RULE OF LAW
Join university professors as they lead class discussions on these timely books which discuss the Constitution of the United States and the workings of the American court system. These classes are free and open to the public.
Thursday, January 5, 2012 - 7 p.m. A Time to Kill: a Novel by John Grisham. Led by: Dr. Sally Shigley, WSU
Because he's lived in Oxford, Mississippi, Grisham gets compared to Faulkner, but he's really got the lean style and fierce folk moralism of John Steinbeck. This addictive tale of a young lawyer defending a black Vietnam War hero who kills the white druggies who raped his child in tiny Clanton, Mississippi, is John Grisham's first novel, and his favorite of his first six. He polished it for three years and every detail shines like pebbles at the bottom of a swift, sunlit stream. Grisham is a born legal storyteller and his dialogue is pitched perfect.
Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 7 p.m. John Marshall: Definer of a Nation by Jean Edward Smith. Led by: Dr. Kathryn MacKay, WSU
The most famous chief justice of the U. S. has been dead for 161 years, but his life and work continue to fascinate legal scholars, political scientists and biographers. Smith, a University of Toronto political scientist, is the most recent devotee. His endnotes and bibliography mention at least a dozen previous books about Marshall. Smith's version of the life is both respectful and a revision of the revisionism. He acknowledges his debt to the Marshall Papers, just as Hobson alerted readers to Smith's upcoming tome. While Hobson focused on Marshall's mind, Smith focuses on the externals of Marshall's life.
Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 7 p.m. Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy by George P. Fletcher. Led by: Dr. Peter McNarara, USU
By carefully analyzing the words and deeds of Abraham Lincoln, Fletcher (law, Columbia Univ.) successfully portrays the birth of a new constitutional order that emerged from the blood and bullets of the Civil War. This new spirit of cohesion reflected Lincoln's zest for bringing together the interrelated elements of a political entity toward the goal of a common good and a higher order. The values of nationhood, equality, and democracy complement and support one another, and the Gettysburg Address brings these concepts together in a way that crystallizes the proposed new scheme of things. Juxtaposing themes also common to the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as two Inaugural Addresses, and an element of spirituality intrinsic to the Declaration of Independence, the author chronicles the ups and downs of Lincoln's attempt to establish a cornerstone for progress for the post-Civil War era. Fletcher probes the extent to which the universal principles so revered by Lincoln and so inherent in the 13th and 14th Amendments would emerge in the coming years and would indeed influence the outcome of struggles between the banal interests of state legislatures and the notion of a legal order of a higher magnitude, akin to the English common law, in shaping the nature of citizenship, the rights of minorities and women, and, most recently, the rights of voters to select a president.
Thursday, April 5, 2012 - 7 p.m. America’s First Woman Lawyer: The Biography of Myra Bradwell by Jane M. Friedman. Led by: Dr. Kathryn MacKay, WSU
After she applied to practice law in 1869 in her home state of Illinois and was denied, Myra Bradwell (1831-1894) instead became a legal journalist, publishing and editing the influential Chicago Legal News. In this heavily footnoted and prodigiously researched study, Wayne State University law professor Friedman posits that Bradwell's achievements have been overlooked because her disagreements with feminist Susan B. Anthony led Anthony to exclude Bradwell from her definitive History of Woman Suffrage. Using her journal as a forum, Bradwell successfully agitated for judicial reform and women's rights, particularly the right of married women to enter the professions. She and her husband James, an attorney, obtained the release of Mary Todd Lincoln, who had been committed to an insane asylum by her son.
Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 7 p.m. War Law: Understanding International Law and Armed Conflict by Michael Byers. Led by: Dr. Brandon Little, WSU
When President Bush insists our military forces have acted in accordance with international law, many other nations disagree. This happens so often that observers may wonder: exactly what laws are they arguing about? To readers willing to put in the work, this dense book provides the answers. According to Byers (The Role of Law in International Politics), laws governing war have existed since the 19th century, but nations freely disregarded them until the adoption of the U.N. Charter in 1945. The charter itself, however, is still subject to interpretation. When Israeli planes bombed an Iraqi nuclear facility in 1981, for example, the U.S. insisted that pre-emptive self-defense was not sanctioned. By 2003, America had changed its mind. Byers devotes three chapters to the complicated issue of self-defense, and another three to the equally contentious issue of humanitarian intervention: i.e., whether it's okay to invade a nation to stop it from committing unspeakable acts, such as genocide, or to bring democracy to its people.
Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 7 p.m.
The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong. Led by: Dr. Kathryn MacKay, WSU
The Brethren is the first detailed behind-the-scenes account of the Supreme Court in action. Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong have pierced its secrecy to give us an unprecedented view of the Chief and Associate Justices -- maneuvering, arguing, politicking, compromising and making decisions that affect every major area of American life.