James Jacobs's latest book, Breaking the Devil's Pact, is honored at a Law School reception

James Jacobs's latest book, Breaking the Devil's Pact is honored at a Law School reception

A September 13 reception marking the publication of Breaking the Devil's Pact: The Battle to Free the Teamsters from the Mob was attended by a number of those mentioned in the book, but none with any known mafia affiliation. Warren E. Burger Professor of Law James Jacobs, who co-authored the book with Kerry Cooperman, a former fellow at NYU Law’s Center for Research on Crime and Justice, which Jacobs directs. The book chronicles the story of a racketeering lawsuit filed by the federal government in 1988, aimed at ending mafia influence over the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, then the nation’s largest and most powerful union. In a settlement on the eve of trial, the Teamsters agreed to operate under court supervision, and 22 years later, that arrangement remains in force.

Addressing a Lipton Hall audience that included fellow faculty members, former government attorneys on the Teamsters case, and many others from the community, Jacobs summarized the significance of the litigation:

• It was “first and foremost” an organized-crime case, and was one of the most important such cases in U.S. history, because it “went to the core of where organized crime held its strength.”
• In its scope and impact, it was also one of the most important labor cases ever filed, because it fundamentally reshaped a union that, in the late 1980s, had 1.7 million members.
• It demonstrates the capacity of courts, through the use of appointed overseers, to reshape organizations.
• It reveals both the potential and the limits of union democracy as an antidote to corruption.

Jacobs has written extensively about organized crime, and in the preface to Breaking the Devil's Pact, Jacobs notes that he first heard about the Teamsters case when, as an assistant U.S. attorney, he was asked if he would be willing to serve as an expert witness. “I imagined, with trepidation, siting on the witness stand, across from rows of defendants: nineteen Teamsters officials and twenty-six reputed mobsters.” The settlement spared him that fate, allowing him to continue his life as a prolific scholar; this is his sixteenth book.

Posted September 16, 2011