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Geoghegan, Thomas 1949- (Thomas Howard Geoghegan)

Geoghegan, Thomas 1949- (Thomas Howard Geoghegan)

PERSONAL:

Born 1949, in Cincinnati, OH. Education: Graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law School.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Chicago, IL.

CAREER:

Writer and labor lawyer. Admitted to the Bar of Illinois State. Despres, Schwartz, & Geoghegan, Chicago, IL, lawyer; previously worked as a staff writer and contributing writer for the New Republic; featured periodically as a commentator for National Public Radio, Nightline, The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, CNN, CNBC, and PBS's WTTW-11.

AWARDS, HONORS:

PEN/Martha Albrand Award special citation for Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back.

WRITINGS:

Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1991.

The Secret Lives of Citizens: Pursuing the Promise of American Life, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1998.

In America's Court: How a Civil Lawyer Who Likes to Settle Stumbled into a Criminal Trial, New Press (New York, NY), 2002.

The Law in Shambles, Prickly Paradigm (Chicago, IL), 2005.

See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation, New Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to various periodicals, including the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Dissent, American Prospect, and the Nation.

SIDELIGHTS:

Thomas Geoghegan was born in 1949, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law School, then began his career as a labor law attorney. A partner at Despres, Schwartz, & Geoghegan, in Chicago, Illinois, he has also worked as a staff reporter and a contributing writer for the New Republic, and written on a freelance basis for a number of prestigious periodicals, including the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Dissent, American Prospect, and the Nation. Geoghegan's opinions are often included in local news reports, and he has appeared as a commentator on both local and national programs for radio and television, such as National Public Radio, Nightline, The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, CNN, CNBC, and PBS's WTTW-11. He has written a number of books on the law and his experiences as an attorney, including Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back, The Secret Lives of Citizens: Pursuing the Promise of American Life, In America's Court: How a Civil Lawyer Who Likes to Settle Stumbled into a Criminal Trial, The Law in Shambles, and See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation.

The Secret Lives of Citizens addresses the ongoing issues of civic inequality in the United States and pushes for a more equitable system that would move to improve conditions regarding unfair wages, poor low-income housing policies, and heath care, among others. Geoghegan also looks at the United States Senate and the ways in which the division of votes is skewed toward the smaller, more wealthy states, and the ease with which they can overturn a vote or push one through, making reform that favors the disadvantaged areas of the country more difficult. Timothy Noah, reviewing the book for the Washington Monthly, remarked that "Geoghegan's strength is exuberance and mordant wit rather than practicality," but concluded that The Secret Lives of Citizens "should be read simply because it's elegant and funny and sharply intelligent." A contributor for Publishers Weekly remarked: "Funny and informed, with a proudly bleeding heart, Geoghegan is one of the most passionate and persuasive throwbacks to New Deal liberalism."

Geoghegan's In America's Court recounts his experiences working with the public defender's office, despite being a labor attorney, in the case of a young man named Rolando who, at the age of fifteen, was accused of felony murder after participating in the robbery of a bar where one of the customers was killed during the course of the crime. Rolando was initially convicted, but that conviction was appealed and overturned. Geoghegan participated in Rolando's defense seven years after the crime was committed, working with the public defender assigned to the case and learning the ins and outs of the criminal system as he went along. His primary interest was from the standpoint of equal opportunity, and his own conviction that the growing inequality between people makes it nearly impossible for the legal system to work fairly and well. In this particular instance, he maintains that a fifteen-year-old should not have been tried as an adult, as he was still legally a minor when the crime was committed. Geoghegan also looks at the law in general and as a career choice, noting that it can be a discouraging profession. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews wrote that "when the author trains his sharp mind on the ineffectiveness of the courts …, he makes a strong case that should resonate with everyone."

In The Law in Shambles, Geoghegan offers readers an explanation for why the laws of this country have steadily become less and less effective in recent decades. According to Geoghegan, the primary culprit is the growing dissent resulting from the widening gap between the haves and the have nots. As people feel less and less equal to one another, they begin to feel that not everyone can truly reap the rewards of their efforts, and that in those circumstances the efforts themselves are no longer worth the trouble. Laws, set in motion primarily by the very individuals for whom the system does manage to work, no longer appear applicable to those people who are falling through the cracks. Likewise, those individuals who are highly successful and have financial means find there are ways around the laws as well. Ultimately, a large portion of the population begins to lose respect for the laws and law makers, and the laws themselves become ineffective. The decline in unions and other forms of protection for middle-of-the-road laborers adds to this phenomenon, as people have no one to stand up for their rights. Over the course of his book, Geoghegan criticizes the current legal system in the United States, and addresses the issues that are leading to its downfall. John Schmidhauser, in a review for Perspectives on Political Science, concluded that "grim and humorous, well-written and direct, Geoghegan's provocative work is of interest to professionals and the public alike."

