Archive for November, 2011

December Issue of Spectrum Online

The December issue of AALL Spectrum is available online in PDF format. This month’s issue includes:

Also, readers respond to this month’s Member to Member question: What are three items on your “bucket list”?

Paper copies mail out to members on December 1, so look for them in your mailboxes soon.

Book Review – Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat.

Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat, by Jeff Benedict. Inspire Books, 2011.

If your firm does a lot of food and drug related work, you may not need this book.  If your firm has no cases on food borne illnesses, you may not need this book.  I say may not because Poisoned, like A Civil Action by Jonathon Harr, gives a great illustration of that elusive skill, “lawyering.” It also has plenty to say about the Food and Drug Administration and food regulation from manufacturing to distribution, as well as insurance law and corporate governance.  Attorney Bill Marler and the author donated the book to many law schools.  Six top law schools have used the book in such courses as legal writing and public affairs.

I love a big, juicy, rare hamburger with lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, and onions.  It has to be encased in one of those mushy hamburger buns from the grocery store.  A hamburger, in fact, much like the one pictured on the front cover of Poisoned.  I could have been the little girl on the cover – when I was a kid, a hamburger was a treat, and it still is for many young (and not so young) children today.

In 1993, that happy treat became a nightmare for children who ate hamburgers from Jack in the Box restaurants. In only a few weeks, an outbreak of deadly E. Coli attacks spread to 700 victims, at least four of whom died.  The effects of E. Coli attacks are extremely painful, gruesome, and traumatizing, psychologically as well as physically. One victim was described as looking “like a mummy.”

Poisoned interweaves the medical, legal, insurance, corporate governance, and state and federal government roles in this terrifying epidemic.

The cast of characters includes Brianne Kiner, one of the first victims.  Represented by attorney Bill Marler, Brianne eventually received an award of $15.6 million, a record award at the time. Bob Piper, an established Seattle lawyer, represented Jack in the Box. Jack in the Box’s president, Robert Nugent, Vice President of Quality Assurance Ken Dunkley, and others, including the families of those involved, are all portrayed in a humane and personal light. Their foibles and character traits are pictured convincingly. Bob Piper is a colorful character prone to wearing suspenders featuring naked women, partying, and cigar smoking wherever inappropriate.  However, he proves to be astute, fair, and practical. Bob Nugent is depicted as an honest, direct person whose driving goal, besides saving his company, is the fair treatment of the victims. The only true villain in the book is the E. Coli bacteria itself.

Bill Marler, Suzanne Kiner (Brianne’s mother), and others have continued to work to improve food safety standards of all kinds and have achieved significant reforms in all aspects of food production, including stricter federal regulations, stricter inspections, and better procedures for and documentation of food handling processes.  After the 1993 outbreak, strong federally mandated rules and standards were put in place.

However, as we know, there isn’t a perfectly happy ending. Recently, there has been a string of reports of food poisoning from lettuce to bean sprouts. Congress has not provided the funding to implement many of the reforms passed. While this outbreak has not completely  “changed the way Americans eat,” it certainly has made many more people aware of food choices.  And the book is an absorbing, compelling, and yes, even entertaining, read.

Claudia Cook is Reference Librarian at Alameda County Law Library.

Book Review: Research Handbook on International Criminal Law

Research Handbook on International Criminal Law, Edited by Bartram S. Brown. Edgar Elgar Publishing, 2011 (544 pages). Hardcover, ISBN 978-1-84720-278-9, $245.00.

Research Handbook on International Criminal Law explores the evolution of International Criminal Law from its foundations in public international law, comparative law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The Handbook breaks down each criminal law topic into clear, concise, uncomplicated language that guides the reader through the basics of international criminal law. Each of the 18 chapters of the Handbook is contributed by a scholar or practitioner in the field. If your user needs include international criminal law, you should buy this book.

The Handbook is divided into 6 parts: Part 1 addresses the transition from state responsibility to individual responsibility in international criminal law. Part 2 explores crimes that fall under the umbrella of international law, including those committed against women.  The editors also include a discussion about when the use of force becomes an act of aggression. Part 3 covers International Criminal Courts and Tribunals and includes a chapter on complementarity (the relationship between domestic courts and the ICC in the jurisdiction to prosecute international crimes). Part 4 of the Handbook addresses the Defenses, Fair Trial Rights in Criminal Law, and self-representation before a tribunal as either a right or a privilege. Part 5 outlines issues of prosecutions before a national court.  And part 6 considers future developments in international criminal law.

