347 Schaeffer Hall
Spring 2020 Office Hours
Tue & Th: 4:45-6:15
Dept of Political Science
341 Schaeffer Hall
20 E. Washington Street
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa 52242
Posted updated Prelaw FAQ
Posted two new books in What I'm Reading
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New book, Supreme Court Agenda Setting: The Vinson Court, published for Kindle devices and computers with Kindle reader.
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This is my list of non-fiction legal and judicial books of interest. They are listed alphabetically by author. There are several older books on this list. Some of them I still use in my courses, often as option reading or for paper topics. I mention examples from OJ Simpson's murder trial in some of my courses, but it's getting to be ancient history to by current students. Still, such books are interesting at least from a historical perspective. Plus, you can get a lot of these older books for a really low price!
Adler, Stephen, The Jury. Adler examines the jury system by reconstructing how the juries functioned in seven cases. This book is of particular interest given the questions raised in most people's minds about juries after the Rodney King and OJ verdicts.
Bronner, Ethan, Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America. I'm not sure the Bork nomination "shook" America, but this is a good account of the politics behind the nomination and the confirmation hearings. (I assign this book as optional reading for paper topics in my Judicial Process course.)
Bugliosi, Vincent, with Curt Gentry, Helter Skelter. Bugliosi was the Los Angeles County prosecutor who tried Charles Manson for the Tate-LaBianca murders. (This was back when the LA County District Attorney's office could actually win a high-profile case. Bugliosi won 105 of 106 felony jury trials.) The book opens with descriptions of the murders, but what really makes the book an interesting read is how Bugliosi managed to build and present his case--particularly against Manson who was not present at either murder site. Strongly recommended.
OJ-Mania: Outrage by Vincent Bugliosi, In Contempt by Christopher Darden, and Reasonable Doubts by Alan Dershowitz. There are probably dozens of books about the OJ trial by all manner of participants and hangers-on. I decided to try a balanced approach: one from the defense, one from the prosecution, and one from someone not connected with the trial. (I've also picked up the book by the two investigating officers and Fuhrman's to get the police point of view.) It probably would have been best to start with the prosecution's perspective and then go to the defense to mimic the way the cases are presented in court, but I read Dershowitz's book first. Dershowitz is a well-known Harvard law professor and appellate attorney. His main function as part of the Simpson legal team was to prepare for the appeal if Simpson had been found guilty. He does not try to convince readers that Simpson didn't commit the murders, but rather that there was sufficient reason for the jury to have had reasonable doubts about it. Darden, of course, was one of the main prosecutors during the trial. A good portion of his book deals with his own background. This material is interesting for several reasons, not the least of which is how it sets the stage for how he had to deal with the reaction from the black community for his role in the prosecution. The sub-title of Bugliosi's book is The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away With Murder. The prosecution receives the most criticism for a poorly argued and presented case, but Bugliosi also criticizes Judge Ito for not being able to control his courtroom. Bugliosi is fairly specific in his criticisms and gives examples of how he would have handled various aspects of the case.
Dershowitz, Alan, The Abuse Excuse: And Other Cop-Outs, Sob Stories, and Evasions of Responsibility. The title pretty much says it all. This is a collection of his essays, mostly his newspaper columns, on the topic of personal responsibility. Although Dershowitz is usually considered a liberal, most of the arguments he makes in this book are consistent with conservative notions of personal responsibility.
Douglas, John, and Mark Olshaker, Mind Hunter. Douglas is one of the founders of the FBI's elite Serial Crime Unit. He tells how the unit came to be and describes several cases he worked on. My only complaint is that the case descriptions only run about 20 pages each, which isn't enough space to get into the details to the extent I would have liked.
Houston, Philip, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero, Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception: This is an interesting book. The authors caution readers that the book won't make them human lie detectors. They also note that one has to have some familiarity with a particular person to know where some behavior that might be an indicator of deception in one person isn't just a personal habit of another. That said, the authors run through several behaviors, physical and verbal, that tend to indicate that a person is being deceptive. Such indicators don't necessarily indicate that the person is lying, but may indicate deception requiring additional follow up. The authors provide examples from real life, and often famous, interviews as well as lists of suggested questions for different situations. I recommend this book, but be aware that after reading it you will have difficulty listening to any politician again!
I've added this book to this section because finding deception is obviously very important to lawyers. Such skills can aid in a variety of situations, such as interviewing clients or witnesses, as well as in jury selection.
