Uncivil Liberties: A Novel


“Nothing is simple anymore,” utters a character at the end of Uncivil Liberties. The declaration serves as a coda to this complex and timely novel set in a Vermont town. There is nothing simple about the mystery that underlies the story—the circumstances that led to the death of a young and promising gay high school student. Neither are the legal and moral principles and convictions that animate and divide the community as it deals with her death and the issues it triggers: hate speech and free speech, cyber-bullying and privacy, religious and sexual freedom. In the courtrooms and streets and bedrooms of Montpelier, Vermont, the lawyers and their clients and loved ones work through their conflicting values and commitments--and uncover the shocking truths below the surface. The novel is imbued with a deep respect for the law as well as the passionate and irrational human beings who live within, and sometimes beyond, its constraints.


Publication Date: May 25, 2018  Rootstock Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-57869-006-0 • LCCN: 2017963963 • 228 pages • $16.95

Meet the Cast of Characters

Kerry Pearson – A senior at Montpelier High School, who fell in love before she died at the bottom of a rock ledge

Francine Loughlin – Kerry’s mother, a deputy state’s attorney, close to her daughter, but not close enough to know all her secrets

Ricky Stillwell – Kerry’s serious and awkward high school friend, whose Christian mission betrayed her

Clara Stillwell – Ricky’s mother, a devout woman and member of the Montpelier School Board

Meg Stillwell – Ricky’s older sister, keeping distance from her family in Seattle

Sam Jacobson – an attorney who takes Ricky as his client to defend his free speech right to express homophobic views

Donna Jacobson – Sam’s wife and sounding board

Sarah Jacobson – Sam and Donna’s daughter, who jousts continually with her father

Alicia Santana – Sam’s brilliant law partner, who sues the school for discriminating against a gay principal

Barbara Laval – Alicia’s wife, the administrative assistant to the high school principal, who worries about her divided loyalties and rights gone wrong

Gayle Peters – the high school’s elegant principal

Allen Bird – the school superintendent

Tad Sorowski – the school district’s pedantic lawyer

Barry LaPorte – a Montpelier policeman with a soft heart

Lucy Cross – a resident of Jefferson, Vermont, who objects to prayer at her town meeting

Dennis Affonco – a Vermont superior court judge

Mildred Wallis – a federal district court judge

Guido Calabresi – a federal court of appeals judge, who, unlike the rest of the characters in this fiction, is a very real person and judge who speaks with much more intelligence than is evident from his fictional words