sflawlibraryblog


Leave a comment

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.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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).


Leave a comment

February Book of the Month: Beyond Smart

Beyond SmartBeyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence
By Ronda Muir
Reviewed by Aaron Parsons, Reference Librarian

In Beyond Smart, attorney Rhonda Muir shows why emotional intelligence (EI) is an essential attribute for attorneys to develop for their practices and their lives. Companies like Google and Johnson & Johnson use emotional intelligence to improve employee performance, health, happiness, and profitability. Top business schools teach EI.

Ms. Muir explains what EI is—our ability to understand and regulate our emotions and those of others. She addresses law’s skeptical view of emotions and EI, and then makes the business case for developing emotional skills: EI makes attorneys smarter, healthier, happier, and more profitable. It can also help them become better negotiators and litigators. For example, EI can improve litigation effectiveness by helping attorneys recognize and work with the “gut” feeling that is a combination of many other skills and competencies. It also helps attorneys recognize when an emotional bias may be clouding their views on legal matters.

Chapters 5–7 help attorneys assess their current emotional intelligence, and provide guidance and resources to raise their emotional intelligence that include mindfulness practice, working on perception, empathy, and regulating emotions. One guide to improving mindfulness and emotional intelligence cited by Ms. Muir was developed from a training program at Google. A result was the book and workshops based on it: Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace), by Google’s Chade-Meng Tan, and available at the San Francisco Public Library.

Beyond Smart is one of several new additions to the San Francisco Law Library’s Law Practice Management Collection.


Leave a comment

January Book of the Month: My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My Own WordsMy Own Words
By Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Reviewed by Ruth Geos, Reference Librarian

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now 84, has been on the US Supreme Court—as of 2017—for 24 years. Deferring her own biography until after her court years are complete, her new book My Own Words (with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams) sketches out her life in vital strokes, first as a student already aware of inequities in the world, then as an advocate, professor, mother and wife, federal appellate court judge, and since 1993, Supreme Court justice. Far from dry and dusty, this collection of her writings, speeches, and other talks are laced with humor and personal perspective. They create a fascinating sidelong view of the life and mind of a sitting Supreme Court justice and the Court itself—with an added sideline into opera.

In a compelling preface, Justice Ginsburg writes that the Supreme Court’s main trust is to repair fractures in federal law and to step in when other courts have disagreed on what the relevant federal law requires. As the book closes, she makes clear her own intentions, and says that she will continue on the Court as long as she can do the job full steam.

Some of the charms of this collection include glimpses into the personal development of who we think we know as Justice RBG. At Cornell as an undergraduate, she had Vladimir Nabokov as her professor of European literature, and learned about the creative power of words well-chosen. Voted unanimously out of the kitchen by her family in favor of her husband’s culinary skills, her work ethic of long and extended hours continues. She also details how the Supreme Court actually works, day to day and session to session, giving an outline of the “workways” of how the justices share the workload, the collegiality among the members of the Court even in the face of doctrinal differences, and the distinct value of dissents.

My Own Words is highly recommended reading that happens to be both enjoyable and informative. It is a view into one of our most scintillating members of the Supreme Court—a woman of substance and style, with an enduring dedication to equal dignity under the law.

As a bonus, take a look at the interview with Justice Ginsburg earlier this year at the Aspen Institute, where she answers questions about her life, the court, and her special views of how the court makes a difference to all of our lives. http://www.scotusblog.com/media/justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg-discusses-book-words/

The Law Library thanks Shannon K. Mauer of Duane Mauer LLP for generously donating this title. To learn how you can donate, please see our Donation Guide.


Leave a comment

December Book of the Month: Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz

Woman Lawyer

Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz
By Barbara Babcock
Reviewed by Andrea Woods, Reference Librarian

This engaging biography examines the life of Clara Foltz, who in 1878 was the first woman to be admitted to the California Bar. After she was abandoned by her husband and left with five young children to care for, she quickly surmised that the traditional “women’s work” of sewing, taking in boarders, and teaching would not provide sufficient income for her family. So she set out to be a lawyer. But first, she needed to remove the obstacle posed by the California Code of Civil Procedure—it stated that only a “white male citizen” could apply for the bar. Ms. Foltz and her allies worked tirelessly to see the enactment of the Woman Lawyer’s Act in 1878, which was among the first American statutes to allow women to practice law, and likely the first that resulted from the legislative process, as opposed to a court order.

The legacy of Ms. Foltz doesn’t end there. In 1879, she successfully argued in the California Supreme Court for the right to continue her education at the new Hastings College of the Law. She was a passionate and persuasive orator for the women’s suffrage movement, and while suffrage did not pass at the California Constitutional Convention of 1879, the women’s lobby managed to secure the addition of a clause guaranteeing equal employment opportunity for women—the first of its kind in any American constitution. And she pioneered the concept of the public defender’s office to ensure procedural fairness—a concept that is now commonplace, but was revolutionary at the time.

Woman Lawyer is a fascinating exploration of not only Clara Foltz’s life and legal thinking, but also of the roiling social and political climate that marked the turn of the century. A story of noble ideals and the hard work it takes to achieve them, this book is a must read!

The Law Library thanks Shannon K. Mauer of Duane Mauer LLP for generously donating this title. To learn how you can donate, please see our Donation Guide.


Leave a comment

November Book of the Month: Managing Environmental Risk

Managing Enviro Risk

Managing Environmental Risk: Real Estate and Business Transactions, 2016-2017
By Jennifer L. Machlin and Tomme R. Young
Reviewed by Courtney Nguyen

Recent events have shown that environmental risks should not be ignored when entering into a real estate or business transaction. To help attorneys and other real estate professionals identify and address environmental liability risks, the library has Managing Environmental Risk: Real Estate and Business Transactions by environmental law specialists Jennifer L. Machlin and Tomme R. Young. Intended for both specialists and nonspecialists, this wide-ranging softbound book concisely explains environmental liability risks and also serves as a more practical problem-solving tool for attorneys. Machlin and Young offer a summary of the most important features of all the major federal statutes related to environmental regulation (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, etc.), which often serve as models for state statutes. The authors also discuss general federal standards which highlight the most common types of environmental liabilities that could be triggered by certain transactions.

In addition to discussing statutory and common law sources of liability, Managing Environmental Risk also takes into consideration the concerns of the various parties involved, making this book accessible to more than just attorneys. Alongside reference materials, practitioners will also find checklists and drafting suggestions for transactional planning, as well as sample provisions for drafting documents. This title is also available in its entirety through our Westlaw database. Find this and many more environmental law titles at the Library today!

The library would like to thank the author, Jennifer Machlin, for generously donating this title. To learn how you can donate, please see our Donation Guide.