LAW & CRIME

The Vanishing Trial: The Era of Courtroom Performers and the Perils of Its Passing

Mascot. Jul. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9781645432180. $24.95. LAW
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Following four decades spent representing defendants accused of white-collar crimes in federal cases, Katzberg contrasts what he sees as a golden age of trial advocacy with a 30-year decline in the number of courtroom trials. He explains that mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines have compelled defendants and their attorneys to accept relatively lenient sentences in exchange for cooperation rather than risk a guilty verdict at trial. While the author believes that this development has hacked away at defendants’ Sixth Amendment rights to a public trial before an impartial jury with the assistance of effective counsel, he devotes relatively little space to making arguments based in the law, instead favoring anecdotes and recollections from his career. He presents himself as a former member of an elite group of lawyers who in the 1970s and 1980s combined their procedural fluency with an ability to persuade jurors through subtle finesse as well as rhetoric and passion. Katzberg bemoans the changes in the courtroom landscape—both for the accused and a generation of criminal lawyers deprived of getting their day in court.
VERDICT Although intended for a general readership—lawyers will hardly benefit from the author’s minilecture distinguishing federal from state judicial systems

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