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Book Review :: A Judge’s Odyssey

A Judge's Odyssey by Dean B. Pineles published by Rootstock Publishing book cover image

Guest Post by Kimberly Cheney

Judge Dean B. Pineles’ memoir is a journey through a dangerous forest of uncertain trails and trials, searching for that pinnacle of democracy: the rule of law. It includes a near career-ending event when, as the Vermont governor’s legal counsel, Pineles recommended taking into custody the children of a secretive religious community based on allegations of mental and physical abuse, an event etched into Vermont’s legal and cultural history. Pineles divulges how he subsequently survived a very contentious judicial confirmation process and became a respected Vermont trial judge, inoculated with the wisdom and humility that came from this intense personal ordeal.

Twenty-one years later, after a successful judicial career, Judge Pineles shares how he began another career as an international rule of law adviser in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Georgia. He details how, after rigorous screening by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, he was selected to be an international criminal judge, helping to improve justice in that tortured land. He finds it a maelstrom of complex social, international, cultural, ethnic, and political forces. He recounts many of his cases, including his meticulous fact-finding, and by ignoring these perilous forces he demonstrates how the rule of law should be implemented. Nevertheless, some of these cases have bizarre outcomes which undermine his best efforts. These are compelling accounts that demonstrate a vigorous mind bringing to life important events. Readers seeking an understanding of the frailty of democracy mediated by thoughtful judicial process will find Pineles’ journey intriguing.

Publishers note: Judge Pineles will donate 100% of his net profits to international and domestic refugee relief organizations.


A Judge’s Odyssey: From Vermont to Russia, Kazakhstan, and Georgia, Then on to War Crimes and Organ Trafficking in Kosovo by Dean B. Pineles. Rootstock Publishing, July 2022.

Reviewer bio: Kimberly Cheney is a former Vermont Attorney General and author.

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