I Swear: The Meaning of an Oath looks at how taking an oath may impact the obligations of the oath taker, and the perceptions and expectations of those around him. The book begins with Aeschylus – “It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.” The author explores whether Aeschylus was correct through stories of diverse and varied individuals who took an oath – doctor, lawyer, priest, journalist, CIA director, “made man,” and president, to name a few. Most of the time, people are able to keep their oath. But what happens when the decision to keep an oath may result in an injustice, or a situation where others are hurt? What do your oaths mean to you, and what do they mean to those around you? Do societal pressures allow one to break his oath? What does your moral compass tell you to do when violating your oath is somehow the “right” thing to do, however wrong it is, because you’re violating it?
Joel Cohen is a highly respected white-collar criminal lawyer in New York. He has practiced in that field, as well as complex civil litigation, at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP for more than 30 years, after having worked for ten years as a prosecutor for New York State and the U.S. Department of Justice. Joel writes regularly for the New York Law Journal, The Hill, Law & Crime, and others on criminal law, legal ethics, and social policy. He frequently lectures lawyers, judges, and the public on varied issues, including ethics. He teaches a class at Fordham Law School, “How Judges Decide,” based on his earlier book, Blindfolds Off: Judges on How They Decide. Joel has also published Broken Scales: Reflections on Injustice and several works of Biblical fiction, including Moses: A Memoir. He has also authored Truth Be Veiled, a Justice Steele Murder Case, a novel that addresses the criminal lawyer’s dilemma in dealing with the truth.
Dale J. Degenshein is a partner in the law firm of Armstrong Teasdale LLP and represents cooperative and condominium boards.She frequently lectures and writes articles on the law and contributes to Joel’s writings.