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The Myth of Moral Justice: Why Our Legal System Fails to Do What's Right (Anglais) Broché – 3 mai 2005

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

“This is a thoughtful look at the shortcomings of the American legal system.” (Booklist)

“Rosenbaum should be read by every law student in America.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Mr. Rosenbaum’s complaints about the current legal system are widely shared.” (The New York Sun)

“[Rosenbaum] cleverly enlivens his discourse with histrionic scenes from novels, films, plays and TV.” (Miami Herald)

“[Rosenbaum’s] book ought to be required reading in law schools and continuing legal education classes.” (Washington Post)

Présentation de l'éditeur

We are obsessed with watching television shows and feature films about lawyers, reading legal thrillers, and following real-life trials. Yet, at the same time, most of us don't trust lawyers and hold them and the legal system in very low esteem.

In The Myth of Moral Justice, law professor and novelist Thane Rosenbaum suggests that this paradox stems from the fact that citizens and the courts are at odds when it comes to their definitions of justice. With a lawyer's expertise and a novelist's sensability, Rosenbaum tackles complicated philosophical questions about our longing for moral justice. He also takes a critical look at what our legal system does to the spirits of those who must come before the law, along with those who practice within it.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 11 commentaires
30 internautes sur 34 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Rosenbaum Fails on Several Levels 30 décembre 2005
Par Woody - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I must say at the outset that I feel slightly betrayed by the NYT on this one. The comment that this book should be read by every law student in America could not be further from the truth. I have never read a book that has been so well reviewed that has offered so little to the debate.

I share the sentiments of Mr. Currie. This book, while undoubtedly drawn from admirable intentions, suffers from several fatal flaws that, in my view, make it a mostly worthless read. I will explain a few of my problems with this book that I find the most troubling.

Firstly, Rosenbaum paints a deceptively bleak picture of the American legal system. Everyone who hasn't had any exposure to the court system would be right to be concerned about the state of our judiciary if it really worked the way that Rosenbaum implies. For example, Rosenbaum talks about the unfairness of statutes of limitation which preclude claims brought after a certain period of time. What Rosenbaum doesn't mention is that statutes of limitations are frequently tolled if, for example, the defendant actively covers up her crime, and that time limits during a trial are frequently extended if the other party has suffered no harm from the delinquent filing. In this way, courts are frequently able to give relief for claims that may be technically filed too late. Similar discussion of ways that the legal system attempt to balance the interests of the parties involved is missing from most of the rest of the book. It simply doesn't portray an accurate representation of the way the legal system works in practice.

This leads me to my second point; Rosenbaum's central theme is that the American legal system needs to be more moral. However, he does not define or explain what he means by morality aside from noting that morality does not have to be synonymous with religious morality. In my view, this is the central flaw in the book. Everyone in America has a different view of morality, and even if we could agree on some central tenants of morality to guide the legal system, Rosenbaum does not seem to realize how a moral system of justice would translate into a pragmatic system for adjudicating disputes. Instead, as Mr. Currie notes, Rosenbaum uses literary and dramatic examples where there is often a clear sense of right and wrong (For example, The Trial, where Joseph K. has clearly suffered injustice at the hands of the law.) In my view, morality necessarily involved compromise and balance - there are no absolutes. And in my experience, while there is clearly room for improvement in the American legal system, there is a conscience effort made to balance the interests of all parties. It is not perfect, but legal disputes more often than not have no clear cut answers - otherwise they wouldn't get to court in the first place. Going back to the statute of limitations example, I do not think that a moral system of justice would allow a plaintiff or victim to have relief against a defendant forever. The goals of justice and finality are both worthy goals of the legal system. If a defendant could bring a claim forever, anyone who has ever done anything wrong (which I would venture to say is all of us at some point) would spend the rest of lives in fear of prosecution. It is hard to see how anything would get done in a world like that - especially as people's private information becomes more accessible and durable on sources such as the internet. The case of the holocaust or war crimes might be an exception, but again, this is an issue of balance, not absolute morality. Just because the result in a case may seem like an unjust outcome, doesn't mean that the process was flawed or that an injustice was done. It may just be the result of a bad case, or a situation where no matter the outcome, neither party could be made whole.

