Tommy Malone Trial Lawyer
By Vincent Coppola 253 pages, Mercer University Press
REVIEWED BY KEVIN PATRICK
“I’ve come to believe that I was put on earth to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others [. . .]” is the quote from Tommy Malone that marks the beginning of this biography and shapes the story of Malone’s life and career as one of Georgia’s finest trial lawyers. In that vein, the early chapters of the biography focus on Malone’s work on the Sutton case, which involved an infant child’s life-changing injuries during birth. The book chronicles the case as it made its way through the trial and appellate courts. Malone took the case because his heart went out to the family, and his advocacy ultimately led to a verdict favoring the family.
The biography then shifts to Malone’s childhood in Albany. Malone’s father, Hon. Rosser Malone, was shaped by post-Reconstruction views in southwest Georgia, but Malone began to question the established mores. He recognized the inherent unfairness associated with segregationist policies. Malone grew concerned about the lack of representation for African-Americans in the jury system and regular injustices faced by attorneys, such as C.B. King, in the community. Leaving Albany to begin college at the University of Georgia, his initial foray into Athens (as so many are) was met with social indulgences and declining grades. After some initial setbacks, Malone transformed him- s elf into a model student and leader. Upon graduation from UGA, Malone attended Mercer Law School before heading back to Albany to practice law with his father.
During Malone’s early years of practice, many of his cases involved criminal defense, where he continued to witness many injustices in the legal system. He persevered in his practice and ambitions to change the status quo. For example, Malone challenged a referendum for a new governmental complex due to funding irregularities. He also brought a lawsuit against a prominent doctor for malpractice, which set the tone for his career and willingness to be an advocate for injured people despite unfavorable odds.
Malone began focusing even more on medical malpractice. He met Melvin Belli, a California attorney, referred to as the “King of Torts.” Malone and Belli developed a special friendship and tried several high-profile cases together. In...