2021 Outstanding Academic Titles: Law and Legal Matters

This week we share Outstanding Academic Titles about law and legal matters.

Five selections from the Choice Reviews 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we share titles about law and legal matters.

1. Queering law and order: LGBTQ communities and the criminal justice system
Nadal, Kevin L. Lexington Books, 2020
Outstanding Academic Titles: The Law and Legal Matters, Queering Law & order book cover,

In this vivid, powerful, and provoking text Nadal masterfully exposes how criminal justice policies, stereotypes, and fear have historically obscured rather than clarified the everyday realities of LGBTQ people—the perennial “other”—in the US. He charges that anti-gay policies, supported by certain social movements and the mentality of some, continue to strategically brutalize, marginalize, oppress, and silence non-straight people. Marshalling sound evidence and in vivid detail, Nadal argues that it is time we as a society acknowledge the brutality, intimidation, and oppression waged against LGBTQ people. Instead of pushing sexuality to the social margins, it should be situated at the center of our moral universe, prompting us to expose, accept, appreciate, and mobilize “othered” persons and correlating modes of thought, as we seek to humanize the existing (twisted) social contours of gender and sexual justice. Ultimately, this author challenges readers to understand, view, and treat sexuality for what it is—part of a person’s unique self. Broadly, this book calls for a transformation in moral, philosophical, legal, cultural, social, and public thinking about sexuality and criminal justice. View on Amazon

2. Wrongful conviction in sexual assault: stranger rape, acquaintance rape, and intra-familial child sexual assaults
Johnson, Matthew Barry. Oxford, 2021
Outstanding Academic Titles: The Law and Legal Matters, Wrongful Conviction in Sexual Assault book cover,

Johnson (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City Univ. of New York) has written a fascinating and disturbing account of sexual assault convictions focusing on “two sets of egregious violations, rape/sexual assault and wrongful criminal conviction.” Much of Johnson’s information on wrongful conviction cases is sourced from the Innocence Project and the National Register of Exonerations. He reviews cases with wrongful convictions for sexual assault from several different perspectives: types of rape (stranger, date, and acquaintance), law enforcement tactics, racial makeup of defendants, child sexual abuse cases, and resulting hysteria. In addition, Johnson looks at how wrongful convictions occur, including misidentification by victims, tunnel vision, manufactured evidence, confirmation bias, and misinformation effects. Numerous cases (some high-profile, e.g., Central Park Five, Little Rascals Day Care) are analyzed to illustrate the wrongful conviction issues. Two chapters are particularly noteworthy: “Race and Rape Prosecution in US History” (pre–Civil War to the present) examines how race has influenced the prosecution and penalties for sexual assault. “Prospective and Future Directions” reviews work completed on wrongful convictions and suggests further projects. View on Amazon

3.Radical enfranchisement in the jury room and public life
Chakravarti, Sonali. Chicago, 2020
Outstanding Academic Titles: The Law and Legal Matters, Radical enfranchisement book cover,

The US jury system is shrouded in secrecy. It is revered across the world but also often mocked for the ease with which US citizens can qualify to serve on a jury. Chakravarti (government, Wesleyan Univ.) details the history of juries in the US and, more important, the role they have played in legitimizing or delegitimizing decision making. In other words, the book is about much more than juries; it sheds light on philosophical notions of populism that stem from ancient Greece. In each of the five chapters Chakravarti outlines specific jurisprudential ideas and juxtaposes the issues against broader notions of the law. In the first chapter the author provides a substantive philosophical foundation, using Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835–40) as the backdrop. Providing a space where history and contemporary times meet, Chakravarti uses Tocqueville to look at the role of women in juries and how historical misogyny impacted the current construction (and impact) of juries. Inspiring and motivational, Radical Enfranchisement shows how juries have become imbedded in all aspects of legal and social life. View on Amazon

4. Settler colonialism, race, and the law: why structural racism persists
Saito, Natsu Taylor. New York University, 2020
Outstanding Academic Titles: Law and Legal Matters, Settler colonialism book cover,

Saito’s Settler Colonialism, Race, and the Law is an insightful analysis of the structural racism that continues to shape the lives of millions of people in settler societies like the US. An accomplished legal scholar, Saito (College of Law, Georgia State Univ.) traverses some familiar historical ground in reflecting on the tension between indigenous sovereignty and the rights discourse of liberal democracies. Saito builds on anthropologist/ethnographer Patrick Wolfe’s often-cited argument that settler societies are structured around the elimination of indigenous nations. This formulation provides the foundation for Saito’s analysis of the economic, legal, and political structures that continue to perpetuate income inequality and gender and racial discrimination in the US. These aspects of settler colonialism are manifested in the internal colonization of Black and Asian American people. Saito makes a compelling case for how the “dynamic of difference” (the focus of chapter 5) continues to structure virtually every facet of life in the US. Saito sustains this argument over 12 chapters, and he also offers a road map to decolonization and expresses hope that the iniquities of contemporary society can be transcended. View on Amazon.

5. Stringfellow acid pits: the toxic and legal legacy
Craig, Brian. Michigan, 2020
Outstanding Academic Titles: The Law and Legal Matters, Stringfellow acid pits book cover,

In 1955, Jimmy Stringfellow, owner of a quarry in Riverside County, California, agreed to the use of his property for hazardous waste disposal. In the next 18 years, a dozen manufacturers dumped more than 33 million gallons of toxic chemicals into unlined ponds, contaminating the groundwater. This resulted in what became one of the longest tests of federal Superfund legislation. Craig (School of Legal Studies, Purdue Univ. Global., and a practicing lawyer) presents the background of the case and discusses plaintiffs (thousands of threatened residents and their representatives), defendants (the manufacturers involved and local/state governments), leading lawyers on both sides, state and federal judges, and the impressive special master who arbitrated. The case is notable, Craig finds, for its impact on both hazardous waste and insurance laws. The primary court finding was that California was “grossly negligent, if not reckless” (p. 117), and this verdict changed institutional culture and behavior regarding hazardous waste. The acid pits were replaced by a modern treatment plant and monitoring system; after millions spent on cleanup costs (which some say will extend 500 years into the future), justice was served. View on Amazon.

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