The Shadow of Justice
by Milton Hirsch
Reviewed by Jan Pudlow
Sage advice from experienced criminal defense attorneys to novices: “You must never ask the client why.”
Make sure their constitutional rights are protected. Keep the prosecutors and cops honest. Try to get your client off. But never ask why.
Milton Hirsch, a former prosecutor and seasoned Miami criminal defense lawyer, dares to explore that taboo question in his first novel he describes as not only a “whodunnit, but a whydunnit.”
“I finally decided, look, we are all in the story of the emperor’s new clothes. People come into the system and we help keep them moving along the conveyor belt, never asking the question that might stop the conveyor belt,” Hirsch told the Journal. “I wrote this to oblige the system to confront the why question.”
That philosophical dare is deftly carried out with a seamy, cocaine-laced murder mystery that unfolds at the Richard E. Gerstein Metro-Justice Building in Miami and the café-lined streets of Coconut Grove.
The story’s ethical undercurrent is driven by the two main characters: the protagonist, 11th Circuit Judge Clark N. Addison, caught between the law and the truth, and flamboyant criminal defense lawyer John Wentworth “Blackjack” Sheridan IV, who “owned a small sailboat named The Blackjack, an on-again-off-again Southern accent, and a liver that a cat wouldn’t eat.”
Woven throughout an intriguing plot line that bends the truth and blurs guilt and innocence to shades of gray are snippets detailing the criminal trial process. Those descriptions—from jury selection to cross-examination techniques to sentencing—are so realistically rendered that the American Bar Association chose to publish The Shadow of Justice as the first in a new series called “Great Stories by Great Lawyers.” As the ABA says in its release: “Part of the ABA’s mission in establishing the series is to educate the public about the criminal justice system by illustrating the way it really works.”
And the way it really works, day-by-day on crowded dockets, is a far cry from the lofty ideals taught in law school.
Here’s how Judge Addison describes the goings-on in his courtroom:
“Behind me are the flags, American and Florida, and on the wall high above me a placard with the motto, ‘We who labor here seek only Truth.’ In truth, we who labor here seek many things. Truth is a luxury. Defendants seek a break; prosecutors seek a conviction; defense attorneys seek an acquittal and, if they are very lucky, a legal fee. Jurors seek relief from boredom; visitors seek entertainment; victims and family members seek closure. I have no leisure to consider what it is I seek. Miami has America’s busiest criminal courts. The caseload of a judge in Miami is, on average, three times that of a judge in Manhattan. I seek not to drown.”
What Hirsch was seeking when he went to the office early each day for a year to write this novel (only to leave it sitting in a desk drawer for three years) was a therapeutic purging during a midlife crisis.
“The traditional options when confronted with a midlife crisis are to buy a Ferrari, have an affair with an underage woman, or I could write a novel. I might have gotten my wife’s permission for the affair. The Ferrari was out of the question. So I went with the book,” Hirsch said with a hearty laugh.
Hirsch’s wry sense of humor bubbles up throughout this quick-read, 205 pages, that leaves you wanting more. The judge has no gavel because they steal them in Miami. In an inside joke to readers who know the author, the judge tosses a well-thumbed copy of Hirsch’s Florida Criminal Trial Procedure into his briefcase (yes, the real-life publication of the new novelist). Blackjack, the bourbon-swigging criminal defense lawyer, describes business-as-usual as “innocent until proven indigent.”
But scratch a cynic and you often find a disillusioned idealist underneath. Pointed criticism of assembly-line justice reads more like an urgent plea to remember and embrace the moral ideals of the legal profession before it’s too late.
No one triggering event inspired Hirsch to seek refuge from his daily grind and delve into fiction-writing. Rather, he said, it was year after year of criminal defense work that caused him “to wonder and question my faith in the edifice of justice and my ability to add my grain of sand to that edifice if it exists.”
(Interestingly, during the time he worked on the novel, Hirsch was in the midst of six years of working with the Innocence Project to free from prison Wilton Dedge, the man who spent 22 years behind bars for a rape he did not commit, finally cleared by DNA evidence in August 2004.)
The book’s title comes from the Cuban expression: “La ley es apenas la sombra de la justicia” — “The law is but the shadow of justice.”
In one scene, recounting one of his first cases as a prosecutor when his first reflex at law-and-order decisions seemed so much more certain, Judge Addison reflects: “The law is what we live by. Justice is what we live for. It was the law school answer, but it wasn’t much of an answer. The law is what we live by. Sometimes justice is what we live without.”
The Shadow of Justice is an entertaining read, especially fun for regulars of Miami’s circuit criminal court and for those who know the city. But the novel goes beyond light reading by digging deeper into questioning why. Just by asking that forbidden question, Hirsch brings us that much closer to an answer.
By ABA Publishing, The Shadow of Justice is available to order online and is available in bookstores nationwide.
Jan Pudlow is associate editor of The Florida Bar News.
