"There is a time that everyone must face a judgment..."
Reviewed by Teresa Cross
Posted January 24, 2019
New York Times bestselling author Joseph Finder has done it again. His
latest novel, JUDGMENT has all
the elements of his great writing. The characters are full of secrets, the
plot keeps you intrigued, and the ending surprises you! However, each
one is different with a storyline unlike the others. There is a reason
readers keep coming back to his novels, and this one does not
JUDGMENT tells the story of a
female judge named Juliana Brody. She attends a conference in
Chicago and meets up with a stranger who will turn out to be part of
her worst nightmare. After a moment of weakness, Juliana feels guilty
because she cheats on her husband, and the man she meets turns out
to be a part of a big case in court. Now, feeling trapped and used,
Juliana is horrified to learn that there are videos and more that could
cost her everything she has worked for, and will devastate her family,
her career, and her life. As she tries to fight back, Juliana finds herself
breaking more rules... Will it be worth it - and enough - to save
everything important to her?
JUDGMENT is just as captivating
as the other Joseph Finder novels I've read. I was kept wondering what
would ultimately be Juliana's fate. Finder's writing has you so in tune
with the character that I felt many emotions for Juliana throughout the
novel. At times I was holding my breath, almost afraid to keep reading,
but also not wanting to stop! JUDGMENT is a must-read.
Learn more about Judgment
New York Times bestselling author Joseph Finder
returns with a suspenseful and explosive new thriller about
a female judge and the one personal misstep that could lead
to her—and her family's—undoing.
It was nothing more than a one-night stand. Juliana Brody, a
judge in the Superior Court of Massachusetts, is rumored to
be in consideration for the federal court, maybe someday the
highest court in the land. At a conference in a Chicago
hotel she meets a gentle, vulnerable man, and in a moment of
weakness has an unforgettable night with him. They part with
an explicit understanding that this must never happen again.
But back home in Boston, it becomes clear that this was no
random encounter. The man from Chicago proves to have an
integral role in a case she's presiding over—a
sex-discrimination case that's received national attention.
And Juliana discovers that she's been entrapped, her night
of infidelity captured on video. Strings are being pulled in
high places, a terrifying unfolding conspiracy that will
turn her life upside down. Her career, her family, and then
her life are on the line.
And turning the tables on her adversaries will require her
to be as ruthless as they are.
ExcerptBeing a judge was a kind of performance art, Juliana had
often reflected. Every word you said was being recorded, so
you had to be absolutely fair and make sure to sound that
way. You had to act and talk with dignity. You had to look
and sound engaged.
You wore a costume: a black silk robe—actually 100 percent
polyester and made by a company that provided caps and gowns
to graduating seniors in high school and college. No one
could see what you were wearing underneath the robe. On the
other hand, at least in the American system (unlike judges
in France or the U.K.) you didn't have to wear a white wig.
When she first started as a judge, she walked out into the
courtroom without her robe a number of times, forgot to put
it on. On some level she disdained the formalities. But
eventually she decided there was a purpose to the robe. It
showed respect for the legal process. That was important.
And you had to live your life with probity. Juliana never
drove above the speed limit. She never broke the law. She
was scrupulously honest about her taxes.
That requirement extended to her family as well. She
couldn't have a son arrested for marijuana possession, and
at his age he could be arrested. Yes, he would resent it,
and yes, he'd be oppositional, but tough luck. That was the
reality. Judges' kids had to be better behaved than other
kids. That was the deal.
You also weren't supposed to let your mind wander during a
hearing, but it was happening this morning anyway. She found
herself listening to the defense attorney in the medical
malpractice case, trying to focus, when she realized: she
had to recuse herself.
It had been a perfect June night, warm but not quite balmy,
with a soft breeze coming in off the lake, carrying with it
the faint sounds of traffic from Michigan Avenue twenty
floors below. Juliana was sitting alone on one end of a
couch on the Peninsula's rooftop terrace, still wearing her
conference lanyard, still wired from her speech from two
hours ago. She'd delivered a talk on the rules of evidence
in front of five hundred people, and it had gone really
well. She tended to be self-critical, but she also knew when
she'd hit a home run. Rules of evidence wasn't exactly a
sexy topic, but she had her own take on it, and people
seemed to respond.
