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When Judge Ross ascended to the Family Court bench in 1991 at age 47, he left behind a successful career in court administration. Appointment to the bench would be, he thought, "the crown" of his career, but it proved to be eerily isolating, as he discovered while settling into his new courtroom (in New York judicial parlance, a "part"), a tiny, decrepit converted records storage room he dubs "Part 15." There's no honeymoon for Judge Ross: Within minutes of robing, he's dispensing instant justice to the "jammed-up lives" that come before his creaky bench, issuing temporary orders of protection from violent spouses, removing children from crack-infested homes, assessing allegations of pedophilia in nasty custody battles. The incessant parade of unhappy families leaves Ross scant time to reflect: "Decide and move on," he tells himself. Besides, "it's an imperfect world and you're an imperfect judge." Ross's complacent attitude may possibly save him from bench-burnout, but it makes for a shallow, rather pointless memoir. A few of his cases are particularly haunting, such as that of the eight-year-old girl sexually abused by her grandfather, and the case of the four-year old cerebral- palsy patient tortured by her adoptive parents, but all Ross offers in the way of jurisprudence is a tip of the hat to due process of law and a pledge to take abused children out of abusive homes: "The law requires it: end of story." The frequent use of civil- service jargon lends authenticity but also obfuscation.
"Had justice been done?. . . . I wasn't asking," writes Ross at the end of his day. And he still isn't.