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Disrobed: An Inside Look at the Life and Work of a Federal Trial Judge

4.2 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0314606624
ISBN-10: 0314606629
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Judge Block gives the reader an engaging, often humorous account of his life, as always, and a compelling introduction to the world of a Federal judge whose decisions are subject to plenty of public scrutiny but whose decision-making process remains a mystery for most Americans. PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON Founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States --President Bill Clinton

At 78, Frederic Block is going strong. He still hears cases as a senior judge in Federal District Court for the Eastern District, which has jurisdiction over Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. He picked up modern Greek a few years ago. And now, he has written an engaging autobiography titled Disrobed: An Inside Look at the Life and Work of a Federal Trial Judge (Thomson Reuters Westlaw, $29.95). Despite the title, don t expect a bare-all book. Still, Judge Block offers a rare look behind decision-making on the federal bench. His stated goal was to make judicial proceedings accessible to the layman, and mercifully, without footnotes he largely succeeds. He has plenty of experience to draw on, including cases involving the Crown Heights riots, Kitty Genovese and Peter Gotti. And he has plenty to say. This is, after all, the same forthright jurist who warned prosecutors in a murder-for-hire case that seeking the death penalty was absurd, and who once worried aloud that he would have egg foo young on my face if a Chinese defendant skipped bail. A version of this article appeared in print on August 12, 2012, on page MB3 of the New York edition with the headline: Exploring a Lyricist and a Brooklyn Bohemia . By SAM ROBERTS Published: August 10, 2012 --A version of this article appeared in print on August 12, 2012, on page MB3 of the New York edition with the headline: Exploring a Lyricist and a Brooklyn Bohemia . By Sam Roberts

About the Author

Fred Block practiced law for 34 years as a small-town lawyer before he was appointed to the federal district court bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. He is an Indiana University alumnus and received his law degree from Cornell Law School. Far removed from New York City he made his mark in private practice by successfully handling a number of pivotal national cases. As reflected in this book, Judge Block has a creative flair. A jazz musician, he previously showed off his artistic talent in an off-Broadway musical he co-authored - both music and lyrics - ;Professionally Speaking, and a host of country songs he wrote, before the bench beckoned.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Thomson Reuters Westlaw (July 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0314606629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0314606624
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 7.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a lawyer who has come across Judge Block in my career, I have to say I received my copy with trepidation after reading all the negative reviews. Not to worry, even with a couple of distracting kids around, I managed to power through the book in about 4 days. The book is an easy read - not full of boring dissertations that will put you to sleep, but filled with amusing anecdotes that will have you chuckling (there are a couple of stories that I am surprised a sitting judge would include!). The comments about Judge Block not being humble, makes me think the reviewer has never dealt with a federal judge. As the old joke goes, "What's the difference between God and a federal judge? God doesn't think he's a federal court judge." Believe me, Judge Block is humble compared to most of the judges I've met in my career. There are things I think he could have expanded and subjects where he could have delved deeper, but for all I know, the publisher might have cut parts (it is a long book).
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Format: Hardcover
Interesting, but definitely slow at parts. Probably about 100 pages too long. Frankly, I feel like writing a book like this puts Judge Block in a difficult position. He's lived such an amazing life and had such a full career that it's probably impossible to include all of the biggest moments without the book dragging a bit.

A good perspective on trial court judging--particularly for the lay person. Lay readers should take care, however, to remember that the way Judge Block makes decisions is not necessarily the way a judge should make decisions. Judicial philosophy is subject to substantial debate.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It certainly didn't hurt that a former President of the United States endorsed the book. Couple that with a title that promised a great deal and I was hooked to buy it. As a trial lawyer, my biggest regret was that I had not had the opportunity to try a case in this Judge's courtroom. By the end of the book you get to know the Judge, and like him. Wise and Humble. Honest and open. Easy to read. Kind to his peers and to the parties who appeared before him in very thoughtful ways. The Judge shares insights you can't get without sitting on the bench, and offers innovative thinking about ways to improve the legal system, although he does not come right out and say that. His book will make me a better lawyer and a better citizen. The title offered a great deal, so I was ready to be dissapointed... but I wasn't. The Judge delivered what the title promised. I wish I had read this book 30 years ago, but alas, it hadn't been written. I am giving copies to several young lawyers so that they will have the book before lots of their career time passes. For someone interested in the Federal Legal system, the law and the politics, I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was absorbing and compelling. I kept returning to my ipad again and again all weekend long to read more (I bought the Thomson Reuters Pro View e-book version). Seldom do we read writings by judges themselves about political struggles, personalities, and their thoughts about cases they adjudicate. That is part of what makes this book such a treat. Now, fair disclosure--I am an attorney, albeit a non-practicing one, and I love reading about the legal system. One other thought--other reviewers suggested that they may have found this judge self-aggrandizing. All I can say is: Try spending time around a few federal judges, and see if you still think that about this one. I have never met Judge Block and probably never will, but based on my evaluation of his writings, I'd say he is thoughtful, balanced, insightful, and rather charmingly self-effacing.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enjoyed the personal journey and case discussions very much.Enjoyed the look at different cultural considerations.being a lawyer some of the basic defining of legal concepts were a bit tedious but understandable.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Judge Block includes facts about his personal life that diminish his stature. When it comes to the reality of judges favoring prosecutors, well you can read his memoir and learn how he rationalizes his bias. Sometimes he made good decisions in tough cases, but he does not appeal to me as a person. Pompous people do not appeal to me.

Not all judges are puffed up with their self importance. Decades ago I was helping an abused ex-wife who went to court to again plead for the child support her X did not pay. She was afraid of her X. When she saw him in the hall, she became sick to her stomach and did not want to go into court. Just then the chief administrator of that entire court house stepped out of the elevator. I grabbed the young mom and pulled her over to him. We chatted a bit about how we spent the summer. As we returned to our bench in the hall, I told her not to tell her X what we discussed. Let him worry. That did make her feel better.

The judge with whom we chatted not only was highly learned but humane. Unfortunately, he is rare.
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Format: Hardcover
Admittedly, I'm a recently retired judge and so took particular interest in Judge Block's story, but I didn't know Judge Block before I read his book. Since reading it, I now feel like I know him intimately. Trust me, you're never going to find ANY judge, much less a federal one, be this open about his life and experience on the bench. I myself could not have been, even though Judge Block is my kind of judge, a "lawyer's judge," as he describes himself, a true "mensch on the bench" (as I would describe him).

The judiciary is the least understood and most mysterious branch of government to the general public. It shouldn't be. The non-legal community interacts with it all the time, whether it be as jurors or litigants. They need to understand how it works, and it's extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for a federal judge to be open enough to tell his or her story from the inside. There are both the thrills of victory and the agonies of defeat in this book, just like life itself. Trust me, it's not a horn-tooting story. It's a real story. An important story. Read it and see.
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