My Life Among the Serial Killers: Inside the Minds of the World’s Most Notorious Murderers
By Helen Morrison, M.D., and Harold Goldberg
Reviewed by Sara K. Dyehouse
Yes, Virginia, monsters do exist. Helen Morrison has met some of them. In fact, she has spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours over the past 25 years chatting amiably with, and reading scores of letters from, serial murderers such as Richard Macek, Edward Gein, John Wayne Gacy, Robert Berdella, and Florida’s own Bobby Joe Long. She even has sections of Gacy’s brain in a jar in her garage, preserving it for the day when science advances enough to provide further information about this infamous killer of 33 young boys and men.
Obsessive about her reputation as an ethical, objective, and professional researcher, Dr. Morrison has refused for more than a decade to pay for additional interviews with Marcelo Costa de Andrade, one of Brazil’s most notorious serial murderers, who in the early 1990s killed 14 young boys, drinking the blood of two. Her persistence, she hopes, will pay off, and eventually de Andrade will decide to grace her—free of charge—with his innermost thoughts about his murderous accomplishments.
In My Life Among the Serial Killers, Dr. Morrison, a certified forensic psychiatrist, researcher, and self-proclaimed “profiler,” purports to do more in her book than “spin tales about [her] dealings with serial killers.” She is on a life-long quest to discover the cause(s) or precipitating factor(s) that lead people to commit serial murder. From her vast experience interviewing scores of multiple murderers, she is “firmly convinced that there is something in the genes that leads a person to become a serial killer.” Consequently, she resoundingly rejects various “specious theories” that propose brain injury, childhood abuse, and/or malnutrition as the precipitating factors.
Taking pains to distinguish serial killers from psychopaths who are “[a]ble to kill without remorse,” but who “are otherwise humans like the rest of us, able to experience joy and happiness,” Dr. Morrison graphically details the gruesome experimental acts that her subjects have inflicted on their victims and their nonchalant attitudes toward what they have done. She is convinced that none have progressed emotionally past an infantile stage, and thus have no ability to sympathize or empathize with their victims, which are abstract concepts beyond their level of emotional response.
Having spent her professional lifetime reading about, studying, and living (vicariously) the lifestyles of these aberrant individuals, Dr. Morrison has discovered seven commonalities among them: They have no motive to kill; they have no personality structures that fit into the usual theories of development; they are not psychopaths; they are not mentally retarded; they are not psychologically complete human beings; they have not all been physically and/or sexually abused; they are addicted to killing and cannot control their actions; they are not solely a phenomenon of the United States; and they are not of recent vintage. Ultimately, she hopes that society and the judicial system will come to appreciate the need to study these individuals closely, to apply our medical and scientific prowess to determine exactly what genetic or biological factor precipitates the addiction to kill others successively—all toward the goal of finding a “cure,” or at least identifying these people before they strike.
While the faint of heart would do well to avoid this book, all who are interested in or fascinated by this frightening segment of society will find Dr. Morrison’s personal experiences fascinating and insightful. While she does not profess to have the definitive answer as to why these people kill, Dr. Morrison makes a good case for genetic predisposition, and society would be wise to encourage her continued research in this regard. After all, while we might want Santa Claus to exist, we don’t really want to believe in monsters, do we?
Sara Dyehouse is a graduate of Florida State University College of Law and practices in Tallahassee.
By Claire Hamner Matturro
Reviewed by Cheryle M. Dodd
The press release caught my attention: “Article in Florida Bar News leads to major book deal.” I was excited to see that the Bar Journal’s companion publication had launched someone into an enviable book contract and I was very curious about the Bar News’ role in this scenario. It seems that Florida Bar member Claire Matturro read about the National Legal Fiction Writing for Lawyers Contest sponsored by SEAK, Inc., in a 2002 Bar News article. She entered and won first place. HarperCollins Publishers liked Skinny-Dipping, too, and published it last fall and will publish Wildcat Wine in the spring.
This mystery/legal thriller introduces Lilly Belle Rose Cleary, an insurance defense attorney practicing in Sarasota. The story begins with Lilly’s winning a case; however, before she can savor the win, she is defending herself in a chokehold. Not many pages into the book she is shot at; her files are rifled; and a client dies from a toxic marijuana joint. Adding to her legal adventures comes the despicable new client, Dr. Winston Calvin Randolph, the attending obstetrician in the delivery of a brain-damaged baby. While keeping herself from harm’s way, Lilly tries to determine if these assults are related to her Randolph case.
Even with the preparation for a complex medical malpractice trial, the author succeeds in entertaining the reader with a cheeky main character and a supporting ensemble that includes a law partner who believes he is Stonewall Jackson’s reincarnation, a Sunshine Skyway Bridge-diving rottweiler, an “unnaturally” calm secretary, and a former boyfriend/house guest who brings his pet albino ferret with him.
“With the trial attorneys I knew, they were all funny; humor was very important to them to balance the stress. I thought, ‘I’ve got to get it in the book.’” Matturro wanted this book to be fun, and it is.
Skinny-Dipping is available at bookstores and via the Internet.
Cheryle Dodd is editor of The Florida Bar Journal and Florida Bar News.
