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A Civil Action was made into a movie starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall. a #1 national bestseller and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. A Civil Action was made into a movie starring John Travolta and Robert was a #1 national bestseller and winner of the National Book Critics. Sign me up to get more news about Nonfiction books. A Civil Action reads like a fast-paced legal thriller and brilliantly captures the high drama of the.

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A Civil Action [Jonathan Harr] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. This true story of an epic courtroom showdown, where two of the nation's. Start by marking “A Civil Action” as Want to Read: A Civil Action is a non-fiction book by Jonathan Harr about a water contamination case in Woburn, Massachusetts, in the s. See all 5 questions about A Civil Action. A Civil Action is a non-fiction book by Jonathan Harr about a water contamination case in Woburn, Massachusetts, in the s. The book became a best-seller.

Sep 18, Perry rated it really liked it Litigation — A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage. Ambrose Bierce I read this book early in my legal career, probably 20 years ago. It's a fascinating, relatively suspenseful account of a modern-day tragedy that offers the truest view of civil litigation, at least in the federal courts. In Woburn, Massachusetts not far from Boston in the s, a cluster or a particular area with a high incidence of leukemia developed. Families of the leukemia victims retained the Litigation — A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage. The law firm hired experts who found high concentrations in the Woburn water supply of trichloroethylene TCE , a chemical commonly used in production processes and known to be a possible cause of cancer.

The job market for entering lawyers is worse than ever.

And the combination of technology and cost pressures is changing the legal profession in ways that even longtime veterans have trouble getting their heads around. But even in the days of lush lunches and the Brobeck bump , law was still a profession that ate its young. Even the most promising entry positions involve tedium, long hours, and intellectual drudgery.

And many describe the process of making partner as a pie-eating contest in which first prize is more pie. A Civil Action has been a classic account of a mass tort case for years.

When I was a wee baby attorney not even, I was a first-year summer associate , reading it was my first assignment. I was the sole summer associate in the office of a small Boston firm, and much of the setting was the federal court in Boston.

The book was not yet the perennial bestseller it is today. It was so new it was still in hardcover, and I could only locate one copy on the shelves of the local Borders. But I devoured it. Not just because it promised an inside look at complex litigation in Boston, but because Jonathan Harr did such a great job getting inside the head of the various lawyers.

But what the book is really about—and this is the real reason to read it—is the personal toll complex litigation takes on the people involved: the plaintiffs, the defendants, and the lawyers. Among them: Lawyers can take personal offense at various tactics.

When the defense filed its Rule 11 motion against the plaintiffs, Schlictmann got personally offended at the tactic, a response that colored his strategy going into a crucial hearing. Schlichtmann slammed the phone down.

He was breathing hard, his face flushed, so angry that his hands shook. When Schlichtmann got offended by the Rule 11 motion, he went out of his way to make the judge feel that same outrage.

A Civil Action

In fact, according to Harr, he spent more time on the emotional appeal of his argument than he did on the substance of his response. This is a rhetorical technique known as the " pathetic appeal ," and many lawyers live by it. Lawyers can get carried away with good news, too. In the course of their research, the plaintiffs retained Charles Nesson , who advised them they had a case that might be worth as much as a billion dollars.

Hence his nickname in the book, "Billion Dollar Charlie. They probably should have tried harder; Nesson has developed an idiosyncratic reputation in the years since. Litigation is full of highs and lows. Later, he describes an opulent settlement conference at the Ritz-Carlton, one so excessive it actually backfires, convincing the defendants it would be better to fight than to settle. Do you agree with any of her complaints?

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Judge Skinner believes that the primary motivation in lawsuits over the death of children is "an overwhelming sense of personal guilt.

Is Judge Skinner biased toward the defense, as Schlichtmann believes him to be?

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The questions that Judge Skinner sets for the jurors ask "for answers that were essentially unknowable…. The judge was, in effect, asking the jurors to create a fiction that would in the end stand for the truth" [p.

Do these questions indeed demand too much from a jury of non-experts?

A Civil Action Reader’s Guide

Harr suggests that perhaps the case was one "that the judicial system was not equipped to handle" [p. Is this true? How else might it be handled and settled? Is this fair?

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Do all of these courtroom tactics finally serve to reveal or to obscure the truth? Is res judicata—the principle that a judgment must remain once it has been decided in court, even in the face of new and conflicting evidence— a reasonable or an unreasonable principle? After their decision, the jurors each "had some misgivings, but on balance they felt they had done the best they could" [p.

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Is that good enough? If not, what might be done to improve the situation? Donna Robbins believes that she and her fellow plaintiffs have succeeded in teaching corporate America a lesson; Reverend Young, on the other hand, thinks that the Grace executives and attorneys have reason to celebrate.

A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr

With which of these opinions do you agree? Does the final settlement represent a victory, a loss, or a compromise? Schlichtmann says that greed is "our motivating factor" [p. Is it in fact primarily greed that drives these lawyers?

A Civil Action

What other motivations drove Schlichtmann during the Woburn case? Do you find Schlichtmann to be self-indulgent or self-abnegating? Selfish or honorable? What are your reactions toward Jan Schlichtmann as a lawyer?

As a person?