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December Book of the Month: Corporations Are Not People

Corporations Are Not PeopleCorporations Are Not People: Reclaiming Democracy from Big Money and Global Corporations
By Jeffrey D. Clements
Reviewed by Aaron Parsons, Reference Librarian

In Corporations Are Not People, author and San Francisco Law Library MCLE speaker Jeffrey Clements argues for and enlists readers’ help in passing a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United. This 2010 Supreme Court decision invalidated or weakened campaign finance laws like McCain-Feingold, and has allowed billions of dollars in corporate funded influence and “attack ads” to drown out average citizens’ voices, ideas, and opinions, in favor of narrow and powerful moneyed interests. This corporate influence, Clements argues, produces an anathema to the democratic protections that were written into our Constitution “of the people, for the people, and by the people.”

Clements discusses similar historical upswings of organized corporatism and traces the current tide as the long-term effect of a push back against environmentalists beginning with the first Earth Day in 1970. The corporate response was an organized attempt to curtail environmental and other regulation, and was led by Lewis Powell—a corporate lawyer and tobacco corporation executive, who would take a new wave of corporate activism onto the U.S. Supreme Court where he wrote corporation-favoring precursor cases to Citizens United, such as First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti. Under Powell’s influence, corporations “gained vastly increased political power at the expense of average citizens.”

But what is a corporation, and what are corporate rights, asks Clements? He says that, strangely, the definition of a corporation is left vague and described in “word clouds” in Citizens United and other decisions that Justice John Paul Stevens called “glittering generalities.” These generalities allow corporations, as government created entities, to wear sheep’s clothing at the same table that people enjoy, where they are protected by laws, including the Bill of Rights. Clements provides statistics showing the billions spent on lobbying and on saturation advertising in elections by a handful of corporations. He argues that those efforts promote the interests of a few giant corporations at the expense of both conservative and liberal points of view.

Clements offers many resources and avenues to get involved in changing government to work more effectively for the people instead of for a few massive corporations, including his organization, American Promise, that seeks to enact a 28th Amendment to the Constitution and is backed by an increasing number of states, politicians, and Americans from across the political spectrum.

Corporations Are Not People was generously donated to the Library by Mr. Clements.

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December 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 December. 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.

 

SOATL-Prototype-Cover-1

Sexual Orientation, Gender Identities, and the Law: A Research Bibliography 2006-2016
Edited by Dana Neacsu and David Brian Holt
$125, Hardcover, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-8377-4082-9

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What’s It Worth?
Published by Matthew Bender
$396, Softbound, 2018
ISBN:978-1-5221-5796-0

We would welcome a partial contribution toward the purchase of this book!

Blockchain for Business Lawyers

Blockchain for Business Lawyers
Written by James A. Cox and Mark W. Rasmussen
$129.95, Paperback, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-6410-5196-5

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


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Book Review: The Case of Rose Bird

Rose BirdThe Case of Rose Bird: Gender, Politics, and the California Courts
By Kathleen A. Cairns
Reviewed by Richard Schulke, Reference Librarian

The Case of Rose Bird: Gender, Politics, and the California Courts is a timely look at political activism aimed at members of the Judiciary. It recounts the circumstances that led to the removal of Rose Bird as Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.

This book begins by looking at Rose Bird’s early triumphs during high school and law school, followed by her milestone achievements as the first female law clerk for the Nevada Supreme Court, the first female deputy public defender in Santa Clara County, and the first woman to hold a cabinet position in California.

The book follows Bird’s appointment to the position of Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court in 1977 by a then forty-year-old Governor Jerry Brown—she was both the Court’s first female justice and its first female Chief Justice—and then a series of three attempts to recall her. The attempts ultimately succeeded, and in November of 1986 she was the first Chief Justice of California to be recalled by the voters.

The author examines the then-current politics that made Bird a lightning rod—her liberalism, gender, and the perception that she was soft on crime. The author also takes an in-depth look at Bird’s political opponents and the take-no-prisoner attitude that ultimately resulted in her downfall through political machinations. It is as chilling now as it was then.

The description of Bird’s final years as a broken person battling unsuccessfully against medical issues and early death is a sad ending to her story.

