Lat's Legal Library (09.2021): Bending Toward Justice

Ten titles tackle a host of hot-button issues, including abortion, race relations, gender, policing, and more.

Welcome to Original Jurisdiction, the latest legal publication by me, David Lat. You can learn more about Original Jurisdiction by reading its About page, you can reach me by email at davidlat@substack.com, and you can subscribe by clicking on the button below.

There’s nothing like a historic possible retirement from the Supreme Court to generate copious coverage for you and your new book. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, author of The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics, got featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, NPR—and he even appeared on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Justice Breyer didn’t say anything substantive about when he might retire for SCOTUS, but he did get to plug his book (reviewed warmly by Bryan Garner for the Wall Street Journal and less warmly by Mark Graber for Balkinization).

As a reader of Original Jurisdiction, odds are that you already know all about Justice Breyer’s book. But how about these ten titles? Here are the featured books for the latest installment of Lat’s Legal Library, a recurring feature in which I spotlight noteworthy new books about or related to the law:

  • Redeeming Justice: From Defendant to Defender, My Fight for Equity on Both Sides of a Broken System, by Jarrett Adams. Adams was just 17 years old when an all-white jury sentenced him to 28 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Exonerated and released after nearly ten years in prison, Adams went on to become a lawyer for the Innocence Project. In his first case with the Innocence Project, he argued before the same Wisconsin trial court that had sentenced him years ago—and won. Scott Turow praises Redeeming Justice as “a moving and beautifully crafted memoir,” and John Grisham declares it “nothing less than heroic.”

  • Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights, by Erwin Chemerinsky. A leading legal academic and the dean of Berkeley Law, Chemerinsky has written what Melvin Urofsky describes in the New York Times as a “stunning” book that is “a damning indictment of the Supreme Court” when it comes to police practices, criminal justice, and civil rights. According to David Cole of the ACLU, Presumed Guilty “makes a lucid and compelling case that the Supreme Court has all too often failed to ensure equal justice in the criminal legal system.”

  • Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence, by Anita Hill. This October marks thirty years since Hill’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the intervening years, she has worked as an academic and activist to advance women's rights, and Believing is part of that mission. According to the starred review of the book in Publishers Weekly, “Hill’s inspiring personal history, eloquently constructed arguments, and dogged persistence in shining a light on the topic make this an essential look at the fight against misogyny.”

  • The Family Roe: An American Story, by Joshua Prager. With a landmark abortion case on the Supreme Court docket this Term, now is an opportune time to delve more deeply into the history of Roe v. Wade—which is exactly what Prager has done, devoting a decade to researching and writing about the complicated life of Norma McCorvey (1947–2017), the pseudonymous plaintiff of Roe. Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times calls The Family Roe “a work of deep empathy without sentimentality, a recovery of fact over myth, a quintessentially American story.”

  • Say It Loud!: On Race, Law, History, and Culture, by Randall Kennedy. In this collection of 29 essays, some previously published and some new, the Harvard Law School professor and prominent public intellectual analyzes complex controversies involving race, law, and social justice. As Kirkus Reviews puts it, “Sometimes contrarian, sometimes controversial, Kennedy’s arguments merit consideration in a riven discourse.”

  • Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, by Samuel Moyn. A professor of law and history at Yale, Moyn “takes the reader on an excruciating journey, in incisive, meticulous and elegant prose, about the modern history of making war more legal, and in effect sanitizing it so that it can continue forever,” according to Robert Kaplan’s review of Humane in the New York Times.

  • To Kill A Lawyer, by Lance McMillian. A reader expressed excitement to me about this novel, the third legal thriller by Lance McMillian, a professor at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta (and the husband of Justice Carla Wong McMillian of the Supreme Court of Georgia). Says this reader, “His first was The Murder of Sara Barton, and his second was Death to the Chief (about the murder of the Chief Justice of—yes, you guessed it—the Supreme Court of Georgia). I enjoyed both!”

  • Rethinking Securities Law, by Marc I. Steinberg. As lawyers and scholars who work in the field can tell you, securities law is, well, a bit of a mess. Steinberg, a professor at the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Dedman School of Law, identifies the problems and proposes solutions. Ed Herlihy, co-chairman of the executive committee at Wachtell Lipton and a leading M&A lawyer, identifies Steinberg as “the preeminent securities law authority of our generation,” and describes Rethinking Securities Law as “a must-read and a valuable resource for all policymakers, practitioners, and scholars in the field.”

  • Ethical Lawyering: A Guide for the Well-Intentioned, by Nancy B. Rappoport Bernard A. Burk, and Veronica J. Finkelstein. Despite the obvious importance of professional responsibility, lawyers and law students love to complain about teaching and studying the topic. Ethical Lawyering uses some of the innovations that have become more popular during the pandemic, such as the “flipped classroom,” to offer a novel, refreshing, and online-friendly approach to this significant subject.

  • Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change, by April Rinne. This last book isn’t a law book per se—but it was recommended to me by a law librarian, Rinne is a lawyer by training, and the advice she offers about how to succeed in a rapidly evolving world could not be more relevant to attorneys today. I heard her present a talk based on her book when she and I both spoke at the 2021 Virtual Summit of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP), and I found her insights invaluable.

Reviewing this list, I note that it has a leftward tilt. I suspect this has something to do with the left-leaning nature of the publishing industry; publishing executives can be wary of working with conservative writers, since when they do, they sometimes find themselves under attack from employees, readers, and authors (which is why some of these execs have left to start new publishing ventures more open to conservatives). But speaking for myself, I’m more than happy to highlight books by right-of-center writers.

I could use your help in identifying these books, especially since they sometimes come out from smaller publishers or imprints. Do you have a title you’d like me to consider for the next edition of Lat’s Legal Library? Please email me at davidlat@substack.com, explaining why you believe the book to be noteworthy.

Your nomination should be a new book, i.e., a book published since the last installment of LLL, but also a book already available for ordering, i.e., not a forthcoming book to be pre-ordered. I’ve been doing these roundups every other month—in May, July, and September—so the next one will likely appear near the end of November, covering books released in October and November. Thanks!

Disclosure: The links to the books above are Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you buy one of these books after clicking on one of these links, Jeff Bezos sends me some chunk of change from the sale.


Thanks for reading Original Jurisdiction, the latest legal publication by me, David Lat. You can learn more about Original Jurisdiction by reading its About page, you can reach me by email at davidlat@substack.com, and you can share this post or subscribe to Original Jurisdiction using the buttons below.

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