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Featured Acquisitions - May 2012

 

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Democracy Reborn: the Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America by Garrett Epps
New York: H. Holt, 2006
KF4757 .E67 2006 Balcony

A riveting narrative of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, an act which revolutionized the U.S. constitution and shaped the nation's destiny in the wake of the Civil War. Though the end of the Civil War and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation inspired optimism for a new, happier reality for blacks, in truth the battle for equal rights was just beginning. Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's successor, argued that the federal government could not abolish slavery. In Johnson's America, there would be no black voting, no civil rights for blacks. When a handful of men and women rose to challenge Johnson, the stage was set for a bruising constitutional battle. Garrett Epps, a novelist and constitutional scholar, takes the reader inside the halls of the Thirty-ninth Congress to witness the dramatic story of the Fourteenth Amendment's creation. At the book's center are a cast of characters every bit as fascinating as the Founding Fathers. Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, among others, understood that only with the votes of freed blacks could the American Republic be saved. Democracy Reborn offers an engrossing account of a definitive turning point in our nation's history and the significant legislation that reclaimed the democratic ideal of equal rights for all U.S. citizens.


   

Indian Country by Peter Matthiessen
New York: Viking Press, 1984
E98.L3 M38 1984 Basement

After winning an eight year legal battle, here is the controversial book that powerfully sheds new light on the plight of Native Americans. Matthiessen's urgent accounts and absorbing journalistic details make it impossible to ignore the message they so eloquently proclaim.


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Cosmic Constitutional Theory : Why Americans Are Losing Their Inalienable Right to Self-Governance by J. Harvie Wilkinson III
Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012
KF4552 .W55 2012 Balcony

American constitutional law has undergone a transformation. Issues once left to the people have increasingly become the province of the courts. Subjects as diverse as abortion rights and firearms regulations, health care reform and counterterrorism efforts, not to mention a millennial presidential election, are more and more the domain of judges. What sparked this development? In this engaging volume, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson argues that America's most brilliant legal minds have launched a set of cosmic constitutional theories that, for all their value, are undermining self-governance. Thinkers as diverse as Justices William Brennan and Antonin Scalia, Professor John Hart Ely, Judges Robert Bork and Richard Posner, have all produced seminal interpretations of our Founding document, but ones that promise to imbue courts with unprecedented powers. While crediting the theorists for the sparkling quality of their thoughts, Judge Wilkinson argues they will slowly erode the role of representative institutions in America and leave our children bereft of democratic liberty. The loser in all the theoretical fireworks is the old and honorable tradition of judicial restraint. The judicial modesty once practiced by Learned Hand, John Harlan, and Oliver Wendell Holmes has given way to competing schools of liberal and conservative activism seeking sanctuary in Living Constitutionalism, Originalism, Process Theory, or the supposedly anti-theoretical creed of Pragmatism. Each of these seemingly disparate theories promises their followers an intellectually respectable route to congenial political outcomes from the bench. Judge Wilkinson calls for a plainer, simpler, self-disciplined commitment to judicial restraint and democratic governance, a course that alas may be impossible so long as the cosmic constitutionalists so dominate contemporary legal thought.


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Framed: America's Fifty-One Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance by Sanford Levinson
New York: Oxford University Press, 2012
KF4530 .L48 2012 Balcony

In his widely acclaimed volume Our Undemocratic Constitution, Sanford Levinson boldly argued that our Constitution should not be treated with "sanctimonious reverence," but as a badly flawed document deserving revision. Now Levinson takes us deeper, asking what were the original assumptions underlying our institutions, and whether we accept those assumptions 225 years later. In Framed, Levinson challenges our belief that the most important features of our constitutions concern what rights they protect. Instead, he focuses on the fundamental procedures of governance such as congressional bicameralism; the selection of the President by the electoral college, or the dimensions of the President's veto power--not to mention the near impossibility of amending the United States Constitution. These seemingly "settled" and "hardwired" structures contribute to the now almost universally recognized "dysfunctionality" of American politics. Levinson argues that we should stop treating the United States Constitution as uniquely exemplifying the American constitutional tradition. We should be aware of the 50 state constitutions, often interestingly different - and perhaps better - than the national model. Many states have updated their constitutions by frequent amendment or by complete replacement via state constitutional conventions. California's ungovernable condition has prompted serious calls for a constitutional convention. This constant churn indicates that basic law often reaches the point where it fails and becomes obsolete. Given the experience of so many states, he writes, surely it is reasonable to believe that the U.S. Constitution merits its own updating. Whether we are concerned about making America more genuinely democratic or only about creating a system of government that can more effectively respond to contemporary challenges, we must confront the ways our constitutions, especially the United States Constitution, must be changed in fundamental ways.


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Reclaiming the Petition Clause: Seditious Libel, "Offensive" Protest, and the Right to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances by Ronald J. Krotoszynski, Jr.
New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2012
KF4780 .K76 2012 Balcony

Since the 2004 presidential campaign, when the Bush presidential advance team prevented anyone who seemed unsympathetic to their candidate from attending his ostensibly public appearances, it has become commonplace for law enforcement officers and political event sponsors to classify ordinary expressions of dissent as security threats and to try to keep officeholders as far removed from possible protest as they can. Thus without formally limiting free speech the government places arbitrary restrictions on how, when, and where such speech may occur.
 