Current events make clear that the issue of “Judicial Politics” is still a hot potato. We recently witnessed both the removal of Judge Aaron Persky following his controversial decision to impose a sentence of only six months for a Stanford student convicted of rape, and the political maneuvering during the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. This fascinating exploration of Rose Bird and the turbulent beginning of judicial politics in California is still just as relevant today.

The Case of Rose Bird was generously donated to the Library by John Kelly.


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November Book of the Month: Tax, Estate, and Financial Planning for the Elderly

Tax, Estate, and Financial Planning for the ElderlyTax, Estate, and Financial Planning for the Elderly
By John J. Regan, Rebecca C. Morgan, David M. English & H. Amos Goodall, Jr.
Reviewed by Ruth Geos, Reference Librarian

In June of this year, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced that she doesn’t plan to retire for at least another five years, when she will be 90. She is one not defined by her age, but by the force of her being, good health, and personal strength.

For the rest of those who are looking ahead to retirement or facing changes in their way of life, finances, health, and control as they age, no book would be a better start than this one volume. It has no fancy cover, no pictures, and no forms. But it does contain a wealth of information aimed at both individuals looking for answers within the maze of legal and financial issues that arise, and attorneys developing the highly specialized practice of Elder Law with practical techniques and insight into the intertwining of issues and family context. Indeed, the very organization of the book keeps both parts of the practice clearly in sight. Each chapter begins with a short synopsis of the topic, with the kind of basic questions everyone wants to know (such as, how does a ROTH IRA differ from a traditional IRA? See § 2.06), and then expands into a full analysis of the type of asset protection, governmental or private benefit program, along with legal and psychological issues, and citations to statutes, regulations, cases, and other authority for additional research. It is an impressive source for both attorney and client.

Individual chapters address the major areas of law and top areas of concern: Social Security Benefits; Veterans’ Benefits; Private Pensions; Income Tax; Housing Concerns; Property Management during Incapacity; Health Care Rights and Decisions; Nursing Homes; Guardians and Conservators, Estate Planning, and Elder Abuse. Each topic includes a thorough summary of rights, a clear organization and analysis of the distinctions within a complex benefits program, such as Social Security, SSI, or Medicaid, which provides a clarity that is hard to find—not too simplified to be useful, and not just litigation-based to limit the kind of information that a full counseling requires. Tax issues are folded in as an intrinsic aspect of each topic, and a separate chapter on Financial Planning includes an extensive checklist to both assist clients and to aid the attorney in being comprehensive in making suggestions and building a strategy together.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The authors consistently emphasize the role of communication and counseling. This defined approach is infused with a depth of empathy and psychological awareness of the fact that the primary goal of most clients is to maintain personal autonomy over their lives, and that the financial and legal issues that come up should be approached with that goal of empowerment. The publication is bookended by a first chapter on counseling the client and an introduction to the special focus required for elder law issues—including the need to create a productive atmosphere in the office to best exchange information—and ends with a last chapter on ethical issues and representation. Throughout, the authors describe building a relationship between attorney and client where the attorney provides information not only on the specific issue brought to the meeting, but also includes other useful information and resources, such as how to organize documents, disaster planning, and information on local community and agency services, senior centers, and other supportive organizations. It sets a high standard for the type and level of competence needed for an elder law practice, including a deep and wide knowledge about private and governmental benefit programs, legal and tax issues, financial planning—all connected to a wider social context, for the fullest representation possible.

For individuals bravely looking ahead on their own, this is also a source to light the way.

Tax, Estate, and Financial Planning for the Elderly is available in print at the San Francisco Law Library. A wide range of other elder law materials, including CA-specific treatises and various model forms can be found on the San Francisco Law Library’s LibGuide to elder law—or ask a Reference Librarian.


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November 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 November, featuring books on workplace sexual harassment, the hardest decisions judges have made, and the criminal justice system. 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.

