Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

Help Pick the Legal Novel of the Year; Vote for One of Three Harper Lee Prize Finalists


After reviewing some 40 submissions, judges have selected three finalists for the 2012 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. Now you can help them pick the winner by voting in the poll accompanying this post through July 8.

Those up for the prize this year are: Michael Connelly, author of The Fifth Witness; Robert Dugoni for his book Murder One; and David Ellis for Breach of Trust.

This is the 2nd Annual Harper Lee Prize, which is sponsored by the ABA Journal and the University of Alabama Law School. The prize is given annually to a book-length work of fiction published in the preceding year that best exemplifies the role of lawyers in society. In September 2011, John Grisham received the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction for The Confession.

This year’s prize will be chosen by the 2012 Harper Lee Prize Selection Committee, composed of:

• New York Times best-selling novelist Linda Fairstein.

• Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

• New York Times best-selling novelist Lisa Scottoline.

• NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

• Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.

The winner of the 2012 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction will be announced in August 2012. The winner also will be featured in the ABA Journal and honored with a special edition of To Kill A Mockingbird, signed by Harper Lee.

The prize will be presented at a ceremony and panel discussion hosted by the selection committee from noon to 3:30 p.m. on September 20, 2012, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress.

Learn more about each book below. Descriptions are from the authors’ websites:

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly:

The Fifth Witness

In tough times, crime is one of the few things that still pays. But if defense attorney Mickey Haller was expecting an uptick in business during the economic downturn, the reality is a different story. Even people needing legal representation to keep them out of jail are having to make cutbacks, it seems. In fact, the most significant part of Mickey’s business right now is not about keeping clients out of jail but about keeping roofs over their heads as the foreclosure boom hits thousands of people who were granted unrealistic mortgages in the good times and now face being kicked to the curb in the bad times.

Lisa Trammel has been a client of Mickey’s for eight months—hers was his very first foreclosure case, in fact—and although so far he’s managed to stop the bank from taking her house, the strain and sense of injustice have taken a toll. The bank recently got a restraining order to prevent her from protesting against its practices. Now, a high-level bank employee, Mitchell Bondurant, has been found dead in the bank’s parking lot, and Lisa is about to be indicted for murder. For Mickey, it’s back to what he does best on the biggest stage of all, but if he thought defending Lisa Trammel was going to be a walk in the park, he’d be wrong. Not only is he about to learn some startling truths about his client, but also about himself, and by the time the verdict is in, Mickey’s whole world will have been turned upside down.

Murder One by Robert Dugoni

Murder One

A year after tragedy, attorney David Sloane has returned to work full time. At a black-tie dinner, he reconnects with Barclay Reid, opposing counsel in Sloane’s most prominent case. Barclay is suffering from her own personal tragedy after the death of her teenage daughter from a drug overdose. In the aftermath, Barclay has begun an intense crusade against the Russian drug traffickers she holds responsible for her daughter’s death, pursuing them with a righteousness that matches Sloane’s own zeal for justice. Sloane finds himself drawn to this woman, despite their adversarial past.

When Barclay’s crusade stalls and the Russian drug dealer turns up dead, she stands accused of murder, and Sloane is her chosen defender. Amidst the swirling media frenzy, in his first criminal case, Sloane finds himself once again in harm’s way, while mounting evidence suggests Barclay is a woman with many secrets. And she may not be quite as innocent—or as in love with Sloane as she purports to be.

Breach of Trust by David Ellis

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In this second installment of the Jason Kolarich series, Jason investigates the murder of a key witness in a criminal case that Jason tried. Jason had forced the witness to testify and believes that this led to the witness’ murder. When the evidence leads to an obscure agency in state government, guilt-stricken Jason goes to work for the agency to dig deeper. Before he knows it, Jason finds himself square in the middle of a high-level conspiracy of fraud and corruption—as well as a covert federal investigation into these crimes. He is confronted by agents of the FBI, who force Jason to work undercover to root out the criminal activity. Jason finds himself with two roles, solving the murder of the witness and helping put away top state officials—all the way to the governor’s door. But are the two things related? And how far must Jason go to solve the murder and take down a corrupt governor?

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