She'd just had a drink with six fellow attendees, all judges
from Indiana, and she was all talked out. Mostly she'd been
the center of attention, which was flattering for a while,
and then just exhausting. For now, she wanted to sit by
herself—not in her room, with CNN keeping her company, but
out there on the terrace in the refreshing breeze off Lake
Michigan. Be in her own head. She dropped her lanyard on the
glass-topped coffee table and scanned an array of magazines
fanned out in front of her. One caught her eye—a travel
magazine with a cover story about Spain—and she started
leafing through it, keeping one eye out for a server.
Another drink? Or maybe a cup of coffee—luckily, caffeine at
night usually didn't prevent her from falling asleep.
No server was on hand, so she went back to her magazine—"The
Unknown Mallorca," the piece promised. She felt someone's
eyes on her, and she looked up; when she saw nobody looking
her way, she felt a little silly. Too much time in the
spotlight, she told herself with a laugh. Having delusions
Again she felt that strange sensation of being watched. She
glanced up to see a man in a charcoal suit making his way in
her direction. He was tall, early thirties, an olive
complexion and wavy dark-blond hair that fell below his
collar. She didn't recognize him. Maybe he was attending the
legal conference too.
"Is this seat taken?" he asked. "Or am I interrupting?"
She gestured noncommittally to the chair by the couch—suit
yourself. Her gaze could sometimes be stern and
intimidating. "I'm not here for much longer, but help yourself."
Something about him gave off a slightly melancholy air, but
he was a good-looking guy.
"Long day?" he asked.
She nodded. "And for you? Are you here with the law conference?"
"V.C. I think there's three conferences going on here this
weekend." He paused, took in the magazine. "Planning a visit
"Looking at rentals in Costa Brava. In my dreams, mostly."
She drained the last few drops of her Sancerre.
"You should go for real."
"Oh, Spain is my favorite place on earth."
"I just got back from Mallorca yesterday."
She tipped her head. "Nice vacation."
"Business, but still nice."
She put down the magazine. "Never been to Mallorca. I hear
it's beautiful but overrun by tourists like me."
"Not if you know where to go."
She put out her hand. "Juliana Brody."
He shook it firmly. His hand was dry and smooth, his nails
neatly trimmed. "Matías Sanchez."
Just the faintest accent.
"Argentine. Spanish and Argentinians, we're like cousins."
"But you know Mallorca."
"Quite well. I travel a lot."
"So where do I have to go in Mallorca to escape the crowds?"
He paused briefly. "The most spectacular sunset you'll ever
see at Cap de Formentor. You've got to drive up a terrifying
little winding road, but by the time you get there it's
"Oh, and there's this great little restaurant in the old
town called La Boveda; nothing fancy, but their tapas are to
die for. And you can have a drink next door at Abaco, this
fourteenth-century house filled with flowers and baskets of
fruit. You tell them Matías Sanchez sent you, they'll take
care of you right."
"Okay, I'm sold." She laughed lightly. "I'm easy. When it
comes to Spain." She flushed. Then, to cover her
embarrassment, she gestured for the server, who'd
miraculously appeared. "Another Sancerre?"
He ordered an Ardbeg, ten years old, on the rocks.
"I'm afraid I was staring at you before. It's just that you
remind me of someone I used to know."
He smiled again, a nice, frank smile. One of his front teeth
"It happens with me a lot," Juliana said. She used to remind
some people of a movie actress named Amy Adams. Used to
being the operative phrase.
And she thought: Is this guy actually hitting on me? It had
been a while since she'd felt that particular buzz. This
fellow—Matías—was easily ten years younger. And unnervingly
handsome, she had to admit.
This is exactly the kind of thing I don't do, she thought.
Would never do.
She wanted to say to the guy: You've got me all wrong. She'd
say, If you knew anything about me, you'd know I'm not your
"live in the moment" kinda gal. You are wasting your time,
He tilted his head as if assessing her anew. "What's weird?
Up close you don't look anything like her. It's just—I can't
put my finger on it; it's something in the way you hold
yourself. A kind of self-confidence, or maybe it's elegance,
"So who do I almost look like?"
