Law in Popular Culture

Federal Judge's Book to Focus On Her Prior Work as 'Unrepentant Advocate'

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A biographical book by a federal judge in Boston won’t be published until next year.

But already it is igniting controversy, reports the Boston Globe.

Although U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner focuses on her previous work as a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, before she took the bench in 1994, some are questioning whether it is ever appropriate for a sitting judge to discuss her work as a lawyer and thus, at least implicitly, her personal views on matters and issues she may be called upon to address in court.

Plus, the book’s title, In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate, is also raising some eyebrows.

Among those who say such a book could cast doubt on a judge’s impartiality is Robert Barton. Retired as a state-court judge, he is a former chair of the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The 64-year-old Gertner—who Barton described as one of the best lawyers to appear in his court during the days when he himself was still on the bench—can expect extra recusal motions once her book is published, Barton suggests.

“But if anybody was going to test the waters, it would be Nancy Gertner,” he adds. “She’s very independent.’’

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