BookTalk

  • August 29, 2014
    BookTalk

    by Deborah L. Rhode, the Director of the Center on the Legal Profession, the  E.W. McFarland Professor of Law,  and the Director of the Program on Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford University 

    In a New Yorker cartoon, a woman frostily informs her obviously skeptical husband, “Yes, Harold, I do speak for all women.” This is not a claim any contemporary feminist will readily make. Women do not speak with one voice on women’s issues. But to build a powerful political movement, we have to be prepared to generalize about the interests of women as a group. What would most women want if they were fully informed and free to choose, and the goal was true equality between the sexes? 

    A central problem in securing such gender equality is the “no problem” problem: the lack of consensus that there still is a serious problem, or one that they have any capacity or responsibility to address. Yet on virtually every major dimension of social status, financial well-being, and physical safety, women still fare worse than men. Sexual violence remains common, and reproductive rights are by no means secure. Women assume disproportionate burdens in the home and pay a price in the world outside it.  But these issues are not cultural priorities. What Women Want (Oxford University Press, 2014), argues that this has to change and sets forth a compelling agenda for the women’s movement.

  • July 18, 2014
    BookTalk

    The following interview of Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe about his book Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution (Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz, Henry Holt and Co., 2014, ISBN 978-0-8050-9909-6) took place in the Ohio Room of the Capitol Hilton in Washington, D.C. on June 20 during the 2014 Convention of the American Constitution Society. The Interviewer is Frank Housh of the Housh Law Offices, PLLC, in Buffalo New York, Chair of the ACS WNY Lawyer Group and a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

     

    Interviewer

    Your book seems to consciously avoid some of the characteristics of books written for the legal profession, such as voluminous footnotes and block quotes.  Was this a book meant for the general public?

    Laurence Tribe

    It wasn't so much that I consciously was not writing a book for lawyers. I was consciously not writing a book only for lawyers. I definitely want the legal community to get a better understanding than it seems to have displayed about what makes the Supreme Court operate the way it does, what drives the decisions, why the standard sort of press accounts are such oversimplified caricatures. At the same time, I certainly wanted to speak to my own colleagues and the people who teach constitutional law with fresh insights. So I didn't want it to be only for non-lawyers, but I wanted it to be very broadly accessible. So that for me, as soon as someone like Doris Kearns Goodwin said that she thought everybody would enjoy my book it, find it thrilling and fascinating, that's what I was aiming for—because I think that lawyers too often speak only to one another and judges and there's a kind of clique and almost a sort of inside mentality of the high priesthood of the law that I wanted to break through.

    Interviewer

    I guess that's what I meant by the question. It seems that you were constantly trying to avoid legal speak, legalese, that often accompanies writing by lawyers for lawyers.

    Laurence Tribe

    Right. And all the talk of levels of scrutiny and intermediate review and so on, things that are substitutes for thought very often, and that are pigeon holes, but very few birds are pigeons. 

    Interviewer

    I interpreted your book, especially the Prologue and Epilogue, as an attempt to write a historical perspective on the Roberts Court during its existence. Is that a fair statement? 

    Laurence Tribe

    It's not a retrospective view as it would be if I was writing about the Hughes, Taft, Stone,  Warren, or Burger Courts. It’s a Court in process; it's a Court that's ongoing. We're living through it and the world that we're living through is being constantly reshaped in profound and dramatic ways in respect to issues of personal anonymity, issues of whom you can marry, who can carry a gun, who can vote, what kinds of government action can be based on race and in what way, and what are the limits of the President's powers. It is really a book about things that are very much in the news and that affect all of us, but that most of us in a society that is self-governing understand far too little about. So I wanted to do my bit in overcoming that knowledge gap, that understanding gap.

  • July 14, 2014
    BookTalk
    The Wrong Carlos
    Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution
    By: 
    James S. Liebman

    by James S. Liebman, Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law, Columbia Law School, and Shawn Crowley, Andrew Markquart, Lauren Rosenberg, Lauren Gallo White and Daniel Zharkovsky

    Do states with the death penalty execute innocent people? That is the fundamental question at the heart of The Wrong Carlos, a book I recently published with student coauthors.

    It is also the question facing the American public following a series of devastating developments for death penalty supporters. March brought news of the 144th death row exoneration. In April, we learned that Oklahoma had botched Clayton Lockett’s execution, leaving him awake during a massive drug-induced heart attack. The Supreme Court found in May that Florida remains hell bent on executing defendants too mentally disabled to be condemned. And in June—for the first time—a majority of Americans indicated in a poll that they prefer life without parole to capital punishment.

    Death penalty supporters are left clinging to a single promise often made but never substantiated—a promise repeated by Justice Scalia in a 2006 opinion: Whatever else we do, we don’t execute the innocent.

    I began thinking about this question between 2000 and 2003, when colleagues and I issued our Broken System studies documenting judicial findings of accuracy-impugning error in two-thirds of all U.S. capital cases reviewed between 1973 and 1995.

    Our studies sparked a heated debate over two competing interpretations. Did the courts’ discovery of so many errors prove the system worked? Or do high error rates mean it is almost certain that courts miss other errors, allowing the innocent to be executed?

  • June 25, 2014
    BookTalk
    Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships
    By: 
    Clare Huntington

    by Clare Huntington, Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law

    Inequality is the issue of the decade. Both income and wealth are concentrated at the top, and social mobility in the United States, although varied in its particulars, is lower than in most developed countries.

    One way to increase social mobility is to increase human capital, but, as I show in Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships (Oxford University Press 2014), this can happen only if we strengthen families. Education is a key component of human capital, but what happens at home in the first few years of life—long before a child starts Head Start or pre-kindergarten—can set a child on a trajectory that is difficult to alter in later years.

    Family law is part of the problem. Too often, instead of helping strengthen families, our legal system undercuts family relationships, making it harder for parents to provide children with the relationships necessary for healthy child development.

    We can think of family law in concentric circles. At the center are rules about creating and ending relationships, including laws about marriage, divorce, adoption, and parentage. In the next ring are laws governing family behavior, such as child abuse and domestic violence laws. In an outer ring are legal structures and policies that we tend not to think of as family law but which deeply affect families nonetheless. These include tax policy, criminal justice, zoning, food stamp regulations, and laws governing workplace discrimination, among others.

  • June 18, 2014
    BookTalk
    Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution
    By: 
    Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz

    by Laurence H. Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard Law School

    As the end of its 2013 Term fast approaches, the Roberts Court is unleashing major rulings seemingly every day. Addressing topics as varied as recess appointments, cell phone privacy, abortion clinic protest buffers, public sector unions, and securities class actions, these opinions (even those not yet announced) have already triggered heated debate. The clash of values this Term is fierce and unmistakable: religious liberty versus reproductive rights, digital privacy versus security, corruption versus free speech rights

    With critics lining up to praise or castigate the justices, a clear view of the Roberts Court is more important than ever. Only with a broad and even-handed understanding of the Court and its members can we fairly evaluate its decisions. And only by understanding where each justice is coming from, in an open-minded way that can be critical without trapping justices in scorn or stereotype, can we plan for the future.

    That’s why I wrote, with Joshua Matz, a book called Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution. Reflecting my decades of experience arguing before the Court and studying the Constitution—and Joshua’s learning as a former Harvard Law Review editor and SCOTUSbloggerUncertain Justice offers an overview of nearly every major opinion since John G. Roberts, Jr. was confirmed as Chief Justice in 2005. It also provides rich pictures of each justice and a panoramic view of the most important modern trends in American constitutional law.