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Category: Book Reviews

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New Titles from NYU Press

Here are some recent titles from NYU Press:

Those Damned Immigrants: America’s Hysteria over Undocumented Immigration
by Ediberto Román, with a foreword by Michael A. Olivas

Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850
Edited by Lauren Benton and Richard J. Ross

Hate Thy Neighbor: Move-In Violence and the Persistence of Racial Segregation in American Housing
by Jeannine Bell

Breaking Women: Gender, Race, and the New Politics of Imprisonment
by Jill A. McCorkel

Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America
by F. Michael Higginbotham

The Embattled Constitution
Edited by Norman Dorsen, with Catharine DeJulio

Disabled Education: A Critical Analysis of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
by Ruth Colker

Please check out the above books. You can propose a review of one of these books or another recent title not on the list. We’re aiming for reviews between 500 – 1500 words, ideally about 1000 words. Please email your proposals to me.

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Recommended Reading: Garrett and Kovarsky’s New Casebook on Federal Habeas Corpus

A new casebook co-authored by University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett and my brilliant colleague Lee Kovarsky is the first to comprehensively cover habeas corpus, particularly exploring the topics of post-conviction review, executive and national security detention litigation, and the detention of immigrants. The book, just published by Foundation Press, is titled “Federal Habeas Corpus: Executive Detention and Post-conviction Litigation.” 

The privilege of habeas corpus — which ensures that a prisoner can challenge an unlawful detention, such as for a lack of sufficient cause or evidence — has grown increasingly complex and important. Just this week, the Supreme Court decided important habeas cases recognizing an innocence-exception to habeas time-limits, and making it easier for state inmates to use habeas corpus to challenge the ineffectiveness of their trial lawyer. See Garrett and Kovarsky on ‘Two Gateways to Habeas’)

Here is an excerpt of an interview of Professor Garrett and Professor Kovarsky posted on the UVA website:

“In writing this casebook, our goal was to create the subject,” Garrett said. “There is something deep connecting different parts of habeas corpus that are often taught in far-flung parts of courses or are not taught at all. Habeas corpus is now an extremely valuable and exciting course to teach, and we thought the subject demanded a rich set of teaching materials.”

Garrett, who has taught habeas corpus at UVA Law for eight years, co-wrote the book with Kovarsky, a 2004 Virginia Law graduate and a leading habeas and capital litigator who joined the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law as an assistant professor in 2011.

“A few years ago, I started talking to Lee about habeas corpus,” Garrett said. “Lee writes insightful scholarship about habeas corpus, and is also a longtime habeas practitioner; he still works on high-profile death penalty cases in Texas. I sent him my course materials because he was starting teaching as a law professor at Maryland. And he immediately said that this should be a casebook.”

Kovarsky said he and Garrett decided to work together on the project to identify — and establish — a habeas canon that was “divorced from any immediate political, ideological or institutional objective.”

 “The decisional law and academic literature is polluted with too much erroneously accepted wisdom about the [writ of habeas corpus'] essence and, by implication, its limits,” he said. “That accepted wisdom, in turn, fuels legally substantial narratives that are, in many ways, best explored, challenged and modified in a classroom.”

Traditionally, Garrett said, law schools have taught habeas corpus as a short segment in federal courts or criminal adjudication courses rather than as a full class. Yet these brief segments, he said, are no longer sufficient.

The law of habeas corpus became significantly more complicated after Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996, which was passed in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing and the first World Trade Center bombing. Read More

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Max Olson Helps Berkshire Hathaway with Letter Compilation

Max Olson, Compiler (700 pp.) $24.50

BRK Letters & Compilations

Berkshire Hathaway used to compile bound volumes of Warren Buffett’s letters to its shareholders but stopped that practice years ago.  Only collectors could put their hands on such a thing.  Until now. A young fan of the man and company has published a full compilation and put it on sale for $24.50 plus shipping.  It is a good service and I am grateful to the fan, Max Olson, for sending me a comp copy (pictured at right; he sent them because I published The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America).

Berkshire annual reports of the late 1980s and early 1990s (some pictured at left), all stated that compilations of letters from earlier annual reports, dating to 1977 (also pictured), were available on request from the company without charge.  By the mid-1990s demand had begun to rise, prompting a new policy: continuing to offer the historical compilations to shareholders for free, but charging non-shareholders $15 (for production and shipping).

