Erin Brockovich In Appalachia. This is one of those books where the description from the publisher really does tell you pretty well exactly what the book is about: One town’s, and really one man’s, courtroom war against a coal company that was polluting its water supplies. There are the requisite dives into the various histories of the prominent people, including the lawyer, the CEO of the company, and the general region itself – home of the infamous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys – but mostly this is a tale of how the courtroom drama came to be, how the war was waged, and its ultimate outcomes. If you’re looking for a more general examination of Appalachia and its issues… this isn’t that. But if you’re interested in “Little Guy vs Big [Insert Industry]”… this is gonna be right up your alley. Very much recommended.
Another Critical Book For Those Seeking To Understand The American Justice System. This is yet another critical book for those seeking to understand the full scope of all that is wrong with the American justice system and how we got here, along with Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop, Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow (referenced herein, with solid points about where Alexander goes wrong in her presumptions), and Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law’s Prison By Any Other Name. Whereas Balko looks at police militarization, Alexander looks at mass incarceration, and Schenwar and Law look at probation and parole, here we look at the critical phase *between* arrest and conviction – the various and severely punitive pre-trial punishments and plea bargains. It is within the scope of this particular problem that Hessick shows just how large and pervasive this particular problem is – to the level that even as many often acknowledge its shortcomings, it is often protected as a means of not “overburdening” the courts! (A tip for “lawmakers”: Rescind 10 laws for every 1 you pass. That would go quite far in reducing the burden on the courts. #ijs 😉 )
Truly a remarkable and shocking work, and one that every American needs to read. Very much recommended.
But A Reliable Author. This was my first time reading this author, which makes me a bit different from most of the other ARC reviewers on Goodreads just under three weeks before publication. And I can tell you without hesitation that this is a perfectly fine first-for-you book, so long as you don’t mind coming into a world where at least some of the characters have already had other adventures with each other. (Though the way this one reads, one presumes even the first book was written such that the reader is coming in to already-established relationships.) The crime at the heart of this one is particularly grisly, and worthy of a capital trial (for those that believe murdering a murderer is something anyone, let alone a government, should be allowed to do). The personal dramas among the lawyers are compelling. The courtroom drama as the lawyers fight with and against each other is at least as compelling as any other factor. And the outcomes are satisfying within the realms of the world and particular story – though that in no way gives you any hint as to what they actually are. 😀 Basically, if you like courtroom dramas, you’re likely going to like this one. If you like compelling mysteries, you’re likely to like this one. If you like just good stories period, you’re likely to like this one. So if you’re open to any of the above at all, you should read this book. 😉 Very much recommended.
Solid Examination More Memoir Than Treatise. I was actually going to 4* this one until I went back and re-read the description, which did in fact hint at this being more memoir than treatise – which was my only real reason for docking the star. I had thought, reading it well after actually picking it up, that I was getting more treatise with just a smattering of memoir.
That noted, Katzberg does a remarkable job of showing the problems he notes as only an insider can, and sets the stage for further exploration – perhaps, as he so often notes, from someone more scholarly inclined – of the exact issues, their exact causes and histories, and maybe some examination of potential solutions, even including Katzberg’s own. Ultimately more Failure Is Not An Option (Gene Kranz’s remarkable memoir of his time as a Flight Director during the Apollo era) than Rise Of the Warrior Cop (Radley Balko’s complete record of policing in America and in particular its militarization of the last 50 years or so), this is truly a spectacular effort, well written with concise points, solid anecdotes, and an appropriate smattering of humor. Very much recommended.
Decent Start. Before I get into this review, it is probably important that you – *my* reader – understand the perspective I’m coming from. And that is that of the “Doorkeeeper” of Sam Shoemaker’s somewhat famous poem “I Stand At The Door“. So look that up and you’ll understand why I’m approaching the rest of this the way I am.
For those “deep inside”, they will probably rate this book around 4* or 5*. From that perspective, it is solid but might step on a few toes here and there – and they’re not always going to like its slightly-more-pragmatic-than-many-of-them approach to its reasoning.
For the “far outside” crowd, they’re probably going to rate this thing much closer to 1*, though the more objective among them might hit it at 2*. There are just so many issues with the book, and this crowd will likely judge them more harshly than I’m about to.
So that is the range I would expect depending on where a particular reader falls on the scale of “deep inside” Christendom – particularly its American version – vs “far outside” of it. Standing at the door, I note that I deduct 1 star immediately the instant I see prooftexting, which is the practice of citing random Bible verses out of context in support of some point or another.
The fact that the prooftexting herein is so rampant – from the ending of the first chapter until nearly literally the last words of the text – and so invidious – several times very obviously taking verses *far* from their original context and meaning by any even semi objective reasoning and often times taking as little as a single word from a particular verse – means that I can’t rate this any higher than 3*. And we haven’t even gotten to the other issues yet.
The other issues being factual errors and logical fallacies, mostly strawmen but also a few others. This, from a lawyer that boasts of his perfect US Supreme Court record! Factual errors include claiming that a factory is a “typical” work environment in the US. It hasn’t been for many years now. Similarly, the author claims that “many” doctors were practicing while abortion was still completely illegal in the US, pre-Roe v Wade, which was decided nearly 37 yrs before the publication of this book. How many professionals – of any stripe – do you know who are still working after 4o years?
The strawmen primarily involve abortion, gay rights, and public spaces – which form 4 of 7 chapters in the biggest section of the book. Here, it becomes evident – particularly in the author’s discussion of gay rights – that his closeness to the issue from his professional work becomes as much a hindrance to what he is willing to speak to as a help in pointing out various legal aspects of the circumstances.
It is because of these final two issues that I had to drop my own rating from 3* to 2*.
There is much good to be found here, and at minimum it can help even non-Christians see what prominent Christian legal scholars are thinking. But the issues are simply too rampant to allow me to rank it any higher. Recommended, but should be read with an eye to what is not said as much as what is.
Alarming and Yet Also Hilarious. Even as someone who was once a political activist with some fairly high level (if State, rather than Federal) access to the halls of legislative deliberation, this book was pretty shocking in revealing just how much of a mess the American legal system truly is. While the author himself is clearly in favor of some form of ideal government that works, this book just as easily makes the case that anarchy would at least be preferable to the current system. Yet throughout, the author’s acerbic wit is what makes the book such an enjoyable read – even as the critiques it makes show just how depressingly dreadful the current US legal system really is. Very much recommended reading. Just maybe try to do it in a place where plentiful alcohol is readily available. 😉