A well-documented exposé of a broken system for policing errant federal judges.

CODE OF SILENCE

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT BY FEDERAL JUDGES, THE SECRET SYSTEM THAT PROTECTS THEM, AND THE WOMEN WHO BLEW THE WHISTLE

An investigative reporter reveals flaws in how Americans hold federal judges accountable for sexual misconduct and shows how whistleblowers have brought some to justice.

Rogue federal judges have caused scandals at least since George Washington appointee John Pickering became the first to be removed from office by the Senate, which acted after he’d repeatedly taken to the bench “in a state of total intoxication” or mental “derangement.” Since then, secretive disciplinary procedures and toothless remedies (allowing quiet resignations with full pensions) have enabled further sins documented in alarming detail in this exposé. Olsen focuses on hair-raising abuses by Samuel Bristow Kent of the Southern District of Texas, the first judge impeached by the House of Representatives for sexual misconduct he lied about. He resigned rather than stand trial in the Senate. Two female court employees had alleged that, among other types of sexual assault or harassment, Kent tried to force them to perform oral sex on him in a federal courthouse—a charge his lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, attempted to refute by claiming his client suffered from erectile dysfunction. Olsen shows how—with Kent’s accusers understandably reluctant to go public with intimate experiences—she helped to break the story open in the Houston Chronicle, leading to a public outcry that contributed to his downfall. She also offers abundant evidence of egregious missteps by other federal judges, including Alex Kozinski, a mentor to Brett Kavanaugh. The writing here tends toward journalese (a whistleblower is “a sharply dressed soccer mom” and William Rehnquist, “the balding Wisconsin native”), but Olsen describes a serious oversight problem with vigor and credibility. She also gives deserved credit to courageous whistleblowers who were doubly victimized—first by their abusers and then by a legal system that required them to endure the pain of public exposure to obtain justice.

A well-documented exposé of a broken system for policing errant federal judges.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0867-6

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

THE AUTHORITY OF THE COURT AND THE PERIL OF POLITICS

Why the Supreme Court deserves the public’s trust.

Based on his 2021 lecture at Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Breyer offers a selected history of court cases, a defense of judicial impartiality, and recommendations for promoting the public’s respect for and acceptance of the role of the judiciary in the future. The author regrets that many Americans see the justices as “unelected political officials or ‘junior varsity’ politicians themselves, rather than jurists,” asserting that “nearly all” justices apply “the basic same interpretive tools” to decide a case: “They will consider the statute’s text, its history, relevant legal tradition, precedents, the statute’s purposes (or the values that underlie it), and the relevant consequences.” Although Breyer maintains that all try to avoid the influence of ideology or political philosophy, he acknowledges that suggesting “a total and clean divorce between the Court and politics is not quite right either,” since a justice’s background, education, and experiences surely affect their views, especially when considering the consequences of a decision. The judicial process, Breyer explains, begins as a conference held once or twice each week where substantive discussion leads to preliminary conclusions. Sometimes, in order to find a majority, the court will take a minimalist perspective, allowing those who differ “on the broader legal questions to come together in answering narrower ones.” Noting that, in 2016, only 1 in 4 Americans could name the three branches of federal government, Breyer suggests a revival of civics education in schools so that students can learn how government works and what the rule of law is. He believes that confidence in government will result from citizens’ participation in public life: by voting, taking part in local governance such as school boards, and resolving their differences through argument, debate, cooperation, and compromise, all of which are “the embodiment of the democratic ideal.”

A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-674-26936-1

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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