Research Handbook on International Criminal Law is an important research tool well-worth including in one’s library collection. It is clear and concise, which may appeal to a large and diverse audience. The Handbook introduces topics in international criminal law relevant, but not always obvious, to those less familiar with the subject matter. Each chapter is thoroughly footnoted, and the book contains appendices on the Rome Statute of the ICC and resolution adopted at the 2010 Review Conference of the Rome Conference in Kampala, Uganda. Readers will come away well-informed on different aspects of international criminal law and equipped with a number of resources to drive their research.

Trezlen Drake is the International and Compartative Law Reference Librarian at New York Law School.

Book Review – To Put Asunder: The Laws of Matrimonial Strife

To Put Asunder: The Laws of Matrimonial Strife, by Lawrence H. Stotter. Regent Press, 2011. Hardback, 413 pages.

Lawrence Stotter, former chairman of the American Bar Association’s Division of Family Law and first editor-in-chief of its magazine, Family Advocate, is clearly a lover of the printed word. In a 10-page preface in this, his first (and according to his preface, his only) book, he describes how much he has enjoyed the beauty of “fine press” books and hopes readers will find this publication to be a treat in what he sees as an increasingly digital world. From an aesthetic standpoint, he has definitely succeeded. To Put Asunder is one of the most visually-appealing books I have ever read. The pages are made of thick glossy stock, and throughout the book one finds many full-color illustrations of old manuscripts and texts. Fans of deep reds and maroon hues will be particularly pleased, as the dust jacket and citations in the margins are of these colors.

After the preface, there’s a 10-page introduction that discusses the author’s attempts to locate compilations of early historical sources on family law. After much frustration, he decided he should create his own bibliography of early family law writings, which he then lists from pages 29 to 36. Using the sources listed in this bibliography, Stotter then creates a 23-page chronology of historical events, using color codes to indicate who might find the events significant (black type is of historical interest, blue indicates legal items, and red indicating there is an accompanying illustration). Altogether, the preface, introduction, and chronology make up the first 61 pages of the book.

The text of the book consists of six chapters and starts with a discussion titled, “The History and Lore of Family Law.” In this first chapter, Stotter discusses marriage and divorce under tribal law and advances throughout history to canon and temporal law in feudal England (chapter two also discusses family law in England). Chapters three and four are profiles of family law authors Stotter admires (Henry Swinburne and Tapping Reeve, respectively) and detail works they authored of historical significance (for example, Swinburne is the first known author of a treatise on family law written in English, and Reeve lectured on family law in the Litchfield Law School for more than 36 years, during which he made numerous contributions to the early adoption of English common law in America).

In chapter five, Stotter moves to a discussion of family law practice in colonial and post-revolutionary war America, first by discussing three important cases (Blair, Broadstreet, and Thrall), then discussing how these cases and others shaped matrimonial laws during these periods. The final chapter is about sources of law in England and America and is really just an expanded version of the bibliography found in the introduction. From there, the book contains five appendices, an index, and a two-page note for book collectors in which Stotter recommends some book dealers who have helped find many of the rare and antique sources cited within.

I went into ­To Put Asunder­ expecting essays on the topic of divorce, but the book turned out to be more of a love letter to rare books and the history of family law publishing throughout history. Stotter clearly loves this topic, and even if parts of the book can seem tedious and long, he has clearly put so much effort into this endeavor (as exhibited by the extensive citations and color illustrations), one can’t help but keep reading. While this book would be of little to no value in firm libraries, it makes a great addition to any academic library with an emphasis on the history of law or to any library with a strong collection of family law material.

Reviewed by Lance Burke, reference/access services librarian at Elon School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Learn How RDA Will Affect Your Job

Resource Description and Access (RDA) is coming, whether you like it or not. Join RDA experts John Hostage, from Harvard Law School Library, and Richard Amelung, from Saint Louis University Omer Poos Law Library, for a FREE AALL webinar, RDA and Law Libraries, December 14, 11 a.m. CST, as they give an overview of RDA. They will discuss how the new code will assist in finding resources and its impact on staff and other library functions.   