Katz, Burton, Justice Overruled: Unmasking the Criminal Justice System. Katz is a former Los Angels prosecuting attorney and trial court judge who now is a TV commentator and radio talk-show host. Like the other two books by trial court judges (Rothwas and Sheindlin, see below), Katz points out some of the more egregious examples of problems in the criminal justice system. Unlike the other two, he delves into these stories in a bit more detail and provides more analysis as to how these stories demonstrate problems in the criminal justice system and how to solve them. Katz covers issues such as the exclusionary rule, "testi-lying," jury selection, problem judges, witnesses, and the abuse excuse (see Dershowitz's book above for more on the abuse excuse). I assign this book as a recommended text in my Criminal Justice course.
Phelps, Timothy, and Helen Winternitz, Capitol Games. Given how political the Thomas confirmation hearings became, particularly after Anita Hill made her accusations, this book does a good job of presenting a fairly objective account of the events. Two other books of a more partisan flavor may also be of interest. The first is David Brock's The Real Anita Hill. As the title suggests, Brock takes an in-depth look at Anita Hill to determine whether she was really the shy and conservative law professor the media made her out to be. Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson provide the liberal response in Strange Justice. They attempt to refute Brock's arguments and to show that Hill was telling the truth. I say "attempt" because in a response in The American Spectator, the magazine for which Brock is an investigative reporter, he takes them to task for their poor grasp of the facts, etc. (When offered an opportunity to respond they essentially refused to defend their work.) If you really want to know who said what during the hearings, you can also obtain a copy of The Complete Transcripts of the Clarence Thomas--Anita Hill Hearings October 11, 12, 13, 1991. Note: While reading these books, compare the allegations Hill made with those Paula Jones has made against Bill Clinton, and the feminist reaction to each.
As a side note, in 2015 Phelps called me for an interview on a political matter and I told him that I still used his book in my Judicial Process course. He was quite suprised and said that it made his day.
Rehnquist, William, The Supreme Court. This book is a bit autobiography and a bit history of the Supreme Court. Particularly interesting are the later chapters that describe how the Court and the Justices function on a daily basis. The link below is to the revised and updated edition, but the earlier edition is also available.
Rodell, Fred, Nine Men: A Political History of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1790 to 1955. The title pretty well sums it up. This book gives a good overview of the politics behind the Court during it's first 165 years. This is a good companion to Woodward and Armstrong's The Brethren (see below), but it's less gossipy. Strongly recommended.
Rothwax, Harold, Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice. This is a view of the criminal justice system by a New York state trial court judge. Rothwax selects several topics and mainly uses anecdotes to illustrate the problems in the system. There isn't much analysis of the problems Rothwax raises, but the anecdotes offer a more "in the trenches" perspective on some of these problems. (Also see the books by Judges Sheindlin and Katz.)
Sheindlin, Judy, Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining. Sheindlin was a New York City juvenile and family court judge. In focusing on juveniles in the first part of her book she gives us a different perspective on the criminal justice system compared to Rothwax or Katz. Her experiences as a family court judge give us a view of many abuses in welfare and family law. Like Rothwax she primarily relies on anecdotes to make her points, but she also offers comments on how the system might be fixed. There isn't much analysis here, but the book is interesting, a fast read, and it covers less familiar areas of the judicial system.
Sullivan, Timothy, Unequal Verdicts. Sullivan is a journalist who tells the story of how Elizabeth Lederer prosecuted the Central Park Jogger trials from the early 1990s. The title refers to the different verdicts received by the defendants because of their age and the particular evidence against them.
Taylor, Stuart, Jr., and KC Johnson, Until Proven Innocent. Taylor is a lawyer and journalist, Johnson is a history professor. The authors tell the story of the Duke lacrosse players falsely accused of rape. They examine the factors that went into the false accusations and the participants in the process that refused to question the allegations or used them for their own political ends. This story is a good, though unfortunately not unique, example of how political motives cause the criminal justice system to fail. The trade paperback version has an expanded epilogue that contains additional information on the case. Strongly recommended.
Woodward, Bob, and Scott Armstrong, The Brethren. Woodward and Armstrong take a political and fairly gossipy look at the 1969 through 1975 Terms of the Burger Court. Rumor has it that a good deal of the "inside" information came from Brennan's law clerks, so it's no surprise that Brennan comes off looking like a saint and Burger a buffoon. Even so, several very important cases were decided during this period (e.g., Roe v. Wade) and the descriptions of how the justices dealt with these cases, and each other, makes for interesting reading.