This first week of 2019, we examine a book that sheds light on the fight to secure a crucial, if often underappreciated, Constitutional right in the United States: the right of the press and the public to attend jury selection and pre-trial hearings in criminal cases in the United States. This week, we look at Justice In Plain Sight by Dan Bernstein.
This was a well researched and documented look at two pivotal Supreme Court cases from the mid 1980s that established a Constitutional Right of the public and the press to attend jury selection (the first case) and pre-trial hearings (the second case). The last 17% of the version of the book I read was nothing but footnote references, and that didn’t even include an index! Yet for all its research, it still presented a very readable, very well structured look at the entire environment surrounding these cases. What were the specific facts of the cases themselves? What had the Supreme Court been doing recently relative to the issues being asked of it in these cases? Who were the humans involved – from the accused criminals to the lawyers representing them to the prosecutors and the newspapermen and the newspapermens’ lawyers and the various judges at ever level? We get brief biographies of them all, and yet it all works together to show how these people met at this particular moment in history to fight this particular battle that produced this particular result. Even the epilogue, showing just how important these two cases have been in just the last decade or so, was eye opening.
Seriously, read this book. Read it this year, the 35th anniversary of when the first case was decided. Because it has only been within this reader’s lifetime that these cases have been decided at the Supreme Court level, and that in and of itself is simply astounding.
And as always, we end with the Goodreads review:
Excellence In Plain Sight. This book does an amazing job of highlighting two crucial Supreme Court decisions, the immediate history leading up to them, the particular cases that spawned them, the people involved at every level of these cases, and even the impact these two cases would have many years later. And it explains some very particular legalese in a way that virtually anyone who can read at least at a high school level can read and understand easily. In other words, Bernstein does for the public what these cases themselves did for the press and lawyers: allows us to appreciate just how monumental these two cases were. Very highly recommended reading for everyone.