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Everyone against Us

Public Defenders and the Making of American Justice

A former public defender testifies to the vivid human suffering at the heart of America’s criminal justice system.

As a public defender, Allen Goodman faced cross-examination from family and friends every day: How could he work to help criminals? How could he live with himself? Presumed guilty by association, Goodman quickly learned that people didn’t really want an answer; they wanted a justification, perhaps even an apology. Ever the idealist, Goodman answered anyway: Everyone deserves justice.

Everyone against Us is Goodman’s testimony of his life as a public defender. In it, he documents his efforts to defend clients, both guilty and innocent, against routine police abuse, prosecutorial misconduct, and unjust sentencing. To work in criminal justice, Goodman shows, is to confront and combat vivid human suffering, of both victims and perpetrators. From sex trafficking, murder, and abuse to false conviction, torture, and systemic racism, Goodman describes the daily experiences that both rattled his worldview and motivated him to work ever harder. Part memoir, part exposé, Everyone against Us is the moving story of an embattled civil servant who staves off the worst abuses of the criminal justice system, at great personal cost.

280 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2023

Chicago Visions and Revisions

Chicago and Illinois


History: American History

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society


“[An] important work of pulling the curtain back on the immense value of often-maligned public defenders.”


“As the title of Goodman’s sobering book graphically conveys, public defenders often feel that everyone’s against us. While offering a firsthand view of the endemic corruption, racism, and wholesale injustice regularly practiced by police, prosecutors, and judges in criminal courts, Goodman sets the record straight and captures the true essence of the many dedicated public defenders across this country who are, as he writes, ‘overworked, underpaid, and vastly underappreciated guardians of liberty on behalf of those who need it most.’"

Flint Taylor, The People’s Law Office, author of 'The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago'

“In Everyone against Us, Goodman offers a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be a public defender in one of the nation’s largest criminal court systems. The result is a gripping and often heartbreaking memoir about one lawyer’s journey to find meaning and justice despite the odds against him.”

Kevin Davis, author of 'Defending the Damned: Inside a Dark Corner of the Criminal Justice System'

“Goodman’s fast-paced introduction to the harsh, unbalanced world of criminal justice leads readers from the dungeons of a big-city lockup through soul-jarring crime-scene investigations into the colorless chambers where the fates of the accused get decided. While weighing defenders’ and prosecutors’ roles, ideals, and actual practices, Everyone against Us reads like an on-the-job legal drama.”

Mara Leveritt, author of 'Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three'

Table of Contents

I. Jail Rules
II. Investigations
III. Redemption
IV. Trials
VI. Plea Deals
VII. Chiraq
VIII. Domestic Violence
IX. Drugs
X. Death
XI. Regrets

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