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5.0 out of 5 stars Justice?
This book is a depressing lesson in the ways that our judicial system don't work. An adverserial system of justice, by its very nature, leads not to an inquiry into the truth but instead to a polarized system where each side is fighting for its own side and disinterested in the merits of its opposition.
While this book was, in many ways, a real downer, it was also a...
Published on Jun 10 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting, but badly flawed
This interesting, but badly flawed, book provides an in-depth look at one "civil action"; a lawsuit by citizens of Woburn, MA against W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods, which alleged that TCE (trichloroethylene) dumping at sites owned by the companies contaminated two town wells and caused leukemia in local children.
The entire nation has spent the past decade...
Published on Dec 29 2000 by Orrin C. Judd
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Justice?,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Civil Action (Paperback)This book is a depressing lesson in the ways that our judicial system don't work. An adverserial system of justice, by its very nature, leads not to an inquiry into the truth but instead to a polarized system where each side is fighting for its own side and disinterested in the merits of its opposition.
While this book was, in many ways, a real downer, it was also a fascinating chronicle of litigation. I was immediately drawn in my the families' tragedies, Schlichtmann's flawed but good-hearted optimism, and the interaction between the lawyers and the judge. As Schlichtmann swirled deeper into debt, I found it impossible not to feel a growing sense of desparation along with him. The ending is bitterly disappointing, but in many ways the families eventually got what they wanted with subsequent EPA actions and criminal prosecutions.
My husband and I are both attorneys. Last year, he was involved in a case in which the outcome was simply criminal. I felt I could relate in a deeper sense to the drama in A Civil Action after experiencing such a travesty of justice firsthand. We have to work within the confines of the flawed legal system that exists now, but we must accept that it is far from perfect. Judges and juries--as humans--get things wrong all the time. This book, in gripping prose, demonstrates this basic fact of life in all too vivid of detail.
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpeice,
This review is from: A Civil Action (Paperback)Brilliant, enlightening, enteraining, and mindful work presented here by Jonathan Harr. Harr manages to consume you in the lives of all the characters of this book. The funny thing about the book is that it doesn't move you vicserally about changing the enviroment for the good, but moves you in a very cerebral way.
I don't care one way or another about the enviroment and all those Greenpeace annoying little idiots. I do care about humanity and Harr shows it here. This is a must read.
4.0 out of 5 stars Unknown soldier,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Civil Action (Paperback)In the early to mid-1990s, a man named Ken Grant worked as a safety and environmental professional with Grace Co. Grant grew up in Woburn and surrounding communities but was too young to recall the emergence of this tragedy. Around the time this book was published, following a substantial newspaper report of his search for his family roots as well as the enigmatic refusal of the Woburn District Court to allow him to review child custody records (in which he was involved and which occurred about the time the epidemic was making its appearance in the same local court), Grant was suddenly discharged from Grace. Life became Hell for Grant after this in every way. But there was a precedent...
Fifteen years before this book, another man going by the same name living in Woburn across town appeared and began using this common name to go AWOL from the Army, and perhaps much more as the fallout came back to the Ken Grant who was a toddler when the early symptoms of an environmental tragedy surfaced. Over the next 15-20 years from time to time this other person touched in on Ken's life, contacting his workplaces, moving to where he moved, and even later attending the same church at the same time Ken began attending. It appeared Ken was being monitored long term or that someone else was representing himself to be Ken but was not. Jump ahead to when this book was released...
Grant,among other things, worked on a chemical database in a joint venture between Corbus software of Kennett Square, PA and Grace Co. This software program was to track chemicals from the time they entered until the time they left the facility. After Grant was fired inexplicably, Fleet Bank posted a brief brochure detailing an experimental software package that used a logical design very similar to that used by the chemical software. Around this time Grant suddenly had his account levied by the IRS without prior notice as well as inexplicable problems never explained or resolved to this day. Was the software designed for a specific purpose appropriated then adapted for a use inconsistent with its original intent?