You will learn:

  • How RDA fits into the changing bibliographic landscape
  • How to identify pertinent implementation issues associated with application of RDA principles

Cost: FREE for AALL members; $60 for nonmembers.

Register by December 8.

Book Review – Death with Dignity: The Case for Legalizing Physician-Assisted Dying and Euthanasia

Death with Dignity: The Case for Legalizing Physician-Assisted Dying and Euthanasia, by Robert Orfali. Mill City Press, 2011. ($14.95, softcover, ISBN 9781936780181, 254 pages).

Death with Dignity: The Case for Legalizing Physician-Assisted Dying and Euthanasia was written in the aftermath of the death of author Robert Orfali’s beloved wife, Jeri, after a long struggle with ovarian cancer. Jeri was unable to find a legal way to end her life on her own terms–peacefully, painlessly, without undue anxiety and stress, and at a time and place of her choosing. Since witnessing his wife’s death, Orfali has become a fervent advocate of the legalization of physician-assisted dying. He argues that a dying patient should have the right to actively end his or her own life at a time of his or her choosing, not only by the removal of life support systems and the withholding of nutrients, but by the physician-assisted administration of the drug Nembutal, the drug of choice for those wanting a swift and painless death. Orfali’s volume, Death with Dignity, is a non-scholarly treatment of the legal, philosophical, and practical issues surrounding assisted suicide. It is suitable for all libraries, but law school and law firm libraries would certainly want to supplement this book with more heavily researched treatises on the topic of end-of-life treatment. 

In Chapter 1, Orfali explains that for most of human history, death usually came fairly swiftly, after a traumatic injury or brief illness. Today advancements in medical technology have made it possible for a human being with many chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and kidney and brain failure, to be kept alive for years but often with an inexorable decrease in quality of life. Chapter 1 also includes anecdotal evidence of the horrible suffering that can accompany a slow, lingering death. The accounts of dying patients begging to be relieved of their suffering are both heartbreaking and frightening, including the one by television commentator Keith Olbermann. Olbermann recounts the truly terrible ordeal of his dying father, in intractable pain, begging Olbermann to smother him with a pillow. Orfali compares this to ancient Greece and Rome, where citizens had the option of an “easy death” (the literal meaning of the word “euthanasia”), either by administering poison to themselves or by requesting the assistance of a physician. His opinion is that in America, dying pets receive more compassionate treatment than dying human beings. 

Chapter 2 relays the experience of the author’s wife as she tried to take measures to ensure that she would be in control of the timing and circumstances of her death. However, she had no legal access to Nembutal, and obtaining the drug underground was not a suitable solution for many reasons that Orfali explores. In Chapter 3 Orfali explains the limits of palliative care, hospice, and pain management.  Despite his praise for hospice and palliative care, he likens much end-of-life treatment to torture. Chapters 4 and 5 explore the evolution of end-of-life care from a legal standpoint. In detail, Orfali compares legal end-of-life options in Oregon, Washington, and the Netherlands. Orfali embraces the system in Oregon, with its multiple requirements that safeguard the patient’s autonomy, the integrity of the medical profession, and the well-being of the vulnerable. Chapter 6 and 7 discuss the moral, ethical, and philosophical debates surrounding assisted suicide. Anti-euthanasia arguments (the “slippery slope,” health care rationing, possible discrimination against the vulnerable, the sanctity of life) are dissected and refuted to Orfali’s satisfaction. In Chapter 8, Orfali makes an impassioned and emotional plea for the legalization of physician-assisted dying, presenting strenuous arguments in favor of his views. 

The book concludes with a bibliography of books, articles, and websites on both sides of the issue. An index would have been helpful as would have more consistent use of footnotes and better documentation of certain sources. Death with Dignity is an emotional and subject book, but this slim volume is nevertheless a good introduction to a complicated and difficult subject.

Reviewed by Donna M. Fisher, law librarian at Senniger Powers LLP in St. Louis.

November 2011

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