Beginning with the 1997 report, the letters, again dating to 1977, were made freely available on the internet (and they still are there).  The two-volume historical compilation remained available, but now at a charge of $30, payable by non-shareholders and shareholders alike (shipping included).  In 1999, the printed set became a three-volume issue and the charge was raised to $35 for all.

Those printed volumes have not been available for several years (and I feel lucky to have some in my library). That’s been a relief to staff at Berkshire’s famously minimalist headquarters, a handful of people with no time to process payments and stuff envelopes.  It is this lacuna that Max Olson’s alternative fills, a good job, especially at the price of $24.50 (plus shipping). Read More

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UCLA Law Review Vol. 60, Discourse

Volume 60, Discourse
Discourse

Reflections on Sexual Liberty and Equality: “Through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall” Nan D. Hunter 172
Framing (In)Equality for Same-Sex Couples Douglas NeJaime 184
The Uncertain Relationship Between Open Data and Accountability: A Response to Yu and Robinson’s The New Ambiguity of “Open Government” Tiago Peixoto 200
Self-Congratulation and Scholarship Paul Campos 214
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Faculty and staff

The proximate cause of Danielle’s inviting me to guest-blog at Concurring Opinions was a celebration we had at Fordham of my colleague Robert Kaczorowski‘s publication of “Fordham University School of Law: A History,” the publication of which she had blogged here. The  first half the book analyzes decanal administrations prior to those of Dean John Feerick, who remains an illustrious and beloved member of the Fordham faculty. This section of the book is remarkable for being the very opposite of “law porn“: it tells the story of several decades of a law school’s decline. This decline, Kaczorowski convincingly argues, was driven largely by the insatiable voraciousness with which the central university plundered the law school’s revenues (read student tuition) for its own, non-law purposes. Today, we call that plundering the “central services charge.” At many universities, not just my own, central charges are a major driver of law school costs.

The central services charge is related to the explosive growth of the administrative sector within universities. Read More

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The school of the future: request for input

This post is a nerd crowdsourcing request. As a guest blogger I don’t know my audience as well as I might, but I am heartened by the presence of “science fiction” among the options my hosts give me for categorizing my posts; and my teenager assures me that “nerd” is a compliment.

As several of my earlier posts suggest, I am interested in the impact of virtual technology upon K-12 schooling; and one thing I have been doing in my spare time is looking at literary accounts, highbrow and low, of what schooling in the future might look like. A colleague gave me Ernest Kline’s recent Ready Player One, which imagines school in a fully virtualized world that looks a lot like the school I went to, complete with hallways, bullies, and truant teachers – but the software allows the students to mute their fellows and censors student obscenity before it reaches the teachers’ interfaces. Another colleague reminded me of Asimov’s 1951 The Fun They Had, where the teacher is mechanical but the students still wiggly and apathetic. On the back of a public swapshelf, I found the Julian May 1987 Galactic Milieu series, which imagines brilliant children, all alone on  faraway planets, logging on with singleminded seriousness to do their schoolwork all by their lonesomes. And my daughter gave me Orson Scott Card’s famous Ender’s Game, where the bullying is more educative than the mathematics, and scripted by the adults much more carefully.

That seems like an extensive list but really it’s not, and I was never a serious sci-fi person. If anyone is willing to post in the comments any striking literary accounts of schooling in the future, I’d be grateful.

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Bad Book Reviews by Bad Reviewers

The disease of critics who write book reviews without first reading the subject book is spreading.

The illness [bad book reviews by bad reviewers] erupted in January when amateurs attacked Randall Sullivan’s biography of Michael Jackson with a campaign of negative 1-star reviews on amazon.  It spread to the professional class last month with illiterate attacks on Sheryl Sanbderg’s book “Lean In”  run in Forbes and the New Republic.  Amid the epidemic, the Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum now denigrates books after reading reviews written by non-readers.

Bad book reviews thus must be taken with a grain of salt these days.   Especially for books addressing controversial topics, “reviewers” reflect what they believe about the topic. They do not engage with the substance of the book author’s argument or the content of her book.

