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Indefensible: One Lawyer's Journey into the Inferno of American Justice    by David Feige order for
by David Feige
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

It's very hard to review a book of the magnitude of Indefensible. It's written by David Feige, a public defender in Bronx and Brooklyn for fifteen years. The description of one of his days at work is not only indefensible, it approaches indescribable.

With up to forty to sixty cases a day to be heard in various courtrooms in the judicial system, the physical part of his job was certainly strenuous. The toll on his emotions and the tugs at his heart must have been almost unbearable. His day would start in the morning and run into night court – making it a fifteen-hour work day. Bad enough to work with the guilty and attempt to ensure a fair sentencing. But when the innocent are found guilty - even when all the facts point to innocence - and sentenced to hard time at the whim of a disgruntled or off-the-wall judge, it must have been maddening. The book speaks of one young defendant, unjustly accused of groping a young girl. He was sentenced to fifteen years in jail and labeled a sex offender! His life ruined, all because the judge (as the author describes it) was on a power trip.

The judicial system, according to Feige, needs a complete overhaul. It seems as though it's not the crime you did or didn't do that defines your future, but rather the luck of the draw regarding which judge hears the case. Indefensible is a fascinating and exhausting story of one man's experiences with the court system. It's well-written and describes real people whose cases he worked. (Their names were changed.) Feige, though, did not change the names of officials he confronted, including the judges he had to work with the finesse of a negotiator. Indefensible is an exposé of a corrupt and unfair court system. The irony of it is that there is no obvious fix. The number of cases each year is daunting. The drug arrests alone are enough to keep all the courts busy all the time. No wonder there are so many plea-bargains.

Indefensible is a must-read. It's well-written, with humor and compassion and a genuine caring for the people David Feige encountered in his daily work.

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