AALL Spectrum Blog

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This blog provides a space for conversations about articles and ideas found in AALL Spectrum, the monthly magazine of the American Association of Law Libraries. The previous blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
4/4/2013 12:00:22 PM

Newsletter Highlights

ORALL Newsletter, March 2013--This issue contains an article explaining how the notetaking software Evernote can be used to improve one's organization and productivity, a report on the activities of the Coalition of Ohio County Law Library Resource Boards, and a review of 2012 AALL meeting programs on how libraries can help pro se patrons and the Access to Justice movement.

Southeastern Law Librarian, Winter 2013--Two items of particular interest are a librarian's deliberations on whether to pursue a JD mid-career, and a profile of the activities of the Mississippi College School of Law Library.

ALLUNY Newsletter: March 2013--This issue includes a short discussion of the usefulness of ebooks for law libraries and a column encouraging librarians to step outside their comfort zones to develop professionally.

Posted By Benjamin Keele at 4/4/2013 12:00:22 PM  0 Comments
4/3/2013 4:45:04 PM

Book Review: Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition

Smits, Jan M., ed., Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, 2nd ed. (Cheltenham, U.K. : Edward Elgar, 2012), 1017 pp., incl. index and introductory material.  ISBN: 978-1-84980-415-8 (hardcover), $365.00

                 This single-volume encyclopedia, a collection of topical and location-specific essay-length entries on comparative law, is the second edition of a volume that was published in 2006 from the same editor.  The location coverage is not as complete as one might like, and the price tag is quite steep, but there’s still plenty of coverage, particularly on the topical end, and this is the sort of resource for which there aren’t a great number of current alternatives in English.  The primary market is probably comparative/international law faculty, although practitioners attempting to gain a working familiarity with a foreign jurisdiction will find certain portions of the encyclopedia useful.  The quality of the writing is quite high, and the work reflects an appropriate amount of editorial control in order to keep the articles concise.  Assuming the preface is correct about the “comparative law explosion” over the last 20 years, successive editions are likely, and you’ll probably be buying one of these every 6-7 years, so, factor that into your buying decision accordingly. 

                One of the work’s major selling points is its topical breadth.  The encyclopedia’s coverage ranges from general essays on tort law or legal culture to more specific facets, such as accident compensation or transfer of movable property.  It should also be noted that two of the topics, “Corporate Responsibility” and “Transnational Law, Evolving,” are new to this edition.  Given that the bulk of comparative law treatises tend to specialize, it is nice to find a resource that gathers so much together under one cover.  The authors, all law faculty or NGO officials, are presumably experts in their assigned subject areas, but the biographical/professional information is limited to a line or three on their current positions.[1]  I might have preferred a short biographical paragraph attached to each article.  As far as the articles carried over from the first edition are concerned, either the original authors or new co-authors have been asked to update them to account for emerging issues over the last six years. 

                The selection of location-specific articles appears to reflect the serendipitous availability of an author who could write a concise article on the state of that country’s law.  The vast majority are from European jurisdictions—perhaps a byproduct of the fact that the editor is on the faculty at Maastricht.  This edition introduces articles on France, Turkey, Finland, and China, giving a sort of work-in-progress feel to this portion of the enterprise.  Certainly, with a work like this, the logistical difficulty involved in getting articles covering every country would be monumental—particularly when political instability is factored in--but there are still some economically-active jurisdictions you might miss, like Indonesia or South Korea. 

                The organization of the encyclopedia is a reasonably intuitive alphabetical order, although certain topics might require a quick browse of the table of contents to see where they might be covered. Each essay comes complete with an extensive bibliography, so there’s no hunting in the back for further reading specific to the topic in which you’re interested.  The encyclopedia also comes equipped with a lengthy index. 

                Certainly there is more thorough competition on the market—the Max Planck encyclopedias, for instance, were published last year, but at a much higher price point—the one on public international law, for instance, is ten volumes.  The Elgar encyclopedia, however, represents perhaps the only current English publication on comparative law that covers so many topics under one volume.  If your goal is a thumbnail sketch on the organization of various legal systems, their legal doctrines, and the current state of jurisprudence, then this volume has a lot going for it.  I’d hesitate to call it comprehensive, but the relative lack of other similar offerings and the probable length of time between editions may justify the high price tag for you and your patrons.

