Cal. Litig. 2019, Volume 32, Number 1

Tough Cases Canan, Mize & Weisberg, eds. (The New Press, N.Y. 2018)

Reviewed by Justice Therese M. Stewart

Justice Therese M. Stewart

Tough Cases is a compendium of stories, each told by a trial judge about a case or cases she or he found challenging. The contributing authors are current and retired judges, most from state courts around the country, one who also served as an international law judge, along with a federal district court judge and a tribal court judge. Each story quickly draws the reader in, describing the people, facts and legal questions, and revealing the judge’s thinking as he or she decides the case. The judges write with remarkable candor about the dilemmas presented by political actors, religious beliefs (their own and others’), public opinion, and other external matters that arise but cannot be considered, and the challenge of focusing only on the evidence, credibility assessments, and legal standards that must inform the court’s decision. Written in prose that is surprisingly accessible to judges, lawyers, and lay people alike, the book manages to enlighten the reader through exceptional storytelling about how judges decide cases. While it is not spelled out in so many words, thoughtful readers will gain an understanding of the importance of an independent judiciary.

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