(39. – 926.) The Color of Law by Mark Gimenez (2005) – A. Scott Feeney has a perfect life. A great athlete he was a star running back at SMU (Southern Methodist University) in Dallas who became a legend after rushing for 193 yards against the University of Texas. As bright as he was athletic Scott was 1st in his law school class. He is charming and handsome. Ford Stevens, the largest and most prestigious law firm in Dallas, recruited him out of law school. He rose swiftly to partner status and is earning $750,000 annually. He has a $3.5 million house in the exclusive Town of Highland Park. His wife, Rebecca, was Miss SMU and is poised to become Chair of the Cattle Barons Ball. His 9 year old daughter, Boo, is precocious and fascinated by the practice of law. (They are reading the U.S. Constitution clause by clause for a bedtime story.)
Scott finds the legal solutions for his wealthy corporate clients. His most important client, developer Tom Dibrell, pays the firm $3,000,000 a year to deal with his issues. Whether corporate or personal Scott is ready. Early in the book he negotiates a $1,000,000 settlement of a sexual harassment complaint against Dibrell. It is not Dibrell’s first settlement.
Then District Court Judge Samuel Buford calls Scott to his office. Though Scott is not a criminal lawyer the judge has decided to appoint him to represent Shawanda Jones charged with murdering Clark McCall. He was the son of Mack McCall. Mack is the senior Senator from Texas and a presidential candidate. Jones is a young black prostitute with a heroin addiction. The judge wants to make sure she has capable counsel. With the firm having a significant federal court practice Scott accepts the appointment.
Senior partner, really firm dictator, Dan Ford schemes for Scott to actually avoid representing Shawanda. Eventually Scott hires a struggling classmate, Bobby Herrin, who practices criminal law to take over but Shawanda insists upon Scott.
At home tensions rise when Scott agrees that Shawanda’s 9 year old daughter, Pajamae, can live with him until the trial is over as Shawanda cannot afford bail.
Scott faces a dilemma. Shawanda will not oblige everyone by pleading guilty. Though the evidence is strong she insists she is innocent. The firm insists he find a way to be removed as her counsel or convince her to make a plea bargain.
Scott must address why he is a lawyer. He has obligations to his firm and regular clients and Shawanda. Those varied commitments conflict.
Gimenez provides an interesting exploration of the resolution of that conflict and the consequences for all involved.
I can see why there are blurbs referencing John Grisham. Gimenez provides an unflattering portrayal of big firm law in America. Grisham has taken the same approach in several books.
The relationship between Boo and Pajamae was very well done. The girls bounce from innocent to being worldly. I found myself eager to know what they would be doing in the book.
In my next post I will discuss Scott’s representation of Shawanda. There will be more detail some readers many not want and possibly some spoilers so I decided to separate the review.
The Color of Law is a good book.