Analysis and Commentary on Book Reviews

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.

Down the Rabbit Hole: A Review of Errol Morris’s A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald

Justia guest columnist and law professor at Touro Law Center in Central Islip, New York, Rodger Citron reviews Errol Morris’s book on one of the most infamous murders in American history, in which Army doctor Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of the 1970 killing of his wife and two daughters. MacDonald, however, has consistently maintained that not he, but four intruders, committed the murders, and has pointed to the stab wound he incurred, which punctured his lung, as evidence of his claim. MacDonald is still in prison, but should he be? Citron considers the evidence.

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: The Sources of Washington’s Current Problems

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the current, unfortunate state of American government—paralyzed by inaction, even in the midst of a troubled economy. In his analysis of the situation, Dean draws upon Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein’s work It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism. Dean deems the book to be a very important one to read, especially for Republicans, for part of the current problem, according to Dean, and to Mann and Ornstein, is the intransigence and the growing extremism of the Republican Party. Another part of the problem, they argue, is the sorry state of contemporary American journalism. Dean distills some of Mann and Ornstein’s suggestions for addressing the problems that they isolate—and notes that just five changes in the way American journalism is done now could make a profound difference.

A Review of Snigda Prakash’s All the Justice Money Can Buy, a Book on the Vioxx Tort Litigation

Justia guest columnist and Touro law professor Rodger Citron comments on former NPR reporter Snigda Prakash’s recent book on the Vioxx litigation and, especially, the Vioxx trial. The litigation, as Citron explains, followed manufacturer Merck’s withdrawal of Vioxx from the market in the face of evidence that those who took the drug faced an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Citron praises Prakash for making good use of her access to the plaintiffs’ legal team, and offering a vivid, compelling portrait of the trial, but notes that when she admittedly takes sides—beginning to root for the plaintiffs—her journalistic objectivity predictably suffers to some extent. In addition, Citron notes that he would have liked to hear more, in Prakash’s book, about the comprehensive settlement that will be the Vioxx dispute’s lasting legacy.

David Hicks’s Guantanamo Memoir

Justia columnist Joanne Mariner, an attorney and the head of Hunter College’s Human Rights Program, comments on the memoir of David Hicks, an Australian who was incarcerated at the United States’ Guantanamo Bay detention facility for five-and-a-half years. Mariner notes that Hicks’s Guantanamo memoir is now one of many such works that detail interrogation practices and detention conditions at the facility. She also points out the book has recently made headlines due to the Australian government’s attempt to confiscate the royalties Hicks earned from his publisher, citing Australia’s Proceeds of Crime Act. Mariner notes the parallel between that Act and the United States’ “Son of Sam” laws, which the U.S. Supreme Court has occasionally held to be in violation of the First Amendment, and she explains other troubling aspects of the attempt to apply Australia’s Act to Hicks.

All Roads Lead to Accountability

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci A. Hamilton urges that the Catholic Church urgently needs to take responsibility—and foster an ethic of accountability—regarding clergy child-sex-abuse cases. In describing the path that she argues the Church must take, Hamilton compliments a recent speech by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, and a book by Jason Berry on money and the Church. As she explains, these writings, too, call for responsibility and accountability from the Church, and for the enforcement of civil law by the courts, in clergy child-sex-abuse cases.

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 Col... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

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

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb teac... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.  Bef... 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 Sidney and Walter Siben Distinguished Professor of Family Law at the Mauri... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States and the Paul R. V... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney, writer, and editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

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

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

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

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more