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See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation Paperback – January 4, 2009

3.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Entertaining . . . breezy. . . . The essential charm of Geoghegan’s writing is his honest, self-deprecatory style." —The Washington Monthly

"Good fun . . . [Geoghegan’s] a sharp thinker. . . . See You in Court makes a good case that deregulation has damaged the justice system in many ways." —Chicago Reader

Review

Good fun...[Geoghegan's] a sharp thinker....See You in Court makes a good case that deregulation has damaged the justice system in many ways.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (January 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595584102
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595584106
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,614,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eric S. Perlstein on February 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
We all know conservatism killed something. It's just hard for us to put our finger on exactly what. We smell it, we feel it, we taste it--how the elementary particles of civilization, the very molecules that join together our social life, have been breaking down. But, not being molecular physicists, we somehow can't describe it, can't name it. You have to be really, really smart, pay extraordinary attention to the tiniest details, to do that.

Tom Geoghegan? He's our molecular physicist. In his daily work as a lawyer for people screwed by the new American order--employees fired for joining a union, losing their pensions, replaced by younger workers that companies can pay less; working mothers whose daily life is monopolized by harassment from collection agencies; retirees sued for debts they didn't even know they owed--he's gathered the evidence to make sense of all that does not make sense.

So read Tom Geoghegan. For those who haven't had time for See You in Court--let alone his other masterpieces, Which Side Are You On? (1991), The Secret Lives of Citizens, and In America's Court (2002)--I'm pleased to provide Cliff Notes. <a href="[...]">Read this.</a> I'll wait.

Back yet? Good. You're hooked.

So what's the argument?

In the world Ronald Reagan gave us, "More and more people experience the law as arbitrary." Our work lives, even if we weren't necessarily in unions, were bounded by stable, transparent, easily enforceable contracts. Now we sign "employee handbooks" that look like labor contracts used to look--"but on page 100 it says: 'Nothing herein is enforceable.' Warning: This is not a contract. We take job because of promised "lifetime" benefits that get cut off with a week's warning.
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Format: Hardcover
There is no index; there are no notes, no citations of sources. With its fanciful writing, its humor and stretched arguments, at times it seems like fiction. But underneath it is serious non-fiction, designed to provoke attention to the important subject of the state of the American legal system.

Goeghegan discusses change in the law, particularly what he describes as a shift from contract law to torts, and the impact this has had on the litigation rate. What is significant, whether you buy his thesis or not, is that he emphasizes political reasons for the change, primarily deregulation brought about by the political right. This is in contrast to the tack taken by many current critics to the effect that judges (almost alone) have fuzzed up the law to such an extent that there is no certainty, leading to a lottery mentality and a rise in litigation; and that lawyers generally are to blame for filing too many lawsuits. His thesis extends to charging that in the areas such as workers' pensions and non-profit hospitals, the lack of "trust" law, or a contractual fiduciary obligation, necessarily leads to more and nastier litigation because there are no longer clear contract-type rules in place to protect legitimate interests. Although the book refers to European and other nations as doing a better job of limiting litigation, it could benefit from additional reference to comparative law studies that describe the trade-off: those countries have a lot more beaucratic government control of pensions, medicine, etc., leaving much less to litigate. While this supports his thesis, it ignores the issue of the price that is paid.

As you read on, you wonder who is the intended audience. The treatment of legal matters is not what most lawyers would want to see.
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Format: Hardcover
I really like this author and his work. I thought "Which Side Are You On?" was a tight, well-reasoned and passionate thesis on the current state of union leadership.

However...

His passion got the best of him. This book, most regrettably, crossed some line between argument and diatribe. It became tiresome to follow the author from thesis and topic into the weeds, over and over again, with yet another "war story" about working with the northern Illinois court system.

His thesis here is, once again, really strong and very, very provocative. Its power is unintentionally undermined by an overly demonstrative and self-pitying style. Makes reading not only unpleasant, but undisciplined and unfocused.

He's a lawyer and should know better. Tom, pretend the readership is a jury and then try it again...
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Format: Hardcover
I have read and loved all of Tom Geoghegan's books because of Tom's search for a commonsense morality that can applied to the problems of our time. See You in Court extends that search to the way that the law has crept into most transactions in life. Geoghegan takes on the explosion of court cases and their effect on our innate sense of justice which has been mainly detrimental.

This development is paradoxical when we reflect on the great numbers of people,many like Tom, who went to law school with the idea of somehow contributing to a better society while being able to make a reasonable living. How did we end up the situation we find ourselves in now where a lucky few hit it big with large jury driven settlements and everyone else is stuck with little recourse when faced with routine injustice?

Tom Geoghegan's fearless exploration of these issues is enlightening. Some reviewers decry the lack of a more typical legal academic framework, wincing at Geoghegan's self revelations which are rarely flattering to Geoghegan,contrary to the practice of most authors. But it is exactly this type of examination, self and otherwise, that makes this book a good entree for nonlawyers.

If you care about justice,both lofty and as it exists (or doesn't) in the everyday, this is a highly worthwhile book. Geoghegan takes law ouside the courtroom and private negotiations to speculate on how and why we ended up with the sytem we have today. He points to possible solutions, though that is not the real purpose of the book. Instead he describes the problem, provokes our sympathy and ire, and asks us to look at a far bigger picture in seeking solutions.

LIke all the Geoghegan books, you will find yourself, "talking back" to the book, internally debating his theses and mulling over the stories. Once a Geoghegan book enters your consciousness, it rarely leaves. And isn't that the best reason to read?
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