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In The Pursuit of Justice: A Prosecutor’s Memoir

by Lothar R. Genge Book Reviews

In the Pursuit of Justice book coverGenge’s In The Pursuit of Justice recounts a kind of American dream: Genge moved to the U.S. from Germany after World War II and worked hard to master English. He earned a spot at Columbia University, and landed in a position of power in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and later in the DOJ as a Special Strike Force Prosecutor. It is this power that is the real protagonist of Genge’s work. To use the Austenian phrase, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a prosecutor has a good deal of power within the criminal justice system, and good prosecutors are mindful of this. What better way to interrogate this power than in a prosecutor’s memoir? If hindsight is 20-20, as the saying goes and Genge says on page one, this could be a useful and edifying exercise. Unfortunately, these pages read more like the glory days reminiscence of a boozy uncle who took someone at their word when told, “You should write a book!”, than the wise admonitions of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben. He recounts a police escort that sped him along the highways of New York to ensure he made a ski trip on time. He speaks, awestruck, of one of his supervisors who, on a typical Friday afternoon of unsanctioned drinks and cigars at the office, decided to “create” jurisdiction over a case (“The fact that our office lacked jurisdiction was never raised.”), which resulted in a state prison sentence for the defendant and the eternal admiration of the memoirist. He is certainly aware of inequities in the system; at one point he speaks of “social and economic systems that created an underclass of disenfranchised people.” But the awareness does not extend to analysis of his own part and power.

To be sure, there is plenty for a casual reader to enjoy: helicopter chases, drug smuggling, witness tampering, and murder, for a start. Indeed, reading passages aloud with a faux-noir, private-dick affect adds something to the prose (“There was no reason not to mix business with a little pleasure. At least that was my rationale at the time.”). And his detailed procedural descriptions will make a criminal attorney feel at home within these pages, particularly if he or she remembers some of the high-profile cases Genge describes. There are recognizable cameos, as when Genge speculates that attorney Roy Cohn may have been late for court because he’d been lunching with Donald Trump, or an intercepted note to Jimmy Carter that Genge interpreted as a request to put a hit out on Genge (and the former president’s cryptic response). The book is a fun, gossipy account of the author’s best war stories.

On the whole, the book could have benefitted from an editor’s once-over, but that is true of most self-published work. The problematic polemic of power could have been more seriously treated, but in the end, Genge delivers what he promises: “an easy[-]to[-]read, fast[-]paced, factual book in which I revisit some of my most interesting cases.”

Jacqueline Hutchins is a member of The Florida Bar.