A VIEW FROM THE BENCH by Judge Joseph A. Wapner


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Judge Wapner is the distinguished gent who presides over the popular mock-courtroom TV series, People's Court. Turns out he used to be a real judge (20 years on the L.A. Municipal and Superior Courts), and in this engaging, anecdotal survey of the law, he dispenses his judicial wit and wisdom--along with hefty doses of self-promotion. Wapner ushers in his pedagogical case histories with an essay entitled ""Feeling Pain."" In this paean to the compassion that he feels is at ""the heart of being a decent judge,"" he recites a case he judged wherein a woman sued over a broken ankle. When Wapner advised her to settle out-of-court, she responded, ""You can't feel my pain""; but upon reflection, Wapner decided that he could, recalling his WW II trauma of being wounded in foot and back after rescuing a buddy in the face of thick enemy fire. Throughout, Wapner follows this pattern of anecdotal illuminations salted with grains of self-aggrandizement. Thus, he relates how he brought common sense to such legal conundrums as the woman who lost her house because of bureaucratic red-tape; the loving siblings who fought over an oil legacy; the man who, armed with a fake gun, stole bread for his starving family; etc--and at the same time, he crows, albeit softly, of how he's willing to go to a crime scene to determine the facts; of how he ""took a chance"" on an ex-con, James Vasquez, by persuading a friend to hire him as a shipping clerk; of how he and his wife have stuck by friends in times of trouble; and how, to be a lawyer, it takes ""trustworthiness, persistence, responsibility, self-discipline. . .""--and, evidently, a robust ego. Wapner's expositions of the law are clear and satisfying; a shame, then, that this book--which no doubt will please most of the Judge's TV fans--may alienate others through its black-robed pomposity.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 1987
Publisher: Simon & Schuster