A sum­mer read­ing list on the law

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - BY MICHAEL KRAUSS The writer is a law pro­fes­sor at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity School of Law.

As a pro­fes­sor of law, I am nat­u­rally bi­ased in fa­vor of my pro­fes­sion. Notwith­stand­ing the naysay­ers, law stu­dents and lawyers com­mit to the pur­suit of jus­tice against ob­sta­cles that yield only to the keen­est and, one hopes, most eth­i­cal minds.

Yet the study of law is in large part a mat­ter of read­ing. Lots of read­ing. But not all le­gal read­ing need be as dry as a prospec­tus or as weighty as a Supreme Court rul­ing. Much of the law can be ab­sorbed through great literature and thought­ful non­fic­tion. In­deed, I sug­gest that newly minted law stu­dents spend the sum­mer be­fore their classes be­gin with the fol­low­ing nine works (roughly one a week) as prepa­ra­tion for en­ter­ing what re­mains the no­blest of pro­fes­sions.

Whether you’re a soon-to-be law stu­dent or a citizen in­ter­ested in bet­ter un­der­stand­ing our jus­tice sys­tem, you could do worse than to spend this sum­mer read­ing these books. In­di­vid­u­ally each work is ex­cel­lent. Col­lec­tively they con­sti­tute an over­view of the val­ues and chal­lenges of the le­gal pro­fes­sion.

1. Tru­man Capote, “In Cold Blood,” 1966. Capote’s mas­ter­ful ac­count of the 1959 mur­ders of Herbert Clut­ter and his fam­ily in Hol­comb, Kan., “In Cold Blood” is a study in evil. It is also a provoca­tive ex­am­i­na­tion of our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem and cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment.

2. Brooke Gold­stein and Aaron Ei­tan Meyer, “Law­fare: The War Against Free Speech,”

2011. “Law­fare,” the use of lit­i­ga­tion as a weapon to si­lence and pun­ish an op­po­nent, is a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge to free speech and rule of law to­day. Bad

lawyers cre­ated law­fare; good lawyers must com­bat this sub­ver­sion of the goals of our pro­fes­sion.

3. Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mock­ing­bird,” 1960. Read this high school fa­vorite again, and this time fo­cus on the ju­rists: the judge, the pros­e­cu­tor and de­fense at­tor­ney At­ti­cus Finch him­self. Did At­ti­cus re­act eth­i­cally to the racism of the sys­tem? How should you be­have, as a lawyer, when pre­sented with a case of fla­grant in­jus­tice?

4. Karl N. Llewellyn, “The Bram­ble Bush,” 1930. This col­lec­tion of lec­tures was de­liv­ered to the en­ter­ing class at Columbia Law School in 1929. It is partly a ped­a­gog­i­cal case-brief­ing primer, partly a broadly ju­rispru­den­tial anal­y­sis of the con­cept of law. In the words of my law school teacher Grant Gil­more, “They are all in­formed with Llewellyn’s in­fec­tiously ex­cit­ing and only oc­ca­sion­ally ir­ri­tat­ing per­son­al­ity. They are alive with the buoy­ant op­ti­mism which their au­thor felt as he stood, quite con­sciously, at a decisive turn­ing point in Amer­i­can le­gal thought and hap­pily sur­veyed the fu­ture.”

5. Her­man Melville, “Billy Budd, Sailor,” 1924. This novella, pub­lished posthu­mously, is a mag­nif­i­cent ex­am­i­na­tion of the role of a judge. Is “ju­di­cial re­straint” pos­si­ble? Is it ad­vis­able? What is the re­la­tion be­tween jus­tice and ad­ju­di­ca­tion? This short read (about a drum­head court-mar­tial at sea) is a mas­ter­piece on le­gal in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

6. Publius, “The Fed­er­al­ist Pa­pers,” 17871788. “Publius” — in re­al­ity Alexan­der Hamil­ton, James Madi­son and John Jay — pub­lished 85 short es­says pro­mot­ing the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the pro­posed Con­sti­tu­tion of the new United States. These philo­soph­i­cal gems to­day form the bedrock of the Amer­i­can re­pub­lic.

7. Pa­trick J. Schiltz, “On Be­ing a Happy,

Healthy, and Eth­i­cal Mem­ber of an Un­happy, Un­healthy, and Un­eth­i­cal Pro­fes­sion,” Van­der­bilt Law Re­view, Vol­ume 52, 1999. Let this be the first law re­view ar­ti­cle you ever read. Schiltz, to­day a U.S. dis­trict judge, suc­cinctly lays out the prom­ise and per­ils of our pro­fes­sion. Read it now, be­fore you start law school, to achieve the for­mer and avoid the lat­ter.

8. B.F. Skin­ner, “Walden Two,” 1948. Politi­cians, many of them lawyers, are vul­ner­a­ble to the hubris­tic belief that ad­di­tional laws will mold peo­ple to do the right thing. Skin­ner’s novel de­picts a utopia where cit­i­zens, lack­ing free will, hap­pily re­spond to gov­ern­ment-cre­ated in­cen­tives and never com­mit evil deeds. “Walden Two” is, I think, best seen as dystopia — a scary de­scrip­tion of the premises of so­cial-le­gal plan­ning.

9. Barry Werth, “Dam­ages,” 1998. This su­perb jour­nal­is­tic ef­fort de­scribes a tragedy that mor­phed into what was then the big­gest med­i­cal mal­prac­tice set­tle­ment in the history of Con­necti­cut. Werth’s mas­ter­ful pre­sen­ta­tion shows us tort law in ac­tion, as seen in prac­tice and from both plain­tiffs’ and de­fen­dants’ per­spec­tives.

Fu­ture law stu­dents, I un­der­stand that this list­may seem like a tall or­der given the many law school prep books you might feel pres­sured to pur­chase. Yet I am con­fi­dent that your sum­mer is much bet­ter spent ex­er­cis­ing your in­tel­lect rather than map­ping the minu­tiae of law school cul­ture.

You’ve got­ten to yes — you’re go­ing to law school. So re­lax and hit the beach, but bring some good books with you. You might even en­joy your­self.

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