Jus­tice in Plain Sight: How a Small-town News­pa­per and Its Un­likely Lawyer Opened Amer­ica’s Court­rooms

Dan Bern­stein

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction - JEFF FLEIS­CHER

Univer­sity of Ne­braska Press (JAN­UARY) Hard­cover $29.95 (272pp), 978-1-4962-0201-7

With the im­por­tance of a free press and the rule of law rightly in the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion, Dan Bern­stein’s Jus­tice in Plain Sight is a timely re­lease, de­tail­ing a Cal­i­for­nia pa­per’s Supreme Court bat­tles over the press and pub­lic’s ac­cess to court pro­ceed­ings.

Based in River­side, Cal­i­for­nia, the Pressen­ter­prise was a Pulitzer-awarded daily pa­per that twice sued when courts tried to limit its abil­ity to cover high-pro­file cases. The first time, in 1980, the pa­per was blocked from cov­er­ing jury se­lec­tions in the death-penalty trial of Al­bert Green­wood Brown, who raped and mur­dered a teenage girl on her way to school. The next year, it was pre­vented from cov­er­ing pre-trial hear­ings for Robert Rubane Diaz, a nurse who killed a se­ries of pa­tients un­der his care. In both in­stances, the Supreme Court ul­ti­mately needed to bal­ance the pub­lic’s right to a trans­par­ent jus­tice sys­tem against de­fen­dants’ claims that such cov­er­age would in­ter­fere with a fair trial.

Bern­stein’s book is laser fo­cused on these two land­mark cases and pro­vides no short­age of valu­able con­text. Mem­bers of the Pressen­ter­prise‘s lead­er­ship and the pa­per’s le­gal team be­come com­pelling char­ac­ters, from col­or­ful ed­i­tors to Jim Ward, a ca­reer busi­ness lawyer who found him­self ar­gu­ing im­por­tant con­sti­tu­tional cases at the high­est level. Bern­stein pro­files each of the Supreme Court jus­tices hear­ing the cases and their ex­pe­ri­ences to that point, while in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous ex­cerpts from the le­gal briefs and par­tial tran­scripts of the ar­gu­ments be­fore the Court.

The con­sid­er­able re­search, nu­mer­ous in­ter­views, and pri­mary doc­u­men­ta­tion com­bine to make Jus­tice in Plain Sight a com­pre­hen­sive look at two land­mark cases and the un­der­dog news­pa­per that en­sured that the jus­tice process can’t op­er­ate in se­cret.

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