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Book Review: The Limits of Presidential Power

Limits_of_Presidential_Power_cover-375x561The Limits of Presidential Power: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law
By Lisa Manheim & Kathryn Watts
Reviewed by Courtney Nguyen, Reference Librarian

Written in response to the many questions people around the country have been asking about what a president can or cannot do, The Limits of Presidential Power: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law, by law professors Lisa Manheim and Kathryn Watts, provides readers with clear and concise answers about the laws governing presidential power, and where the average citizen fits into this arrangement. Manheim and Watts divide the book into three sections: first, an exploration of the law of presidential power, starting with a description of the underlying constitutional structure; next, a discussion of the actual powers a president has, whether via the Constitution or Congress, and what tools he has at his disposal to use them; and lastly, a call to you, the reader, to participate in your government and protect these very same democratic structures. From Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer, the 1952 landmark ruling on the scope of presidential power, to current events concerning immigration and climate change, the authors use real-life examples to trace the constitutional and statutory bases of the president’s vast and wide-ranging power, at all times stressing that the sources of law and powers also define their limits. Indeed, a major message of the book is that with great power comes not only great responsibility, but also great built-in checks against abuse.
Stop Sign

The book ends with a reminder that it’s not only the government and the states that can affect legislation, but also “outsiders”—the media, interest groups, and voters. Manheim and Watts exhort all of us to get involved by staying informed, contacting our representatives in Congress, participating in state and local government, or voting. Another good way might even be to stop by your local law library, especially if you’re interested in further research on this or any other legal issue.

An excellent companion piece to our April Book of the Month, Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide, look for The Limits of Presidential Power: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law at the Library today.

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April Book of the Month: Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide

ImpeachmentImpeachment: A Citizen’s Guide
by Cass R. Sunstein
Reviewed by Courtney Nguyen, Reference Librarian


Often just a footnote in first year constitutional law classes, impeachment takes center stage in the Library’s April Book of the Month, Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide by Cass R. Sunstein. The slim size, minimalist blue cover, and conversational tone conceal a treasure trove of information and insight into one of the lesser known clauses of the Constitution. Impeachment takes readers through the history and historical practice of this “remedy of last resort,” from the Revolutionary War, when the Framers intended this tool as a safeguard against a monarchy and officials who abused their authority, to discussions of the three presidents who have undergone various impeachment proceedings—Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton. Sunstein analyzes the legitimate and illegitimate grounds for removing a president from power, all the while stressing that political neutrality is key.

White HouseIn addition to historical anecdotes, Impeachment also includes constitutional law brainteasers in the form of twenty-one hypothetical impeachable actions (some of which may sound familiar), a brief discussion of the Twenty Fifth Amendment and incapacity, and a chapter modestly titled “What Every American Should Know” which helps clear up some common misconceptions about this essential tool for a self-governing people. Sunstein, a law professor at Harvard who actively participated in the Clinton impeachment proceedings, considers this book a “love letter to the United States,” and that care can be seen in the quality of his research and his emphatic reminder to the reader that impeachment, more than any other aspect of the Constitution, was a “fail-safe” designed for We the People.

So if you would like to learn about the difference between impeachment and indictment, try to understand exactly what “high crimes and misdemeanors” means, or find out why Congress wanted to push out John Tyler in 1842, take a look at Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide, a new title in the Library’s collection.


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April Book Drive

Book Drive

The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work TogetherEach month we will seek donors to purchase a new title for the Law Library. Here is our Wish List for the month of April, featuring books about collaboration tools for lawyers and witness preparation. Growing our collection is about so much more than a single book—it is a living demonstration of how the Library expands the public’s access to justice and provides legal practitioners with the tools they need to represent members of our local community. Please see our Donation Guide for more ways to support the Law Library.

Lawyers Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies

The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together 2nd edition
Written by Dennis M. Kennedy and Thomas L. Mighell
$89.95, Paperback, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-64105-160-6

Lean Law Firm

The Lean Law Firm: Run Your Firm Like The World’s Most Efficient and Profitable Businesses
Written by Larry Port and Dave Maxfield
$79.95, Paperback, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-64105-138-5

Reinventing Witness Preparation

Reinventing Witness Preparation: Unlocking the Secrets to Testimonial Success
Written by Kenneth R. Berman
$64.95, Paperback, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-64105-050-0

To donate, please contact sflawlibrary@sfgov.org or call (415) 554-1791.  We appreciate your contribution!