 

 


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Hollywood's Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet by Peter Decherney
New York: Columbia University Press, 2012
KF3070 .D43 2012 Balcony

Copyright law is important to every stage of media production and reception. It helps determine filmmakers' artistic decisions, Hollywood's corporate structure, and the varieties of media consumption. The rise of digital media and the internet has only expanded copyright's reach. Everyone from producers and screenwriters to amateur video makers, file sharers, and internet entrepreneurs has a stake in the history and future of piracy, copy protection, and the public domain. Beginning with Thomas Edison's aggressive copyright disputes and concluding with recent lawsuits against YouTube, Hollywood's Copyright Wars follows the struggle of the film, television, and digital media industries to influence and adapt to copyright law. Many of Hollywood's most valued treasures, from Modern Times (1936) to Star Wars (1977), cannot be fully understood without appreciating their legal controversies. Peter Decherney shows that the history of intellectual property in Hollywood has not always mirrored the evolution of the law. Many landmark decisions have barely changed the industry's behavior, while some quieter policies have had revolutionary effects. His most remarkable contributions uncover Hollywood's reliance on self-regulation. Rather than involve congress, judges, or juries in settling copyright disputes, studio heads and filmmakers have often kept such arguments "in house," turning to talent guilds and other groups for solutions. Whether the issue has been battling piracy in the 1900s, controlling the threat of home video, or managing modern amateur and noncommercial uses of protected content, much of Hollywood's engagement with the law has occurred offstage, in the larger theater of copyright. Decherney's unique history recounts these extralegal solutions and their impact on American media and culture.


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Lords of the Land: Indigenous Property Rights and the Jurisprudence of empire by Mark Hickford
Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2011
KUQ2562 .H53 2011 Basement

The recognition and allocation of indigenous property rights have long posed complex questions for the imperial powers of the mid-nineteenth century and their modern successors. Recognizing rights of property raises questions about pre-existing indigenous authority and power over land that continue to trouble the people and governments of settler states. Through focusing on the settlement of New Zealand during the critical period of the 1830s through to the early 1860s, this book offers a fresh assessment of the histories of indigenous property rights and the jurisprudence of empire. It shows how native title became not only a key construct for relations between Empire and tribes, but how it acted more broadly as a constitutional frame within which discourses of political authority formed and were contested at the heart of Empire and the colonial peripheries. Native title thus becomes another episode in imperial political history in which increasingly fierce and highly polemical contestation burst into violence. Native title explodes as a form of civil war that lays the foundation (by Maori ever after challenged) for revised constitutional orders. Lords of the Land considers histories of indigenous property rights not only as the stuff of entwined streams of a law of nations and constitutional theory but also as exemplars of the politics of negotiability - engaging relations of struggle and ambition for power, together with the openness and limits of incoming settler polities towards indigenous polities and laws. This study is an examination of rights as instruments of analysis and political discourse, constructed and contested in and through time. Anchored in the striking experiences of New Zealand and the politics of trans-oceanic empire, it tells a tale of indigenous political autonomy and how the vocabularies of property rights mediated relations between empire and the indigenous political communities found in newly settled lands.


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The Revolutionary Constitution by David J. Bodenhamer
Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012
KF4541 .B65 2012 Balcony

The framers of the Constitution chose their words carefully when they wrote of a more perfect union--not absolutely perfect, but with room for improvement. Indeed, we no longer operate under the same Constitution as that ratified in 1788, or even the one completed by the Bill of Rights in 1791--because we are no longer the same nation. In The Revolutionary Constitution, David J. Bodenhamer provides a comprehensive new look at America's basic law, integrating the latest legal scholarship with historical context to highlight how it has evolved over time. The Constitution, he notes, was the product of the first modern revolution, and revolutions are, by definition, moments when the past shifts toward an unfamiliar future, one radically different from what was foreseen only a brief time earlier. In seeking to balance power and liberty, the framers established a structure that would allow future generations to continually readjust the scale. Bodenhamer explores this dynamic through seven major constitutional themes: federalism, balance of powers, property, representation, equality, rights, and security. With each, he takes a historical approach, following their changes over time. For example, the framers wrote multiple protections for property rights into the Constitution in response to actions by state governments after the Revolution. But twentieth-century courts--and Congress--redefined property rights through measures such as zoning and the designation of historical landmarks (diminishing their commercial value) in response to the needs of a modern economy. The framers anticipated just such a future reworking of their own compromises between liberty and power. With up-to-the-minute legal expertise and a broad grasp of the social and political context, this book is a tour de force of Constitutional history and analysis.


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Prosecution Complex : America's Race to Convict and its Impact on the Innocent by Daniel S. Medwed
New York: New York University Press, 2012
KF9640 .M43 2012 Balcony

American prosecutors are asked to play two roles within the criminal justice system: they are supposed to be ministers of justice whose only goals are to ensure fair trials, whatever the outcomes of those trials might be--and they are also advocates of the government whose success rates are measured by how many convictions they get. Because of this second role, sometimes prosecutors suppress evidence in order to establish a defendant's guilt and safeguard that conviction over time. Daniel S. Medwed, a recognized authority on wrongful convictions, has wrestled with these issues for nearly fifteen years, ever since he accepted a job as a public defender with the Legal Aid Society of New York City. Combining his hands-on experience in the courtroom and his role as a teacher and scholar in the classroom, Medwed shows how prosecutors are told to lock up criminals and protect the rights of defendants. This double role creates an institutional "prosecution complex" that animates how district attorneys' offices treat potentially innocent defendants at all stages of the process--and that can cause prosecutors to aid in the conviction of the innocent. Ultimately, Prosecution Complex is not intended to portray prosecutors as rogue officials indifferent to the conviction of the innocent, but rather to explain why, while most prosecutors aim to do justice, only some hit that target consistently.