See You in Court looks at the changes in the American legal system and the lack of fair representation available for American citizens based on the distribution of wealth. As the division between rich and poor grows more pronounced, Geoghegan notes that it is becoming more and more difficult for the law to treat all parties equally. Legal action has become increasingly popular as a means of conflict resolution, but the strain that has put on the system and the lack of alternate means for justice ultimately means that the end result of legal action is often unsatisfactory or unjust. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews remarked that Geoghe- gan's effort "will clean out your political cholesterol and make you think about the long-term, systemic effects of the legal and cultural wars in which we are now engaged."

Geoghegan told CA: "I'm a lawyer in private practice with an exhausting full-time job. In my own mind, I've no time to write at all—but since I've written four books, this can't be true. To think it is true is just one more piece of self deception and vanity."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Geoghegan, Thomas, In America's Court: How a Civil Lawyer Who Likes to Settle Stumbled into a Criminal Trial, New Press (New York, NY), 2002.

PERIODICALS

America, November 9, 1991, George W. Hunt, review of Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back; January 18, 1992, James S. Torrens, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 43.

American Enterprise, July 1, 1999, Charles C. Euchner, review of The Secret Lives of Citizens: Pursuing the Promise of American Life, p. 81.

Booklist, February 15, 1999, Mary Carroll, review of The Secret Lives of Citizens, p. 1009.

Books, March 26, 2006, Julie Hilden, review of The Law in Shambles, p. 8.

Business Week, September 2, 1991, Aaron Bernstein, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 10; December 9, 1991, Denise Demong, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 14; June 29, 1992, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 15.

California Lawyer, November 1, 1991, John M. True, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 102; January 1, 2008, Thomas Brom, review of See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation, p. 15.

CBA Record, January 1, 2003, Brian Barnett Duff, review of In America's Court, p. 44.

Chicago, August 1, 1991, Ron Dorfman, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 55.

Commonweal, May 7, 1999, review of The Secret Lives of Citizens, p. 22.

Federal Lawyer, January 1, 2006, Henry Cohen, review of The Law in Shambles, p. 50.

Industrial Law Journal, June 1, 1994, Mary Stacey, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 197.

Journal of American History, March 1, 1994, Judith A. Baer, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 1455.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of In America's Court, p. 542; July 1, 2007, review of See You in Court.

Labor Studies Journal, June 22, 1992, Peter D. DeChiara, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 64.

Law and Politics Book Review, June 1, 2006, David K. Ryden, review of The Law in Shambles, p. 470.

Library Journal, January 1, 1999, Thomas H. Ferrell, review of The Secret Lives of Citizens, p. 129; August 1, 2002, Mary Jane Brustman, review of In America's Court, p. 120.

Michigan Journal of International Law, March 22, 2003, Noah Leavitt, review of In America's Court, p. 871.

Military Law Review, September 22, 1995, Elizabeth DiVecchio Berrigan, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 397.

Nation, September 16, 1991, Lawrence Joseph, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 306.

National Catholic Reporter, August 30, 1991, Arthur Jones, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 5; November 22, 1991, John J. Egan, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 35; November 19, 1993, James O'Leary, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 32.

New Leader, December 2, 1991, Gus Tyler, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 17.

Our Times: Canada's Independent Labour Magazine, March 1, 1992, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 36.

Perspectives on Political Science, March 22, 2006, John Schmidhauser, review of The Law in Shambles, p. 108.

Progressive, January 1, 2000, review of The Secret Lives of Citizens, p. 40.

Publishers Weekly, June 28, 1991, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 92; January 4, 1999, review of The Secret Lives of Citizens, p. 80; May 13, 2002, review of In America's Court, p. 59.

Recorder, December 7, 2007, "A Nation of Litigants—Blame It on the Right."

Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2007, review of See You in Court.

Santa Clara Law Review, March 22, 1993, Martin Eichner, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 557.

Tikkun, January 1, 1992, Nelson Lichtenstein, review of Which Side Are You On?

Time, August 5, 1991, Emily Mitchell, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 60.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 11, 1991, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 3; August 11, 1991, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 3; August 2, 1992, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 2; July 14, 2002, review of In America's Court, p. 2.

U.S. Catholic, December 1, 1991, Gerald M. Costello, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 48.

Washington Monthly, September 1, 1991, Paul Glastris, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 50; April 1, 1999, Timothy Noah, review of The Secret Lives of Citizens, p. 48; September 1, 2007, "Objection, Your Honor: It's Not Litigious Citizens Who Are Causing America's Lawsuit Glut, Argues Labor Lawyer Thomas Geoghegan. It's the Dismantling of the Regulatory State," p. 66.

Whole Earth Review, June 22, 1993, Art Kleiner, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 84.

World Monitor: The Christian Science Monitor Monthly, January 1, 1992, Benjamin Demott, review of Which Side Are You On?, p. 55.

ONLINE

Chicago Reader Online,http://www.chicagoreader.com/ (November 1, 2007), Noah Berlatsky, "A Case for More Democracy."

Find Law,http://writ.news.findlaw.com/ (August 2, 2002), Laura Hodes, "A Gripping Trial Story Marred by Too Much Exegesis."

In These Times,http://www.inthesetimes.com/ (November 14, 2005), Christopher Hayes, "Why the Law Is in Shambles."

New Press,http://www.thenewpress.com/ (May 21, 2008), author profile.

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