Saving Justice | James Comey

Summary of: Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust
By: James Comey


In ‘Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust’, James Comey shares his insights from a long and varied career working within the US Department of Justice (DOJ). From witnessing the reservoir of trust being built, to observing serious missteps within the system, Comey provides a unique perspective on the DOJ’s mission to uphold truth and justice. The book highlights Comey’s journey from junior prosecutor to director of the FBI, offering valuable lessons gleaned from high-profile cases and challenging decisions. This summary invites readers to explore the vital importance of these personal experiences and the significance of maintaining truth, integrity, and transparency within the Department of Justice in order to preserve people’s trust.

The Trust Reservoir

James Comey shares his experience observing and later joining the Department of Justice as a federal prosecutor, where he found that the DOJ’s attorneys were different than other lawyers. They were not motivated by politics or money, stood apart from the political world, and took on cases they believed in. Comey also emphasizes the importance of continuously earning the trust of the people by upholding the commitment to truth, as human beings make mistakes, and actions that deplete the “reservoir of trust” will damage the reputation of the DOJ. Comey shares a personal story about prosecuting a drug case he didn’t believe in but followed orders at the time, which ultimately led to an acquittal. He promises himself never to prosecute a case he doesn’t believe in again.

Liar! Liar!

The book excerpt delves into a fur theft case that highlights how people lie and deceive to evade the truth. It reveals how dishonesty can affect the justice system, and the consequences of allowing it to prevail unchecked. The author brings to light how crucial it is for institutions like the DOJ, FBI, and others to operate with transparency and the belief in seeking the truth.

The Witness Protection Program

The Witness Protection Program, operated by the US Marshal Service, is a secretive program that protects cooperating witnesses whose lives are in danger. Witnesses are relocated to different parts of the country and given new identities. Vincent DiMarco was one such witness who helped bring down the Gambino crime family but ended up breaking the law while in the program. Despite this, federal prosecutors maintain transparency to maintain trust.

The Comeys’ Return to Virginia

After wanting to leave New York City, James Comey transferred to a product liability practice before returning to the DOJ in Richmond. Despite feeling despondent about his client and experiencing a humble courtroom with shabby conditions, Comey found the new and strange cases at the DOJ to be satisfying and fulfilling. One such memorable case involved a sex scandal and a wealthy couple who lied to banks and investors, ultimately leading to federal charges and a guilty plea.

Comey’s Fight for Southern District’s Independence

Comey’s leadership journey at the Southern District of New York, the background of the office’s reputation for being above politics, and Comey’s efforts to protect it.

After leading the investigation into the 9/11 attack, Comey received an offer from the Bush administration to lead the Southern District of New York, which he couldn’t refuse. This office has a reputation for being holier-than-thou, thanks to its transformative history under Henry Stimson. Stimson’s tenure saw the removal of corrupt officials, the shunning of money and politics, and a focus on intelligence, hard work, and principles.

Comey didn’t have much political capital when he first came on board. He was a career lawyer with no family connections or money. Main Justice even thought he would be easier to influence, sending in lawyers from DC to argue cases. Comey refused to let anyone push him around or tarnish the Southern District’s independence, and he knew he needed to raise his profile to do so.

He began arguing cases himself and appearing on TV shows like the Today show to increase his profile. Comey’s efforts were not for personal gain or to feed his ego; he knew it was crucial to make it more difficult for DC to infringe on the Southern District’s independence.

Comey’s leadership journey at the Southern District is a testament to the importance of staying vigilant and independent in the face of political pressure.

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