Analysis and Commentary on Book Reviews

Reversal of Reputation: How Dershowitz is Taking Liberties to Defend Trump

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law, critiques Alan Dershowitz’s The Case Against Impeaching Trump, finding that the book is essentially a defense brief for President Trump that largely lacks meaningful legal analysis. Falvy argues that the book won’t persuade any legal scholars, but if at least 34 members of the GOP Senate caucus buy Dershowitz’s argument, Trump will likely not be forced from office.

Fear Itself: What Bob Woodward Finds in Trump’s “Crazytown”—and What He Doesn’t Look For

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law, critically reviews of Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House (Simon & Schuster, 2018), finding that while the book adds considerable detail to our portrait of Trump’s behavior in office, it overlooks (or ignores) much of the larger picture of President Trump’s character, career, and presidency. Falvy takes a close look at both the substance and style of Fear, delving into the strengths and limitations of Woodward’s “free indirect” style of narrative as well as the substance of his insider interviews, especially that of Trump’s former personal attorney John Dowd. Falvy predicts that Dowd’s statement to Woodward that Trump is a habitual liar lays the groundwork for a final line of defense for Trump: that even Trump’s own statements cannot be reliable evidence of obstruction of justice or other crimes.

What the FBI Knew: The Case Against the Rosenbergs From the Investigators’ Perspective

Sixty-five years after the deaths of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Touro Law Center professor Rodger Citron reviews Howard Blum’s In the Enemy’s House: The Secret Saga of the FBI Agent and the Code Breaker Who Caught the Russian Spies (HarperCollins 2018). Citron describes how Blum’s telling of the story adds to the story of the Rosenbergs by focusing on Bob Lamphere and Meredith Gardner—two men who pursued Soviet spies for years—and explains how the story of the Rosenbergs has continued relevance today.

The Olympic Can-Do Spirit Attacks the Scourge of Child Sex Abuse

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, praises Olympic gold medalist in judo Kayla Harrison’s book Fighting Back: What an Olympic Champion’s Story Can Teach Us About Recognizing and Preventing Child Sexual Abuse—And Helping Kids Recover. Hamilton describes the book as ambitious, but well worth reading, especially for teachers, coaches, youth-serving organizations, and every parent intent on preventing the sexual abuse of their children.

The Lessons of Sex-Selection Abortion

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb reviews Sital Kalantry’s book Women's Human Rights and Migration: Sex-Selective Abortion Laws in the United States and India. Colb explains how the book taught her a new way to think about an area in which Colb herself already has extensive knowledge. Colb praises Kalantry for taking an empirically supported look at the practice of sex-selection abortions in the United States and elsewhere and for drawing sophisticated conclusions about the proper place for regulation on the basis of that scrutiny.

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, praises Senator Al Franken’s newest book, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. Without giving spoilers, Dean shares a few reasons he recommends the book, in which Franken provides unique insight into our political system and demonstrates his capacity for doing the serious work of the US Senate and occasionally injecting it with appropriate touches of comedy.

Changing the World One Case at a Time: A Review of Gillian Thomas’s Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman praises Gillian Thomas’s new book Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work, which profiles ten of the most important Supreme Court cases to the advancement of women’s equality in the workplace.

What War Is Good For

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf reviews Sidney Tarrow’s new book, War, States, and Contention. Dorf considers how Tarrow’s view of the role of contentious politics applies in the current political campaign and examines the relation between national security and domestic social movements.

The Last of the President’s Men

Former counsel to the president John W. Dean gives a preview of Bob Woodward’s new book, The Last of the President’s Men, which recounts the experiences of Alex Butterfield in the Nixon White House. Dean explains the origin and significance of the title with respect to the subject matter and provides his insight into the book’s telling of Butterfield’s story.

A Further Look at January 1973: A History Turning Month

Former counsel to the president John W. Dean continues his dialogue with attorney and author Jim Robenalt to discuss Robenalt’s new book, January 1973: Watergate, Roe v. Wade, Vietnam, and the Month That Changed America Forever. In this second of a two-part series of columns, Robenalt focuses on new information he discovered relating to the history Roe v. Wade decision.

Traversing Anupam Chander’s The Electronic Silk Road

Justia guest columnist and attorney Anita Felicelli reviews Anupam Chander’s book The Electronic Silk Road. Felicelli praises the book as a lucid, thoughtful, and dispassionate survey of Trade 2.0 and cyberspace law. Although she offers mild critique that the book’s coverage of implementation may not satisfy skeptics of its premises, she concludes that the book impressively provides much-needed commentary on a subject that is complex and difficult.

Teaching Lawyers, And Others, To Be Leaders

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean draws upon Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode’s book Lawyers as Leaders to comment upon, among other leadership topics, the remarkable failure that he argues that we are seeing in both contemporary Washington lawyers and also in our political leaders. Dean praises Rhode’s strongly documented book as far transcending the typical banal business book, and having a great deal to offer the reader.

Review of Mind If I order the Cheeseburger and Other Questions People Ask Vegans

Justia guest book reviewer and Pace law professor David Cassuto comments on the recently published book by Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb, Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger and Other Questions People Ask Vegans. Many readers of the column and/or the book, will find themselves interested and educated about veganism, and possibly even ready to give it a try.

The Book of Matt and What It Can Tell Us About the Zimmerman/Martin Case

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on a new book on the infamous Matthew Shepard murder, The Book of Matt, which she urges everyone to read, and which reveals that, as it turns out, there was much more to the Shepard case than was known at the time. Hamilton also considers the possibility that, as with the Shepard case, in which important facts weren't unearthed until now, years later, we may also be reassessing the Zimmerman/Martin case years later, when a future journalist may find new and important facts, as occurred in the Shepard case now.

Understanding This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking-in America’s Gilded Capital by Mark Leibovich

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments very favorably on the new book This Town (meaning Washington, DC and environs) by Mark Leibovich, the national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine. Along the way, Dean discusses some of his own interesting observations about the political culture of Washington, DC. At the end of the column, Dean also collects other reviews of the book, linking to them so that readers may sample an array of takes on This Town.

A Movie Deal and Two New Books Guarantee that the World Will Finally Understand the Catholic Church Child Sex Abuse Scandal

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the new books—one nonfiction, and the other a novel—and the movie deal that will better illuminate the Catholic Church's scandal over clergy child sex abuse. Hamilton expresses the hope that these works will cause a stronger push for strict laws in this area. Hamilton focuses on some key parts of the scandal, such as the early dearth of media coverage and the brave crusaders who dared to side with the victims and boldly challenge the Church. She also assesses each of the two books, finding both praiseworthy.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in con... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Befo... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has w... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of L... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavi... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior... more