Following Grant's sudden discharge, on the Omnitech International website, a 'litigation preparation service' among other things, was a study involving a database being tested in the medical and construction industries, both of which Grant was employed in and in which there was continuity between the companies. Prior to this Grant had been referred by a "friend" to an alleged 'private investigator' who graciously offered services to help him find out what was going on and who it turns frequented the Omnitech website and had family ties to Woburn when the epidemic emerged .
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read,
This review is from: A Civil Action (Paperback)A fast-moving chronology of a lawyer representing a community against corporate pollutors. Moving, convincing, and makes one hesitate to drink tap water.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Legal Thriller?,
This review is from: A Civil Action (Paperback)This is one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time. It was just as thrilling as any Grisham novel, as informative as a text book and extremely well written. I watched the movis a couple years ago and new the basic premise of the story, but Harr does a marvelous job of building momentum throughout the book and I could not stop reading the book at night. It was just too exciting. There was excellent information about legal work, environmental catastrophes and the greater Boston area (for which I will admit a certain fondness). I learned a lot from the novel and got excited about the law, which is not an easy feat. I would recommend this book to anyone, but aspiring lawyers, environmentalists and people interested in dramas will be particularly fascinated. I cannot recommend this book highly enough--it is well worth the purchase price.
5.0 out of 5 stars True story of what shouldn't have happened,
This review is from: A Civil Action (Paperback)This book is a perfect real-life example of how litigation in America's modern judicial system can squeeze the life and money out of the lawyers and clients they represent without ever reaching the truth. This book is worth the read, however. Readers can learn a lot from this book - especially what not to do in negotiations and the importance of using the threat of filing a suit as bargaining power to settle early. The plaintiffs lawyer, Jan Schlitchman, was a hard-working lawyer that became caught up in greed and forgot many times to ask what the plaintiffs (all of whom lost children to a disease linked to contaminated groundwater in a town north of Boston) what they really were seeking from the suit and from the defendants. I agree with many of the other reveiwers that this book reads like fiction. It's almost too bad it isn't.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but needed to be better,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Civil Action (Paperback)Schlictmann began this case with pure and simple greed and grew to care beyond the bounds of his professional responsibility.
The case hinges around May,1979 (The same year Ken Langone helped finance the beginning of Home Depot)as the critical period when the wells were shut down in Woburn under Mayor Gill,who suspected much earlier knowledge of the water pollution was known under previous administrations. Under Gill, the budget of Woburn was suspect and speculation has been made that through possible probate fraud the inheritance due a young victim of the pollution was misappropropriated.
At a time of drought, the city of Woburn elected NOT to participate in a MDC sewer extension project. In the 1960s,long before Anne Anderson,a group of Woburn citizens under attorney Michael Gatta sued the city for the suspicious water.One of the possible participants may have been an Evelyn Frenette, who died young and of theophylline toxicity under suspicious circumstances not long before this book was published.
A man who lived in Woburn,was treated at the same hospitals as the victims in this book,lived in the same areas and later worked for Wr Grace and did not know about this case nor his involvement with the water pollution was approached by individuals claiming to have ties to the federal government and began a systematic program of harassment. It is speculated that his phones were tapped and monitored and major efforts to keep him from finding decent work made. A man with Tennessee license plates claiming to be in the Construction field appeared in an adjacent apartment when the phone problems began.Later the same man was seen driving a phone company truck and a possible ploy used to do this without warrants is that an off premise extension was used with several companies the man worked for without his knowledge.Grace owns a construction division and the man had once worked for them.Following the man's discharge, it is said Grace blackballed him on work references.
There is also a possibility the man is linked to the Whitey Bulger case in some fashion without his direct knowledge,as Whitey disappeared before this book came out, and the Boston Herald is said to have had an article about Robert Redford and Sylvester Stallone appearing in a hearing in Massachusetts concerning the early days of the Bulger scandal and while Redford was preparing to film this book as a movie in Hudson,Mass- home of Ambassador to Canada,former Governor Paul Cellucci.Whitey is also said to have had a girlfriend in Woburn and Frank Salemme,Spec Agents Morris,Rico, & Connolly and Limone and Salvati all are said to have ties with the Woburn area also.
