Saturday, September 05, 2009

ORDINARY INJUSTICE: How America Holds Court by Amy Bach

ORDINARY INJUSTICE: How America Holds Court
by Amy Bach

"A disturbing and urgent call to reform." --Booklist

"A clear exposure of a dirty secret well known to lawyers and apt to outrage everyone else."
--Kirkus Reviews

"This is a magnificent work, a crusading call for reform in the tradition of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring or Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed . . . This groundbreaking book deserves widespread attention."
--Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals

The stories of grave injustice are all too familiar: the lawyer who sleeps through a trial, the false confessions, the convictions of the innocent.

However, the less visible failures of justice meted out by America's defective system receive scant attention unless you've personally experienced it. Attorney and journalist Amy Bach has spent the last eight years investigating the chronic lapses in courts across America...

ORDINARY INJUSTICE: How America Holds Court (Metropolitan Books/September 1, 2009) goes well beyond one particular injustice, one specific court, or one aspect of the legal system. Instead, Bach conducts a sweeping investigation that moves from small-town Georgia to upstate New York, from Chicago to Mississippi, recounting fascinating stories that reveal a deep culture of complicity among prosecutors, defenders, and judges--a complicity that puts the interests of the system above the court's obligation to the people...

Here are cases where brutal domestic assault and child rape go unpunished, where indigent defendants are coerced into guilty pleas without being notified of their right to a public defender, where bail for offenses like riding a bike on a sidewalk is set at $25,000.

In Quitman County, Mississippi, we meet Brenda Wiggs, a court clerk who keeps a list of cases that mysteriously never reach a courtroom; the county, she asserts, has not prosecuted a domestic violence case in twenty-one years...

Why is this happening? Bach goes beyond the easy explanations of bad apples and meager funding to show how in the name of expedience legal professionals routinely choose to collaborate rather than face off as adversaries...

AMY BACH, a member of the New York Bar, has written on law for The Nation, The American Lawyer, and New York Magazine, and has taught legal studies at the University of Rochester.

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