9781565847323 / 1565847326

In America's Court: How a Civil Lawyer Who Likes to Settle Stumbled into a Criminal Trial


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Publisher:The New Press, 2002



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About the book:

A candid indictment of the American criminal justice system from the acclaimed author of Which Side Are You On? In previous books, including the widely praised labor history Which Side Are You On?, attorney Thomas Geoghegan has written with an insight and sensibility that enable him to use the smallest details of life as microcosms of larger truths. In In America's Court, Geoghegan's personal account of his experience with criminal law, he directs this sensibility toward a re-evaluation of his own career as a civil lawyer and a critique of the criminal justice system. When asked by a friend and public defender to assist with the defense in a criminal case, Geoghegan realizes that his twenty years as a prominent labor lawyer in civil court—where most arguments are made for quick settlement in the judge's quarters—have left him totally unprepared for the realities of criminal justice in the United States. Particularly when the case at hand is the defense of a twenty-two-year-old who, at the age of fifteen, was sentenced to forty years in prison for acting as the unarmed lookout in a botched burglary attempt. Suddenly Geoghegan must face the whims of jury selection, prosecutorial advantage, and the simple fact that the course of their client's life will be determined by the case. In America's Court is a candid indictment of a criminal justice system that, by routinely imprisoning minors, violates what the rest of the world considers to be all of our basic human rights. In addition, In America's Court is a call to lawyers to act with courage despite the frustrations of the profession. Geoghegan argues that there remain aspects of the law that are heroic and unbroken, and that, rather than civil or criminal law, the law of human rights should be supreme. Written in a uniquely ironic and personal style, In America's Court is a fascinating narrative of justice denied.

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