Lat's Legal Library (05.2022): A Summer Reading List
Memoirs from Kellyanne Conway and John Gleeson, a pair of critically acclaimed legal thrillers, and a graphic novel about a lawyer turned politician.
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With Memorial Day weekend behind us, summer is unofficially underway. It’s my favorite season, not necessarily because of its weather (although I’d rather be too hot than too cold), but because of its more relaxed feel. We all have license to slack off a little in summer (especially in August), before fall rolls around and everything ramps up again, including the school year and the Supreme Court Term.
Summer is also a great season for reading. Newspapers and magazines put together summer reading lists because there’s an assumption that people enjoy spending time at the beach or pool in the company of a good book (and I know that I certainly do).
So here’s what you might consider Original Jurisdiction’s summer reading list—the ten titles I’ve selected for the latest edition of Lat’s Legal Library (“LLL”), a feature that appears in these pages every other month, in which I spotlight noteworthy new books about or related to the law:
Here's the Deal: A Memoir, by Kellyanne Conway. A lawyer by training (GW Law ‘92), Kellyanne is one-half of a famous lawyer power couple. She was the campaign manager turned senior counselor to former president Donald Trump, while her husband, former Wachtell Lipton partner George T. Conway III, was one of the Donald’s most outspoken critics. During the Trump Administration, as Kellyanne defended Trump on TV while George blasted him on Twitter, many of us wondered: are they trolling us? Or laying the groundwork for a reality show? Alas, based on Kellyanne’s new memoir—in which she speaks candidly about how surprised she was by George’s tweeting, as well as the challenges facing their marriage—it seems that if this was one big joke, she was not in on it.
Demolition Agenda: How Trump Tried to Dismantle American Government, and What Biden Needs to Do to Save It, by Thomas O. McGarity. Tell-all memoirs by former Trump officials might generate more headlines, but personalities matter less than policy. In Demolition Agenda, Professor Tom McGarity of the University of Texas School of Law offers a detailed, thorough account of what he sees as Trump’s assault on the government agencies and regulations that keep Americans safe and healthy. Per Publishers Weekly, “Backed by solid research and deep knowledge of regulatory law, this is a persuasive argument for the power of government to make a positive impact.”
37 Words: Title IX and Fifty Years of Fighting Sex Discrimination, by Sherry Boschert. One area of law where the Trump Administration made major changes was in the enforcement of Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education. This year marks Title IX’s fiftieth anniversary, so it’s an opportune time for Boschert’s sweeping history of this groundbreaking legislation. Booklist commends 37 Words to readers as a “valuable, well-researched, and nuanced history on an important subject.”
Free Speech: From Core Values to Current Debates, by Len Niehoff and E. Thomas Sullivan. At a time when free speech is under attack, Niehoff and Sullivan’s book is needed now more than ever. According to Dean Lucy Dalglish of the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism, the authors “help answer a very important question today’s young people have seldom contemplated: ‘Why do we need a First Amendment anyway?’” Former ACLU president Nadine Strossen lauds the book’s “important contributions to First Amendment scholarship,” as well as its lucid explanations of “free speech theory, the major Supreme Court cases, and the controversies that continue to make this an endlessly fascinating topic.”
The Gotti Wars: Taking Down America's Most Notorious Mobster, by John Gleeson. Before he was a federal judge, Gleeson won fame as the prosecutor who took down the seemingly untouchable Mafia boss John Gotti, whose ability to beat criminal charges earned him the nickname “The Teflon Don.” Now Gleeson takes readers behind the scenes of how he did it, offering unsparing assessments of everyone from former U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani to defense lawyer Bruce Cutler. Today a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, Gleeson is “an able storyteller,” according to Clyde Haberman of the New York Times, and The Gotti Wars is full of “keen insights and neat turns of phrase.”
With Prejudice: A Novel, by Robin Peguero. Peguero is also a former prosecutor—a Miami homicide prosecutor—and With Prejudice is, in the words of Scott Turow, “an outstanding courtroom thriller, told with an engaging focus on the jury room.” As Sarah Weinman writes in the Times, “The clever twists here are always in service of Peguero’s larger concerns: injustice and inequity, cynicism and manipulation. I doubt I’ll get his book out of my head anytime soon.”
The Murder Rule: A Novel, by Dervla McTiernan. Inspired by the true story of a young law student who worked at the Innocence Project, The Murder Rule “holds one’s interest from its cheeky opening pages through its final scene,” according to Tom Nolan of the Wall Street Journal. Sarah Lyall of the New York Times describes The Murder Rule as “part legal thriller, part detective story, part analysis of a small-town reign of terror, and part excavation of the secrets and lies of the past”—as well as an “excellent” and “thrilling” offering from “an uncommonly fine mystery writer.”
Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System, by M. Chris Fabricant. Speaking of the Innocence Project, Fabricant’s work as its director of strategic litigation has given him unique perspective into how bad science leads to worse results—namely, an untold number of wrongful convictions. John Grisham praises Junk Science as an “intriguing and beautifully crafted book,” in which Fabricant “illustrates how wrongful convictions occur, and makes it obvious how they could be prevented."
Smahtguy: The Life and Times of Barney Frank, by Eric Orner. How many lawyers are also talented and well-known cartoonists? Orner is one, and in Smahtguy, his debut graphic novel, he tells the story of former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)—a Harvard Law School graduate who went on to become one of the first out members of Congress and a leading advocate for LGBTQ rights. Orner knows Frank well, having worked for him as both staff counsel and press secretary, and Smahtguy is an intimate portrait of this noteworthy political figure. Reviewing the book for NPR, Etelka Lehoczky raves that Smahtguy “isn't just a great story, it's an enveloping visual experience crafted by a terrific artist.”
Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington, by James Kirchick. Speaking of powerful gay politicians, they figure prominently in Secret City, which Alexandra Jacobs of the Times describes as “a sprawling and enthralling history of how the gay subculture in Washington, D.C., long in shadow, emerged into the klieg lights.” It’s not a legal book per se, but law figures in it prominently because of its discussion of the fight for LGBTQ equality (including the important work of the Mattachine Society).
So there you have them: the latest additions to Lat’s Legal Library. Please support these authors and their publishers by buying and reading any of these books that look appealing. With college and law school graduations upon us, some of these titles could make great gifts for the pre-law or law student in your life—or for my readers who are judges, parting presents to law clerks about to leave your service. (Two other gift ideas: my novel, Supreme Ambitions, or a year-long gift subscription to Original Jurisdiction.)
The next installment of Lat’s Legal Library will appear near the end of July. I welcome your nominations, but please note the timeframe: the book should be a title scheduled for publication in June or July. I stick to discussing new books in LLL because the number of law-related books I could possibly recommend would be overwhelming without any temporal limitation. Thanks, and happy reading!
Disclosure: All links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you buy a book after clicking on a link, I receive a (very) small fee from Amazon.
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I have vowed not to support any of the former Trump people who write books. They won’t make a dime off of me.