Book Reviews 5.2


The winter of 1975-76 saw the appearance of a spate of new and exciting law-related books. Fresh and disturbing ideas found their way into print with pleasing frequency. Of even greater import, these books displayed surprising readability for lawyers and laypeople alike.

The best of these books share a common thread, even if they are not crafted of the same fabric. By and large they seek to reinterpret some aspect of popular legal history. In Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, Susan Brownmiller painstakingly collected, sifted, and synthesized the many fragments of the history of rape from ancient times to the present in order to present her own original ideas on the proper analysis of rape in contemporary society. Jerold Auerbach took on the ABA, the legal profession in general, and whatever hallowed myths got in his way, in his book Unequal Justice. His and Brownmiller’s conclusions are unsettling and intriguing, and both books hailthe inauguration of new debates, rather than present the final ideological word on their respective subjects.

John Noonan’s ambitions in Persons and Masks of the Law seem to be less expansive. His attentions are more narrowly focused, and his criticisms less tightly woven. Like Brownmiller and Auerbach, he seeks to reinterpret significant segments of legal history. Unlike them, his method is one of embellishment and explanation, rather than one of winnowing and sifting.

Doing Justice, by Andrew von Hirsch, will never enjoy the broad readership of the above-mentioned three, as it is too clearly the product of a committee. This is unfortunate, as it has much to say. Von Hirsch takes on the rehabilitative ideal, the prominent rationale for our system of incarceration, in a way not unlike Auerbach’s challenge of the ABA. Again, it is not a final word–but it is a useful beginning.

All four of these authors urge their readers to re-examine their assumptions concerning various legal topics: society’s response to the problem of rape, the inequitable delivery of adequate legal services, the pervasive and unquestioned use of legal precedent, and the utility of incarceration. The value of these books lies in their ability to challenge their readers to look at things in a different way. This is seldom a bad thing to do. Not only is this what the free interchange of ideas is all about, but it is also the first step to a deeper understanding of topics which ought to concern us all.

Into this swirling quartet of heavyweights we have added a review of Helene Schwartz’s Lawyering. It too is history, albeit a highly personal account. It is an early version of the painful entry of a new generation of women into the ranks of the legal elite. As such, it makes for good reading, and that is no small accomplishment.

Suggested Reading

Earlier this year we asked five of our staff members to review the most recent Nader publications. Our view that some sort of consensus on the Nader series might thus be reached turned out to be mistaken: these books are

Includes reviews of: Disorder in the Court: Report of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Special Committee on Courtroom Conduct, by Norman Dorsen and Leon Friedman (1973), The Limits of Corporate Responsibility, by Neil W.

Includes reviews of: The Open Prison, by Sol Charles (1973), Women in Prison, by Kathryn Burkhart (1973), The Rights of Children: Emergent Concepts in Law and Society, edited by Albert E. Wilkerson (1973), The Law and the Poor, by Frank

Includes reviews of: Politics, Policy, and Natural Resources, edited by Dennis L. Thompson (1972), Papers on the War, by Daniel Ellsberg (1972), Urban Land Use Policy: The Central City, edited by Richard B. Andrews (1972), Payoff: The Role of Organized

Reviews of the following books: A Bill of No Rights: Attica and the American Prison System, by Herman Badillo and Milton Haynes (1972), Counsel for the Deceived: Case Studies in Consumer Fraud, by Phillip G. Schrag (1972), Medina, by Mary

Reviews of the following books: Youth Up in Arms by George Paloczi-Horvath (1971), Up Against the Corporate Wall by S. Prakash Sethi (1971), The Concern for Community in Urban America by Bert E. Swanson (1970), Justice Denied: The Black Man in White