Distorting the Law: Politics, Media, and the Litigation Crisis

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University of Chicago Press, Nov 15, 2009 - Political Science - 332 pages
In recent years, stories of reckless lawyers and greedy citizens have given the legal system, and victims in general, a bad name. Many Americans have come to believe that we live in the land of the litigious, where frivolous lawsuits and absurdly high settlements reign.

Scholars have argued for years that this common view of the depraved ruin of our civil legal system is a myth, but their research and statistics rarely make the news. William Haltom and Michael McCann here persuasively show how popularized distorted understandings of tort litigation (or tort tales) have been perpetuated by the mass media and reform proponents. Distorting the Law lays bare how media coverage has sensationalized lawsuits and sympathetically portrayed corporate interests, supporting big business and reinforcing negative stereotypes of law practices.

Based on extensive interviews, nearly two decades of newspaper coverage, and in-depth studies of the McDonald's coffee case and tobacco litigation, Distorting the Law offers a compelling analysis of the presumed litigation crisis, the campaign for tort law reform, and the crucial role the media play in this process.

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1 The Social Production of Legal Knowledge
Contesting Legal Realities
Tales of Legal Degeneration and Moral Regeneration
Narratives versus Numbers
Plaintiffs Lawyers Play Defense
Reporting Legal Realities
Media Coverage of Civil Litigation
Genealogy of a Juridical Icon
7 Smoke Signals from the Tobacco Wars
8 Law through the Looking Glass of Mass Politics

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About the author (2009)

William Haltom is professor in the Department of Politics and Government at the University of Puget Sound and the author of Reporting on the Courts. Michael McCann is the Gordon Hirabayashi Professor for the Advancement of Citizenship at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is the author of several books, most recently the award-winning Rights at Work.

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