It doesn’t take much to realize when someone has “wronged” us. Yet Russell F. Moran’s Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails examines how our simplest instinct – the ability to identify right from wrong – isn’t always so simple in the eyes of the law.
From bureaucratic red tape and patronage, to sleeping judges and excessive jury verdicts, Moran offers an insider’s perspective of today’s ugliest courtroom antics, ruthlessly zeroing in on each factor that makes the scales of justice tip one way or the other.
It’s true that Justice in America occasionally reads like a textbook – and necessarily so, as Moran’s material often creeps into abstruse territory. Yet the lawyer, journalist, and founding editor of the New York Jury Verdict Reporter ditches tedious legal jargon for colloquial clarity, taking the time to convey heftier concepts like “eminent domain” in layman’s terms, for a beginner-level audience.
Over the course of 260 pages, Moran’s whip-smart exegesis tackles the basics of law – including the division between civil and criminal law, and the debate over judicial selection and compensation – before moving on to address significant hitches in the judicial process.
At the heart of Moran’s arguments are changing attitudes over what constitutes a “wrong” – and most centrally, what constitutes “justice” in the 21st century. Moran wrestles with timely, hot-button issues like the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the idea of “distributive justice” and even the reverberating consequences of the “Arab Spring,” and does so refreshingly, in a manner unconstrained by political ideology. Yet there is, admittedly, a sense of deference in Moran’s general approach. His objectivity – while mostly admirable – often leaves his audience wishing he would weigh in on the critical questions he poses.
As a whole, Justice in America is a cogent, if densely packed, resource for aspiring judges and lawyers – or anyone who wishes to acquaint themselves with the merits and drawbacks of our judicial system.
Reviewed by Sonia Tsuruoka for IndieReader