Saving Justice by James Comey

James Comey, former FBI Director and bestselling author of A Higher Loyalty, uses his long career in federal law enforcement to explore issues of justice and fairness in the US justice system.

James Comey might best be known as the FBI director that Donald Trump fired in 2017, but he’s had a long, varied career in the law and justice system. He knows better than most just what a force for good the US justice system can be, and how far afield it has strayed during the Trump Presidency.

In his much-anticipated follow-up to A Higher Loyalty, Comey uses anecdotes and lessons from his career to show how the federal justice system works. From prosecuting mobsters as an Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York in the 1980s to grappling with the legalities of anti-terrorism work as the Deputy Attorney General in the early 2000s to, of course, his tumultuous stint as FBI director beginning in 2013, Comey shows just how essential it is to pursue the primacy of truth for federal law enforcement. Saving Justice is gracefully written and honestly told, a clarion call for a return to fairness and equity in the law.

This is the second book James Comey has written about his time as FBI Director under Presidents Obama and Trump, but unlike in the first book, it was not the main focus of his writing.

In Saving Justice: truth, transparency and trust, Comey recounts his career from his early days as a law clerk and then junior member of the Justice Department in the Southern District for New York. This book is written in defence of Lady Liberty and the blindfold that she should wear in dispensing justice in the United States judicial system.

I listened to Comey read Saving Justice for the whole seven hours over the course of a couple of days. He is a good narrator, with a smooth voice. I imagine he was very good in his telling of Goodnight Moon to the Comey children all those years ago. He intersperses stories of some of his previous cases with small tidbits of personal information, and then relates it all back to lessons he learned about the importance of political impartiality in the Justice Department, something strikingly sparse in that of Trump’s Presidency.

Comey helped me to understand the importance of many of the department’s traditions and their importance in maintaining the trust of the American people. By maintaining the highest values and rigorous norms, that office is able to maintain the trust of the nation. This is why, in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, every single door (of hundreds!) the FBI knocked on opened to them, answered their questions, and suggested other families the FBI interview. Given the historically terrible relationship between the Ferguson Police Department and African American citizens, it speaks volumes to the deep well of trust the Justice Department, including the FBI, has built in America.

Much of this well has been depleted in the final days of Trump in office, and will be of vital importance that the Justice Department rebuild it, by maintaining previous traditions of remaining at arm’s length from the Executive Branch. Unfortunately, it is much easier to lose trust than to rebuild it, but I think the understanding of the process Comey communes in Saving Justice will help to do that.

I enjoyed listening to this book, as I did A Higher Loyalty. Personally though, I think Comey has pretty much exhausted his ability to touch on these subjects again in print. I would be greatly interested though if he were to write another book about his and wife Patrice’s experiences as foster parents, a topic near and dear to my heart that can always benefit from positive, high profile recognition.

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