Laura Coates, an attorney turned CNN senior legal analyst, is a talented storyteller. Her new book, Just Pursuit, is a compelling collection of engaging, well-written, keenly observed vignettes from her years as a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice. But Coates’s stories, instead of trying to aggrandize her as an attorney, have a different and more profound purpose: They illustrate the injustices of our criminal justice system ... gripping ... ever-observant ... It’s storytelling that can make people understand the racial inequities of the legal system, and it’s storytelling that can restore the humanity this system has cruelly stripped from its victims.
Coates’s book... stands out among a growing confessional literature regarding the role of Black prosecutors in a criminal legal system that disproportionally investigates, arrests, charges and imprisons African Americans. While most works in this genre read as elaborate apologias, Coates immediately strikes a different tone. With brutal honesty and descriptive precision, she reveals the complex moral universe in which prosecutors live but far too many refuse to confront. Indeed, reflecting on her four years as a prosecutor, Coates bravely owns her shortcomings and admits to episodes of moral cowardice early in her stint at the U.S. attorney’s office ... She grapples with the power of her office and refuses the 'luxury of wearing sociological blinders' when evaluating what prosecutorial conduct is appropriate. If more prosecutors thought like this, perhaps our criminal legal system would live up to its ideal of equal justice under law.
Not every one of the 15 chapters in this book is equally weighted but each carries the heavy load of racism that Coates saw during her seven years as an attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Writing with verve and style, she relates her experience ... In some chapters, Just Pursuit reads like a personal diary ... She offers no solutions, but she supports her premise in horrific detail: '[T]he pursuit of justice creates injustice.'