BOOKS NOVEMBER 2022
Fighting for Justice
Written by Sohail “Ali” Hasanali
COVER PHOTO COURTESY OF KNOPF
Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial (Knopf, June 2022),
by Corban Addison, is a surprisingly engaging behind-the-scenes look into the legal process that led to the largest jury verdict in North Carolina. The true story begins with the rise of big agriculture, the myth of the family farmer, and how a billion-dollar industry became bad neighbors and proceeds to follow the battles of a legal team and the suffering families and communities whose last hope was the court.
Addison is masterful is his narration. The book starts like a trial opening, with the author setting the scene in rural North Carolina and introducing us to the people—the neighbors—at the heart of conflict. Quickly, we learn about the great power imbalance, the historical racial bias, and the utter, terrible nuisance that living next to a hog farm actually is. For a lawsuit about smell, it is impressive how well the sheer scale of the harm is described in the pages. The reader is with the underdog from the very beginning.
The last third of the book, which focuses on the trials and the appeal, is absolutely riveting—even more impressive considering how in-depth Addison delves into the facts, arguments, legal strategies, and witnesses that the litigation encompasses. In less capable hands, the story could easily have dragged, but instead, the tale crescendos as the reader is enthralled by how exactly the plaintiff lawyers will prevail.
Moreover, it is easy to imagine the unspoken parallels between the rural North Carolinian legal landscape and other states, including the effect of multinational corporations, massive government lobbying efforts of industries, the legal framework that favors business over individuals, and the suffering of families that may only find justice through the courts.
This book refreshingly articulates what it takes to be a great trial attorney. Following Mona Lisa Wallace (North Carolina), Mike Kaeske (Texas), and their team is a case study in preparation, teamwork, strategy, and perseverance. Addison adeptly highlights what makes each attorney great in a way that only the eye of a fellow practitioner could articulate. This account does the attorneys and the profession justice by highlighting the actual time, expense, and detail great lawyers spend in achieving their desired outcome.
Wastelands is an absolute delight and a reminder for why so many of us became lawyers. That we can do good and bring about meaningful change—that we can be the slingshot that enables David to finally slay Goliath.TBJ
SOHAIL “ALI” HASANALI
is a felony prosecutor in Fort Bend County. He is a member of the Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors, a graduate of the State Bar of Texas 2020 LeadershipSBOT class, and previously had a general private legal practice with an emphasis in criminal defense.