Ruby Reads: 'Just Mercy'

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By now, you have heard of ‘Just Mercy’, written by attorney Bryan Stevenson, and now a major motion picture starring Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan.  ‘Just Mercy’ was both a critical and commercial success when it was published in 2014. The book tells the true-life experiences of Bryan Stevenson, a fresh Harvard law school graduate who founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama working to defend the poor and the wrongly condemned in an area of the country deeply steeped in profoundly segregated political and legal traditions. 

As a busy attorney running a small firm, I rarely have time to read for pleasure. At the end of a long day, I usually want to disconnect from what I do and try and enjoy time with my friends and family. But “Just Mercy” is a must-read for anyone interested in or connected to the legal system. Mr. Stevenson’s journey in the deep South was an uphill one from the start but the clarity, empathy, compassion, and hope with which he writes about his struggles to vindicate an innocent man on death row is as inspiring as it is uplifting. This book will inspire you and give you hope that there are attorneys fighting for justice and mercy without billions of dollars behind them.  

While this book is mostly centered around the case of Walter McMillian, there is a deeper message beyond the legal ramifications and brinkmanship that is woven throughout the narrative. Mr. Stevenson makes the point that we are all more than the worst thing we have ever done.  And all of us – and he really means ALL of us – are worthy of mercy, which is undeserved and unearned. This is a message that has resonated with me deeply and something I constantly repeat to clients, my children, and my colleagues. Without being overtly religious, Mr. Stevenson’s message is one of the most pious statements that can be expressed in modern times and one that we all would do well to remember in all our interactions, both in-person and online.

Finally, I have met Mr. Stevenson in person.  He is as engaging, humble, and dedicated to his cause as his book and the movie convey. I strongly recommend spending a few hours of your precious ‘downtime’ to read “Just Mercy”. It’s a page-turner as a legal story, an unflinching look at problems in our legal system, and yet full of hope. (You may even notice a famous musician’s father making an unflattering appearance!) It is my sincere desire that when you turn the last page of this book, you will be filled with a sense of hope and grace that will change the way you look at our legal system and your judgments of those around you. 

Somita Basu

Somita Basu is a Founding Principal and the Co-Managing Partner of the Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas offices of Norton Basu LLP. Ms. Basu addresses complex issues in estate planning, probate and trust administration matters. She is a member of the California Lawyers Association and serves as Vice-Chair on the Executive Committee of the Association’s Solo and Small Firm Committee.  She is also on the Project 2021 Committee for the California Lawyers Association, providing input into how California’s largest bar association will adapt and function in the future. Ms. Basu is a member of the Silicon Valley Bar Association, which focuses exclusively on the issues of estate planning and probate and serves as a Board Member at Channing House, a senior living facility in Palo Alto, CA.

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