BOOKS-ON-LAW/From the Editors - April 2001; v.4, no.4

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JURIST: Books-on-Law is edited by Ronald K.L. Collins and David Skover of the Seattle University School of Law

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This Month’s Issue

This month, Books-on-Law offers a variety of topics and of views on those topics, including discussions of contract law, criminal law, mental health law, constitutional law, First Amendment law, and jurisprudence and something on lawyers and liberalism, too.

We open this issue with two reviews on free speech and constitutional law. Thomas Berg takes a look at a book on the systematic persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses for their street-corner and door-to-door preaching, and Jay Gertzman gives his perspective on a study of New York City's efforts to contain the commercialization of sex during the first half of the 20th Century. Next, Peter Linzer reviews two books on legal obligations and estoppel. Linda McClain follows with her reflections on an analysis of civic education in a multicultural democracy. Then, Christopher Slobogin considers an account of legal, psychological, and moral concerns with the prosecution of old crimes. Winding up this issue is an essay by Lucien Karpik and Terence Halliday, replying to Richard Abel's earlier review of their edited volume on the historical role of lawyers in promoting political liberalism in Great Britain, France, Germany and the United States.

Disagree with a review? Talk back to the reviewers. We invite your input.

Looking for a new law-related book? Check the selection listed in our Book Notices.

A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs

Orange County Superior Court Judge James P. Gray does not mince words when it comes to the war on drugs: "Our great country is reeling from self-inflicted wounds resulting from our current failed 'war on drugs.' It is clear that we are not in better shape today than we were five years ago regarding drug use and abuse and all of the crime and misery that accompany them. Unless we change our approach, we can have no legitimate expectation that we will be in better shape next year than we are today." That view, expressed in a 1996 Los Angeles Times op-ed, is forcefully reiterated in a just-published book by the California jurist Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed And What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs (Temple University Press, 2001) (ISBN: 1566398606).

Reminiscent of the Oscar-nominated film "Traffic," Judge Gray (a former federal prosecutor) offers up a similarly provocative critique of our drug prohibition policies.  The "War on Drugs," he believes, is as much a success as Prohibition.  Today, he argues, there are more drugs in our communities and at lower prices and higher strengths than ever before.  We have built large numbers of prisons, but they are overflowing with non-violent drug offenders.  And far from being protected by our drug prohibition policy, children are being recruited by it to a lifestyle of drug use and drug selling.  As if that were not enough, there is also the claim that the drug war has whittled away our constitutional protections and has likewise corrupted our police.  In short, the unsuccessful war on drugs is "wasting unimaginable amounts of our tax dollars, increasing crime and despair and severely and unnecessarily harming people's lives."  That, at least, is how Judge Gray portrays life and law in Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed And What We Can Do About It

Against the backdrop of this "worst of all worlds," Judge Gray offers up and evaluates a variety of options, ranging from education and drug treatment to different strategies for taking the profit out of drug-dealing.  Absent needed reforms, warns Judge Gray, our judges will remain at "the helm of a sinking ship."

Rethinking Brown v. Board

This summer, New York University Press will publish What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said: The Nation's Top Legal Experts Rewrite America's Landmark Civil Rights Decision  (ISBN: 0814798896).  The book will be edited by Professor Jack M. Balkin, and will include contributions by such legal luminaries as Bruce Ackerman, Derrick Bell, Drew Days, John Hart Ely, Catharine MacKinnon, Michael McConnell, Frank Michelman and Cass Sunstein.  This retake of the landmark civil rights case comes in the aftermath of James T. Patterson's Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy (Oxford University Press, 2001).

What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said will debut three years before the 50th anniversary of the seminal case.  Nonetheless, it should furnish scholars and others plenty to ponder as its nine contributors take up the charge of how they would  rewrite the Brown decision, mindful of what they now know about the subsequent history of the case and race relations in America.  One limitation, however.  They could only make use of those sources available at the time of the original decision.  The volume will also include a detailed introduction to the case, chronicling the history of the litigation in Brown and explaining the current debates over its legacy all this by Professor Balkin.

New York Law School Hosted Panel on Abortion Novel

On February 12, 2001, New York Law School hosted a panel discussion about issues raised in Protect and Defend (Random House, 2000), a novel by the writer and lawyer Richard North Patterson.  The event aired on March 18, 2001 on Book-TV (C-SPANN2).  The lively discussion, in which Patterson participated, was moderated by Professor Nadine Strossen.


The final issue of Books-on-Law in this academic year is scheduled to contain the following:

  • Robert Delahunty, reviewing Nadine Strossen, Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women's Rights (New York University Press, 2nd edition, 2000)
  • Donald Doernberg, reviewing Willis Whichard's Justice James Iredell (Carolina Academic Press, 2000)
  • Virginia Brown Keyder, reviewing Simon Chesterman's Just War or Just Peace?: Humanitarian Intervention and International Law (Oxford University Press, England, 2001) and Christine Gray's International Law and the Use of Force (Oxford University Press, England, 2001)
  • Joseph Page, reviewing David Kessler's A Question of Intent: A Great American Battle with a Deadly Industry (PublicAffairs, 2001)
  • Dennis Patterson, reviewing Brian Leiter's edited volume, Objectivity in Law and Morals (Cambridge University Press, 2000)
  • Robert Peck, reviewing Garrett Epps's To an Unknown God: Religious Freedom on Trial (St. Martin's Press, 2001)
  • Janet Spragens, reviewing Donald Barlett & James Steele's The Great American Tax Dodge Little, Brown, 2000)
  • Peter Wallenstein, reviewing Werner Sollors's Interracialism: Black-White Intermarriage in American History, Literature, and Law (Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • Tinsley Yarbrough, reviewing G. Edward White's The Constitution and the New Deal (Harvard University Press, 2000)

Ronald K.L. Collins & David M. Skover, Editors, Books-on-Law
JURIST: Books-on-Law is edited by Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover of the Seattle University School of Law.

Board of Editorial Consultants: Raj Bhala, George Washington University Law School; Miriam Galston, George Washington University Law School; Kermit Hall, Utah State University; Yale Kamisar, University of Michigan Law School; Lisa G. Lerman, Catholic University of America School of Law; Christine Littleton, University of California at Los Angeles Law School; David M. O’Brien, University of Virginia Department of Government and Foreign Affairs; Judith Resnik, Yale Law School; Edwin L. Rubin, University of Pennsylvania Law School; Steven H. Shriffrin, Cornell Law School; Nadine Strossen, New York Law School; David B. Wilkins, Harvard Law School.

Administrative Assistant for Books-on-Law: Ms. Nancy Ammons
Technical Assistant for Books-on-Law: Steven Pacillio, Esq.

© Ronald K.L. Collins and David Skover, 2001.

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