Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Rule of Law : Our Annual Adult Book Discussion Group.


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.

Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 7 p.m. Vietnam War on Trial by Michal R. Belknap. Led by: Dr. Brandon Little, WSU

Belknap's extraordinary analysis of the My Lai story skillfully explores the atrocities, the cover-up, and the political manipulation of the affair, and takes us beyond contemporary journalism to the complex history of what happened - and why. Stanley Kutler, Author of the Wars of Watergate; “I thought I'd overdosed on books about Vietnam years ago, but this one is terrific. It somehow manages to maintain its balance without losing its power to mesmerize. Vietnam junkies and novices alike cannot help but be affected by it.” John Hart Ely, Author:  Of  War and Responsibility: Constitutional Lessons of Vietnam And Its Aftermath.

Thursday, August 2, 2012 - 7 p.m. cby Anthony Lewis. Led by: Dr. Thom Kuehls, WSU

How One Lonely Man, a Poor Prisoner, Took His Case to The Supreme Court - and Changed the Law of the United States. A history of the landmark case of James Earl Gideon's fight for the right to legal counsel.

Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 7 p.m. Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice by Joan Biskupic. Led by: Dr. Sally Shigley, WSU

 Before Sandra Day O'Connor's recent retirement, she was considered the most powerful woman in the U.S., exerting enormous influence as she operated from the center among the justices of the Supreme Court for a quarter of a century. Acclaimed as the first woman on the Court, O'Connor has nonetheless defied easy labels, leaving observers to wonder if she was the nonthreatening matron she appeared to be or as calculating as her colleagues. Biskupic, who has covered the Supreme Court since 1989, draws on once-private Court documents and hundreds of interviews to offer an absorbing portrait of a woman who remains somewhat enigmatic. Biskupic  traces O'Connor's early lonely years on the Lazy B Ranch and her years as wife, mother, and Republican state legislator in Arizona. She helped her Stanford University Law School classmate and friend, William Rehnquist, prepare for his nomination and was herself nominated in 1981 by President Reagan. She quickly achieved celebrity status and found herself navigating between conservatives and liberals, activists and strict constructionists.

Thursday, November 1, 2012 - 7 p.m. A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law by Antonin Scalia. Led by: Dr. Thom Kuehls, WSU

Supreme Court Justice Scalia posits his views of how statutes and the Constitution should be interpreted; a noted historian and three distinguished legal scholars respond. Scalia, whom journalistic shorthand often renders the intellectual leader of the Court's right wing, sets forth the principles of what he calls “textualism” and others call “original intent.”

Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 7 p.m.  Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View by Steven Breyer. Led by: Dr. Peter McNamara, USU

The Supreme Court is one of the most extraordinary institutions in our system of government. Charged with the responsibility of interpreting the Constitution, the nine unelected justices of the Court have the awesome power to strike down laws enacted by our elected representatives. Why does the public accept the Court’s decisions as legitimate and follow them, even when those decisions are highly unpopular.

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