Sexual Harassment A Guide to a Harassment-Free Workplace

Sexual Harassment: A Guide to a Harassment-Free Workplace
Written by Kathleen Kapusta
$39.95, Paperback, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-54380-528-4

Tough Cases

Tough Cases: Judges Tell the Stories of Some of the Hardest Decisions They’ve Ever Made
Edited by Russell F. Canan, Gregory E. Mize, and Frederick H. Weisberg
$26.99, Hardcover, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-62097-386-8

Youre Under Arrest

You’re Under Arrest!
Understanding the Criminal Justice System

by Margaret C. Jasper
$29.99, Hardcover, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-9841404-0-4

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


Recent Book Drive Donations

Thank you to John Kelly for generously donating The Case of Rose Bird: Gender, Politics, and the California Courts.

Thank you to Suzanne P. Marria for generously donating To End a Presidency.

Thank you to Shannon K. Mauer for generously donating the ABA’s Women in Law Book Bundle, which includes The Road to Independence: 101 Women’s Journeys to Starting Their Own Law FirmsGrit, the Secret to Advancement: Stories of Successful Women LawyersZero Tolerance: Best Practices for Combating Sex-Based Harassment in the Legal Profession; and Learning to Lead: What Really Works for Women in Law.

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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ABA’s Women in the Law Collection

Women in the LawThe Law Library recently acquired the ABA’s Women in the Law Collection—a generous donation from Shannon K. Mauer of Duane Morris LLP. Although women have advanced in the legal profession over the last few decades, the statistics and research show that there are still significant barriers to reaching its upper echelons in equal numbers as men. Together, these four books summarize the state of women in the legal profession today and chart a course toward achieving full equality. Anyone with an interest in women’s rights and equality, or learning what it takes to get ahead in professional life, will benefit from reading this collection.

Grit

Grit, The Secret to Advancement: Stories of Successful Women Lawyers
Edited by Milana L. Hogan

There’s been a lot of buzz about the word grit in the self-help and business spheres lately, and with good reason. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology defines this concept as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” It is essential for professional success, and it is essential for women to achieve equality in the legal profession. To this end, the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession developed the Grit Project in 2013. Grit, The Secret to Advancement reports the Commission’s qualitative and quantitative research on grit across all types of female lawyers, spanning everything from solo practitioners, law firms of various sizes, to nonprofits. The result is a thorough exploration of the concrete steps women can take to increase grit and related qualities, and how to apply those traits to build a successful career.

 

Learning to Lead

Learning to Lead: What Really Works for Women in Law
By Gindi Eckel Vincent

This book does a huge service to female lawyers looking to reach leadership roles in their profession. Author Gindi Eckel Vincent intentionally kept Learning to Lead short and sweet, and she begins by summarizing the major leadership publications in the business realm to spare readers from this gargantuan task. She distills this body of literature down to its key themes and then applies them to the practice of law. Subsequent chapters consist of interviews with prominent female legal leaders and judges, and a set of scenarios that present the leadership goals of real-life female lawyers and a concise to-do list to achieve them. Learning to Lead goes well beyond hackneyed theoretical advice and instead provides clear, practical guidance for any type of leadership role in the law.

 

Road to Independence

The Road to Independence: 101 Women’s Journeys to Starting Their Own Law Firms
Edited by Karen M. Lockwood

The Road to Independence collects 101 first-hand accounts from women who started their own law practices. They provide invaluable wisdom, guidance, and inspiration to anyone who is considering embarking on this complicated and challenging path. Readers will benefit from the stark honesty contained in these letters, which spans confronting personal weaknesses, the inevitable financial worries, being undermined and doubted, and many more obstacles—but the takeaway is that it is absolutely possible to rise above the chatter, follow your own path, and build a thriving practice.

 

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Zero Tolerance: Best Practices for Combating Sex-Based Harassment in the Legal Profession
Executive Editor Wendi S. Lazar

Zero Tolerance is the third manual produced by the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession, which was founded in 1992 with the objective of eliminating sex-based harassment in the legal profession. This slim book packs a powerful punch by setting forth the legal framework to combat sex-based harassment and bullying at work. After examining the EEOC’s guidelines on the topic, seminal cases, and state statutes and rules of professional conduct, it delves into the emerging issues of bullying and implicit bias. These latter issues are particularly thorny because they do not always involve behavior that is technically illegal, but that behavior is nonetheless damaging to the victims and also to their workplaces. Full of strategies, training and prevention best practices, and instruction on how to both develop and enforce effective anti-harassment policies, this book is essential reading for the legal profession.


