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Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
—Anthony Lewis, author of Freedom of the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment
—Barry Scheck, co-founder and co-director of The Innocence Project, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
—Steven Brill, founder of Court TV and The American Lawyer
—Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals
—Charles J. Ogletree Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and Founding and Executive Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
—Steve Bogira, author of Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse
—Bryan Stevenson, Director, Equal Justice Initiative, New York University School of Law
Top Customer Reviews
An unjust outcome can be the result of wrongful arrest, charge, conviction, sentencing, incarceration and revocation of parole/probation. The most frequent unjust outcome would be a wrongful arrest on a simple misdemeanor where the person arrested quickly discovers that their least costly option is to plead guilty, pay the fine and move on. Complaints about the police are investigated by the police and in the vast majority of the cases the officer is upheld. Anyone who pleads not guilty to a simple misdemeanor risks annoying the judge, prosecutor and public defender who all think their time is being wasted.
Charging errors are fairly common and they should be detected and corrected as early in the process as possible. The only real supervision of plea-bargaining is by the judge and if the judge has a large case load supervision is probably cursory. Sentencing is very complex process and it is easy to make a sentencing error (in some states the Department of Correction will discover sentencing errors and send the prisoner back to court for re-sentencing). One possible reason for a wrongful incarceration is because of a faulty/waived pre-sentence investigation.
The system is a confederation of independent governmental and non-governmental agencies with a common set of clients. There is no oversight and no effective constituency and no single entity has the authority to fix stuff that is broken. I hope Amy Bach has made it harder for people to claim "The system does not need to be fixed because it is not broken."
" "Ordinary injustice results when a community of legal professionals becomes so accustomed to a pattern of lapses that they can no longer see their role in them."
It's the book I would have written about Maine ... if I could write at all."
- Robert J. Ruffner
Maine Indigent Defense Center
Instead of merely focusing on individuals, Bach investigated the systematic lapses in our court system and shows the reader how justice can fail throughout the entire legal process.
As she notes in her introduction:
This book examines how state criminal trial courts regularly permit basic failures of legal process, such as the mishandling of a statutory allegation. Ordinary injustice results when a community of legal professionals becomes so accustomed to a pattern of lapses that they can no longer see their role in them. There are times when an alarming miscarriage of justice does come to light and exposes the complacency within the system, but in such instances the public often blames a single player, be it a judge, a prosecutor, or a defense attorney. The point of departure for each chapter in this book is the story of one individual who has found himself condemned in this way. What these examples show, however, is that pinning the problem on any one bad apple fails to indict the tree from which it fell. While it is convenient to isolate misconduct, targeting an individual only obscures what is truly going on from the scrutiny change requires. This system involves too many players to hold one accountable for the routine injustice happening in courtrooms across America.
The book is divided into four sections. The first deals with Robert E.Read more ›
In easily readable, jargon-free prose Bach manages to both portray the systemic ills and deliver its impact on real people: both defendants and victims of crime. She memorably depicts the harm done to people's lives by this broken system by interviewing those involved and making us understand how it directly affects them. All this in ideologically balanced, well-argued prose which makes the four chapters so memorable and, ultimately, so tragic.
(Think of medical malpractice run wild and unchecked and the damage that would do, and you'll get some idea of how broken the legal system is as portrayed in this book.)
The four chapters cover the criminal legal process at the state, not the federal, level by depicting systemic problems in each:
1. A public defender's system in Georgia.
2. A rogue judge in Troy, New York
3. A ream of deserving but unprosecuted cases in Mississippi
4. A wrongful conviction for murder in Chicago
Each presents the legal system delivering injustice due to ineptness, incompetence, a lack of adequate resources, or unchecked police/prosecutorial zeal and fervor.
Any person who might ever be involved in the U.S. court system should read this book. It's a call for action, now.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Having testified before the courts many times and worked with prisoner, I am glad that someone is pointing out how justice often gets sidetracked with poor representation and plea... Read morePublished 7 months ago by billie stockton
Great book on the American criminal justice system. If you're a budding criminologist, I'd highly recommend this book. Read morePublished 7 months ago by ELN
I enjoyed reading Bach's book. It's easy to read and I got to learn a little bit about how the American Court Systems conduct their business.Published 12 months ago by anabel velazquez
I got this book for a class and it was a WONDERFUL book. Both very insightful about the court system and super engaging and easy to read at the same time. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Abby S
American criminal courts get a harsh critique from Amy Bach. Her thesis is that State criminal courts regularly permit basic failures of the legal process. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Paul Froehlich
I just began reading this book and I like it. my professor advised me to buy it in the law schoolPublished 18 months ago by Sima
If you care AT ALL about the injustices in our country, that occur in our courtrooms by those that are to protect us from things happening incorrectly... Get this book.Published 22 months ago by Jordan
This book is worth reading for anyone who is interested in how the courts work or the nature and quality of justice in America or anyone contemplating a career in law, law... Read morePublished 23 months ago by topcat
Great book. Eye opening and well worth a Saturday in the rocker at the fire. Never knew that the system had such systemic problems.Published on March 16, 2014 by Steven G. Robinett