Friday, July 31, 2009

A View From Randy Singer's Window!

I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am to welcome Randy Singer to my Window! I've been a fan of his work for quite some time, and his political thrillers all have a proud spot on my bookshelf! Randy's latest work, The Justice Game, explores some rather explosive political and legal issues as they relate to our second amendment rights. I hope you will give Randy a warm welcome today as he shares his thoughts with us on these and other issues dear to his heart.

Welcome to my Window Randy!!

Trial Research companies/brokers, jury consultants….I’m not sure how to properly identify the entity of Justice, Inc. Having had no encounter (thankfully) with the trial process in my lifetime, I had no idea that such companies existed! Can you explain this concept? Are all such businesses strictly based on large amounts of cash? It seemed like a giant gambling operation rather than a polished legal research mechanism. Fact or fiction?

GREAT question. Most interviews start off by asking about gun control issues, which are the focus of the case at the center of the action in The Justice Game but not the real focus of the book. You’ve identified the real issue. Can the justice system in America be “gamed”?

You’ll be glad to know that, for now, Justice, Inc. is a fictional company. But I’ve been telling people, only half-jokingly, that as soon as my book comes out, it won’t stay that way.

For readers who haven’t ventured into the book yet, Justice, Inc. is a well-funded jury research firm that empanels shadow juries whose members very closely mirror the characteristics of actual jurors deciding major civil trials. Since the trials in question are “bet the company” cases, the jury’s verdict will have a big impact on the stock value of the company involved in the case and similar companies. (Think, for example, about the impact of the first verdict against cigarette manufacturers). Justice, Inc. conducts secretive mock trials using its shadow juries faster than the actual cases. Justice, Inc. then “bets” enormous amounts of money (their own money and hedge funds they advise) on the companies who will benefit from the outcome of the trial. These “bets” are in the form of purchases or short sales of that company’s stock. After the actual verdict comes in, Justice, Inc. sells the stock and realizes a big windfall.

All of the information in the book about how jurors are profiled is factual and real. Lawyers use mock juries all the time on major cases when the dollars at risk are big enough to justify it. I’ve taken these concepts to the next level and, as you’ve suggested, basically created a big “casino” operation that “bets” on the outcome of major civil trials and has perfected the system to the point where they very rarely lose.

You reveal observations by both the prosecutor and defense attorneys about their appearance, what jurors they will appeal to, their style of lawyering - traditional debate tactics vs. dramatic presentation – creates a very predatorial feel to the courtroom. Having been a trial lawyer yourself, how carefully are all of these things considered in an actual trial and are they in fact even more severe?

These aspects of the book are also factual and, as you suggest, are even more severe in real life. I continue to practice law as a trial lawyer and we are constantly refining all aspects of our presentation to appeal to jurors. I also teach The Art of Advocacy at law school and make it clear to my students that they owe their clients the best representation possible within ethical bounds. As far back as Aristotle, students of persuasion understood that we persuade with more than just substance (something Aristotle referred to as logos). We also touch the heart and emotions (pathos) and persuade through our own credibility (ethos). Would you want a lawyer who was oblivious to these concepts? Just like an author needs to engage all aspects of our being in order to tell an effective story, so a lawyer needs to engage each aspect of the juror’s decision-making process (heart, mind and sense of justice) in order to be successful.

Overall, do you think the U.S. trial/judiciary system is fair, or do you think personal gain and the desire for power (for example, legislating from the bench) has corrupted our system? If so, to what degree?

Have you heard what the definition of a “jury” is? A group of twelve men or women from the community who are brought together to decide which litigant hired the better lawyer.

Jokes aside, I do think our system is fundamentally fair. Not perfect, of course. But in the vast majority of the cases it is fundamentally fair.

I believe in the jury system. I have personally seen the way juries will often bring common sense and a commitment to justice into a case where the lawyers and judge might get bogged down in legal technicalities. Do juries sometimes get it wrong? Of course. And that’s what keeps trial lawyers awake at night. But our system is better and more just than any other system on the face of the earth.

I do agree that there is a fair amount of “legislating from the bench” by federal appellate courts. But let’s not forget that the vast majority of cases never make it to that level and are resolved with fairness and justice by judges operating with integrity and a real commitment to unbiased justice.

The Second Amendment Right to bear arms continues to be hotly debated in our country at many levels. I’ve heard it said that if you take away the guns, people will kill each other with rocks and sticks. Do you think we will ever see a time in this country where the right to bear arms will be taken away? Drastically changed? Why or why not?

I actually don’t see a lot of movement on this issue. For one thing, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of D.C. v. Heller, recently declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms and cannot be taken away. (By the way, the lawyer who argued that case for the gun owner also endorsed The Justice Game). The Court did leave open the possibility that the government could pass reasonable regulations that impact that right, so long as the regulations didn’t amount to a complete evisceration of the right. You could hear the “Hallelujahs” from trial lawyers everywhere, since the ruling means that lawyers will be fighting skirmishes for years to come over whether certain regulations are “reasonable” or not. (There is also the issue of whether the Court’s ruling applies only to the federal government or to the states as well).

