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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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Free Elder Law MCLE March 14 at Noon

Wednesday, March 14, Noon to 1:00pm

Elder Financial Abuse: A Budding Revolution in Estate Litigation
Presented by Michael Hackard, Hackard Law
1 Hour free MCLE

As the baby boomer generation rapidly ages into retirement, elder financial abuse threatens to become a national epidemic. If not addressed early and aggressively, this unique form of exploitation can tear families apart, leaving shattered relationships and depleted bank accounts in its wake. Michael Hackard draws from four decades of legal experience to advise professionals what elder financial abuse is, how to identify it, and—most importantly—what to do if abuse is suspected.

Mar 14 2018 Elder Law MCLE Flyer


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Book Review: Cannabis Taxation

Cannabis TaxationCannabis Taxation: Federal and State Tax Guidebook from CCH Tax Perspectives

We all know what comes next now that recreational cannabis is legal in California – taxes!  While California has decriminalized cannabis, and San Francisco will even retroactively expunge or reduce marijuana charges en masse, the Federal Government still lists cannabis as an illegal narcotic, leading to patchwork laws and uncertainty.  The Cannabis Taxation: Federal and State Tax Guidebook from CCH Tax Perspectives offers an overview of taxation issues in the burgeoning cannabis industry. This slim guidebook contains analysis of the federal taxation provisions, a state-by-state breakdown of the industry is taxed, and a sample client letter for tax professionals to use to reach out to clients. Tax and cannabis professionals can use this new title together with the Library’s other cannabis law resources, including Marijuana Law in a Nutshell, our Cannabis Law LibGuide, and the new California cannabis regulations.  And take a look at our Cannabis Regulations Reference Sheet below as well.


Reference Sheet for Cannabis Regulations

From BARCLAYS CALIFORNIA CODE OF REGULATIONS (also available here through Westlaw)

Register 2017, No. 49, dated December 8, 2017:

  • Volume 4, Title 3, Division 8 (“Cannabis Cultivation”): Pages 429-459
  • Volume 21A, Title 16, Division 42 (“Bureau of Cannabis Control”): Pages 555-601
  • Volume 22, Title 17, Division 1, Chapter 13 (“Manufactured Cannabis Safety”): Pages 248.20 – 248.44

Register 2017, No. 52, dated December 29, 2017:

  • Volume 23, Title 18 Public Revenues, State Board of Equalization, Business Tax: Chapter 8.7, Cannabis Tax Regulation, §§3700-3701, pp. 205-206

Register 2018, No. 1, dated January 5, 2018:

  • Volume 24, Title 18 Public Revenues, Division 4, Office of Tax Appeals, p.521-540 (see page 3 of the Digest of New Regulations for specifics for this new agency)
    • From the Digest:  “The Office of Tax Appeals (OTA) has adopted emergency regulations concerning appeals from actions taken by the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) or the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). The OTA is an independent body created by the Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act of 2017. Its mission is to provide a fair, objective and timely process for appeals by California taxpayers. As of January 1, 2018, the OTA has sole jurisdiction over tax appeals arising from actions taken by the FTB and the CDTFA.”

Also see the 2018 pocket part for WEST’S ANNOTATED CALIFORNIA CODES in the last volume containing the Index for Business & Professions Code (v.5D), Food & Agriculture Code (v.31D) and the Health & Safety Code (v.41I)

  • The entry “cannabis” will refer you to “Drugs and Medicine” and within that to “Marijuana”


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Coming to a Theater Near You: 2 Supreme Court Justice Biopics

SFLL FilmsComing attractions! If you are lucky, you will soon be buying a ticket for or watching on your home streaming service two new, exciting, and very different Supreme Court dramas. The films are about the paths of courage, imagination, and drive for equality pursued by Thurgood Marshall and by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in their early careers as lawyers—preludes to each of their years of service as Justices on the Court itself.

The first—with an anticipated release date of October 13, 2017—is Marshall. Called a thriller by Variety, Marshall tells the story of the bold defense by Thurgood Marshall, then a young lawyer of 32, of Joseph Spell, a black chauffeur accused by his Connecticut employer of rape and attempted murder. These lurid charges became infamous in the tabloids at the time. Co-starring Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, and Josh Gad, as Samuel Friedman, a lawyer with no trial experience who offered to join with Marshall for the defense, the cast also includes Keesha Sharpe as Marshall’s wife, and Kate Hudson as the socialite accuser. For a spine-tingling advance peek of a drama of bigotry and truth in a dark time—with books as an ally—try the trailer.

My Own WordsThen, slated for 2018 is the Ruth Bader Ginsburg 1970s-set movie, On the Basis of Sex. This film highlights her championship of equal rights, focusing on her successful appeal of a landmark tax-gender-discrimination case, Moritz v. Commission of Internal Revenue, which stated that dependent care deductions allowed to single women and divorcées could not constitutionally be denied to single men. First announced to be played by Natalie Portman, the role of RBG will now be carried by Felicity Jones, with Armie Hammer cast as her husband and co-counsel, Martin Ginsburg. A narrative on the Moritz case, and their work together, by Martin Ginsburg, (including contentions as to who had the bigger room at home to work in), is also part of Justice RBG’s new book, My Own Words, found in our own San Francisco Law Library collection.

Stay tuned for the sflawlibraryblog film reviews, and if you see these films before we do, please do give us your own comments, reviews, or your own favorite Supreme Court movies from the past.