ABA book captures inner workings of U.S. Supreme Court justices

Anton Piatigorsky, a Canadian-American playwright, librettist and short story writer, tells the behind-the-scenes story of the lives and interplay of U.S. Supreme Court justices in his debut novel “Al-Tounsi.”

The book, released by Ankerwycke, the consumer imprint of the American Bar Association, captures the inner workings of the high court as it considers a potential landmark case involving the rights of detainees held in confinement at an overseas military base.

Inspired by a true case from 2008 addressing Guantanamo Bay, the fictional lawsuit of Al-Tounsi v. Shaw pits Majid Al-Tounsi, an Egyptian prisoner, against the fictional president of the United States. It challenges U.S. laws that apply to noncitizens under wartime circumstances and the extent of executive power.

As the highly watched case maneuvers through the offices of the individual justices, the novel explores in detail how the personal life dramas, career rivalries and political sympathies of members of the high court converge and collide with their philosophies to create the most important legal decisions of our time.

The book is being released amid debate on the rights of non-citizens, highlighted by recent presidential executive orders and other immigration matters.

“Many federal officials have been put in a terrible position,” Piatigorsky said. “On one hand, they are sworn to uphold the law, which often includes the orders of the executive. On the other hand, they have a deep knowledge of the principles of democracy and the norms of the American republic, and they are sworn to uphold those as well. When those two duties contradict each other entirely, a crisis arises inside each and every good person. ‘Al-Tounsi’ is, primarily, the story of a Supreme Court justice who suffers that exact crisis, and who figures out a way to resolve it with dignity and intelligence.”

Piatigorsky, author of a collection of short stories about 20th Century dictators as teenagers titled “The Iron Bridge,” is the recipient of two Toronto-based Dora Mavor Moore Awards for best new play and numerous other nominations. His plays include “Eternal Hydra” and “Breath In Between” as well as the opera “Airline Icarus,” which had a song that won a 2015 Juno, Canada’s music awards. He was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, and now lives in Toronto.

“Al-Tounsi: A Novel” costs $16.95.  Order the book online at shopaba.org or call 800-285-2221.

 

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