In terms of legislation, gun enthusiasts have been concerned about President Obama pushing legislation to restrict gun ownership but so far that hasn’t happened. In my view, the gun lobby is so strong that it’s not likely to be a high priority of this administration. I will say that President Obama has been the best “salesman” the gun stores could possibly imagine. Apprehensions about what Obama might do have catapulted gun sales to record levels.

Why is this such an emotional issue? Because guns are powerful symbols of individual freedom and the right to protect oneself. Gun enthusiasts tend to be distrustful of government and see the right to bear arms as a bastion (pardon the pun) against governmental intrusions on individual rights. They also believe that it is ultimately up to them, not the government, to keep themselves secure in their own home. Take away their guns, and you’ve taken away their ability to defend themselves. On the other side, many people who believe in gun control have seen or been a part of a needless tragedy where easy access to guns proved deadly. Years ago, high school students might get in a fist fight and one or the other would end up with a bloody nose. Now, gangs use guns to settle scores—resulting in pointless homicides. Gun control advocates would argue that a gun should be at least as hard to get as a driver’s license.

Protecting your home and family, self-defense, the deaths of many young men in the inner city—these are emotional issues, all centered around the gun control debate.

The balance of power seems to be shifting in this country in many ways – politically especially. As Christians, what do you feel is our most important role in the political process? How do you feel about protesting threats made to our basic freedoms? In The Justice Game, I was particularly pleased with how you presented the Christian response to all of the legal actions that took place – not as weak and impassive, but as trusting God’s will in the outcome. Can you elaborate on this?

As Christians, I think it’s important to remember that change comes not from a political agenda but from the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. That being said, I do think it’s important to engage in the political debates of our day. We have been given great gifts in this country—the gift of freedom, the gift of democracy, the promise that all men and women are created equal. A lot of men and women have shed their blood to preserve our ability to shape our culture through these freedoms and the political process. What kind of stewards are we if we don’t engage?

But I also believe that the last part of your question is the most important. God has been teaching me lately to pray more for His will and to rely less on my own. So many times, I think I know what’s best and pray hard for my own (sanctified?) agenda. Lately, I’ve been learning to just pray as Christ taught us: Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…” There is such freedom when we really start believing that God is a loving heavenly Father who knows what’s best for us. There are so many things we can’t control. I’m learning to submit those things to the Lord and to stop worrying about them.

What on earth comes next for your readers? This was a pretty amazing ride! Can you give us an idea of what ideas are brewing in your mind?

The idea for my next book emerged from a single haunting question: What makes To Kill A Mockingbird the greatest legal novel of all time? I think the answer, at least in part, is found in the fact that Atticus Finch was willing to defend an innocent man when nobody else would go near the case. That is the highest calling of a lawyer and, for a Christian lawyer, exemplifies what Christ did when He defended the woman caught in adultery. (Or, to be more personal, what Christ does as He advocates for each of us).

I then asked myself a follow-up question: What type of defendant today would be so poisonous that no lawyer would want to represent him or her? I think I found the answer.

In my next book, my protagonist (a lawyer/preacher—sound familiar?) will be defending a Muslim Inman accused of fostering honor killings of young Muslim women who have abandoned their faith. The book will explore the interfaith struggles between a Christian lawyer and his Muslim client. It will have a touch of romance, a ton of danger, and the most shocking ending of any Singer book to date.

What is God doing in your life that is particularly exciting right now for you? Any closing words of encouragement you’d like to leave with your fans?

I am very encouraged and humbled by what God is doing in the church where I have the privilege to serve as Teaching Pastor. In two short years, He’s taken us from a church start to a vibrant church of around four or five hundred folks each week with mission work taking place on three separate continents. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of baptizing a former Shia Muslim in the Atlantic Ocean. We are seeing lives changed and a real sense of community developing, not to mention miraculous answers to prayers. This goes back to your question about praying for God’s will. When I moved back to the Virginia Beach area a few years ago, pastoring a church was the furthest thing from my mind. I was going to rejoin my old law firm, write books, and enjoy the Beach! But God had other plans. He surprised me with this opportunity to be Teaching Pastor at Trinity Church—one of those things “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Eph. 4:20. I tell people that a preaching lawyer is proof positive that God can use anybody to do anything. How can we not trust a God like that?


The Book Club Network - TBCN said...

GREAT Interview. Love Randy's Books. Thanks Kim!!

Finding Hope Through Fiction

Mocha with Linda said...

WOW. Incredible interview! You come up with awesome questions! Brilliant, my friend!

Loved this book!

JJ said...

Thanks. I look forwards to reading his book. :)

Randy Singer's The Justice Game