Saturday, March 18, 2017

Book Review: Allegiance

As an appellate practitioner, you recognize the name Eugene Gressman, right? As in "Stern & Gressman" -- the colloquial way of referring to the SCOTUS bible/practice guide (actually titled Supreme Court Practice). Well, did you know that Gressman was actually murdered when he was a SCOTUS law clerk? At least, he was in Kermit Roosevelt's novel Allegiance.
Roosevelt's novel is so well researched and presented, it's hard to know where the truth ends and the "legal thriller" begins. (Anyone else out there similarly confused about where to draw that line in Michael Chabon's latest, Moonglow?!)
As Roosevelt explains in his afterword, the real Gene Gressman "was considered very influential. He was not murdered but went on to a career in appellate litigation and law teaching. And he did, as the clerks joke in the novel, write an outstanding book on Supreme Court practice."
So only in the alternate reality of the novel is Gressman killed as part of an evil conspiracy. Entering an alternate reality is what Japanese Americans must have felt when their own country rounded them up in prison camps. That internment led to several fascinating Supreme Court cases, which are, of course, a big part of the novel. 
Should appellate nerds read Allegiance? Definitely. Despite dealing with a very serious subject in a very serious way, it's still a lot of fun. It's also especially timely given the anniversary of the Japanese internment. (And don't confuse it with the George Takei Broadway musical, on the same subject, also titled Allegiance.)