Book Review: Doing Justice by Preet Bharara

Preet Bharara, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is well known for the prolific and high profile prosecutions during his tenure. He went hard against public corruption, mafia, insider trading and other financial frauds. He prosecuted nearly 100 wall street executives and several current and former elected officials. One of his cases which gathered a lot of publicity in India was the insider trading case against Rajat Gupta, the former chief of Mckinsey. (Rajat Gupta details out his side of the story in his book Mind without fear)

After President Trump fired him as he refused to resign, Preet now runs a very successful podcast and has written Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thought on Crime, Punishment and the Rule of Law – a sort of memoir of his time as the district attorney. In his own words, he means this book to be “guide to justice generally, not only for practitioners, but for real people who strive and struggle in their homes and offices to be fair and just” I found it not only an excellent collection of interesting legal case studies, stitched together to explain concepts of law, truth, justice and punishment, but also a fine book on how to be a good leader, how to take difficult decisions, how to seek the truth, actively avoiding prejudices and remaining objective and the importance of principles in one’s conduct.

The book is divided into four sections: Inquiry, Accusation, Judgment and Punishment, each section representing a key concept in the legal justice process. Using personal anecdotes, case stories, and his own analysis, Preet gives a comprehensive overview of the various aspects of the prosecution process, the challenges, the pitfalls and the moral dilemmas behind key decisions. The section on criminals turning witnesses and the related moral and ethical questions is an interesting read. Two other sections I would like to highlight – the story of Baby Carlina and the discussion about what constitutes fair and effective punishment and the story of Rais Bhuiyan (which is detailed out in the book The True American by Anand Giridharadas) highlighting the power of mercy and forgiveness over law and justice.

Quotable Quotes

Do the right thing, the right way for the right reasons. And do only that.

Smart laws do not assure justice any more than a good recipe guarantees a delicious meal.

It is thought provoking, insightful and engaging. I highly recommend this book.

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