Black’s Law Dictionary
Vote-counters take note: Let there be no doubt about the meaning of the word “chad”—dimpled, hanging, or otherwise—in the recent presidential election. West, a Thomson business and one of the foremost providers of integrated information solutions to the U.S. legal market, has released the eighth edition of Black’s Law Dictionary®, with definitions of 17,000 additional terms, including four kinds of chad, veggie-libel law, and enemy combatant.
Edited by Bryan A. Garner, a leading legal lexicographer, Black’s Law Dictionary is cited more than any other law dictionary in the United States and is a recognized authority in the definition of legal terms.
• More than 23,000 meticulously researched new definitions, including 17,000 new entries.
• More than 10,000 entries now contain citations to the West Key Number System® and to Corpus Juris Secundum®, providing a
clear map to cases and encyclopedic analysis.
• Expanded coverage of growing practice areas, including intellectual property, family law, and criminal law.
• Broadened and refined terms from civil-law jurisdictions and from such specialized fields of law as admiralty, parliamentary law, oil-and-gas law, and international law.
• A new table of legal abbreviations that lists more than 4,000 shortened forms found in legal text and citations.
• Expanded coverage of certain regions, including Louisiana, Mexico, England, and Scotland.
“This edition benefits not only from an infusion of current legal terms, but from the incredible intellectual contributions of advisors from Berkeley, Columbia, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Stanford, Texas, Yale, and other law schools,” said Garner. “These board members played a pivotal role in cultivating the text into a first-rate work of scholarship.”
Garner is the author of more than a dozen books on legal writing, English usage, and other subjects. As president of LawProse, Inc., of Dallas, he gives continuing legal education seminars covering all aspects of legal writing and drafting.
For more information about Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th Edition, visit west.thomson.com or call (800) 762-5272.
America’s Lawyer-Presidents: From Law Office to Oval Office
What do Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton have in common? They were all lawyers before they became president. In fact, 25 of America’s 43 presidents have been lawyers.
America’s Lawyer-Presidents: From Law Office to Oval Office, edited by Norman Gross, director of the ABA Museum of Law in Chicago, is a readable collection of essays that explores the law careers of our national leaders and how these experiences shaped their presidencies. A majority of our past leaders have been legal professionals, and their choices have greatly influenced the history of the United States.
America has elected lawyers as presidents from the beginning. John Adams, the second president and America’s first lawyer-president, combined a 20-year law practice with significant contributions to our nation’s founding charters. His son, John Quincy Adams, argued landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases both before and after his presidency—including the famed Amistad case. In fact, eight of the 25 lawyer-presidents appeared as counsel before the highest court in the land during their careers.
Lincoln was involved in more than 5,100 cases during his 25-year legal career, while Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and other lawyer-presidents gained fame handling sensational murder trials and other high-profile cases. Others used their legal training as entree to the greater world of public service.
Written by noted historians and presidential scholars, and highlighted by photos, illustrations, and sidebars, America’s Lawyer-Presidents provides new insights into our national leaders and their lives and times, from colonial days to the present.
America’s Lawyer-Presidents: From Law Office to Oval Office was published by Northwestern University Press and the American Bar Association Museum of Law in September 2004 (ISBN 0-8101-1218-3, hardcover) $39.95. The 344-page book is available at your local bookstores or by calling 1-800-621-2736.
Rainmaking Made Simple
By Mark Maraia
With advice such as “say thank you for referrals early and often” and “never approach networking with a ‘what’s in it for me?’ mindset,” the author, a Colorado attorney, offers hundreds of tools to follow for marketing services without compromising your comfort zone or professionalism.
Rainmaking Made Simple: What Every Professional Must Know sells for $29.95 and is available at major bookstores.
Directory of State and Federal Courts
Listings for 2,113 state courts, 214 federal courts, 14,708 judges, 5,311 clerks, and other court information are available in the 2005 Edition of BNA’s Directory of State and Federal Courts, Judges, and Clerks.
The facts have been updated and verified for accuracy by the court officials themselves and include titles, street addresses, phone/fax numbers, Internet addresses, and e-mail addresses in addition to state court structure charts.
The print version (719 pages) sells for $185. To purchase or subscribe, go to http://online.bnabooks.com.
How to Defend Yourself Against Your Lawyer
By Amelia E. Pohl
This tidy book helps the reader know not only when an attorney is needed, but also how to choose one that will solve his or her problem for a reasonable price. While handling a law suit involving property inherited from her father, Pohl saw how people with no legal background could be mislead.
With chapter titles such as “Mr. Perfect Lawyer,” “House Buyer Beware,” and “It’s Your Legal System,” the author suggests questions in layman’s terms to ask one’s attorney and reminds readers that law is “state specific.”
“Even federal laws such as bankruptcy and Medicaid law are applied differently state to state because federal law gives the states a certain amount of leeway in the administration of the law,” Pohl reminds readers.
Pohl received her J.D. from Nova University School of Law and concentrates her practice in real property, estate planning, and elder law.
How to Defend Yourself Against Your Lawyer is available from Eagle Publishing Company of Boca, 4199 N. Dixie Highway, #2, Boca Raton 33431.