Articles Posted in Book review

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the wordThe First Amendment is a mighty shield, protecting all sorts of offensive speech. No matter how disgusting I might find the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church, in 2011, the Supreme Court found a First Amendment protection in its favor allowing the church to spew its hateful ideology in public. In Snyder v. Phelps (yes, Fred Phelps, the late leader of the Westboro cult), the Court held that a speaker on a public sidewalk, speaking about a public issue, cannot be held liable for the tort of emotional distress, even if the speech is ‘outrageous.’ But the Snyder Court also distinguished between hateful speech directed to issues of public importance, like homosexuality and abortion, and speech of a personal nature, like insults and lies, directed to a private person.

Hubert Crouch’s new book, The Word (2015), practically yanks the Westboro headlines from today’s paper. In his sophomore novel, the second installment of the Jace Forman series, Crouch brings together three main characters from his first book (Cries For No One (2013)) for a wild ride through a world where religious zealots hide behind the First Amendment to cover their virulent hate speech, high-powered attorneys hire thugs to intimidate magazine reporters from exposing their misdeeds, and an entire family – the McGuffin, if you will, for the story -– is killed off, one-by-one, until only their lawyer is left standing. Hey, The Word is set in Texas, after all! Continue reading

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recklessdisregard 1Abduction!, the world’s hottest online game from the world’s hottest online game developer, the anonymous shadow figure known to the world only as Poniard (think, an online Banksy), accuses real-life media mogul, William Bishop, known to the world as William the Conqueror (think, Rupert Murdoch) of the abduction and murder of the well-known film starlet Felicity McGrath some years before. What’s a tycoon to do but sue Poniard for libel and defamation? As we all know, though, truth is an absolute defense to libel.

That’s the set-up for Robert Rotstein’s latest legal thriller, Reckless Disregard, (Seventh Street Books, 2014) and what a fun ride this book is. Our hero is Parker Stern, a burned-out trial lawyer with a secret past. Once at the top of the Los Angeles legal heap, Parker has lost his love for the law and is terrified of the courtroom. Now working from a sparsely furnished room the mediation service provides, he’s spending the prime of his legal career as a two-bit mediator, handling the legal dross that none of the other mediators wants, the slip-and-falls, evictions, Worker’s Comp claims. Out of nowhere he gets a chat message from Poniard, asking him for representation in the libel suit. Poniard will not be denied and offers to pay him any fee for the best legal talent available. And we’re off!

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