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.
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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 BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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