Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction Shortlisters: Lawyers in Love With Literature

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Three attorney-authors are up for this year’s Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, with an autographed copy of the late writer’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ waiting for the winner.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

The Public Votes Through June 30
The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction again this year has chosen a shortlist of three novels, and has opened up voting by the public as a collective “fifth juror” on the award.

In an era in which attorneys may feel some reputational damage to the profession because of the political passion play that has ensnared some of their colleagues in Washington, the latest selection of attorney-authors may be especially welcome from the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal.

The award program, its organizers say, was authorized by the late Harper Lee, and is awarded annually to “a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.”

The prize program was inaugurated in 2011 on the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. And again this year, four jurors will vote on which of the three shortlisted titles is the winner, with the public’s vote serving as that fifth voice in the process.

The three finalists, all published in 2017, are:

  •  Proof by CE Tobisman (AmazonPublishing / Thomas & Mercer)
  •  Testimony by Scott Turow (Hachette / Grand Central)
  •  Exposed by Lisa Scottoline (Macmillan / St. Martin’s Press)

In a prepared statement, the ABA Journal’s editor and publisher Molly McDonaough is quoted, saying, “The winnowing committee has chosen three great novels that you can add to your summer reading list, all written by lawyers and with timely topics.

“This year’s grouping includes drama and intrigue surrounding international justice, elder law, legal ethics and protections for people with disabilities. As legal journalists we see the essential role of lawyers in the real world and think now, more than ever, it’s important to have genuine and inspiring depictions of their work in pop culture.”

The four jurors who will cast the first votes are:

  • Hilary Green, assistant professor of history in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama
  • Jini Koh, attorney and University of Alabama School of Law graduate
  • Tony Mauro, U.S. Supreme Court correspondent for Law.com and the National Law Journal
  • Sena Jeter Naslund, author, co-founder, and former program director of the Spalding University MFA in Writing

The public vote continues to be available through June 30 here.

The winner will be honored at a ceremony in August at the Library of Congress, and will be given a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee.

Past winners of the prize are:

  • 2011: John Grisham, The Confession
  • 2012: Michael Connelly, The Fifth Witness
  • 2013: Paul Goldstein, Havana Requiem
  • 2014: John Grisham, Sycamore Row
  • 2015: Deborah Johnson, The Secret of Magic
  • 2016: Attica Locke, Pleasantville
  • 2017: James Grippando, Gone Again

From left, the nominated authors for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction are Lisa Scottoline, Scott Turow, and CE Tobisman

‘Mockingbird’ Stageplay To Go Forward

In unrelated news about the work of Harper Lee, the settlement between her estate and producers of Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird reportedly means the show can open as planned on December 13 in Broadway’s Shubert Theater with Jeff Daniels in the role of Atticus Finch.

The estate had sued producer Scott Rudin’s company, claiming that the stage script made too many changes to the novel’s original characters and the author’s intent. Rudin had counter-sued, charging that the estate’s objections would render the show’s planned opening impossible to make.

As Sarah Weinman wrote at Publishers Lunch, “The settlement news comes just days after Alabama federal court judge William Steele ruled that estate representative Tonja Carter’s original suit against Rudin, filed in March, should be moved to New York on jurisdictional grounds. Rudin’s answering lawsuit, filed a month later, was slated to go to trial on June 4.”

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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