Her Honor: My Life on the Bench... What Works, What’s Broken, and How to Change It

LaDoris Hazzard Cordell. Celadon, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-26960-7
Cordell, “the first African American female judge in all of northern California,” debuts with a down-to-earth account of her life as a jurist and a sensible guide to reforming the U.S. justice system. Drawing on her experiences serving in Santa Clara County’s municipal and superior courts from 1982 to 2001, Cordell explains the different procedures of juvenile, civil, criminal, and appellate courts, and offers lucid primers on judicial terminology, the jury system, plea deals, judicial elections, and estate law, among other topics. She also discusses ethical issues surrounding the sentencing of minors as adults, the history of laws banning or limiting transracial adoptions, and the complexities of involuntary civil commitment statutes. In the book’s most moving section, Cordell expresses her frustration with California’s “draconian and more than a little racist” three-strikes law, enacted in 1994, which set a mandatory minimum of 25 years to life for a third felony conviction, even if the offense was “non-violent and non-serious,” until it was revised in 2012. Her common-sense reform proposals include banning life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder and increasing compensation for jurors. Enriched by intriguing case studies and Cordell’s no-nonsense manner, this is an accessible peek into the halls of justice. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/06/2021
Release date: 10/05/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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