizens, to an aspect of the workings of the US justice system. Or specifically the state court of appeal and the negative aspects of electing, rather than appointing, judges.

In theory, as I understood it, the idea behind democratic elections for judges might have been to ensure fair and equitable appointments of the office holders (rather than appointment by favouritism). But the nature of elections in the US is that judges have to seek the support of people and groups in order to get elected (nobody will vote for someone they do not know, seen or heard of). To reach the voters, massive amounts of money has to be spent for mailers and TV ads.

In order to finance such political campaigns, donations are solicited and that’s when things start progressing down the slippery slope. The judges who are eventually elected inevitably feel compelled to make decisions that are more in favor of the views of his/ her supporters and donors. In theory, one could campaign to be impartial and unbiased, but human nature is such that donors and supporters would want someone they favor to be in office. Or to have someone whose views (on religion, sexual orientation, policies) are aligned with theirs.

I also understood better why tort cases and civil litigations may sometimes be necessary in the US system (especially when government checks and regulation is not always available to prevent gross negligence).

One take-away was that politics, religion and the legal systems should be at arm’s length.

A part of me wondered if is book was carried through more in the merits of the author’s fame rather than the writing style. The writing style tends to be “describing” rather than “telling” the story for most parts. Still, the plot was interesting enough to carry me through the entire novel.

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