WHAT: DOING JUSTICE: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law
WHEN: Published by Knopf March 19, 2019
WHERE: The author lives in New York.
WHY: “A page-turning work of practical moral philosophy.
“In this fascinating combination of memoir and ethical-legal manifesto, former U.S. attorney Bharara posits that ‘the model of the American trial has something to teach us… about debate and disagreement and truth and justice.’
“He leads readers through the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, in sections dedicated to inquiry (asking questions, conducting fair interrogations), accusation (choosing if and when to levy charges), judgment (trials, verdicts), and punishment (sentencing, prison reform). His prose has the quality of a well-written speech, with philosophical pronouncements (‘Doing justice sometimes requires… a spark of creativity or innovation’) followed by supporting tales from both his legal career and his personal life, recounted in a superbly accessible and conversational, even humorous, tone (at one point contrasting media depictions of justice with ‘the real world…where testosterone doesn’t flow like a river in the streets’).
“Bharara also reminds readers that, while the law is an incredible tool, it is people who create or corrupt justice. With its approachable human moments, tragic and triumphant cases, heroic investigators, and depictions of hardworking everyday people, this book is a rare thing.” –PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, a starred review
“An essential primer about the importance of a fair and open justice system.
Bright with anecdotes from his lengthy and illustrious career, Bharara’s razor-edge judgments about punishment, procedure, outcome, and outlook address issues of governance and moral grounding that form the crux of the nature of justice. Bharara speaks with a clear, firm, and engaging voice.” –Carol Haggas, BOOKLIST
“An engaging tour from beginning to end.” –KIRKUS, a starred review
. . . . .
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK:
This book was written, over the course of more than a year, in the midst of an involuntary career change. I held the position of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) for seven and a half years, extended beyond the usual term at the personal request of President-elect Donald J. Trump on November 30, 2016, soon after his election. Then, on March 11, 2017, I was abruptly fired by President Trump.
Before I left that office, the crises were many and since then they have been and continue to be frequent, even constant. The rule of law and faith in the rule of law, the state of judicial and prosecutorial independence, the meaning and primacy of truth — all are in question and under fire in numerous ways.
Phrases and concepts like “the rule of law” and “due process” and “presumed innocent” seem to do service these days more as political slogans than as bedrock principles. Other honored precepts appear to be slipping too. It seems preferred these days to demonize one’s opponents rather than engage them, to bludgeon critics rather than win them over. There is a creeping contempt for truth and expertise. Rigor is wanting everywhere. We swim in lies, never corrected. And the concept of justice seems turned on its head — holding different meaning depending on whether you are a political adversary or ally.
Certain norms do matter. Our adversaries are not our enemies; the law is not a political weapon; objective truths do exist; fair process is essential in civilized society.