Lat's Legal Library (09.2022): Imperfect Justice(s)
A scathing indictment of Biglaw, a trio of Trump titles, and notable new judicial biographies.
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We are now officially into fall, and book lovers know what that means: lots and lots of new titles. Fall is traditionally the biggest season in publishing, so I wasn’t surprised by the cornucopia of books released this month. But it did make it harder to pick the ten titles for this latest edition of Lat’s Legal Library (“LLL”), the bimonthly feature in which I spotlight noteworthy new books about or related to the law.
Because I already mentioned them in these pages, I did not include two books about the horrific murder of law professor Dan Markel and its aftermath: Extreme Punishment, the deep dive into the Markel case by lawyer turned true-crime writer Steven B. Epstein, and The Unveiling, the heartbreaking memoir of Dan’s mother, Ruth Markel. For my readers who follow the case and missed the earlier shoutout, I commend them to you again here.
Now, let’s turn to the ten titles for the latest Lat’s Legal Library:
Servants of the Damned: Giant Law Firms, Donald Trump, and the Corruption of Justice, by David Enrich. The third book by Enrich, business-investigations editor at the New York Times, Servants of the Damned is the buzziest book in Biglaw right now. Although it mentions several firms, as discussed by Dan Packel in the American Lawyer, star billing goes to Jones Day—and Enrich’s account of how the firm and its lawyers aided and abetted the rise of Donald Trump. According to Publishers Weekly, the book is “a vivid, crackling account of the law at its most bullying,” adding that “readers will be outraged.” (And so is Jones Day—at least based on this Wall Street Journal op-ed by Kevyn Orr, partner in charge of the firm’s U.S. offices.)
Holding the Line: Inside the Nation’s Preeminent US Attorney’s Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department, by Geoffrey Berman. Going from alleged Trump enablers to enemies, Geoffrey Berman has written a memoir of his two and a half years as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. During this time, Berman had to resist what he viewed as improper pressure from the Trump Administration to use his prosecutorial powers to protect the president and punish his enemies. Writing in the Washington Post, Professor Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney herself, describes the book as “a cautionary tale about how political forces can undermine the quest for justice.”
Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America, by Dahlia Lithwick. Berman was joined in resisting Donald Trump by courageous women lawyers and judges across the country, as recounted in Lady Justice, the newest book by veteran Supreme Court journalist and Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick. Reviewing the book for the New York Times, Professor Julie Suk praises it as “stirring” and “inspiring,” noting that “Lithwick’s approach, interweaving interviews with legal commentary, allows her subjects to shine.”
Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships, by Nina Totenberg. Lithwick isn’t the only high-profile legal journalist with a book out this month. Nina Totenberg, the grande dame of the SCOTUS press corps, has written a memoir focused on her famous friendship with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Per Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post, Dinners With Ruth is “a spectacularly charming account of Totenberg’s five decade-long friendship with the celebrated justice,” as well as “an inspiring love song to the imperative of lasting friendships and an instruction manual in how to nurture them.”
Citizen Justice: The Environmental Legacy of William O. Douglas―Public Advocate and Conservation Champion, by M. Margaret McKeown. Judge Margaret McKeown of the Ninth Circuit profiles another iconic, liberal member of the Court in Citizen Justice, which explores the conservation work of Justice William O. Douglas. As former New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse observes, “We remember Justice William O. Douglas as the brilliant, irascible, much-married Supreme Court dissenter—but this fascinating and highly readable book makes the persuasive case that this unusual man was, above all, one of the great environmentalists of the twentieth century.”
Democratic Justice: Felix Frankfurter, the Supreme Court, and the Making of the Liberal Establishment, by Brad Snyder. In Democratic Justice, Georgetown law professor Brad Snyder replaces the conventional understanding of Justice Frankfurter, as a liberal lawyer turned lackluster (conservative) justice, with a more complex and compelling portrait. Pulitzer-winning author David Garrow praises the book as “a magnificent and indeed definitive biography of a vitally important but highly imperfect justice,” while Professor Laura Kalman, author of another acclaimed judicial biography, declares that Snyder’s “spellbinding” and “brilliant” book revises the traditional view of Frankfurter to present him “as a champion of democracy in his day―and for our own as well.”
Social Media, Freedom of Speech, and the Future of our Democracy, by Lee C. Bollinger and Geoffrey R. Stone. If he were alive today, Justice Frankfurter, a preeminent legal academic and civil libertarian before he took the bench, might have contributed to this collection of essays edited by a pair of prominent professors. In the words of Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith, “Events in recent years have made plain the challenges that social-media platforms present to our democracy—harmful speech, divisive speech, misinformation, foreign interference, and more…. Bollinger and Stone have enlisted an extraordinary array of leading experts to tackle these issues from all angles.”
Barred: Why the Innocent Can't Get Out of Prison, by Daniel S. Medwed. Despite increasing exonerations, an unknown number of innocent people remain in prison—and in Barred,
NorthwesternNortheastern law professor Daniel Medwed explores how they got there and why it’s so difficult to get them out. Publishers Weekly commends the book as “a lucid and persuasive call for change,” while Kirkus Reviews describes it as ”informative and poignant,” as well as an “important addition to the literature on America’s addiction to incarceration.” [UPDATE (9/30/22, 12:14 p.m.): Edited to add Professor Medwed’s correct institutional affiliation.]
A Simple Choice: A Novel, by David Pepper. Turning to the fiction side of the ledger, A Simple Choice is the latest work by Pepper, praised by the Wall Street Journal as “one of the best political-thriller writers on the scene.” Stacey Abrams, author of her own bestselling thriller starring a SCOTUS clerk, commends A Simple Choice as a “riveting, ripped-from-the-headlines thriller,” as well as “a page-turner with a provocative idea at its heart.” (Disclosure/fun fact: David Pepper, Brad Snyder, Stacey Abrams, and I were all law school classmates.)
City Dark: A Thriller, by Roger A. Canaff. A former special-victims prosecutor, Canaff has written a novel starring a prosecutor accused of murder. According to bestselling author Hilary Davidson, “A mix of police procedural and legal drama, City Dark is entirely thrilling. Canaff asks how far we can trust our loved ones… and if we can even trust ourselves. This twisty, devious story kept me up until all hours, frantically turning pages with white-knuckled fingers.”
Congratulations to these accomplished authors. Please consider supporting them by buying and reading their books.
The next installment of LLL will appear in late November, just in time for holiday shopping. As always, I welcome nominations, but please note the timeframe: the book should have an October or November publication date. I maintain this temporal limitation because the number of law-related books I could possibly recommend would be overwhelming otherwise. If there’s a law-related book outside this timeframe that you’d like to mention, please give it a shoutout in the comments. Happy fall, and happy reading!
Disclosure: All links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you buy a book after clicking on a link, I receive a (very) small fee from Amazon.
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