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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. The previous Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
8/20/2012 5:18:51 PM

Book Review: Disrobed: An Inside Look at the Life and Work of a Federal Trial Judge

Frederic Block, Disrobed: An Inside Look at the Life and Work of a Federal Trial Judge, West Publishing, 2012, 445 pages, inclusive of endnotes & index of names, Hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-314-60662-4

Frederic Block has been a United States District Court judge in the Eastern District of New York for almost 20 years.  He worked in private practice for 34 years prior to being appointed to the bench.  This book would be an excellent addition to any law library as it offers a tremendous insight into the federal judiciary.  Judge Block divided his book into three parts: Part I: Getting There; Part II: Being There; and Part III: The Big Three.

Part I sets the tone for the rest of the book.  It is a great introduction to Judge Block, the man, and his road to the judicial bench.  Judge Block provides readers an insightful, often humorous, view of his journey to the bench.  He starts with his childhood, through college, law school and judicial clerkship.  He discusses his decision to go into private practice and how his rather unconventional practice, with all its political landmines, led to his appointment to the judicial bench.  Part II talks about being a new judge and how he found his place on the bench.  He speaks of his judicial colleagues, often with humor but always with respect.  He explains how he came to run his courtroom and how he handles the lawyers, the juries, and the parties who appear before him.  Part III of his book provides insider information to some of the more sensational cases of his career on the bench, including the race riots in Crown Heights, the Peter Gotti trial and his brush with more recent terrorism cases and many more.

Judge Block wrote in the introduction he was unaware of any book written by a federal judge for the general public “that is at once informative, provocative, and engaging” and he hoped that [Disrobed] is that book.  He succeeded on all counts.  Disrobed is a must have for any law library.

Posted By Whitney Curtis at 8/20/2012 5:18:51 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book reviews
8/20/2012 5:00:39 PM

Help Your Staff Achieve Their Peak Performance

A major responsibility of every supervisor and manager is to work with staff to ensure that they deliver the best performance possible. Coaching and counseling are the two critical processes that supervisors and managers must know and use. Coaching is the process through which staff develop their skills and and receive guidance on work expectations. Counseling is the process used when serious problems occur--when coaching is not working.

Attend the AALL webinar, Coaching and Counseling: Ensuring Staff Performance Is On Track, on October 3, 11 a.m. CDT, to learn when to use coaching and/or counseling, how to build positive work relationships, the key steps in progressive discipline, and addressing performance problems.

Participants will:

  • Learn the principles and practices of effective coaching and counseling
  • Discuss ways to establish and build work relationships with staff based upon trust and shared commitment
  • Understand how to determine when to shift from coaching to counseling
  • Review a model that describes the key steps in progressive discipline
  • Explore ways to address serious performance problems and be ready to exercise serious disciplinary action, including termination

Register by September 26!

Cost: $30/members; $60/nonmembers; $150/site registration

Posted By Julia O'Donnell at 8/20/2012 5:00:39 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: webinars
8/14/2012 3:07:03 PM

Book Review: When International Law Works: Realistic Idealism After 9/11 and the Global Recession

Cheng, Tai-Heng. When International Law Works: Realistic Idealism After 9/11 and the Global Recession. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 341p. Hardcover, $65. ISBN 978-0-19-537017-1. 

One of the ongoing questions about international law is whether or not it is law at all. Rather than offer another response to this question, Tai-Heng Cheng asks his own question: how should those in the international arena make their decisions? Should they be guided by past examples? Their own moral compass? Or by some other mechanism? When International Law Works: Realistic Idealism After 9/11 and the Global Recession is Cheng’s attempt to answer this question. His “[…] goal is not to provide algorithms for elites to decide what to do, or to nullify their discretion in making decisions,” he writes, but rather “it is, more modestly, to provide a framework to guide their analysis of problems and their exercise of their judgment and discretion” (p. 16). This book offers a fresh, practical look at an area of law that can often seem bogged down by theory.

Cheng does not simply drop readers into his new approach. Rather, the book begins with an examination of prior theories about international law, focusing especially on the role politics can play in these ongoing debates amongst jurists and scholars. Next, Cheng begins to lay out his own “justificatory theory of international law” (p. 73). The reader is given a careful analysis of how decisionmakers must balance a general desire for “optimum world order” (p. 119) with the individual needs of their own citizens. Once the framework for this theory is presented, the next several chapters focus on how this theory might play out for judges, arbitrators, regulators, legal advisors, and officials. Each chapter gives specific examples, from the recent economic crisis to waterboarding and the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia. The book then concludes with a reminder of its purpose: not to provide “controlling instructions” (p. 301) but to offer guidance for the future based on a careful analysis of past actions and theory.

When International Law Works is written in an extremely forthright and meticulous way. Cheng is always careful to provide the reader with a roadmap: each chapter begins with a straight-forward description of where it will go and concludes with a straight-forward recap of how it got there. The reader is not left guessing about the author’s stance, but is rather guided with respect and attention – a style much appreciated for an otherwise dense topic.

This attention to detail is also reflected in the careful footnoting and the extensive bibliography and index. Cheng does not just look at cases or articles, but examines parliamentary debates, draft resolutions, senate testimonies, and keynote addresses, among others. The index also provides useful hints to readers, such as by listing when significant voices comment on a given topic (e.g. “George W. Bush on waterboarding”).

With When International Law Works: Realistic Idealism After 9/11 and the Global Recession, Cheng offers a significant new look at international legal theory. It is clearly written, well-researched, and a balanced look at this area of law. Highly recommended for academic law libraries.

Deborah Schander is a Reference/Student Services Librarian at Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta.

Posted By Deborah Schander at 8/14/2012 3:07:03 PM  0 Comments