DIVORCED FROM JUSTICE by Karen Winner

DIVORCED FROM JUSTICE

The Abuse of Women by Divorce Lawyers and Judges
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A useful if somewhat naãve assessment of the labyrinthine divorce system. In the early 1990s, Winner, now a private consultant on women's rights and the courts, investigated complaints filed with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs by women who felt that they had been abused by judges and lawyers in divorce court; many of her recommendations for reform were later adopted by the state. She found rampant overbilling, clear instances of conflict of interest, and repeated failures to disclose information on the part of lawyers, particularly those representing the nonprofessional women least likely to have the resources and sophistication to cope with such conduct. Winner also discovered what she considers to be persistent failure by family court judges to follow the law. The result of this pattern of malfeasance, she argues, is that well-off men find it easy to take advantage of the women they are divorcing. Most of her proposed reforms are debatable, but plausible: reducing judicial discretion, creating citizen review boards to monitor judges and lawyers, applying rules requiring clearer disclosure by lawyers of what they have done to earn their fees, and bringing lawyers under the authority of consumer protection agencies. An outsider to the legal profession, Winner has sharp perceptions of some strange lawyer customs, such as failing to itemize fees and having young associates perform the work for which a high-profile partner has contracted. She also, however, underestimates the degree to which bad judicial and legal practice are caused by sloth or incompetence, rather than avarice or cruelty. She seems shocked that lawyers share the general population's regard for profit, and she ignores the rapaciousness of many clients, including abandoned wives. That said, however, this book has much good advice on protecting oneself from unscrupulous or sloppy lawyers. ($50,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-06-039184-7
Page count: 272pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996