Gray MountainLarge Print - 2014
The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer's career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track--until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the "lucky" associates. She's offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she'd get her old job back.
In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about. Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town's legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to "help real people with real problems." For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren't so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.
Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.
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“Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet. They’ll threaten you in court, out of court, in the hallways, on the phone, by e-mail, fax, or in court filings. Doesn’t matter. They’re bullies and brutes, just like their clients, and for the most part they get away with it.”
“I don’t want to hear this, Jeff. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in prison?” “I’m not going to.” “Famous last words.”
Chester said, “It’s a favorite trick in the coalfields. A company mines the coal, then goes bankrupt to avoid payments and the reclamation requirements. Sooner or later they usually pop up with another name. Same bad actors, just a new logo.”
it's legal because it's not specifically illegal.
we can have all the cheap energy we can eat. Every person in this country uses twenty pounds of coal each day.
“No, nothing is guaranteed. Frankly, no one is smart enough to predict where we’ll be next year. We’re in the middle of an election, Europe is going to hell, the Chinese are freaking out, banks are folding, markets are crashing, nobody’s building or buying. The world’s coming to an end.”
“Okay, litigation funders are private companies that raise money from their investors to buy into big lawsuits. For example, let’s say a small software company is convinced one of the big guys, say Microsoft, has stolen its software, but there’s no way the small company can afford to sue Microsoft and go toe-to-toe in court. Impossible. So the small company goes to a litigation fund, and the fund reviews the case, and if it has merit, then the fund puts up some serious cash for legal fees and expenses.
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