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The Mother Court: Tales of Cases that Mattered in America's Greatest Trial Court Hardcover – June 10, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This lively account of a half-century of history of the nation’s oldest, and perhaps its most exciting, trial court, chronicling the Communist trials of the hysterical McCarthy era, the exposing of America to the literature of sex, prosecutions of Mafia cartels, and sensational libel cases, is peppered with the perceptive observations of a wise, experienced litigator—like flakes of chili and oregano on the choicest New York pizza.
(Pierre N. Leval, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit)

A delightful, intelligent read. Jim Zirin's sparkling account of life in the Second Circuit's famed MOTHER COURT is informative, riveting, accessible, and uplifting. It would be criminal not to read this book.
(Linda Fairstein)

A round of applause for James Zirin's Mother Court, a story engagingly, articulately and above all lovingly told. 'We had the experience but missed the meaning'—a T.S. Eliot quote cited in the book—could not be more apt. Through Mr. Zirin's eyes we do indeed come to appreciate the lasting contribution of our day-to-day Southern District encounters to the quality of our lives and fabric of our society.
(Judith Kaye, former chief judge, New York State Court of Appeals)

The Southern District of New York has been ground zero for many of this nation’s most famous—and infamous—courtroom dramas. Now Jim Zirin has given this extraordinary court the history it has long deserved. His narrative sparkles with colorful characters, compelling stories, and legal insights, all rendered in clear prose that will delight lawyers and laymen alike. (Christopher L. Eisgruber, president, Princeton University)

Zirin has all the skills vital to a good raconteur—an eye for the telling detail and for the quirks that make humans fascinating to other humans, a sense of humor, a brisk narrative style. Wrap these together and apply them to a court that has been host to most of the most exciting and evocative trials in the last century of American history, and you have a marvelous read. (Stephen F. Williams, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit)


Every wannabe lawyer, practicing lawyer and anyone who wants a riveting and revealing read about legendary lawyers and cases should get this book.
Mother Court bristles with inspiring, amusing and embarrassing actions and antics of lawyers and clients in some of the nation's most celebrated cases. Thanks to Jim Zirin, what happened behind the scenes in Manhattan's Southern District no longer stays there.
(Joseph A. Califano, Jr.)

Jim Zirin reminds us that 'the art of being a trial lawyer is the art of telling a story.' He has certainly learnt his craft, because the stories that he tells in Mother Court are riveting. They are also rich in the deep lessons of the law, the weave of high principle and human frailty, the fierce urgency of a courtroom confrontation and the deliberate and eternal search for justice. (Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University)

Can a lawyer love a court? Jim Zirin does, and in this delightful book—often rollicking, sometimes pensive, always perceptive—he tells tales of the Pentagon Papers, the Rosenbergs, Roy Cohn, distinguished judges and extinguished mobsters, all as they appeared in the sovereign republic of the Southern District. Zirin has a lot to teach about lawyering and judging, and he makes it a pleasure to learn. (Scott Malcomson, former editor, New York Times Magazine Diplo: Towards more inclusive and effective diplomacy)

Jim Zirin's The Mother Court is a 'must read' for anyone who knows or cares about the American system of justice. It's a compelling view of the federal courthouse in New York's Foley Square for those of us who've spent time there—reminding us of things we saw and showing us much that we didn't. In the end, this book is a testament to the Rule of Law and all that it means for our way of life. (David Westin, former president, ABC News)

The Mother Court offers a window into the American justice system. Zirin combines colorful historical narrative with personal experience and keen expertise in lawyering, taking us inside the world of one of America's most important set of trial courts. (Matthew Waxman)

Colorful anecdotes, thorough research and incisive observations make the book a great read. Zirin's rich professional background and personal experiences practicing in "The Mother Court" allow him to speak with authority. (Michael F. Armstrong, former district attorney, Queens County, NY)

The Mother Court is a witty and wide-ranging portrayal of a court and the players who strut and fret their hour across its stage. But it is also a tale about the principled practice of law. It is elegantly told by an expert, intensely loyal and convinced with reason that the adversarial system delivers justice in the vast majority of cases—ensuring, as he puts it, criminals are brought to swift and certain justice, while mere rascals are acquitted. How this is achieved, despite the imperfections of any system and its actors, is of vital interest to lawyers and the public alike. (Times London)

