The Importance of Being Honest: How Lying, Secrecy, and Hypocrisy Collide with Truth in Law

The Importance of Being Honest: How Lying, Secrecy, and Hypocrisy Collide with Truth in Law

The Importance of Being Honest: How Lying, Secrecy, and Hypocrisy Collide with Truth in Law

The Importance of Being Honest: How Lying, Secrecy, and Hypocrisy Collide with Truth in Law


'The Importance of Being Honest is both funny and dangerous. In pulling the lid off the hypocrisy and delusions at virtually every level of the legal profession, he is in danger of touching off a chain reaction that could result in the average American's understanding and thus his and her ability to reform the legal system.' - Allen Barra, Wall Street Journal ?Lubet probes some of the thorniest ethical and legal questions facing us, and respects both his reader and the law enough to avoid simplistic answers. Whether he's scrutinizing Bill Clinton's relationship to his lawyer, reassessing what we know about the Scopes Monkey trial, or evaluating the demotion of Pluto, Lubet's book offers a fresh lens through which to view legal questions.' - Dahlia Lithwick, ?Lubet is so witty and entertaining that you may not even notice how much you're learning about the dangers of ?honesty-deficient lawyers and judges.' A real eye-opener!? - Rachel Maines, author of The Technology of Orgasm: ?Hysteria,? the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction Popular author Steven Lubet brings his signature blend of humor, advocacy, and legal ethics to The Importance of Being Honest, an incisive analysis of how honesty and law play out in current affairs and historical events. Drawing on original work as well as op-ed pieces and articles that have appeared in the American Lawyer, the Chicago Tribune, and many other national publications, Lubet explores the complex aspects of honesty in the legal world. The Importance of Being Honest is full of tales of questionable practices and poor behavior, chosen because negative examples are much richer, and often more remarkable, in their ultimate lessons. Wyatt Earp's shootout with Billy Clanton, Bill Clinton's disastrous decision to lie under oath, Oscar Wilde's self-destructive perjury in a 1896 libel trial, and the dubious resolution of Justice Scalia's duck hunting trip with Dick Cheney are only a few of the cases Lubet use to illustrate that law is a vague and boggy realm where truth, and falsehood, is seldom absolute. With his lively, insightful, and sometimes hilarious prose, Lubet takes readers on a tour of the law in our everyday lives, and forces us to rethink how we really feel about honesty and truth.


It happened in the late spring of 1995, on Chicago's predominantly white southwest side. A tough cop, appropriately nicknamed “Bulldog,” came up to an African-American grammar school student, shoved him around while spewing a string of racial slurs, and warned the youngster to stay in his own neighborhood. The boy's white friends and teachers tried to intervene, but there was nothing they could to do restrain Bulldog. Perhaps worse, Bulldog's partner—also a white male cop℄ stood by watching, as though roughing up a black kid was just a routine part of life in the big city.

Fortunately, the student's teachers did not see it that way. They contacted the press, and Bulldog's bullying eventually made headlines℄ leading to widespread public outrage and calls for the officer to be fired or even prosecuted. No one supports rogue cops, at least not after they've made the evening news, and Bulldog was soon charged with violating the student's civil rights, for which he was placed on federal court supervision (although he was allowed to remain on the police force). That seemed to be a relatively happy ending, and the television and print reporters predictably went on to cover other stories.

It struck me at the time, however, that the problem was much broader than a single confrontation between one hateful officer and one innocent kid. The entire judicial system is put at risk by racist cops because they destroy any sense of trust between minority communities and the police, and that can lead to a breakdown in law enforcement that potentially affects everyone. None of the news coverage had picked up that angle℄ too abstract, too impersonal, too unemotional℄ and so I wrote and submitted my first op-ed essay for the Chicago Tribune.

Maybe you think that you won't ever run afoul of Bulldog or that you
won't ever need to trust him. Maybe you think that you can live se
curely in your suburb or high rise, and that Bulldog's boorish conduct
can be relegated to the realm of distasteful, but ultimately irrelevant,

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