Fantastic book and great on audio (read by author)!
Cordell was the first female African American judge in Northern California, but frankly, that has nothing to do with why this was a good book. Cordell takes us through her time on the bench — each chapter covering a segment of her career, including in-depth case analysis with relevant case law and background, as well as insight into how she made her decisions. She often illustrated the difference in law and policies across states which I found both fascinating and surprising. The book covers her time in criminal, marriage and family, and juvenile courts as well as her experiences with plea bargaining, hot button issues such as DUIs, the three strikes law, judicial misconduct, and the whole process of appointing or electing judges (beyond fascinating and completely new information to me).
The concluding chapter lists a set of ten “broken” aspects of our judicial system and her recommendations for fixes. By then we are familiar with those opinions as they had come up in situ during the varied experiences, so it was easy to follow. I can’t stress enough how clearly she described the mandatory vs discretionary parts of a judge’s position. One very interesting (to me) story was about the recall of Judge Persky, who had given a too-short sentence (as perceived by the public) to the Stanford swimmer convicted of sexual assault on an unconscious girl. Despite the fact that the judge had only followed the sentencing guidelines and had done absolutely nothing wrong (no accusation of malfeasance), he was booted off the bench in an effort led by two Stanford law professors (who really should have known better). CA changed the law that allowed judge recall to require some kind of malfeasance as a result of that case. Personally, my opinion of Stanford law professors took a nosedive. I hate anything that puts politics and / or popular sentiment above the law.
This book was about what Judge Cordell thought and did and had little or no discussion of how being black impacted her career; however, she was very explicit about the races of people involved in certain cases (if relevant) and provided a lot of information about race and bias in the courtroom, including studies and statistics of the variability of convictions, sentencing, and plea bargains based on race. She did a superb job of describing principles, problems, solutions, and what stands in the way without resorting to inane, politically correct memes with nothing of substance behind them.
I loved it.
Thank you to Macmillan audio and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on October 26th, 2021 — Today!