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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.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
7/8/2016 6:12:40 PM

Book Review: Of Courtiers and Kings: More Stories of Supreme Law Clerks and Their Justices

Edited by Todd C. Peppers and Clare Cushman. Of Courtiers and Kings More Stories of Supreme Court Law Clerks and Their Justices, University of Virginia Press, 2015. Cloth · 448 pp. · 6.13 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813937267 $34.95.

The J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham young university has been blessed with several faculty members who clerked at the United States Supreme Court. At our monthly fall faculty meetings, these onetime clerks will, from time to time, share some of their experiences. The stories are never about the cases, the hours or the draft opinions. Instead, they are funny stories about the human beings on the Court and we often end up nearly out of sorts with laughter. Of Courtiers and Kings does not aim for that result. It does however, offer one of the best sources for understanding what has become an important institution as evidenced by law schools touting clerkships as a crowning achievement of their alumni, which is a pretty sure path to faculty lunch tables, the bench, and partnerships. This book will be a welcome addition to both academic and larger public law libraries.

The book covers the whole history of the institution of Supreme Court clerkships through historical essays and personal recollections. It is not, nor does it purport to be, a comprehensive history or an analysis of the institution. It does, however, allow the reader to track the changes over time and form some preliminary opinions on important questions such as ‘what role they should play and if they have full exert influence over the Justices.’

For example, the historical essays convey the lowly state of the first clerks who were expected to be clerks, by taking care of the mail, bills, and other details of life without daring to intrude into legal decision making. Legal research help was slowly added in. Then came the cert petitions and only in more modern times, drafting opinions. In connection with this change of duties, it appears from the various essays and remembrances that the clerkship has become more of an institution and less of an individualized experience. I noted the steady move away from the intense mentoring, almost paternal in nature, that clerks once received, which has now been replaced with professional relationships and career and life help ranging from nonexistent to moderate. I noted that some clerks were once expected to be in the home of their justice, never venturing to the courtroom, whereas now they go to the courthouse and basically live there. It noted that one-on-one (or even one-on-four) discussion of cases and opinions have become rare with one justice going so far as to require clerks to drop drafts through a slot and providing written feedback weeks later.

As to what influence the clerks have on actual decisions, the essays and remembrances suggest “not much if any." True, Justice Frankfurter, the reader is told by several former clerks, would track down clerks to lobby them for their boss’ vote or berate them if the other Justice voted the wrong way. But as told by these clerks at least, the justices make up their own minds and clerks do not sway their opinion. Examples included Justice Clark flatly refusing to change his vote in a case where his vote was not decisive and his clerks feared for the reaction his vote would cause, as well as Chief Justice Warren refusing to vote to outlaw prosecution for public drunkenness as that would lead states to send alcoholics into civil commitment proceedings. Perhaps the most compelling material on how clerks are not likely to move a justice into a positon he or she does not want to go comes from the accounts of justices, their clerks, and sports. Justice White gave no quarter on the basketball court and appears to have allowed his clerks little if any influence on his votes or reasoning. Justice Black was so intent on winning that he willingly ran into a wall dozens of times rather than allow his clerk to win a point. Chief Justice Rehnquist was so intent on having intense tennis events that he declined to add a fourth clerk so as to keep his doubles pairings intact. Men and women who won’t yield on something that I perceive to be trivial are not likely to be swayed on issues of constitutional law or judicial philosophy.

As a mostly primary source, the book does not attempt to reconcile the picture of hard working, young attorneys with limited power or influence with large signing bonuses, prime post-clerk opportunities in government, and available law clerks as opposed to the professional suicide that clerk’s experienced well into the twentieth century. We will need to await a scholar to explain why the legal community places so much prestige on people who mostly give recommendations about petitions for review and have been strongly encouraged to recommend ‘no.’ Until that new work comes out, however, Of Couriers and Kings belongs on the shelf of every academic law library and in those larger public law libraries with room in the budget for important works which are not primary authority or practitioner oriented.

©William R. Gaskill, Reviewer, 2016.  Reference and Collection Development Librarian, Howard W. Hunter Law Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. gaskillw@law.byu.edu

Posted By William Gaskill at 7/8/2016 6:12:40 PM  0 Comments
6/28/2016 12:42:40 PM

Book Review: Knowledge Management for Lawyers

Patrick DiDomenico, Knowledge Management for Lawyers, American Bar Association, 2015, 376 pages, inclusive of appendix and index, Paperback, $129.95, ISBN 978-1-62722-271-6

Cover to Knowledge Management for Lawyers by Patrick DiDomenico

In Knowledge Management for Lawyers, Patrick DiDomenico introduces basic knowledge management principles and discusses in detail the practicalities of implementing an effective program at a legal organization. The material is suitable for a wide-range of readers, from individuals unfamiliar with knowledge management to more experienced practitioners. However, the book focuses primarily on the process of implementing a knowledge management program at larger organizations. Consequently, it may be of limited use to small firms or to individual lawyers or law students interested in adopting knowledge management principles into their personal workflow.  

Even though DiDomenico targets a broad audience, due to his cogent explanations and the text’s logical organization, the book does not suffer from this breadth. Each chapter begins with a content overview and a suggested target audience (lawyer leaders, administrative leaders, and casual readers). End-of-chapter summaries of key points and a detailed table of contents and index are also provided. These tools permit readers to easily find sections of the book relevant to their interests and experience level, while permitting them to get a sense of the contents of any sections that they skipped.   

DiDomenico focuses on teaching readers how to talk about knowledge management in a way that will generate buy-in from stakeholders. His advice is practical and actionable. Despite drawing on his own experiences, DiDomenico is mindful of the fact that no two organizations are the same and he urges readers to identify the strategies that will be successful at their organization in light of work culture and other differences.