"The woman I used to be married to."
"Oho, I see. Nothing quite like being compared to a person's
Matías averted his gaze. "It's not like that . . ."
"I was only teasing. And anyway, I'm sure you have a girl in
your life already."
"I do! An amazing, beautiful girl. She's everything to me."
He took out his phone and swiped at it.
She leaned in close to him and looked. A blond girl, maybe
seven or eight, a gap-toothed smile, sitting in a rowboat. A
red-and-white-striped T-shirt. Not what she expected.
She caught him watching her and smiled.
"She's a darling," she said. "Is she with her mother?"
"She . . ." He looked away, put the phone back in his
jacket's breast pocket. She noticed tears in his eyes.
"Hey," she said, touching his wrist. "I didn't mean to . . ."
"No, it's . . . We were swimming in Costa Rica, a place
called Playa Hermosa, and she . . ." He compressed his lips.
"She was a terrific swimmer, but the riptide was too strong,
and by the time . . ." His face seemed briefly to crumple in
on itself, then just as quickly he recovered.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I thought this part of it was behind
me." He got up, bowing his head in apology. Juliana reached
out a hand, took his forearm, beseeching him to stay.
"Sit, please," she said. "How long—?"
He picked up his drink, sipped, put it down. "Two years." He
slowly sat back down. "I still can't really talk about it. I
shouldn't have tried. I—I never do this. This isn't me."
"It's quite all right—Matías, is that right?"
"Yes. And—Juliana?" She nodded.
"I don't know you," he continued. "But I feel as if I do;
that's the weird thing. Just something I saw when I looked
at you. Don't ask me to explain."
"Okay, now you're going to have to explain."
"Well, I can try. You're beautiful, of course. But so many
beautiful women have this icy reserve—they have to, it's how
they protect themselves, keep people out of their swim lane.
But you—this is going to sound crazy. I saw a sense of a
light inside you."
She blushed again, hoped it wasn't visible. "LED, I'm sure."
"You're making fun of me, and you should."
"No, I'm sorry, go on. What else did you see?"
Juliana reached for her wineglass, took a steadying sip.
"Sure, why not?"
"I see a kind of . . . loneliness. Not by-yourself lonely;
but lonely. Maybe because . . . well, didn't you say you're
a judge? Perhaps people are intimidated? And maybe because
the ones who should love you don't love you like they should."
Juliana was momentarily speechless.
"I am so sorry," Matías said. "I swear I'm not normally like
this. Let's blame the Ardbeg." He put his hand on hers
briefly and she felt the heat. "Four hours ago I was
deciding whether to do an equity arb deal with a binational
real estate investment trust. Now, that's where my instincts
She gave him a long look. "Maybe not just there," she
admitted, and she finished the Sancerre.
They kissed leaning against the door to his suite. She could
taste the single malt. She leaned back, took a breath. He
found a tendril of her hair and ran his fingers under it,
along her cheek. His eyes met hers for a moment. "I wonder
if you know how beautiful you are."
She could feel the heat radiating off his body. "Tomorrow
I'm flying off. Back to my life. This . . . this can't mean
Something was happening inside her. Like a wave that
suddenly, startlingly forms in a usually placid lake. A wave
formed by that surprisingly good French Sancerre and some
kind of reservoir of resentment at how goddamned predictable
she'd become. Everybody knows she'd never do this. But
shouldn't there be more to her than what everybody knows?
For just one night, she'd pretend to be that woman she's
not. For just one night, she'd do what she never does. For
just one night, she'd live a life that isn't the one she so
carefully mapped out.
Just one night.
He found his key card and the lock beeped open and he held
the door for her.
That was when it all had unraveled. When he had reappeared
in her courtroom with the threat. With the video and his
demands about her judgment of the case over which she was
presiding right now.
She had to recuse herself.
Otherwise, she was trapped . . . and that blackmail video
would go public.
She took the elevator up to the thirteenth floor of the
courthouse building and stopped by the office of Sam
Giannopoulos, the deputy court administrator, a few doors
down the corridor.
"Justice Brody," he said, looking up from his crowded desk.
