An in-depth account of the two federal court districts that encompass New York City: the Southern District in Manhattan and the Eastern District in Brooklyn.
Each of the districts is staffed by federal judges nominated by the White House and the Department of Justice and confirmed by the Senate—as are the prosecutors for each district, known as the U.S. Attorney. The judges normally serve until retirement, therefore shielding them from replacement based on partisan politics. The U.S. Attorney, on the other hand, serves at the pleasure of the most recently elected president and his attorney general. To explore the inner workings of each district, New York City–based reporter Dwyer (American Warlord: A True Story, 2015), who has contributed to Esquire, the Guardian, VICE, and other international publications, examines specific criminal cases from these realms, including organized crime, white collar crime (Wall Street activity as well as specific corporate frauds), illegal narcotics, terrorism, and corruption by government officials (elected and appointed). As the author points out, at least 90 percent of cases filed by U.S. Attorneys lead to financial settlements and/or plea bargains. That means only a small percentage of cases go to trial, some of which involve a jury, others of which are heard only by a federal judge. For maximum drama—there is plenty of intrigue to be found in these pages—Dwyer focuses mostly on cases that reached the trial stage. In one of the public corruption cases, the author emphasizes the impact on one female juror who held out, at least for a while, against her fellow jurors, who wanted to go home after a lengthy trial and therefore quickly reached a guilty verdict. In every other case, though, Dwyer focuses on the prosecutors, defendants, defense lawyers, and judges. “If this book has a single premise,” writes the author, “it is that the true measure of the justice within a society can be discovered by stepping into its courts.”
Occasionally, Dwyer’s compare-and-contrast narrative grows prosaic; nonetheless, this well-documented, timely book will hold readers’ attention.