Take another example. There is an inherent tension between a speedy and expeditious trial, which Rosenbaum would support, and longer trial where maybe more facts could come out to present a fuller picture of the dispute. So a speedy trial would be good because it would provide closure, and a longer trial could be good because it could get closer to the truth. Similarly, a quick trial could be bad if it only presents a cursory image of the dispute, and a longer trial could be bad by wasting resources and confusing the issue - like Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. There is no one guiding moral principal that could satisfy both of these concerns. The outcome is a balance between competing goals of morality that Rosenbaum simply does not seem to recognize.

Some of the inconsistencies in the book clearly stem from this failure to recognize that morality is a multi-faceted concept that might be more present in the legal system then Rosenbaum likes to admit. As such, the book is rarely more than a biased critic of the U.S. legal system which offers little to this field of scholarship. In the afterword, he notes a lot of the criticism that he has had from the book, and posits that at least he has got people to talk about the issues. This may be true, but there have been many a better book written on this subject which the reader would be well advised to read before touching this one. Some of the work of Posner and Fuller come to mind.

I guess ultimately my critique is that this book doesn't seem to add anything to the debate. Obviously there is room to debate whether the U.S. legal system should be a moral system or under what circumstances it could be moral (both of which I see as almost infinitely complex questions). The inquiry into Apartheid in South Africa is a good example of a system which decided that finding out the truth was more important than punishing the participants and that hence embraced truth as the overriding moral concern. And that was a controversial and difficult decision that involved many competing interests getting together to find a compromise that would best serve the interests of South Africa. It didn't flow from any fixed or simple idea of morality. Rosenbaum's analysis fails because it doesn't grapple with the really hard questions, or provide any answers. We would all like to see a legal system that provides more justice and fairness, but when we can't even decide what those words mean, it seems frivolous to simply go on a biased diatribe about all the immoral conduct in the legal system without tackling the underlying tensions. Simple storytelling cannot be the full answer. While storytelling may be a solution for some people to air their grievances, telling a story isn't going to pay the medical bills for someone injured in a car wreck, or compensate someone whose retirement has been fraudulently taken. In those situations, settlements (which Rosenbaum mostly rejects) might be the best option because they assure the plaintiff of a recovery and avoid the risk of trial which could be substantial, especially for an unsympathetic plaintiff, or a case where the evidence simply isn't there. Again, these are complex questions.

The editors note that "perhaps provoking lawyers is part of the book's point." But I just don't see provocation for the sake of provocation as being particularly moral or worthwhile. If Rosenbaum and the NYT don't think that law schools are debating these issues today, they are sorely mistaken. We all know that the system is flawed. What is needed is a real debate into how will deal the problems. Unfortunately Rosenbaum simply doesn't provide any help.
10 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Dreadful book 15 mars 2011
Par Adam D - Publié sur
This book is worthless; I finished reading the first chapter, and I cannot bear to go further. It's that bad.

I am an attorney, and much of what the author writes is simply wrong. There are countless times when the author misapplies the law, and his description of our legal system is unrecognisable. The author apparently thinks that basing his argument almost entirely on fictional novels and movies is a good idea. His other main source seems to be himself, but the legal system that he describes has nothing to do with the one I know. Judging by the introduction, the author's career involves civil law and writing novels, which might explain why he fumbles so badly when discussing criminal law and morality.

