on August 2, 2000
The author of this book is a law professor who does appellant work part time. Unlike the cut and thrust of jury work appeals have generally been seen as dry rarefied and uninteresting. The author however writes in an entertaining and self deprecating way which brings the process alive. It is one of the most enjoyable books written about the law that I have read for some time.
The author also writes about the cases he loses. So many books by advocates focus on the success and are about self grandisment.
Overall the impression given is how much of a dogged slog it is to achieve justice in the American System and how much calculation and thought has to go into every strategy and move. One of the amazing things in the book is how the author is so critical of a number of judges and how willing he is to make those criticisms.
It is an excellent book which shows the many flaws and weakness of the American justice system.
on January 26, 2004
this book succeeds on many levels and as such should appeal to many readers:
1. as an explanation for how our judicial system is setup and operates;
2. putting a face and personal touch behind many famous (porn star harry reams, prince of the city robert leuci, etc. etc.) and less famous, but just as interesting, trials;
3. as a series of engaging human interest stories;
4. as a chronicle of the early careers of now wildly famous people like, for example, rudy guiliani who appears as a young prosecutor in the case involving robert leuci.
this book was written at a time when dershowitz was more focused on trials as opposed to politics, so it reads without the over tones of his later works. this will be good for readers that don't agree with his politics and it's a refreshing change during this time where there are so many books that carry a political agenda.
each chapter averages about 20 pages and discusses a different case. so you can read one a night or a polish off a few while travelling. dershowitz' delivery is completely candid about the the conversations and people involved in each case. i was continually surprised about the intimate details revealed for each case.
i think this book will have great appeal to readers of spy-thrillers because they will be entertained by the stories, plot twists and uncertain endings (dershowitz discusses cases in which he won and lost), while at the same time discovering many realities of our courts and beyond.
on August 26, 2006
Dershowitz is a great writer. Love him or hate him, you can't deny this man's writing ability. His style is relatively informal, avoiding overly-intelectual language and instead opting to use plain language. This style allows the reader to focus on the content and ideas behind text, rather than constantly look words up in the dictionary. In this book, Dershowitz retells some of the more gripping cases he's been involved in. The book is partly crime novel, taking the reader thru the case step by step. The book is partly theoretical, using the cases to instruct on the way the legal system should or does work. I recommend the book highly for the law student, lawyer, and lay person as it will instruct you to how the criminal justice system really is.
Dershowitz has become a highly controversial writer and personality for a number of reasons: he has taken on unpopular cases, he has an enormous ego, and he is an opinionated iconoclast unafraid to offer his views on Judaism, the Middle East and other political issues with the same sense of total certainty as he does when it comes to his true area of expertise: constituional law.
All of that aside, he is a true legal scholar, and a great story teller (or at least he was when this book was written) and this is almost certainly his very best book. Compelling, almost riveting, Dershowitz makes the case for civil rights and constitutional defense as well ashe does anywhere else, but here he also tells a story leavened by a partial memoir of growing up orthodox in Boro Park Brooklyn in the 1960s.
This is a great book, not to be missed.
on April 30, 1998
Forget what you've seen on television. This book reveals Prof. Dershowitz for what he truly is--a principled civil libertarian of the first order. I was fortunate enough to study criminal law with Prof. Dershowitz, and this book recounts the very best of his early "war stories." It's as readable as fiction, and far more interesting! Read this book and find out why William F. Buckley, whose politics differ widely from Prof. Dershowitz's, called for him to receive the Medal of Freedom for his "fundamentalist" defense of the American legal system. From Soviet Jews, to teenagers on death row, to porn-star Harry Reems, Prof. Dershowitz has defended the powerless and the unpopular and suffered the criticism of others with good humor and a constant willingness to debate. I read this book in high school, and again in law school. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
on August 18, 2014
Professor Dershowitz has written an insightful page-turner that takes you through a few of his early cases. Interesting to walk through the different legal arguments made on the different cases. Disappointed to read about the somewhat rampant impropriety that prosecutors and judges engaged in within those cases. Fun read!
on January 13, 2009
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz details several legal battles he's fought in this dated (1982) yet readable book. From Jewish Defense League mini-terrorism to porn star Harry Reems, from Soviet dissidents to death row inmates, Dershowitz has fought to uphold Constitutional liberties. He's also helped unpopular professors, a CIA whistleblower, and nude bathers. Dershowitz describes the background of each case, and shows how the accused came seeking his counsel for their appeal. Readers also see why the professor adapts the carefully-tailored legal strategies that he employs. But perhaps the book's most valuable lessons come in the first chapter, with the professor's 13 rules of the justice game, and his indictment of lazy judges, dishonest prosecutors, and incompetent attorneys. Lest readers get the wrong impression, this liberal attorney states right off that nearly all criminal defendants are, in fact, guilty. This book holds great lessons for all readers, from novices to students to experienced attorneys. Like me, you may not always agree with Dershowitz, but you should respect his dedication and informative prose.
on July 27, 2001
Although this book was written almost 20 years ago, the constitutional issues briught forth are timeless. I may not agree with his politics, but I can now understand how Dershowitz can sway a jury.
