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The Myth of Moral Justice: Why Our Legal System Fails to Do What's Right Paperback – Bargain Price, May 3, 2005

ISBN-13: 860-1417156285 ISBN-10: 0060735244

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A professor at Fordham Law School, Rosenbaum (The Golems of Gotham) observes that American culture is enthralled by lawyers and courtroom proceedings, yet Americans distrust lawyers and find the quality of justice in this country deficient. He ascribes this what he feels is ambivalence regarding the lack of morality and emotional complexity in law offices and in courtrooms. Rosenbaum calls for a "morally inspired transformation of the legal system," a "massive attitude adjustment" that would replace the sterile formality of the law with conscience and spirituality. To accomplish this, he advocates fewer settlements of cases and more trials, at which injured parties would be permitted, even encouraged, to vent rage at their oppressors. A novelist as well as teacher of law and literature, Rosenbaum believes in the power of storytelling as a means of healing and insists the storytelling should continue even after judgment is entered. A second trial phase should immediately convene, one in which all participants would discuss their grief, disappointment and shame. No one would be permitted to leave until all the stories had been told in full. On other themes, Rosenbaum urges that a duty to rescue should be recognized in American law as a moral imperative, and endorses apologies as beneficial to victims and wrongdoers alike. Readers will recognize that this book is more visionary than practical, and lawyers will be annoyed at the author's scolding and superior tone. But perhaps provoking lawyers is part of the book's point.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Lawyer-turned-novelist Rosenbaum argues for the ideal of a morally centered legal system rather than our current one, which is so rigid and formulaic that it rarely delivers just outcomes. What most often brings people to court are "indignities done to the spirit" that require more than the remedies of punishment and monetary compensation. Sometimes it is spiritual and restorative remedies that are required, such as simply giving victims the opportunity to speak and be heard. Instead, our system is plagued with machinations from plea bargaining, settlements, evidence rules, technicalities, and widespread lying under oath, which lead to a loss of faith or, worse, untreated emotional injuries that get played out in conflicts, riots, and vengeance. Looking at literature and movies, from The Verdict to The Merchant of Venice, and real-life trials, including the O. J. Simpson trial, Rosenbaum explores the moral complexities within the law and human lives and our never-ending fascination and frustration with the law. This is a thoughtful look at the shortcomings of the American legal system. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060735244
  • ASIN: B000GG4JW8
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,483,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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See all 11 customer reviews
The item did however, arrive on time.
latasha iamison
I am the type of reader who, even if I think i will disagree with an author's stance, like to give the book a fair shake.
Kevin Currie-Knight
The problem I have with the book is the application of the authors ideas in realistic situations.
Original369

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Woody on December 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I must say at the outset that I feel slightly betrayed by the NYT on this one. The comment that this book should be read by every law student in America could not be further from the truth. I have never read a book that has been so well reviewed that has offered so little to the debate.

I share the sentiments of Mr. Currie. This book, while undoubtedly drawn from admirable intentions, suffers from several fatal flaws that, in my view, make it a mostly worthless read. I will explain a few of my problems with this book that I find the most troubling.

Firstly, Rosenbaum paints a deceptively bleak picture of the American legal system. Everyone who hasn't had any exposure to the court system would be right to be concerned about the state of our judiciary if it really worked the way that Rosenbaum implies. For example, Rosenbaum talks about the unfairness of statutes of limitation which preclude claims brought after a certain period of time. What Rosenbaum doesn't mention is that statutes of limitations are frequently tolled if, for example, the defendant actively covers up her crime, and that time limits during a trial are frequently extended if the other party has suffered no harm from the delinquent filing. In this way, courts are frequently able to give relief for claims that may be technically filed too late. Similar discussion of ways that the legal system attempt to balance the interests of the parties involved is missing from most of the rest of the book. It simply doesn't portray an accurate representation of the way the legal system works in practice.

This leads me to my second point; Rosenbaum's central theme is that the American legal system needs to be more moral.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Adam D on March 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is worthless; I finished reading the first chapter, and I cannot bear to go further. It's that bad.

I am an attorney, and much of what the author writes is simply wrong. There are countless times when the author misapplies the law, and his description of our legal system is unrecognisable. The author apparently thinks that basing his argument almost entirely on fictional novels and movies is a good idea. His other main source seems to be himself, but the legal system that he describes has nothing to do with the one I know. Judging by the introduction, the author's career involves civil law and writing novels, which might explain why he fumbles so badly when discussing criminal law and morality.

Don't waste your time with this book. There is nothing of value within its pages.
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53 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am the type of reader who, even if I think i will disagree with an author's stance, like to give the book a fair shake. Who knows? The author might present a case I've not seen and in the end, it may be worth my time and effort. (It has happened before.) Not this time. I came away from these 300+ pages thinking the book a complete and total waste of my time.
The authors case - if I may be so polite - is that the law should be more moral; it should focus on doing the 'right' thing. Lawyers and judges should become morally sensitive. Law should become more embracing of moral tenets over strict rules and focus on 'healing' the parties involved rather than being an adversarial system focused on settlement for settlements sake.
Here's the problem; the author keeps saying all of these things and NEVER actually explores the ins and outs of this thesis. For instance, when he talks of why judges and lawyers need to focus on 'rightness' rather than procedural minuteia, on 'healing' rather than settlements, he never - not once - gives a glimpse at how such a system would work, whether it is practical, or tackles objections that, at least to me, are simply obvious.
While my objections are too numerous to go into, let me give you a taste of what you are getting with this book. The author writes:
"The winner-take-all structure of the legal systemis moraly deficient because it creates a presumption that justice has been achieved when morally it has not. Sometimes the ultimate winner should not have been victorious... [O]ften, the best moral result would... approximate some measure of victory in both parties - to send them both home healed rather than ambivalent or enraged." (p.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Mccune on April 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
There is not much more to say than what is said by the other 1 and 2 star reviewers. The book is filled with the way Rosenbaum wishes the world could be, but is completely divorced from how the world actually is. There is no support for his arguments outside of fictional creations and conclusions drawn from anecodotal stories. Nor does he even try to explain how the world he imagines might come into being.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Drew Morris on November 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rosenbaum shows he is not just another lawyer writing another book about the law. He offers a fresh perspective on justice and morality that rarely (if ever) gets discussed. Rosenbaum's novelist chops are apparent as his fluid writing style makes this a pleasurable read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author makes a few good points such acknowledging that interpersonal remedies would be helpful instead of cold legal remedies. The problem I have with the book is the application of the authors ideas in realistic situations. I have read to Chapter four and I am waiting for opinions that are more tangible and not "spiritual." A word the author uses often without ever defining exactly how it would be applied in a court case. My biggest problem is the use of movies, tv shows and other fictional stories as evidence to support why "spiritual" morality would benefit the legal system. Nonetheless, I have to finish the book even though I have not found it enlightening since the second chapter when the author revealed the answer to the legal system is to introduce morality into it. A idea that is problematic once someone begins asking what moral standard will be applied and who decides what is moral and what is not.
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