Fiction or Fact?

Article excerpt

Fiction or fact? The Appeal, by John Grisham. Doubleday. 2008. 368 pages. $27.95

by Malia Reddick

This is a test. Each of the following pairs of scenarios characterize a recent state supreme court election and the high court race depicted in John Grisham's latest novel, The Appeal. Give yourself one point for each factual account you can distinguish from the fictional one.

* In campaign materials disseminated by a special interest group, And For The Sake Of The Kids, a justice seeking reelection is accused of freeing a child rapist. The justice had been part of the three-member majority that allowed a sex offender to remain on probation because the offender himself had been a victim of child sexual abuse and was unlikely to repeat a sex crime. The incumbent justice loses his bid for reelection. And For The Sake Of The Kids was largely funded by a single business executive.

* In campaign materials disseminated by a special interest group, Victims Rising, a justice seeking reelection is attacked for overturning the conviction on 16 counts of child molestation of a career pedophile. The justice had been part of an eight-member majority that ordered a new trial in the case because of the egregious actions of the investigating officers. The incumbent justice loses her bid for reelection. Victims Rising was largely funded by a single business executive.

* In a supreme court candidate's campaign ads, she appears in a black robe presiding over a courtroom, despite the fact that she has not served as a judge in nearly a decade.

* In a supreme court candidate's campaign ads, he describes himself as "a judge with our values," despite the fact that he has never served on a court of any kind.

* Two candidates for a districtbased seat on a state supreme court raise more than $9.3 million.

* Two candidates for a district-based seat on a state supreme court raise more than $6 million.

* A recently elected justice is part of a four-member majority that hands down a tax decision that will result in refunds to state businesses of up to $300 million. A business group spent $2 million to elect the justice.

* A recently elected justice is part of a five-member majority that overturns a $41 million verdict in a wrongful death suit against a chemical company. The chemical company's owner spent $8 million to elect the justice.

If you identified the first scenario in each pair as the factual one, you're a winner! That is, as long as you don't live in a state whose supreme court justices are chosen through contested elections.

The plot

Best known for his fictional tales of lone lawyers fighting corruption and defending truth and justice in the legal system, Grisham is spanning the fiction and non-fiction genres with The Appeal While The Pelican Brief had Darby Shaw, The Rainmaker had Rudy Baylor, and The Street Lawyer had Michael Brock, there is no unlikely hero in The Appeal, which depicts a race for a southern district seat on the Supreme Court of Mississippi. …