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October Book of the Month: To End a Presidency

End PresidencyTo End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment
By Laurence A. Tribe and Joshua Matz
Reviewed by Tony Pelczynski, Reference Assistant

In a recent New York Times book review of an entirely different book, law professor Josh Chafetz identified a nascent literary strain of Constitution-focused popular books that has proliferated since the 2016 presidential election: the “this-book-is-about-timeless-constitutional-truths-not-about-Trump-wink-wink subgenre.” To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment, by Laurence A. Tribe and Joshua Matz, is no such book. Its first line reads: “Impeachment haunts Trumpland,” and from there, pedal is firmly put to metal. There is no winking in To End a Presidency—it is crystal clear whose presidency the book’s title is contemplating.

While the topic of presidential impeachment is almost always politically polarizing, if not politically motivated (at least in contemporary times), Tribe and Matz deftly and skillfully run through impeachment’s Constitutional framework and history with a minimum of partisan fireworks. While impeachment is enshrined in the Constitution, a removal option reserved for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” committed by high-ranking officials, the Framers left the process largely undefined. As the authors point out, this may be chalked up to the usual series of legislative compromises and accommodations that underlie any such attempt to hammer out a foundational legal document. But in large part, this was also by design, as the Framers understood that as the United States grew and evolved, actions that might constitute impeachable offenses in 1789 might not look the same in, say, 2018 (and vice versa).

Tribe and Matz hold lucid opinions regarding the topic of Donald Trump’s impeachability, and they are not hesitant to express them. However, while the book’s pace is quick and the tone urgent, the authors repeatedly remind the reader that even though the threat of impeachment has, in recent decades, been treated as a political tool, no president has ever been directly removed by the impeachment process, and so we simply do not know what the implications of such a removal might be (of course, Richard Nixon likely came the closest to removal, but resigned before the impeachment process could actually run its course). Whatever one thinks of Trump, the authors seem to be saying, and because impeachment is such a grave option, we ought to think long and hard before invoking the process in a fit of partisan pique. As they note, there are other ways of obstructing the President’s agenda (including Congressional action/inaction), short of the “nuclear” option of impeachment.

white house

Photo by Aaron Kittredge on Pexels.com

Of course, in the modern era, the gravity of the impeachment process has never slowed down Congressional calls for its implementation. Prior to Nixon, presidential impeachment attempts were relatively rare. Post-Nixon, the specter of impeachment has been invoked against every subsequent president, with varying degrees of seriousness and plausibility. From calls to remove Gerald Ford for his pardon of Nixon, to attempts to strip Barack Obama of his presidency for the supposed “birth certificate issue” (Blake Farenholtz) and what the authors term claims of “unspecified ‘thuggery’” (hello, Michele Bachmann!), Tribe and Matz spotlight the seemingly never-ending parade of modern-day partisan calls for impeachment. While such demands have most often functioned as a form of political grandstanding, the impeachment process became truly weaponized during the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, a weaponization that has taken root in American politics, and from which, the authors fear, the American political process may never fully recover.

With impeachment talk currently permeating any discussion of Trump’s presidency, apparently within even Trump’s own administration (see the New York Times’ recent “I Am Part of the Resistance” anonymous op-ed; or reports of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s attempted recruitment of Trump cabinet members willing to invoke the 25th Amendment), those advocating for, or considering, Trump’s impeachment would be wise to peruse To End a Presidency, before the United States heads down a road from which it may never be able to turn back. If, at some point in the near future, impeachment proceedings become inevitable, due to either partisan tribalism or a genuine presidential threat to the nation and its rule of law, one hopes that the authors’ calls for caution and contemplation will have been heeded. In a time of inflamed political passions, Tribe and Matz have written a sober and well-researched discussion of the history surrounding, and the pitfalls of blithely invoking, a wrenching political process with which the nation has had little actual experience.

To End a Presidency was generously donated to the Library by Suzanne P. Marria.