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Dec022017

Book Review: Trial: A Memoir

Trial: A Memoir. Wendell A. Thomas. Independently Published, July 27, 2017, Trade Paperback and E-Book, 301 pages.

Reviewed by Bob King.

Writing a 300-page memoir is no small feat. This one is written in a conversational and mostly grammatically correct style, and is an easy read. It is the story of how the author’s relationship with his neighbor, a patent lawyer, went awry, and the author’s disgust with the legal system’s inability to adequately punish his neighbor’s misconduct.    

It all started after the author had conceived ideas for two products. He asked his neighbor, a patent lawyer, to draw up patent applications for these ideas. The lawyer accepted money from the author and said he would get the patent application filed. In fact, the lawyer did nothing, and when asked about the application’s status, he lied and falsified documents to make it look like the application had been filed. The author also engaged some software designers to assist in the development of one of the ideas, but when the software designers failed to complete the assignment, he fired them and asked the same lawyer to sue them for his money back. The lawyer said that he would do so, but no such lawsuit was filed, and the lawyer again lied when asked as to the suit’s progress. 

Ultimately, the author discovered these falsehoods, hired another lawyer to process the patents and pursue the software designers, and decided to file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee (“ARDC”), the organization authorized by the Illinois Supreme Court to oversee the admission and discipline of lawyers in the state. Although the process was slow, ultimately the ARDC formally charged the neighbor with three violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The neighbor admitted the offenses, and he was suspended from practice for 60 days. This result greatly disappointed the author, who believed that the lawyer should have been disbarred for life for his offenses, and left him convinced that the ARDC was more interested in protecting lawyers than the public. While the ARDC complaint was pending, the statute of limitations to sue the lawyer for malpractice expired—another unfortunate happenstance.

Not surprisingly, the neighbor, not happy with being suspended from practice, then seemingly plotted to get revenge against the author. He surreptitiously complained to the local police about supposed misconduct by the author, including fabrications suggesting the author was a pedophile, and then proceeded to file for an order of protection against the author. A hearing occurred. The judge found the neighbor’s testimony not credible and denied the order.  The author began building a case against the lawyer to seek an order of protection. Initially, the court seemed receptive to the author’s position, but the court ultimately denied the author’s order of protection, expressing the view that granting the order could imperil the neighbor’s law license and destroy the neighbor’s ability to support his four children. This, too, the author found to be unacceptable—an example of the “lawyers’ club” looking out for their own, rather than protecting the public. 

Full disclosure requires that I admit that I am a practicing lawyer, so I read Trial with a more sophisticated understanding of the legal processes than would a layman reader, and as a member of the “club” the author dislikes. As a writer, I admire the time and effort that went into this book. And as a lawyer, I am embarrassed by the neighbor’s terribly negligent conduct toward the author. 

In the end, I did not enjoy the book because it seemed petulant and designed primarily to excoriate those the author perceives to have wronged him—his neighbor, the ARDC, and ultimately the court system—and not recognizing his own responsibility for perpetuating the feud with his neighbor.

 

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