A Civil Action Paper
The American Legal system was established to create an ordered and free society by our founding fathers. Its goal was to ensure fairness among the people, and server justice to those who violate the civil liberties established. Many of people take it for granted, or even don’t bother trying to understand it, because of it complexities. Despite how elaborate the American Legal system can be there are some who strive to comprehend. By doing so they hope to help advise or represent those who do not understand the judicial process.
Assuming those ideas are correct, then using the truth and having a legal professional would guarantee success for a case in court, and the guilty party would have justice served. Of courses that is not what happens to most cases. Proving what truth is can be tougher legally then just stating ‘the evidence is true. ’ Nobody knows that better than Jan Schlichtmann in the novel A Civil Action. In the story Jan Schlichtmann, a young lawyer from Boston, and a few of his colleges are swayed into taking on Woburn’s orphan case of the Sick Children.
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Their case was that to show that J. J. Riley Tannery owned by Beatrice Foods and W. R. Grace Chemical Company were responsible for the contamination of two wells in East Woburn, Wells G and H, with dangerous amounts of suspected carcinogen. Yet, legal truth was problematic for Schlichtmann to prove with the lack of an impartial legal system. In this instance the Woburn case had be victim of out-maneuvering, systematically sabotage and a rapport bias in favor defendants which prevented the favorable outcome for the plaintiff of the Trial.
For Jan Schlichtmann, Kevin Conway and Bill Crowley failing the complaint against Beatrice Foods and W. R. Grace was essentially the easiest part. When complaints cases are filed no matter the relevance or strength of the case the court required before proceeding. For example, at this point the grievance cases of the Woburn families are heard in the court in front of the judge. At this point defendants may make opening statements or make motions on the case. This in the story it was the first point where the out-maneuvering begins.
The defendant W. G. Grace, being represented by William Cheeseman of Foley, Hoag, and Eliot makes a motion to move the case to federal court. In the book it states that Cheesman was well known “for getting rid of difficult lawsuits. Among the dozen rules of Civil Procedure…Rule 11- that had be conceived half a century ago, 1938. The rule had been intended to curb frivolous and irresponsible lawsuits. ” (pg. 131) Cheeseman’s goal was to just have the case dismissed rather than actually have a trial, this along with the moving to U. S. District court was in hopes that the case would be thrown out so that there is no trial, and no restitution needing to be paid if his company is found guilty. This motion was almost accepted because of the bias that Judge Skinner has about civil cases, in the book he states “ (he) felt that there were a lot of worthless cases – ‘Junk,’ he once called them-clogging the federal docket and contributing to his own immense caseload. ” (Pg. 126) Just by maneuvering this case to U. S.
District Court and having a motion for ‘Rule 11’ the case could have been dismissed because of the judges bias about his caseload, and thinking more lawyers should use this rule. Yet, one impartial point that can be brought up is that judge Skinner was allowing the plaintiff to state an oral argument on why it was not a frivolous suit. Unfortunately for Cheeseman his motion of “battery” along with the rule 11 motion was dismissed because Jan Schlichtmann was able to out-maneuver.
When looking at the overview of evidence gathered on the defendants the feeling that Jan Schlichtmann, Kevin Conway and Bill Crowley are going to win their case. After collecting the medical evidence geological evidence and finally depositions, Schlichtmann made an attack plan to play though-out the trial that he is sure will win the case. After using the first phase of plan to connect the contaminated wells against Beatrice Foods and W. G. Chemical his evidence he is stopped.
Jerome Facher, of the law firm Hale and Door, the defense attorney on behalf of Beatrice foods has significant and comprehensive trial experience he then proceeds to play his rapport with Judge Skinner. The biggest moment of evidence of this is at what was call the ‘Watershed Conference. ’ Schlichtmann starts to see Judge Skinner’s lack of objectivity, because Skinner’s lengthy and mutually respectful relationship with Facher. Schlichtmann points this out by limiting the dates on the trial and evidence of the contaminated ground water.
This angers Skinner and states the words, “I warn you, Mr. Schlichtmann, I will deal with this in a way that will make headlines in American Lawyer if it happens again. ” (p. 227) Having a judge in the trial that says he is not bias or lacks objectivity because of a relationship he has with the lawyers on the cases, clearly shows how not having a fair system can affect the outcome. Schlichtmann then later remembers “the judge saying, ‘I can’t let Mr. Facher’s judgment be substituted for mine, although I ordinarily would give it great respect. ‘” (p. 231) This furthers Schlichtmann conclusion about the how the lack of objectivity ruined his case.
The defining moment for bias was when according to the book “would instruct the jury not to consider any exhibits or evidence against Beatrice prior to 1968. The testimony of witnesses such as Walter Day, who had played on the Beatrice land as a boy and described it as Death Valley, was stricken from the case. ‘I don’t see how it’s relevant,’ the judge said. ” (p. 367) Yet, He had felt that he evidence against Beatrice Foods the lack of objectivity from the judge and the motion by Facher stomped the truth from being reviled.
Just by refusing to allow the account of illnesses and deaths prior to 1973 to be a factor in the proceedings. Judicial process, in these instances, seems to relegate truth to a position of lower priority father than the most important idea in all cases. Just by these little motions many cases can be thrown out of court showing the effectiveness a defense attorney can have if they play the judicial process like a game. This leave room for guilty parties to get away and plaintiff to victims of legal systems.