From the Sublime to the Preposterous: Author T.C. Morrison’s Send in the Tort Lawyer$, and his Journey from being a Lawyer to Satirizing Lawyers
I grew up in Central Ohio with no particular life plan other than going to work at the Savings and Loan where my father was the number two executive and where I worked summers throughout high school and college.
Midway through college, I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer, particularly a trial lawyer. That goal was inspired by three books I read at the time: Clarence Darrow’s Attorney for the Damned; Louis Nizer’s My life in Court; and Richard Nixon’s Six Crisis, the lead story in that book being Nixon’s role in the famous Alger Hiss “Pumpkin Papers” Congressional hearings. Also, participation in intercollegiate debate and extemporaneous speaking contests caused me to realize that I enjoyed public speaking, particularly the art of thinking fast while on your feet.
And so, with the help of a scholarship to New York University Law School, I left Central Ohio and embarked on a legal career. In the summer before my final year of law school, I was fortunate to secure a summer internship with Royall, Koegel and Rogers, a leading New York City firm which I then joined following law school. The New York part of my career was interrupted by four years in the Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps which, via the numerous court martial cases I handled, I learned how to try (and sometimes how not to try) cases.
After the Air Force, I rejoined the Royall, Koegel firm and became a partner in 1975. In 1977, I left that firm to join Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler, where I spent the next 34 years trying cases and arguing appeals throughout the country for major companies in the pharmaceutical and consumer products field. The firm gradually became a litigation powerhouse and I helped it pioneer the field of false advertising litigation, whereby a corporation can go into federal court and sue a competitor to stop advertising that is false or misleading. Working in that field, as well as the trademark and other commercial litigation fields, I learned to write elegant briefs that judges would actually read. I also authored numerous articles and gave numerous speeches on false advertising and trademark law. This work was truly sublime.
Now, I have always loved novels and had always wanted to write one. In fact, when I was in the Air Force I wrote a “spy” novel; fortunately, the three publishers I sent it to all turned it down. So, when I was a year away from retirement, I began thinking of writing a novel about a field I actually knew something about, i.e. modern American litigation. From the start I wanted it to be a funny satire, in fact a farce; I had no desire to write yet another legal thriller or a serious book about the law that no one would read.
My thoughts immediately turned to Joseph Heller. I had read his Catch-22 – a farce set in the Army Air Corps during World War II – on my way to Korea for my final tour of duty in the Air Force. I had been blown away by Heller’s ability to generate farce in virtually every situation and encounter, including the names of every character in the novel. My objective was to try to bring that level of farce to a book about the world of American litigation.
My first book, Tort$ ‘R’ Us, introduced twin brothers Patrick A. Peters (“Pap”) and Prescott U. Peters (“Pup”), successful lawyers with prominent New York City law firms, who leave their respective practices to start up a new firm devoted to representing plaintiffs in class action cases. They believed, correctly, that this would be more fun and more lucrative than their prior practices. The brothers then embark on a series of riotous cases representing a collection of lovable but zany clients in bizarre class action lawsuits against bizarre (and sometimes unscrupulous) opponents in front of befuddled (and occasionally wacky) judges.
The parade of wacky clients and bizarre cases was continued in the second book in the series, Please Pass The Tort$, and the forthcoming Send in the Tort Lawyer$. All three books satirize everyone involved in the legal system: lawyers, clients, judges and expert witnesses. Much of the fun was creating the lovable but zany clients the brothers represent. A favorite among readers is the gorgeous Lydia Lowlace, a former lap dancer turned Playboy centerfold who manages to become embroiled in one or more lawsuits in each book and who, despite making a hash of the English language, stars in the firm’s press conferences announcing the lawsuits it has filed on her behalf.
Another favorite character is Pap’s zany neighbor Mona Lott, who in Book 1 is arrested for shooting an alleged assault weapon (actually a BB gun) at a pair of geese who have landed on her lawn and who’s police station mugshot has been posted on the Internet and then distributed all over town. Other lovable clients are Dr. Hazel Nutt, a psychologist and plaintiff in a case challenging the absence of blueberries in a reformulated version of CORNY FLAKES, and Dr. Irene Goodknight, a sleep doctor with an office in her husband’s funeral home, who becomes the plaintiff in a case against the celebrities and sports figures who shamelessly promoted the now-worthless FU cryptocurrency issued by the now-bankrupt FUX.
Because they are intended as farce, all of the characters, encounters and courtroom scenes are considerably exaggerated. This over-the-top satire was inspired by my belief that (1) there is lots of humor in the cases we lawyers are involved in and (2) many lawyers take themselves far too seriously. The one serious message in the books is that the class action system has run amuck and that class action lawsuits frequently involve illusory “harms” and, far too often, benefit only the lawyers who bring the cases.
(c) T.C. Morrison
Learn more about Morrison’s work at https://tortsrusbook.com/.
About Send in the Tort Lawyer$:
In Send in The Tort Lawyer$, fearless tort lawyers Patrick A. Peters (“Pap”) and Prescott U Peters (“Pup”) whose zany exploits have delighted readers find themselves in a lawsuit on behalf of consumers who bought what turned out to be worthless crypto currency from the now bankrupt FUX; lawsuits challenging the labeling of Godiva Belgian Chocolates and a Vermont company’s ice cream purportedly made from the milk of “happy cows”; and yet another lawsuit on behalf of the unforgettable Lydia Lowlace, who’s image from Playboy is now part of a collection of non-fungible tokens sold by an off-shore start-up.
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