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The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
8/22/2016 10:14:25 AM

Book Review: The Law-Making Process, Seventh Edition

By Michael Zander. The Law-Making Process, 7 edition. Hart, 2015. Paperback. 476 pp. 244 x 169 mm. ISBN 9781849465625 $59.99.

Legislation is the bread and butter of law librarians, and for most of us, it has  taken years to develop the expertise necessary to tackle the difficult research questions in our own jurisdictions. When it comes to providing research assistance for a jurisdiction outside of our own, we are often less confident than we would like to be. Therefore, finding a really good guide to the legislation of other jurisdictions is vital. Luckily, in the case of understanding the intricacies of the British law-making system, the recent publication of Michael Zander’s The Law-Making Process, Seventh Edition, has made the task so much easier.

Zander begins at the beginning, which is to say he starts with bills. He discusses the sources that eventually lead to the drafting of a bill (e.g., the reports of law commissions or government committees), along with the consultation process, the role of Cabinet, and then the process of drafting itself. How bills ultimately become law is explained next, and in great detail: we are shown how the various types of bills—i.e., public bills, private bills, hybrid bills and private members’ bills—make their way through a watchful Parliament.

The Law-Making Process provides essential information on finding statutes online, and then the book moves on to the complex matter of “statutory instruments” (SIs, which include rules, regulations, orders, etc.). A small number of these statutory instruments requires an “affirmative resolution” (in other words, the positive approval of Parliament) which means that Parliament must make time to debate them. The majority of statutory instruments, however, come into being via a “negative resolution” procedure. Parliament has 40 days to vote its disapproval, in some cases, after a statutory instrument has been laid in draft before Parliament, and in other cases, even after it has been “made and laid” (i.e., it has been signed off by the Minister and is no longer in draft form).

Zander also covers delegated legislation in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Each of these jurisdictions has its own Parliament with “delegated powers” from Westminster to pass certain types of laws. In subsequent chapters, he also discusses a number of other vital aspects of law-making: the doctrine of stare decisis in the court system; law reporting; and the central role of judges, including their background and appointment. This leads to an examination of the subject of diversity on the bench, and an exploration of such thorny issues as judicial bias and activist judges.

Where The Law-Making Process differs from many of its kind is this: it includes an enlightening section on statutory interpretation. Most books on the legal system, in my experience, ignore the topic of statutory interpretation, as though it’s an arcane matter for only judges, lawyers, and scholars to ponder when they come across statutory language that’s confusing or ambiguous. Zander, on the other hand, provides readers with an overview that lays out the subject in an easy-to-understand way that will show its importance to all readers interested in the making of law.

Overall, the book is thorough and well-written. While it serves nicely as an introduction to the subject, it is detailed enough to provide new information for researchers who might have thought they already knew the subject well. Academic libraries are most likely to benefit from owning a copy, although court house libraries might also find it useful. Indeed, Zander’s book is amongst the best on the English legal system. For those poor researchers obliged to wander out of their comfort-zone into what may be an alien field to them, it is both reassuring and reliable.

Review written by Nancy McCormack; Librarian and Associate Professor; Queen’s University; Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Posted By Heather Haemker at 8/22/2016 10:14:25 AM  0 Comments
3/1/2013 3:05:49 PM

Book Review: A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era, Vol. 1: Legislative Achievements

Mackey, Thomas C., ed., A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era, Vol. 1:  Legislative Achievements (Knoxville, Tenn.:  Univ. of Tenn. Press, 2012), 331 pp., ISBN: 1-57233-869-5, ISBN-13: 978-1-57233-869-2, $49.95 (hardcover)

Produced as part of the University of Tennessee Press’ “Voices of the Civil War” series, this volume is the first of a projected three-volume set compiling selected primary documents of the “Civil War era,” which covers a period ranging from the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 to the Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).  Each of the 51 document headings in the first volume, which focuses on legislative material, is introduced with an essay establishing a historical context for the document(s) contained therein.  Not surprisingly, by far the most prevalent source is the United States Statutes at Large.  Despite certain idiosyncratic editorial decisions and a few transcription errors in the primary documents, the first volume will prove a useful resource for historians of both legal and non-legal focus, and its value should increase once the remaining two volumes are released.

This first volume is intended to cover “Legislative Achievements”; the second, due out on April 15, “Political Arguments”; the third, release date to be announced, “Judicial Decisions.”  Given the stated organization, certain of the selections in this first volume may raise an eyebrow or two.  Excluding the presidential vetoes, which make sense in this context, there are three inclusions from the executive branch that pose a bit of a mystery, although one could say that two of them are quasi-legislative in character, and the third is combined with an act of the Kentucky House of Representatives.  Even so, this tends to make the set’s topical delineation a little counter-intuitive. 

As the introduction notes, the selection of documents “is not meant to be complete, just representative” (Mackey, supra, at xv).  Although the bulk of the selections have to do with the origins and conduct of the War and Reconstruction, with particular emphasis on civil rights, there are a couple of outliers as well—the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 and the National Banking Act of 1863, for example--which appear to have been included because of their long-term importance to modern American infrastructure.  Indeed, less than half of the selections actually occur during the Civil War, and, with a couple of exceptions, the volume disregards Confederate legislation.  The more extensive coverage is on the postwar period to 1878, with particular emphasis on the running battle between Andrew Johnson and the Republican Congress, culminating in Articles of Impeachment against the President in 1868.  I, for one, think this emphasis was an excellent decision, and, for the constitutional law scholar, the interplay between the Executive and Congress on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Reconstruction Acts, and the Freedmen’s Bureau Acts raises thorny issues echoed in the current Voting Rights Act debates—especially Johnson’s stated belief that there was no need for the legislation, and that it unfairly targeted Southern states. 

There are some very minor transcription errors, but they’re reasonably manageable with an application of context.  The work is also indexed well, although one or two items are placed out of chronological order—usually because paired with another document from an earlier date.  Ultimately, though, these don’t detract substantially from the work’s utility.

Overall, I found Mackey’s explanatory essays to be concise and informative.  The occasional repetition between them makes clear that this work isn’t intended primarily to be read cover-to-cover, but as a reference work for legal historians and political scientists.  The legal focus will also draw your constitutional law professors in, and I believe that the value of the selections will only increase when the other two volumes appear.  A preview of forthcoming content is even provided in the form of a chronology that lists all the primary documents in the set.  Whether your faculty’s field is civil rights, Con Law, or legal history, they should find this a convenient resource for primary source research into many of the laws that formed modern America.

David E. Matchen, Jr., is the Circulation/Reference Librarian at the University of Baltimore School of Law, and is trying his hand at fantasy baseball this season.

Posted By David Matchen at 3/1/2013 3:05:49 PM  0 Comments