A historical novel dramatizes the tumultuous life of the judge who presided over the infamous Watergate trials.
John Joseph Sirica was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the son of an Italian immigrant who toils indefatigably to provide his family with a modest living. Sirica inherits his father’s work ethic—it is evident in his love of boxing and training—but he is an inconstant student who lacks intellectual confidence. Still, after graduating from high school, he follows his cousin Fonsy and applies to George Washington University Law School and, after an inauspicious start, Georgetown Law School. He is never a spectacular student, but he graduates and passes the bar on the first try. He has a rocky start as a lawyer, too, but draws inspiration from his time in the ring: “Didn’t plan it this way, but boxing gave me the courage to stand up in court.” He is eventually appointed an assistant United States attorney for the District of Columbia, but a new Democratic president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, ensures a stretch of lean periods for the young Republican, what his wife calls the “starvation years.” Sirica even joins forces with heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, one of his heroes, to promote boxing matches in an attempt to make ends meet. Sirica eventually lands a blue-chip position at a prestigious law firm and then gets appointed as a judge to the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. In 1973, he presides over the Watergate trials, which balloon from what President Richard Nixon calls a “third-rate burglary” to one of the most consequential events in American history, thrillingly depicted by Cooper (Cheating Justice, 2012, etc.). An installment in the Barbera Foundation’s Mentoris Project—which focuses on notable Italians and Italian-Americans—this biographical study artfully chronicles Sirica’s ascendancy from a timid, academically challenged young man to a major legal luminary. The author’s prose is largely unadorned—she writes in plain, matter-of-fact language. But her research is impeccable. Cooper picks an admirable topic to flesh out in novelistic terms—a life both inspirational and historically captivating.
A skillful reconstruction of the gripping events in Judge John J. Sirica’s life.