Recent Book Drive Donations

Thank you to Shannon K. Mauer of Duane Morris LLP for generously donating Dissent and the Supreme Court: Its Role in the Court’s History and the Nation’s Constitutional Dialog, part of our February Book Drive.

Thank you to Robert Gates for generously donating The 2018 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide, part of our February Book Drive.

Please take a look at our Book Drive page to see Wish List items from prior months. We are still wishing for these books!

Thank you for your support!


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Free MCLE with CEB March 29 – Examining Experts

Thursday, March 29, 2018 , Noon to 1:00

Tips for Examining Experts at Deposition & Trial
From the Plaintiff, Defendant & Judge Perspectives 

Co-sponsored with 

1 Hour free Participatory MCLE Credit 
To those attending at The San Francisco Law Library
Available to purchase via WebEx live stream by CEB

Download Program Materials Here

Hon. Stephen Freccero, Marin County Superior Court
Eugene Illovsky, Illovsky Law Office, Oakland
Stuart Plunkett, Baker Botts LLP, San Francisco
This one hour webinar will arm you with specific techniques to get the most out of taking and defending expert depositions and to be more effective at presenting and crossing expert witnesses in trial. Plan to join Judge Stephen Freccero and noted trial attorneys Eugene Illovsky and Stuart Plunkett, as they discuss these and other tips.   
You will learn, among other things:
• Pointers for preparing your expert for deposition
• Deposition strategies for pinning down opposing experts’ opinions and setting up Daubert challenges
• What makes an expert effective before the judge and jury
• In trial, how to match the style of examination with the type of expert
Mar 29 2018 CEB MCLE Flyer v2


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March Book of the Month: Table for 9

Table for 9Table for 9: Supreme Court Food Traditions & Recipes
by Clare Cushman
Foreward by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Reviewed by Ruth Geos, Reference Librarian

Although today the Supreme Court is thought of as a highly divisive collection of Justices, the truth, as deliciously revealed in Table for 9, is that it has actually been the food shared by the members of the Court over the years that holds it together as a community of legal thinkers.

Starting with the Supreme Court’s inaugural session in 1790, then in New York, with 13 toasts at the Fraunces Tavern, the members of the Court (who originally lived and supped together in a local boardinghouse) have always lunched together, and savored shared moments of food and drink. Indeed, Chief Justice John Marshall bottled his own favorite brand of Madeira, with a Supreme Court label.

Table for 9 is in fact a biography of the Court through food: a palatable history of these American times, and reveals so much more about the Court and its working process than the erudite opinions, splits in philosophical bent, and the major social issues the Court faces as part of its work. It is intriguing to see that currently, lunch recess on days of oral argument is one hour, in the Justices’ Dining Room, where legal discussions are strictly off-limits—and the Justices pay for their own meals. Over all the years, the tradition of sharing meals, dinners, seders, welcome and farewell celebrations, has become an integral part of the Court, building a special kind of collegiality that food does best.

The late husband of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was renowned for his culinary skills and devotion to feeding the Court, but so was Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, with her Southwestern legerdemain. Chief Justice Warren Burger invented Oysters Le Burger, and Justice William O. Douglas was renowned for his martini skills. Justice Thurgood Marshall was trained to cook by his grandmother in case the law didn’t work out, and Justice Harlan Fiske Stone was considered the one great gourmand of the Court, with a deep appreciation and knowledge of cheese and wine. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who contributed the foreword, makes evident that unlike her esteemed colleagues, she herself is better out of the kitchen:

I was phased out of the kitchen at an early age by my food-loving children, who appreciated that Daddy’s cooking was ever so much better than Mommy’s. So I will not try out the recipes in this book myself. But I will enjoy turning the pages, pausing at certain photographs, and inviting a child, or now grandchild, to make something delicious for me. Bon appetit!

Laced through with recipes, history, photos, and sidelines on the individual Justices’ favorites (Justice Brandeis loved ice cream, we learn), Table for 9 achieves the best of biography, history, cookbook, and the delights of putting all those ingredients together in the freshest possible way. Also included is a useful Appendix of Justices, 1789 to present, including the dates of appointment and service, and the name of the President appointing him or her to the Supreme Court, along with an index which allows you to jump to Pickled Pigs Feet (p. 59) or Cherry Bounce (p. 38).