It is easy to spot some such faux reviews, broadcast by inane headlines favored by the 1-star posters at amazon.   But the more sophisticated versions are harder to detect.  Writers make references to the book, giving a summary of its arc or stating the broad thesis. Yet they leave clues.  Look for a snarky tone, particularly strident language, straw men, and hyperbole.  Be especially skeptical of any review that cannot find one redeeming point to make about a book.

Helpful also are crowd-sourcing techniques.  As one example, reviewers on amazon are rated by other customers.  Seek out those having earned a great number of “helpful” votes.  Amazon even has designations such as “hall of fame” and “top 1oo reviewer” for such people.  Read those reviews and you will invariably find reliable information and analysis.  (My own favorite is Robert Morris, a top reviewer who has reviewed two of my books in a constructive, and favorable, manner.)

In the old days, literati cocktail party-goers would joke about not having read a book but having read its reviews.  It was a bit of a dodge but you could at least count on the reviewer having read the book.  Pity those days are gone.

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The Essays of Warren Buffett: Third Edition

It’s a pleasure to report that this weekend marks the release of the third edition of The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America.  Originally published as the centerpiece of a symposium sponsored by Cardozo Law Review in 1997 at which Warren Buffett debated 20-some law professors (listed after the jump) on every important issue facing corporate America, this book is a thematic arrangement of Buffett’s annual letters to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway from 1977 to the present.

As I explain in my Introduction,  the central theme uniting Buffett’s essays is that the principles of fundamental business analysis, first formulated by his teachers Ben Graham and David Dodd, should guide investment practice. Linked to that theme are management principles that define the proper role of corporate managers as the stewards of invested capital, and the proper role of shareholders as the suppliers and owners of capital. Radiating from these main themes are practical and sensible lessons on the entire range of important business issues, from accounting to mergers to valuation.

The book has particular significance for devotees of behavioral economics who are skeptical of strong claims about market efficiency, as the book provides both the philosophical architecture of value investing and the intellectual defense of that practice, which distinguishes sharply between price and value.
UPDATE:  Read More

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Review of Abner S. Greene, Against Obligation: The Multiple Sources of Authority in a Liberal Democracy

Abner S. Greene, Against Obligation: The Multiple Sources of Authority in a Liberal Democracy (Harvard University Press 2012)

Don’t be alarmed by his book’s sweeping title: Abner Greene isn’t suggesting that we chuck Contracts from the law school syllabus. Rather, he has three particular sorts of supposed obligations in his crosshairs: a moral obligation always to obey the law (also known as political obligation), an obligation to defer to “the past” – be it “original meaning” or simply judicial precedent – in constitutional jurisprudence, and an obligation by public officials to be bound by the Supreme Court’s reading of the Constitution. A surprising number of theories propose the existence of such obligations in “content-independent” form – and Greene refutes them methodically, even relentlessly, one after another. One of the achievements of this book is that he manages to sound more reasonable than radical while doing so.

But while the book’s subtitle, “The Multiple Sources of Authority in a Liberal Democracy,” suggests a broader viewpoint, this book is embedded within an entirely American discourse. A reader outside the US, or even one of a comparativist bent within it, might well wonder whether Greene’s arguments are as airtight as they seem, whether they’re as controversial as he may think they are, or even what sort of philosophy this kind of book is really about.

Read More

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New Titles from NYU Press

Here are some recent titles from NYU Press:

Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge

Marjorie Heins

 

Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

 

Up Against a Wall: Rape Reform and the Failure of Success

Rose Corrigan

 

What Is Parenthood? Contemporary Debates about the Family

Edited by Linda C. McClain and Daniel Cere

 

The New Kinship: Constructing Donor-Conceived Families

Naomi R. Cahn

 

Lawless Capitalism: The Subprime Crisis and the Case for an Economic Rule of Law

Steven A. Ramirez


Neoconservative Politics and the Supreme Court: Law, Power, and Democracy

Stephen M. Feldman

 

Punishing Immigrants: Policy, Politics, and Injustice

Edited by Charis E. Kubrin, Marjorie S. Zatz and Ramiro Martínez, Jr.

Please check out the above books. You can propose a review of one of these books or another recent title not on the list. We’re aiming for reviews between 500 – 1500 words, ideally about 1000 words. Please email your proposals to me.