He was a small, gaunt, bald man with heavy black-framed
glasses, around sixty. "What brings you up here?"
Giannopoulos's shoulders were stooped. He was an affable
introvert, always pleasant to deal with, probably something
of a clock-puncher. He was there to serve out his time until
"A scheduling thing. I have a question about the calendar."
She sat down in the chair next to his desk.
He gave a nervous smile. In front of him was a half-eaten
sandwich, which he was slowly pushing away.
"Okay. What's the question?"
"I'm considering recusing myself from a case I'm presiding
over. And I'm wondering if it's going to be a problem to
assign it to another judge."
She expected little more than a shrug. Judges recused
themselves fairly often. Another judge could be assigned. It
Instead, Giannopoulos looked wary and tense. His brows
furrowed and his mouth jutted open. "But is—is there a
problem? Something I should know about?"
She was surprised at his response. Giannopoulos took care of
the court's calendar, but he didn't normally get involved in
judges' decisions on whether to step away from a case.
"A possible conflict with a member of the defense team." She
couldn't say much more than that, and she'd already told him
more than she was required to.
But others would ask, other judges on the circuit. And what
could she tell them? That she'd once had a drink with one of
the lawyers on the case? That again. How could she possibly
justify recusing herself if she was pressed for details? In
fact, she couldn't. Not honestly.
Giannopoulos's face was slowly drained of color. "Everyone
else has crowded schedules," he said, taking off his glasses
and polishing them with his tie. "This wouldn't be easy for
another judge to take over after—how many months?"
"Four months. Wow. That's a lot of water under the bridge.
You recuse yourself at this point, you could have a
mistrial. I'm not—I'm not so sure it's a good idea. You
should think seriously about this."
"Which is exactly what I've done." Something was off about him.
Giannopoulos seemed to study his desktop. "For a number of
reasons, I think it would be better if you made no changes
to your schedule."
"I understand that," she said. "But there are also strong
reasons to recuse." She said it as much for herself as for
Giannopoulos's benefit. She didn't have to give a reason if
she decided to withdraw from a case and pass it on to
another judge. She could just do it.
A long silence passed.
Finally, Giannopoulos said softly, "I think you'd be
well-advised to see this through." He quickly looked away,
glancing down at his keyboard.
Juliana felt ice freeze in her abdomen, dripping coldly into
See it through.
Matías had said the same thing, hadn't he? I advise you to
see it through.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Giannopoulos wouldn't meet her eyes. He got up and closed
his office door. Then he returned to his desk, his face now
chalk-white. He folded his hands, interlacing his fingers.
He cleared his throat nervously. "Just—just see it through.
It's better this way." He repeated: "Just see it through."
"Sam, what's wrong—what happened to you?"
He shook his head slowly. "All I can say is, see it
through." His phone rang, and he lunged for it, seemingly
grateful for the interruption. "Will you please excuse me,
In the elevator down to the ninth floor, she could feel her
heart thudding in her ears. She was still numb from her
encounter with the court administrator, his tone thick with
warning. Just see it through, he'd told her. It's better
She felt queasy, her stomach tight. She remembered, too, how
Sam himself had seemed frightened, even as he was warning
her. They'd gotten to him, that much was clear. Whomever
they were. They'd scared him somehow.
Shakily, she returned to her office, her lobby, and keyed
open the door, glanced at her watch. Twenty minutes before
she had to be back in court for the afternoon session. . . .
She tried to focus on the document that was on her monitor,
but her brain felt scattered; she couldn't concentrate, her
mind flitting from the videotape she'd seen to Sam's
Her life was balancing on a tiny fulcrum. It was on the
verge of being ruined. One wrong move, one mistake, and it
was over. She was petrified and couldn't think clearly.
Suddenly her cell phone rang. Not many people had that
number. Duncan, Jake, a few other people. The caller ID said
Private Caller. Apprehensively, she picked it up.
"Listen to the man," the caller said. "See it through."
She recognized the voice.
"You are not to recuse yourself. That would be a serious
mistake. I've already told you what will happen. The video
goes public, and your career is over. Thousands, maybe
millions will watch it. Your life will be over."
The line went dead.
Copyright © 2019 Joseph Finder
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