Judges who live in glass houses shouldn’t mouth off, as the latest of Scottoline’s Philadelphia legal eagles learns when her public and private lives collide with a bang.
The Honorable Cate Fante is the golden girl of the Eastern District bench, appointed at 39 to one of the most prestigious positions in the American bar. But not even her sharp mind can figure out a way to keep powerful TV producer Art Simone from evading Philadelphia lawyer Richard Marz’s clearly meritorious claim that his one-time buddy stole the idea and the leading characters for the wildly successful series Attorneys at Law from Marz. Cate reluctantly decides the case in favor of Simone. But the stern lecture she delivers to the defendant from the bench, which inspires Marz to hurl abuse at him in open court, is a distinct faux pas, as Chief Judge Sherman informs her privately. Actually, it’s a hundred times worse. Within two days Simone and Marz are both dead, the first a murder, the second an apparent suicide. As if the resulting notoriety weren’t punishment enough, Marz’s friend and partner, Detective Frank Russo, threatens to go public with details of Cate’s compulsive sexual interludes with lowlife pickups, the latest of whom is also dead. Even worse, Simone’s death evidently won’t prevent his production company from launching Judges at Court, a new series based on Cate’s life, featuring thinly fictionalized versions of not only the besmirched judge but her publicity-shy best friend Gina Katsakis and her autistic son Warren. Can she sue the company to prevent her private life from turning into prime-time drama? Probably not—but if she doesn’t, her days as a judge will be numbered.
If only the fireworks which Scottoline (Devil’s Corner, 2005, etc.) uses to extricate her feisty heroine from her problems were as compelling or believable as the sure-footed mastery with which she plunges her into hot water.