A phenomenal writer, Dershowitz takes his own experiences and transcends them onto paper in way that the average reader is truly gripped by the story. Along the way, we learn some of his background, we can understand his views, and we can understand how courts and government interact with the law of the land.
Dershowitz is not afraid to press his personal viewpoints, but he does not make that the focus of the book. Instead, he focuses on telling stories, describing supreme injustices, and informing teh reder as to the workings of the modern day court system.
I felt his examples were well chosen and fit with his goal to expose the reader to a broad view of the constitutional issues that must be faced by society. I would have liked if some opposing viewpoints to the arguments were mentioned, but then we would not have a book solely written by Dershowitz, would we?
Overall, this book will entertain and inform any reader interested in the law, constitutional rights, or just courtroom dramas in general. I found the book very intriguing and Dershowitz has shown that he is just as good a writer as he is a lwayer.
on February 23, 2016
This is one of the best books I have ever read. Written by the greatest legal mind of our time, it truly gives you an insider's perspective of how the justice system actually works - and how it doesn't work. Dershowitz's writing is charming and funny - he is a great storyteller - but he is also brutally honest about the realities that exist and how the law and the legal participants often victimize the people they are supposed to protect. Highly recommend!
on September 19, 2008
Brookly born, Dershowitz graduated from Brooklyn College and Yale Law School, clerked for Federal Judge David Bazelon and Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. He became a full professor at Harvard Law School at 28. The 'Introduction' presents his outlook on the justice system. His beliefs in the legal system were shattered by his first real-world case as a defense attorney in 1972 (p.xiv). Dershowitz likes to pick the most challenging, the most difficult, and the most precedent-setting cases; he is a law professor (p.xv). Dershowitz is primarily an appellate lawyer, a lawyer of last resort that appeals a guilty verdict. Lawyers believe in winning their case, for or against a defendant. Judges also play sides to convict a defendant they believe is guilty (p.xvii).
Chapter 1 tells of his life and the defense of a terrorist who set off a bomb that killed. The experience changed his life, exposed him to threats of disbarment and physical violence (p.17). Dershowitz learned what they didn't teach in law school. What if there was an undercover agent in this group? Could an informer trust the government (p.29)? These terrorists had deadly plans (p.35). What if the informer secretly recorded his conversations with the police? This case provided a superb teaching tool about the limits of government intervention in preventing crime (p.79). Informers have always been used by governments to control associations. Is a man guilty of murder if he shoots a dead person? Chapter 2 argues "no".
One case "provoked more intense and personal attacks" than any other (Chapter 3). Can the corporate media turn a hero into a villain? [Was this due to commercial rivalry?] Chapter 4 is about an obscenity trial. "There can never be objective standards of obscenity" (p.163). Is all pornography connected to organized crime (p.189)? Do people have a First Amendment right to go nude in public (Chapter 5)? The Vietnam War saw many attacks on First Amendment freedoms. Dershowitz was involved in several important cases (Chapter 6). One involved the firing of a Stanford professor, the other was a CIA employee whose book wasn't censored (p.208). The Snepp decision was an example of law by judicial proclamation (p.231) Dershowitz worked to free people in the Soviet Union (Chapter 7). Can the arrest of an innocent become a crime (Chapter 8)?
Chapter 9 has a true crime story that seems too fantastic for a movie. Dershowitz doesn't explain his opposition to capital punishment (p.305). [Is it his emotions?] Was something censored on the bottom of page 356? Chapter 10 is the most important as it reveals corruption in the US Attorney's office in getting a conviction against a defense lawyer who was very successful. Would a judge violate ethics to cover up a crime (p.365)? Are you shocked by the decision to not prosecute (p.367)? Would three judges on an appeal court make a false statement (p.374)? All appeals failed (p.375). Do "prosecutors suborn perjury every day" (p.376)? The `Epilogue' reveals what has been going on (p.381). "It is worse in many other prosecutor's offices" (p.383). Is there an "occupational disease" for defense lawyers (Chapter 11)? Dershowitz tells about the criminal lawyers he has represented in his practice. F. Lee Bailey's success is explained (p.386). Bailey defended Patricia Hearst, Dershowitz helped (p.392). You will learn a lot of facts that will never be shown on television! Those "Perry Mason" stratagems represent older and obsolete practices (p.409). [Earl Rogers once used a substitute to question the identification of his defendant.] A defense lawyer is the final barrier between a citizen and the government (pp.415-416). This book tells about events that you will rarely see on broadcast TV dramas.