DiDomenico peppers his explanations with informative and relatable anecdotes taken from his career and collected from interviews with other knowledge management leaders. These real-world examples ground his discussion and help the book adhere to its stated goal of being a “practical guide to implementing knowledge management.” DiDomenico’s tone is clear and conversational. The writing remains engaging even as he delves into finer points of knowledge management, including an examination of the organizational structures of different knowledge management departments.

One drawback to DiDomenico’s use of his career and the careers of his peers is that many of the examples he uses in illustrating implementation of knowledge management techniques are from 10 to 15 years ago when he and his contemporaries established their knowledge management departments. DiDomenico’s appendix of stories detailing how knowledge management professionals got started in the field does include some individuals who are newer to the profession. But his section on how people can get started in a knowledge management career today is a slim two pages.

However, it is hard to fault DiDomenico for not focusing more on relative-newcomers to knowledge management. It is only because the book does such an excellent job distilling broad and complex topics into comprehensible sections that I noticed the few occasions when I was left wanting more. Of course, a single book cannot and should not explore every possible avenue. Ultimately, Knowledge Management for Lawyers is better for choosing to focus on its primary goal of providing readers with the tools needed to introduce knowledge management practices into their organization.

Overall, Knowledge Management for Lawyers is detailed and well-researched. It could serve as the primary guide for an organization that is interested in establishing a knowledge management department or for an organization that would like to incorporate knowledge management principles into its enterprise. However, although there are references to other helpful materials and relevant professional associations throughout the book, the lack of a bibliography or a discrete section on further reading lessens its ability to serve as a comprehensive resource. Nevertheless, this book would be a valuable reference guide for any organizational leaders interested in knowledge management.

Paul Riermaier. Reviewer, 2016. Research & Information Specialist, Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, Philadelphia, PA, priermaier@mmwr.com. 


Posted By Paul Riermaier at 6/28/2016 12:42:40 PM  0 Comments
5/23/2016 8:49:30 AM

Book Review: Ferguson's Fault Lines: The Race Quake that Rocked a Nation

Kimberly Jade Norwood, Editor, Ferguson’s Fault Lines: The Race Quake that Rocked a Nation, American Bar Association, 2016, 276 pages, inclusive of index, Paperback, $49.95, ISBN 978-1-63425-372-7  

Ferguson’s Fault Lines: The Race Quake that Rocked a Nation brings together contributing authors from a variety of fields within law, academia, and media to discuss implicit bias and inequalities in housing, education, and the criminal justice system, including solutions to these challenges in Ferguson and beyond.  Given the contributing authors’ extensive research in the fields of race, the criminal justice system, media, and education and how their work in their fields informs their analysis of race and issues of justice in Ferguson, the book is an ideal read for anyone wanting to know more about Ferguson, the issues surrounding the killing of Michael Brown, and the broader issues regarding race, inequality, and criminal justice in the United States. Contributing authors provide suggestions for resolving the challenges posed by implicit bias and a multitude of inequalities.  Due to its focus on current events and law within the United States, the book is a necessary addition to academic law libraries.  A paginated table of contents and index of key terms and prominent people make the book user-friendly.

The idea of implicit bias is a prominent theme.  In the Foreword, Current ABA President Paulette Brown, asserts that implicit bias is the major factor in the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” and suggests that taking an Implicit Association Test (IAT) can benefit everyone.  Brown does not mention a specific IAT, however, readers may be interested in a series of IATs offered by Harvard University.  L. Song Richardson and Phillip Atiba Goff define and give examples of implicit bias and Candice Norwood asserts that implicit bias is the result of the images regarding African-Americans and crime propagated by the media.  

Implicit bias is a major factor in the discussions of policing.  Howard M. Wasserman suggests that requiring police to wear body cameras that record encounters between the police and the public may not be a panacea because people bring their own biases to what they see.  He cites the case of Eric Garner as an example of how a video of what one person views as police misconduct may be viewed by another person as reasonable force.  

A large part of the discussion of the criminal justice system focuses on methods of policing. Thomas Harvey and Brendan Roediger describe the “muni shuffle” in which people who lack funds to pay fines are jailed and then released after they have paid all they can pay and jailed in another municipality for the fines they owe there.  To fund themselves, municipalities in the St. Louis area, raise money by issuing traffic tickets, fining people, and prosecuting people for petty crimes.  Richardson and Goff’s discussion of the community policing model versus the professionalism model and Chad Flanders’ discussion of how the escalated force model of policing prevailed over the negotiated management model during the protests in Ferguson detail the impact of actions of police on the local community.  Flanders mentions “militarized vehicles and tear gas” when describing the protest scenes in Ferguson.  Flanders’ imagery raises the idea of the militarization of the police and the effect of this militarization on the day-to-day activities of the police.  While the topics of whether the militarization of the police is necessary and how the militarization of the police impacted the protests in Ferguson were not explored, readers who are interested in these topics may be interested in an ACLU report entitled War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing which asserts that federal programs which place military equipment and weaponry in the hands of local police departments have caused this militarization.

The themes of inequalities in housing and education are prominent in the chapters by Kimberly Jade Norwood and Colin Gordon.  In the St. Louis area, policies in both the public and private sectors facilitated the continued segregation of blacks and whites in housing.  Schools in Ferguson remain segregated due to segregated housing patterns.  

Contributing authors propose a variety of solutions to the aforementioned challenges.  One solution, proposed by Christopher Alan Bracey, is something everyone can work on:  recognizing and supporting everyone’s humanity which begins with examining one’s own humanity.  

Review by  Latia Ward, Reference Librarian and Assistant Professor, Indiana Tech Law School, Fort Wayne, Indiana. llward@indianatech.edu

Posted By Latia Ward at 5/23/2016 8:49:30 AM  0 Comments