Don't waste your time with this book. There is nothing of value within its pages.
53 internautes sur 66 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Law as therapy? (Yup.) Care to explain yourself? (Nope!) 13 juin 2004
Par Kevin Currie-Knight - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I am the type of reader who, even if I think i will disagree with an author's stance, like to give the book a fair shake. Who knows? The author might present a case I've not seen and in the end, it may be worth my time and effort. (It has happened before.) Not this time. I came away from these 300+ pages thinking the book a complete and total waste of my time.
The authors case - if I may be so polite - is that the law should be more moral; it should focus on doing the 'right' thing. Lawyers and judges should become morally sensitive. Law should become more embracing of moral tenets over strict rules and focus on 'healing' the parties involved rather than being an adversarial system focused on settlement for settlements sake.
Here's the problem; the author keeps saying all of these things and NEVER actually explores the ins and outs of this thesis. For instance, when he talks of why judges and lawyers need to focus on 'rightness' rather than procedural minuteia, on 'healing' rather than settlements, he never - not once - gives a glimpse at how such a system would work, whether it is practical, or tackles objections that, at least to me, are simply obvious.
While my objections are too numerous to go into, let me give you a taste of what you are getting with this book. The author writes:
"The winner-take-all structure of the legal systemis moraly deficient because it creates a presumption that justice has been achieved when morally it has not. Sometimes the ultimate winner should not have been victorious... [O]ften, the best moral result would... approximate some measure of victory in both parties - to send them both home healed rather than ambivalent or enraged." (p. 22)
But how do we KNOW who should be morally victorious (when we were not there to know that the alleged defendant did IN FACT commit the crime)? How can a legal system function other than adversarially (can it function communally?) How can a judge (who is not a psychologist) know when both parties are healed (and, say, in a murder, is there ANYTHING that could heal the victim's family in full? Surely not a forced apology!) And how can we measure (as the judge would have to do) when both parties are 'sufficiently' healed? Is it just measured by both parties say-so? If so, does that mean the trial could last 15 years?
My point is simple: the author DOESN'T EVEN TRY to map out either a positive case or handle any of these (what I think are) obvious objections. In the interest of giving the author a fair shake, it would have been nice to hear an argument. I did not. The book merely rehashes paragraphs like the above as if the positive case is self-evident (it is not) and objections don't exist (they do).
Another flaw is that the author cites (almost exlusively) fiction books and movies to make his case. "Since in x movie, we know that x was guilty and got off, the legal system is not fair." But the flaw is that there is a difference between fiction and life. In movies, we often KNOW who is guilty. Thus, it is easy to say, "the morally right decision is x because this character did it; we saw her do it on screen." In life, we rarely come in knowing who is guilty like in the movies. Thus, citing movies is simply too easy; saying, "X is the right answer becasue we know SHE did it," presumes... that we know she did it! Thus, making the 'morally right' decision is easy in the movies; but sadly, the author does little to differentiate the fantasy land of movies from real life quandaries.
It is no exaggeration to say that I could go on for pages citing errors like these! While I can somewhat sympahtize with the author's plight on a 'gut level,' his failure to explain a positive case, sheer repetitiveness of claims he simply ASSUMES to be self-evident, and absolute failkure to handle ANY objections left me dissapointed. Simply put, this is one of the few books I can say was wasted time.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The plural of anecdote is not data 26 avril 2010
Par D. Mccune - Publié sur
Format: Relié
There is not much more to say than what is said by the other 1 and 2 star reviewers. The book is filled with the way Rosenbaum wishes the world could be, but is completely divorced from how the world actually is. There is no support for his arguments outside of fictional creations and conclusions drawn from anecodotal stories. Nor does he even try to explain how the world he imagines might come into being.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Rosenbaum will change the way you think about the legal system! 11 novembre 2013
Par Drew Morris - Publié sur
Achat vérifié
Rosenbaum shows he is not just another lawyer writing another book about the law. He offers a fresh perspective on justice and morality that rarely (if ever) gets discussed. Rosenbaum's novelist chops are apparent as his fluid writing style makes this a pleasurable read.
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