DOING JUSTICE: A Trial Judge at Work by Robert Satter

DOING JUSTICE: A Trial Judge at Work

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Very much for the curious layman: informative descriptions, low-key anecdotes, and candid, quiet musings from a Superior Court Judge in Connecticut with 15 years of varied experience. After introductory comments on the ""loneliness"" of the bench, Judge Satter focuses first on non-jury trials--when the judge himself must decide who's telling the truth (how to choose between conflicting testimony; when--and when not--to bend the law to fit one's own value system). Then comes more detailed discussion of jury trials in civil cases, mostly involving personal injury: the jury-selection process; techniques for encouraging the parties to settle; and an evaluation of the system itself, one in which everything ""is designed to manipulate, confuse, and confound juries."" (Satter concludes that juries basically do a good job at choosing between plaintiffs and defendants but a bad job of deciding how much plaintiffs should get.) Turning next to criminal trials, Satter offers a close-up of one case (murder in a prison) and provides solid comments on such matters as deciding-on-bail, suppressing evidence (usually for constitutional reasons), and the genuine dilemma of sentencing. And the closing chapters briefly take up family, court cases (divorce, delinquency, and painful custody battles); housing cases (where the softhearted Satter is devastated by the plight of the poor); and, amusingly, how a judge feels when he's reversed by a higher court. Undramatic and occasionally platitudinous, but--for those more interested in workaday details than L.A. Law theatrics--a worthwhile, gently likable overview.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Simon & Schuster