The Vanishing Trial

Do you have Netflix? I do, and lately I have been ALL about the courts. I watched “Trial by Media” followed by “How to Fix a Drug Scandal.” (Both were excellent and eye-opening.) So, my pump was primed when a publicist asked if I was interested in reading “The Vanishing Trial: The Era of Courtroom Performances & the Perils of its Passing” by Robert Katzberg.

At its heart, “The Vanishing Trial” is about Robert Katzberg’s life and times as a law student, clerk, federal prosecutor, and ultimately, a defense attorney for those accused of white-collar crimes. However, in telling his story, we learn a lot of the nuts and bolts of being an attorney, particularly a defense attorney. A cast of colorful characters populate “The Vanishing Trial” because we learn that a trial lawyer is not only intelligent, but also a showman. Katzberg’s recollections reveal the strengths, and flaws, in the federal legal system. It is a fast, fun read.

However, “The Vanishing Trial” ends with a serious discussion on the diminishing of cases going to trial in the United States. Federal sentencing guidelines can create unreasonable sentences due to a formula outside of a judge’s control. This leads to defense attorneys, regardless of how strong of a case they have, advising their clients to cooperate and/or accept plea deals for a guaranteed reduced sentence. Pleading guilty can decrease the sentencing as well. While there has been little change on the State level, this is creating a vacuum of defense experience on the Federal level. Overall, the domain of the State courts and Federal courts are two different universes.

Forget legal thrillers, “The Vanishing Trial” by Robert Katzberg is better version. Just as entertaining, and for better or worse, real.

Learn more here.

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