Denver Bar Association
May 2011
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Book Review: Mystery Surrounding ‘Justice’ Highlights Question on Citizenship

by Kerry Hammond

"Justice" by Jay Lille
264 pages. Published by Ivy House Publishing Group. Available in paperback for $15.

ost Americans know that the Constitution requires the president of the United States to be a citizen. What many may not know, however, is that this all important document is silent on whether the same rule applies to a Supreme Court justice. As a country, our laws follow the guidelines set out in the Constitution, but is it possible that we confuse the way things have always been with the way things must be?

Jay Lillie takes this perception of a citizenship requirement and weaves a fictional story out of a what-if. What if a Supreme Court justice was nominated by our president, confirmed by the Senate and sworn into the Court—and only after this process was completed evidence was discovered that put that person’s U.S. citizenship into question?  

"Justice" creates a scenario that is very plausible and challenges the reader with a dilemma that may or may not have a correct answer. Lillie offers his own take on how the powers that be might deal with this type of situation and the effects it may have on our government.

The story opens with an unidentified body found in an alley in Chicago. The labels have been removed from the clothing the victim was wearing and no identification can be found. The Chicago police officer in charge of the investigation eventually determines that the victim was an American reporter for a foreign press, but is told by his employer that he was not reporting on a story that could possibly require his presence in Chicago. At the same time, in Washington, D.C., a Supreme Court justice has retired and the president is in the process of nominating a replacement. A team of advisers, along with the FBI, screen the president’s candidate and approve her nomination. The nominee then is confirmed by the Senate and is sworn in.

As the murder investigation continues, the Chicago police begin to speculate that there is a connection between their murder victim and the newly appointed Supreme Court justice. The reporter seems to have been researching the justice’s background, including her childhood in New Orleans and her immigrant mother who came to the United States just before her birth—and now resides in a Chicago neighborhood.

"Justice" is a fun read, with a thought-provoking angle. Lillie makes the politics of a presidential appointment of a Supreme Court justice even more interesting with his fictional story and simplified take on the process, along with a behind-the-scenes look. Some of the dialogue is stiff and occasionally the characters seem to have too much access to information that one would expect to be confidential, but the storyline is very interesting and the plot keeps you reading. The author even throws in a surprise twist at the end so that when you close the book, you continue to think about it. D

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