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Grisham Goes to Court:

It appears best-selling novelist John Grisham will stand trial for allegedly inflicting emotional distress on a "suspect" in the course of an amateur investigation. Yesterday the Virginia Supreme Court overturned a lower court's dismissal of the case. It seems Grisham should stick to writing about sleuthing, rather than trying to do it himself.

Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
I was under the impression that emotional distress without some physical harm was kind of a difficult case to make.
1.13.2007 12:08pm
msk (mail):
Yet another reason not to commit crimes or misdemeanors in the course of an investigation.

This screams set-up. So far, everybody connected to the case seems to prefer bad publicity to no publicity. Any thieves around that time, however, could have stolen or altered any records in that office. A fame blame game distracts from quiet distress rumbling through the community as families consider potential misuses of personal records (i.e., who else may have had easy access to those file cabinets?). The silver lining of this fiasco could be upholding parental rights to discover what's in each child's dossier and who wrote it.
1.13.2007 2:29pm
John (mail):
As part of his pathetic investigation, Grisham obtained records from a school containing his suspect's handwriting. The school had obtained the records from the suspect under a promise of confidentiality. Grisham was a trustee of the school, which is why, I assume, the custodian of the records felt OK giving them to him.

This is not just an amateur investigation gone wrong, but a serious breach of fiduciary duty driven by personal motives. I hope the school takes some action against him, though I suspect he is too large a donor for that to happen.
1.13.2007 3:13pm
Hattio (mail):
I'm sure as a trial lawyer (wasn't he a PD for a while) Grisham has done some personal investigating before. The difference is, this time he didn't have the immunity of "statements made in the course of legal proceedings." But, remember, there's no such thing as bad press.
1.13.2007 3:41pm
James Dillon (mail):
From the Post article, which doesn't go into a lot of legal detail, it sounds as if the Virginia court simply held that the plaintiff had stated allegations sufficient to survive the state equivalent to a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Aside from taking the school records, it doesn't seem to me that Grisham did anything particularly inappropriate here, though perhaps he should have had more evidence before taking his suspicions to the police.
1.13.2007 3:42pm
Hattio (mail):
So the judge made a mistake by evaluating the merits in a motion to dismiss. Any bets how long it takes for a Summary Judgment motion to be filed?
1.13.2007 4:10pm
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
What would that be in VA, a demurrer?
1.14.2007 2:28am
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
Also, VA doesnt have summary judgment I dont think (I am probably wrong), they have some weird 18th century common law rube goldberg version of civil procedure.

In all fairness, they probably have something that is the equivalent of summary judgment, but it is called something else.
1.14.2007 2:29am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Those of us who accept only the Common Law definition of IIED, are, of course, morally exempt from liability for the modern wimp version.
1.14.2007 2:45pm
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
What is the modern wimp version, again? I'm not being sarcastic, I really am that ignorant.
1.14.2007 5:57pm