Trial and Error: The Education of a Courtroom Lawyer

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Overview

Trial and Error offers an unexpurgated examination of the past half-century of American jurisprudence through the life of one of America's most celebrated and accomplished lawyers. Here is John C. Tucker, a man who twice argued before the Supreme Court and won, challenged the nefarious and discriminatory practice of "contract lending" and lost, participated in such monumental cases as the Chicago Eight trial following the calamitous 1968 Democratic Convention—and retired at age fifty-one, securely established as ...

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Trial and Error: The Education of a Courtroom Lawyer

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Overview

Trial and Error offers an unexpurgated examination of the past half-century of American jurisprudence through the life of one of America's most celebrated and accomplished lawyers. Here is John C. Tucker, a man who twice argued before the Supreme Court and won, challenged the nefarious and discriminatory practice of "contract lending" and lost, participated in such monumental cases as the Chicago Eight trial following the calamitous 1968 Democratic Convention—and retired at age fifty-one, securely established as one of the most respected jurists of his generation. In Trial and Error, he describes with poise and wit his encounters with as varied a cast of characters as Muhammad Ali, Abbie Hoffman, and Chief Justice Earl Warren, while chronicling the remarkable successes, and sobering disappointments, of his distinguished career. This is an honest and uncompromising analysis of the events that have shaped our court system, and the inspiring story of a man for principle in an increasingly unprincipled age for the legal profession.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Midlife crisis or not, at 51 Tucker made an unusual career move: he gave up his partnership and six-figure income with the prestigious Chicago law firm of Jenner and Block to write about legal issues that interested him. In his newest (after May God Have Mercy), he turns to professional autobiography and chronicles several of the major cases that shaped his views about the law. Mercifully, they transcend the kind of "war stories" too often told by middle-aged lawyers at cocktail parties. Tucker argued twice before the Supreme Court: his first case involved the question of mental illness and a person's competency to stand trial; the second concerned the controversial practice of patronage hiring (and firing). Tucker prevailed in each, although his first client subsequently fired him for suggesting the use of an insanity defense, even though this was the very issue that had been taken to the Supreme Court. Tucker takes it in stride: "I had long since learned that a client's gratitude is a fragile reed." Despite great material, however, Tucker displays a couple of unfortunate tendencies that lessen the book's impact. First, there's frequently more detail than the general reader needs and, as a result, Tucker's points are buried by needless digressions and asides. Second, while he makes no bones about his biases, sometimes the potshots that he takes at his legal adversaries, particularly Chief Justice Rehnquist, are so unwarranted that they undercut Tucker's credibility. These reservations aside, the author enjoyed the kind of career that most lawyers dream about, and his reflections will be of interest to those in the profession. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In his impeccably detailed memoir, trial lawyer Tucker (May God Have Mercy, 1997) takes readers through some of the most celebrated and notorious courtroom dramas of the 20th century. You expect an attorney to emphasize specifics: when discussing his defense of a paranoid schizophrenic in the mid-1960s, for example, Tucker describes the moment he received the call from the defendant’s father, how he arranged to meet the man, why the courts of that time failed to provide justice for the mentally ill. What’s surprising is how breezy and engrossing the narrative is. Readers will want the details to unfold because, like members of a jury, they know an argument or lesson is going to reveal itself at some point. Usually the author’s lessons reaffirm the sanctity of the judicial system. Even though many of the cases here involve justice breaking down, unfair judges, rigid bureaucracies, and politics muddling up the courtroom, ultimately each example Tucker provides ends with the triumph of truth over falsehood. His chapter on the trial of the Chicago Eight is a case in point. Tucker writes that US Judge Julius Hoffman performed horribly in the case, which involved the so-called conspirators who organized a demonstration outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968. The judge was biased throughout the proceedings, going so far as to jail some of the defendants’ lawyers and later sentencing almost everyone who was part of the case to a few years in prison for contempt of court. In the end, Hoffman’s draconian actions were overturned, and Tucker argues that the circus arising from the trial sent a message to other judges that they couldn’t quash people’s First Amendment rights so easily. Hewonders if a popular movement will protect due-process rights in the war against terrorism. An eminently instructive guide for law students, and for general readers an authentic version of a world they normally see only through the meretricious lens of TV courtroom dramas.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786714575
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2005
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 357
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.74 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Learning the Ropes 1
Ch. 2 Progress 37
Ch. 3 Looking for Justice 73
Ch. 4 Trial of the Century 125
Ch. 5 Forests, Trees, and the Fruits of Experience 167
Ch. 6 Politics, Patronage, and Paying Clients 205
Ch. 7 Losing - and Winning 253
Ch. 8 Some Good Guys and Some Bad Guys 291
Ch. 9 Leavings 337
Appendix 343
Acknowledgments 345
Index 347
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2014

    Good book

    Good book

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