Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 36

WORTH READING

A PROSECUTOR'S EXAMINATION
OF AN IMPERFECT SYSTEM
Review by Ronald Goldfarb

E

ven though he was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District
of New York for almost eight years, during which time he
prosecuted some high-profile cases, Preet Bharara probably
gained more notoriety when President Trump fired him in 2017.

Given the current political climate, Bharara felt it
was important to shed light on how the U.S. justice
system works in his book Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's
Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law.
The book starts out stiff and contains too many
aphorisms and homilies: "how to find the right way
to do the right thing," "the law is merely an instrument," "just do your job and do it well," bad calls
are made by "fallible human beings working in
imperfect systems." These kinds of adages fill
his book and potentially could have diluted the
important thoughts and revelations of this nowcelebrated and gentlemanly lawyer.
Yet, as he relates many stories drawn from his
experiences as a trial lawyer and adds his insights
about the justice system and prosecutorial ethics,
he engages and draws in the reader - if reading
in short takes. Doing Justice certainly will interest
prosecutors as well as law professors teaching
relevant courses. His chapter on a veteran investigator who cared enough about his work to unearth
a long-ago miscarriage of justice provides a feelgood example of good work amidst a terrible
injustice. Bharara's simple conclusion, "the moral
imperative that you do what you can to right any
wrong," is presented in hokey language: "the law
doesn't do justice. People do." Injustice, too, he
might have added. But Bharara deserves credit
for writing with modesty about elemental,
high-minded notions in a time of cynical pseudopunditry.
His chapter on snitches is balanced and wise: "every
person is more than the worst thing he or she has

Book cover, courtesy of Knopf Publishers

36 WASHINGTON LAWYER

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JUNE 2019

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ever done." Bharara's thoughts on the elusive line
prosecutors walk that separates thoughts and
action, and when an unconsummated crime
warrants arrest and prosecution, are especially interesting. So is his examination of when not to prosecute (in the case of a turnstile jumper or a prisoner
who escapes but voluntarily returns). Another story
about keeping the victims in mind, even those who
"come with baggage," is a touching tale.
These stories and others about judges and trial
strategy examine and illuminate jurisprudence; less
so his chapter on innovation and justice. But his wry
humor about trials entertains: "Not many people
would go see a movie called Twelve Angry Mediators,
and Arbitration at Nuremberg doesn't sound like a
blockbuster."
Bharara's thoughtful book provides universal
lessons about the life of a prosecutor, the workings
of the justice system, and the dynamics of crime
and punishment. When he walked the eighth floor
of the Southern District of New York courthouse
where he worked, 100 years of U.S. attorney portraits looked at him every morning. "They were
saying to me, 'don't screw up kid,'" Bharara writes.
He didn't. Bharara is a high-minded, refined
example of what a good and moral lawyer can be.

Ronald Goldfarb is an attorney, author, and literary
agent in Washington, D.C. Read more of his work at
www.ronaldgoldfarb.com.


http://www.ronaldgoldfarb.com https://www.dcbar.org/

Washington Lawyer - June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - June 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Meet Susan M. Hoffman: 48th President of the D.c. Bar
Regulation Counsel: Ensuring the Highest Ethical Standards
Disciplinary Counsel: Acting on Misconduct Charges
Life After Disciplinary Action
Bar Business: Budget Report
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Rule Updates: Rule 49 on Pro Bono Attorneys
Disciplinary Summaries
Special Coverage: 2019 Judicial & Bar Conference
Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Meet Susan M. Hoffman: 48th President of the D.c. Bar
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Regulation Counsel: Ensuring the Highest Ethical Standards
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 18
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Disciplinary Counsel: Acting on Misconduct Charges
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 22
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Life After Disciplinary Action
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 26
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-4
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-5
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-6
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Bar Business: Budget Report
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Ask the Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Rule Updates: Rule 49 on Pro Bono Attorneys
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Special Coverage: 2019 Judicial & Bar Conference
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 48
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover4
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