5.0 out of 5 stars Tale of one city,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Civil Action (Paperback)In 1995, Ken Grant, an environmental professional working for Grace, was summarily fired by Grace Corp. when this book was released. Upon the firing, evidence began emerging of his medical records disappearing,notably from hospitals mentioned in this book. When Grant was in high school another man going by the same name began passing himself off as Grant,living also in Woburn,and even going AWOL and sending the military after Grant. Ken Grant was a small boy living in Woburn when the epidemic began and frequently had to appear in court proceedings that nearly 30 years later were refused review by Judge Cullen.About the time Grace fired him, he was referred to a private investigator by a 'friend' and it soon became apparent the 'investigator' had ties to Woburn through family members. He was also introduced to and befriended by individuals with direct ties to this case without his knowledge.Forces appeared bent on creating financial,mental,emotional and spiritual devastastion in his life. Since this book's release, the man has been consistently in a financial situation that prohibited medical insurance, lost his home and nearly all personal belongings, had his phone tampered with( it has been suggested by OPX lines in fact used to divert or monitor calls which might lead to employment)as alleged by parties trying to contact him, and a sudden exodus of friends who became afraid, as if being approached and threatened by powerful forces behind the scenes. A great deal of energy has been exerted to make Grant disappear and make his life a living hell.At the same time allegations have been made there is a link between him,the Whitey Bulger case, and the roots of this tragedy in Woburn.Who has so much to fear that they would take it out on a boy too young to know what was going on in Woburn? and why, 30 years later would those forces still wage war on the same individual?
4.0 out of 5 stars Some unaswered questions,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Civil Action (Paperback)There is a man frequently referred to in the reviews anonymously who might have become a major target in the unfolding of this book. Several things occurred following this book that you the reader can decide whether it is relevant or not.
1) The man was suddenly treated with considerable hostility by a friend who at that time claimed extensive mob ties and who held Grace in high regard and may have been linked to a nearby escort service with ties to Angiulo, prominent in the Whitey Bulger case.
2) A consultation with government officials yielded no concern by government authorities that escort service personnel may have been employed against the man who had ties to Woburn during the cancer outbreak unknown to the man-- even if such services might have involved use of company funds.
3) Some of the concerned parties in this case accused the man of collaborating with Harr and Schlictmann, even though the man neither knew or had spoken with either.
4) Judge Cullen of the Woburn court may have been involved in preventing the man from discovering what link to the Woburn outbreak,if any the man had.
5) The man was introduced to individuals who claimed to know several people directly mentioned in this book.
6) Does this case have any linkage to the simultaneous eruption of the Whitey Bulger case,where Whitey disappeared as this book emerged?
5.0 out of 5 stars So many,many questions!,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Civil Action (Paperback)The prior history of Woburn, with the water case brought by Michael Gatta,NASA, and so much more has been conveniently skipped over in this book.
Jan Schlictmann,when taking on this case, went bankrupt. Ken Grant, a former Environmental and Safety professional with Grace, was fired suddenly when this book came out. Following the firing, Grant began getting audited each year by the IRS,had some of his medical records back to birth disappear,is alleged to have been blackballed by Grace with respect to references in finding work,and received spurious threatening phone calls since this book came out. Why?
The time frame of this book covers the 1960s, when Grant lived in Woburn and environments as a very young child.The boy lived in the same areas,was treated at the same hospitals, and exhibited many symptoms described in the book. It seems quite feasible that some parties,feeling exposed, might have targeted Grant as a potential threat over circumstances that occurred when the boy was not even in preschool. Why the nonstop IRS oversight, lack of employment beyond poverty-level wages, and almost complete abandonment by longtime friends remains unclear.Why did Grace suddenly fire him? Why has the IRS targeted this man earning near poverty level income? What is so threatening about a boy who grew up under deplorable circumstances?
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A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr (Paperback - Aug 27 1996)
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