About the Author

James D. Zirin, is the host of Conversations in the Digital Age television talk show, and lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 325 pages
  • Publisher: American Bar Association (June 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1627223223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1627223225
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jim Zirin, author of The Mother Court--Tales of Cases That Mattered in America's Greatest Trial Court, is host of the critically acclaimed television talk show, Conversations in the Digital Age, which can be seen weekly throughout the New York metropolitan area. The program has a potential viewing audience exceeding two million people.
He is a leading litigator, who has appeared in federal and state courts around the nation. He is a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, having served in the Criminal Division of that office under the legendary Robert M. Morgenthau.
Zirin has written over 200 op-ed articles for Forbes, Barron's, the LA Times, the London Times, the Washington Times, the New York Sun, the Nation, the Daily Beast and the New York Law Journal.
He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
A graduate of Princeton University with honors, Zirin received his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School where he was an editor of the Michigan Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James C. Goodale on May 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
With great gusto, Zirin spotlights celebrities, salient arguments and decisions of some of America’s most famous cases that took place in the 50s, 60s and 70s in New York City’s federal trial court. The author calls this court “The Mother Court.” We learn about Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, the Pentagon Papers, General Westmorland, Prime Minister Sharon and others.

Zirin, a well-known NYC trial lawyer, writes in a witty and humorous style. The book, therefore, does not have the dry dust usually associated with books written by lawyers. Zirin’s chapter called “U.S. v. Sex” is extremely entertaining as he tells us the details of the “Deep Throat” and “I Am Curious Yellow” cases. He also candidly describes the personalities of the Mother Court, lawyers and judges alike and he pulls no punches as to which ones he likes and which ones he doesn’t.

Zirin throws in some experiences of his own and the lessons he has learned from his trials, such as how to do a cross-examination. The theory of this book is that the cases of the 50s, 60s and 70s are far more dramatic than the cases presently in the Mother Court. He may be right. This is because it is hard to top the drama of the cases Zirin describes. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable book, which can be read by anyone and not just lawyers.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Todd K on July 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book reads as a fascinating historical drama with a humorous twist - its no dull law textbook. The term "Mother Court" refers to the southern district of New York (i.e. Manhattan) and is referred to as the Mother Court as it has lead our country in precedent setting trials and an impressive history in bringing dangerous Mafia leaders to justice through the 50's, 60's, 70's -- a time when crime was deeply ingrained in the cities and corruption ruled the streets.

Author James D. Zirin takes us back into his memories before all of his documents were destroyed in the 9.11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. This book offers a personal look into the courtrooms presided over by renowned judges doling out ruling that would affect the entire country, for better or for worse. Zirin delves into the process of trials from selecting juries to reaching verdicts and offers his personal insights gained over a long, successful career as a prosecutor.

If you are interested in the history of our judicial system, this is a great text of modern times. In my research, some other great books have come into light that I think others may like to read, like: Inventing Human Rights: A History and Trial by Fire and Water: The Medieval Judicial Ordeal.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shannon O'Neil on May 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The Mother Court is well-written and engaging, drawing on Zirin’s decades long legal experience. Bringing to life many of the lawyers, judges, and cases that passed through the U.S. District Court in New York , Zirin illuminates the workings of our justice system, from its triumphs defending free speech to its failures during the Red Scare. It brings out the human side, and the people that work daily to achieve the ideal of blind justice as they argue their cases, weigh the evidence, and deliver sentences that have not just immediate consequences for defendants but also often far reaching effects for the United States. This book provides a much needed window into the often overlooked but no less important third branch of government.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William D. Zabel, Esq. on May 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
If any jury were asked for a verdict on Jim Zirin's "The Mother Court," it would be a unanimous "Must Read." Jim's book has a fascinating history of America's oldest and greatest trial Court as well as compelling stories of many of its greatest trials from Alger Hiss to obscenity cases (e.g., "Deep Throat" and "I am Curious Yellow") to the Pentagon Papers to libel cases (e.g., "Westmoreland," "Sharon" and "Westbrook Pegler"), all integrated with humorous anecdotes written with style, wit and grace.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mary Boies on June 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover
If you a lawyer, this is a superb book about the best of legal trade craft. If you are not a lawyer, it is a superb book for insight about how our nation's justice system works at its best.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Felsensteins on July 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Some interesting material and a good start, but as a New Yorker by birth and a lawyer for decades, I did not feel it lived up to its potential as it progressed. A few chapters were preachy. Some of the footnotes were interesting, and could better have been part of the text. Not bad, but not as good as I had hoped.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By gerald e. paley on June 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Extremely interesting, well written, good subject, clever title. Strongly recommend reading it. Feels very personal to one who was there during some of the events.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By albert c. oehrle on August 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a prosecutor in the '60's and '70's, I relate to this subject and applaud James Zirin for his meticulous and nuanced portrait of the legal '70's and '80's and the particular issues dealt uniquely within the Southern District of New York. It's a book in a comfortable niche, with tremendous appeal for lawyers of any age and for students of the times, its trials and its personalities.
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