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March Book Drive

Book Drive

Each month we will seek donors to purchase a new title for the Law Library. Here is our Wish List for the month of March, featuring books about electronic payment systems in the law and drafting bills for clients. Growing our collection is about so much more than a single book—it is a living demonstration of how the Library expands the public’s access to justice and provides legal practitioners with the tools they need to represent members of our local community. Please see our Donation Guide for more ways to support the Law Library.

Electronic Payment Systems Law and Emerging Technologies

Electronic Payment Systems: Law and Emerging Technologies
Written by Edward Allen Morse
$89.95, Paperback, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-63425-962-0

How To Draft Bills Clients Rush to Pay

How to Draft Bills Clients Rush to Pay, 3rd edition
Written by Mark A. Robertson and J. Harris Morgan
$34.95, Paperback, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-64105-087-6

To donate, please contact sflawlibrary@sfgov.org or call (415) 554-1791.  We appreciate your contribution!


Recent Book Drive Donations

Thank you to Shannon K. Mauer of Duane Morris LLP for generously donating Dissent and the Supreme Court: Its Role in the Court’s History and the Nation’s Constitutional Dialog, part of our February Book Drive.

Thank you to Robert Gates for generously donating The 2018 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide, part of our February Book Drive.

Please take a look at our Book Drive page to see Wish List items from prior months. We are still wishing for these books!

Thank you for your support!


Leave a comment

Book Review – Constitutional Governance & Judicial Power

Constitutional Governance and Judicial Power: The History of the California Supreme Court

Edited by Harry N. Scheiber

In this captivating and highly readable new book, UC Berkeley School of Law professor emeritus Harry N. Scheiber and five contributing authors chronicle the evolution of the California Supreme Court, California law, and California history. Constitutional Governance and Judicial Power demonstrates that the state’s highest court is inextricably linked to the political, socioeconomic, and cultural forces of its time.

The court was established by Article VI of California’s Constitution and held its first session on March 4, 1850, in what had been a San Francisco hotel. The first chief justice was Serranus Hastings, a transplant from New York and Iowa, who had formerly served as chief justice of Iowa’s highest court. Gold was discovered on January 24, 1848, and would be a driving factor in the state’s economy, population growth, and the court itself. Of the first 27 justices, 11 came to California for reasons related to mining gold. The ensuing period included the adoption of common law, the reliance on both Spanish and Mexican legal doctrine, and the foundations of water rights and mining law. Hugh C. Murray, who became Chief Justice in 1852, authored two decisions “notorious as much for their bigoted rhetoric as for their holdings.” In the opinion In re Perkins, the court upheld the right of out-of-state slaveholders to recover escaped enslaved persons despite California’s prohibition against slavery. In People v. Hall, the court banned Chinese witnesses from giving evidence against white persons in criminal cases. Hall provided the precedent for the extension of the ban to civil cases.

Other chapters address the court’s response to California’s rising industrialism, the sweeping changes ushered in by the Progressive movement, and the tremendous population and economic growth during the long tenure of Chief Justice Phil Gibson. Scheiber authors the chapter on the Liberal Era which was marked by the LA riots, school busing, gay rights, affirmative action, and more, as well as the appointment of Chief Justice Rose Bird and her eventual removal by California’s voters. Final chapters explore the retrenchment of the Lucas Court and the more centrist jurisprudence and centralization of administration and funding of the state court system under Chief Justice Ronald George.

This comprehensive study of the Court’s 165-year history will appeal to lawyers, legal scholars, and those with an interest in California history. Constitutional Governance and Judicial Power is a new addition to SF Law Library.

California Supreme Court history enthusiasts can find the following additional titles in the law library’s collection:

Chief: The Quest for Justice in California, by Ronald M. George, interviewee

Activism in Pursuit of the Public Interest: The Jurisprudence of Chief Justice Traynor, by Ben Field

In Pursuit of Justice, by Joseph R. Grodin

The law library also has these judicial biographies:

My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

SFLL Book Review: https://sflawlibraryblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/02/january-book-of-the-month-my-own-words-by-ruth-bader-ginsburg/

Judge Thelton Henderson: Breaking New Ground, by Richard B. Kuhns

Adachi Justice