David E. Matchen, Jr., is the Circulation/Reference Librarian at the University of Baltimore Law Library, and has more Cardinals than Cubs on his fantasy baseball team, for which he apologizes abjectly.


[1] Shout-out to Prof. Vernon Valentine Palmer of Tulane Law School, who wrote the “Mixed Jurisdictions” entry.

Posted By David Matchen at 4/3/2013 4:45:04 PM  0 Comments
3/30/2013 4:52:40 PM

Book Review - The Tokyo Rose Case: Treason on Trial

The Tokyo Rose Case: Treason on Trial, Yasuhide Kawashima. University Press of Kansas, 2013. 177 pages, paperback, $17.95.


The Tokyo Rose Case: Treason on Trial is a book on a mission. History professor Yasuhide Kawashima’s thorough recounting of the life and trials - both judicial and metaphorical - of Iva Ikuku Toguri d’Aquino, an American citizen wrongly convicted of and imprisoned for treason for radio broadcasts she made in Japan during World War II, seeks at every turn to drive home the injustice of that conviction. Part of the Landmark Law Cases and American Society series and calling itself the first legal history of d’Aquino’s case, The Tokyo Rose Case is an engaging, if imperfect, work, one that particularly academic and public law libraries should consider for inclusion in their collections.


In a series of cleanly organized chapters, Kawashima meticulously relates how d’Aquino came to be known as the infamous “Tokyo Rose”, the popular but vague term for a Japanese female radio correspondent who supposedly disseminated Japanese propaganda over the airwaves during World War II. (There in fact was never any one woman positively identified as the Tokyo Rose; the term instead was applied by U.S. soldiers to a number of English-speaking Japanese female broadcasters.) He then takes the reader through a day-by-day account of her 1949 trial, the appeals that followed, and finally her pardon by President Gerald Ford in 1977 - making d’Aquino the first person in the United States to be pardoned for treason.


Adhering to the format of all books in the Landmark Law Cases and American Society series, formal citations are absent throughout the text in order to make the narrative more accessible for a wider audience. Instead, in a “Bibliographic Essay” at the end of the volume, Kawashima details the types and titles of the many primary and secondary sources, both legal and non-legal, on which he relied. Legal sources listed range from case law on treason to manuscript records of d’Aquino’s trial to a wide array of law review articles. The Essay is a concise and useful starting point for anyone wishing to read more about d’Aquino’s story, the topic of treason generally, or the experience of Japanese-Americans in the United States during World War II. (Regretfully, while the reader is told in an Editors’ Preface that Kawashima accessed a number of Japanese language materials as well, these sources are not covered in the Bibliographic Essay.) While the book lacks an index, a detailed timeline aids the reader in following along with the many intricate aspects of d’Aquino’s case.


The many compelling details presented in the book are, unfortunately, occasionally somewhat undercut by the author’s writing style. Kawashima is clearly - and rightly - outraged by the events leading up to, throughout, and after d’Aquino’s trial, all of which seemed to thwart her chances at fair treatment at nearly every turn. Yet his commentary on these events often grows heavy-handed, which is most noticeable by the time we reach the chapters recounting the trial. As an example, the author’s individual statements on the trial judge’s lack of fairness and apparently inherent bias toward the defendant are consistently strongly-worded, repetitive, and indignant, all of which only distract the reader from the overall narration of the legal events at hand. The reader is in fact warned ahead of time in the Editors’ Preface that Kawashima “pulls no punches” in his treatment of this topic. But based on the thoroughness and strength of the many sources Kawashima consulted, and the liberal use of direct quotations from the many individuals involved in the Tokyo Rose saga, one sometimes wishes that he had more often let those sources speak for themselves.


Alyssa Thurston is Research & Electronic Services Librarian at the Pepperdine University School of Law Library in Malibu, CA.

Posted By Alyssa Thurston at 3/30/2013 4:52:40 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book reviews