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Dean A. Strang in conversation with Lara Bazelon

February 26, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm PST

front cover of Keep the Wretches in Order

Booksmith hosts Dean A. Strang for his new book, Keep the Wretches in Order: America’s Biggest Mass Trial, the Rise of the Justice Department, and the Fall of the IWW. He’ll be in conversation with Lara Bazelon (Rectify: The Power of Restorative Justice After Wrongful Conviction).

Before World War I, the government reaction to labor dissent had been local, ad hoc, and quasi-military. Sheriffs, mayors, or governors would elevate strikebreakers to deputies or call out the state militia, usually at the bidding of employers.

At the time one of the nation’s largest unions was the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies. The IWW had members in critical industries across the country. In April 1917, when the United States entered the war, the government feared the threat of a labor strike from such a large number of workers could endanger or even halt war production. Officials in the relatively young Department of Justice determined that a more coordinated strategy would be necessary.

To prevent stoppages, the DOJ embarked on a sweeping new effort—replacing gunmen with lawyers. The department systematically targeted the IWW, resulting in the largest mass trial in U.S. history. The first of four indictments named 166 defendants in September 1917. The Chicago trial started with 112 men accused, sitting on bleachers, with one small defense team and a judge and prosecutors who did not know their names or faces.

In the first legal history of this landmark federal trial, Dean A. Strang shows how the case laid the groundwork for a fundamentally different strategy to stifle radical threats and played a major role in shaping the modern Justice Department. As the trial unfolded, it became an exercise of raw force, raising serious questions about its legitimacy and revealing the fragility of a criminal justice system under great external pressure.

photo of Dean Strang, courtesy of the authorDean Strang is familiar to millions through Netflix’s Making A Murderer. He is a criminal defense lawyer in Wisconsin and a visiting professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law. Strang is the author of two books of legal history, his newest, Keep the Wretches in Order: America’s Biggest Mass Trial, the Rise of the Justice Department, and the Fall of the IWW, and his earlier, Worse Than the Devil: Anarchists, Clarence Darrow, and Justice in a Time of Terror.

photo of Lara Bazelon, courtesy of the authorLara Bazelon is a law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law where she directs the criminal and racial justice clinics. Previously Lara was a trial attorney in the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Los Angeles and the director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent. She is the author of Rectify: The Power of Restorative Justice After Wrongful Conviction and a contributing writer for Slate and Politico Magazine. Her essays and op-eds have also been published in the New York Times, the Atlantic Magazine, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. She lives with her two children in San Francisco and is currently working on a book about motherhood and ambition.

This event is free and all ages.

RSVP appreciated but not required.

If you cannot attend the event but would like to request a signed copy of Keep the Wretches in Order, order below and be sure to put your request in the special field.


February 26, 2020
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm PST
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1644 Haight St
San Francisco , CA 94117 United States
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