A senior federal judge's exploration of some of the paradoxes that define the judiciary today: among them, why innocent people plead guilty, why high-level executives aren't prosecuted, why you won't get your day in court, and why the judiciary is curtailing its own constitutionally mandated power.
Rakoff reaches far beyond corporate boardrooms to highlight an array of shortcomings within the criminal justice system ... Just like his criticism of plea bargaining, the book’s most compelling moments cast doubt on widely held assumptions about the justice system ... The one hiccup in this pithy and persuasive work is a detour denouncing the broad scope of presidential authority. It is a brief diversion from the question at the heart of the book: Rakoff may paint a convincing picture of a broken and unfair criminal justice system, but will others sign on to his proposals? Making sweeping changes to plea bargaining, downgrading the emphasis on forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony, and reducing prosecutorial discretion have little traction among law enforcement groups and political leaders. Though few judges have joined Rakoff’s push for reform, his message to fellow jurists is more likely to resonate: 'Unless we judges make more effort to speak out against this inhumanity,' he asks his colleagues, 'how can we call ourselves instruments of justice?'
... well-informed and provocative ... [Rakoff] remains 'cautiously optimistic that my fellow Americans will rise to the challenge' of repairing the system. If they do, it may be in part because of some of the inspiration and wisdom he provides here.
Highlighting both contemporary and historical influences, Rakoff breaks down the assumptions and expectations many Americans hold about justice and how it is served ... understandable and relevant, if somewhat uneven at times. Throughout, Rakoff’s passion to share his invaluable expertise and to elucidate key failings of the legal system rings loud and clear.