Vol. 77, No. 2, February
Bring on Goliath: Lemon Law
Justice in America
By Vince Megna (Tucson, AZ: Ken Press, 2004). 221
pgs. $24.95. Order, (520) 743-3200.
Reviewed by Douglas E. Baker
Charles Hamilton Houston, late Dean of the Howard University School
of Law, often told his students that "a lawyer's either a social
engineer or he's a parasite on society." To hear Wisconsin attorney
Vince Megna tell it, a good lemon law lets a lawyer make a good living
while doing good.
Megna, who practices in Waukesha, has written a lively and readable
story about his longtime crusade on behalf of disappointed and
frustrated automobile buyers. Along the way he verbally skewers nearly
every institution, individual, and authority figure he comes up against,
including car salespeople, the Better Business Bureau, Detroit,
corporate America, arbitrators, judges, and most (but not all) of his
The book, written in first person, consists largely of anecdotes
about the experiences of Megna and his clients in auto showrooms and
their dealings with automotive bureaucracy. It is a sort of American
morality play, invariably involving well-meaning innocents - Megna's
clients - snookered by evil salespeople and corporate villains. More
importantly, Megna says, his clients nearly always come out with a new
car or more cash than they started with (or both), and he ends up with
his full attorney fees paid by the other side.
Bring on Goliath is no legal treatise, and it never claims
to be. It lacks an index and annotations. But it is fun, informational,
and inspirational. It does a good job of explaining lemon laws in
general, and Wisconsin's lemon law in particular. It contains a brief
summary of the other state lemon laws - with Megna's unvarnished opinion
of them. It provides the basics of building a case, sets out - and
demolishes - various defenses raised by the auto industry, and
emphasizes the need for careful documentation.
All in all, this is an excellent introduction to an important area of
law and a delight to read. Once they put it down, frustrated car buyers
may be motivated to call an attorney, and some attorneys may start
thinking about building a lemon law practice. All of which makes it
Environment, Social Equity, and the Global Economy
By Robert C. Paehlke (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press,
2003). 306 pgs. $27.95. Order, (800) 405-1619.
Reviewed by Richard Binder
What is the dominant governing force in contemporary life? Is it the
political system and its institutions or the economy and its markets?
According to Robert C. Paehlke, a professor with the Environmental and
Resource Studies Program at Trent University, Canada, economics and the
quest for market advantage trumps the political. Paehlke labels the
current state of affairs as "economism," which he defines as the
dominance of social, cultural, and environmental concerns by narrowly
defined economic objectives. Economism can be seen at all levels of
society. Countries - large and small - are bullied by the power of
global trade panels and agreements. Local governments are no match for
large developers bearing economic promises or political threats.
Environmental protections, public services, and worker welfare diminish
as the competition for jobs intensifies.
Paehlke details many ills that led to "democracy's dilemma." Big
media suffers from a desire not to offend powerful organizations and its
unquestioned acceptance of the notion that all economic growth is good.
Because it strives to make all news entertaining, the bland (but
necessary) information for citizens to make good choices does not get
out. Then there is the changing position of the worker. The primary
function of workers used to be production of goods, but now production
is secondary to marketing. Finally, there is the consumer, whose quest
for commodities is driven more by status than by need. There's more, but
you get the picture.
It's not going to be easy to solve the dilemma. There is a need to
develop indicators to gauge the true costs of development and growth.
Such indicators must be as recognizable as those used for economic
statistics, for example, Dow Jones and Gross National Product. We need
the world to understand that economic growth, standing alone, isn't
always good. Methods of distribution have to be improved so that
economic gains are shared by more than just a few. Paehlke argues that
we need to develop a three-bottom-line perspective: one that accounts
for ecological and human social systems, as well as the economic.
Democracy's Dilemma is not so much a book as it is a course
on modern economic times. It covers a lot of ground. It's a good
perspective on contemporary problems, and it does a good job of
connecting global issues to local consequences. After you read this
book, newspaper articles on job loss and the consequences of free trade
are more understandable. Paehlke argues that the ultimate answer to
democracy's dilemma is not global government, but some form of global
governance. The establishment and enforcement of economic, ecological,
and social welfare minima so as to prevent jobs from traveling to those
places that are the least willing to protect the environment and
workers. To date, there is no organized or collective democratic power
at the global level up to the task.
Democracy's Dilemma articulately describes the challenge,
but does not offer much in the way of answers. Paehlke cites some trends
that lead in the right direction, such as the emergence of global
democratic politics and consumer sovereignty movements. But how to reach
a compromise between opposing camps (economism vs. environmentalism vs.
social welfarism) is not apparent. The challenge is clear, but the
answer remains a mystery.
Law's Dream of a
By Mariana Valverde (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press,
2003). 264 pgs. $35. Order, (609) 258-5714.
Reviewed by Jonathan M. Ward
Law traditionally recognizes two types of knowledge: lay and expert.
Expert knowledge, the province of specially qualified individuals, is
typically thought of as being separate from general lay knowledge.
Mariana Valverde, a sociologist at the University of Toronto, sees a
third hitherto unexplored type - a hybrid between expert and lay that
occupies a space just above lay knowledge and is used daily by courts
and law enforcement officials alike.
In Law's Dream of a Common Knowledge, the author exposes
this hybrid knowledge through vignettes, focusing first on indecency and
obscenity. She examines how Canadian authorities struggle to define
"risk of harm," and who is authorized to make such determinations. The
contextually varying legal significance of apparently static scientific
evidence also is considered. Next she explores the concept of sexual
orientation, detailing how law is moving toward a definition that is
habit- or culturally-based and away from one based on act or identity.
Finally, she examines liquor licensing and the common knowledge of
drunkenness, and the way concepts of race (specifically, "Indianess")
have affected this knowledge. Throughout the study she focuses not only
on sources of knowledge, but also on who the law authorizes to exercise
and interpret the findings.
In this scholarly work, Valverde writes from her position of
sociology professor. She apparently is well-versed in post-modern
philosophy and assumes that her readers are as well. As a result, she
occasionally relies on sociological and philosophical jargon, which at
times makes her points less accessible to readers without the requisite
background. Despite this, her examination of more obscure aspects of
legal decision-making provides ample food for thought for anyone
involved in litigation. Finally, her comparison of U.S. and Canadian
legal systems (and, for a few chapters, the United Kingdom) makes for an
enjoyable read for anyone with an interest in comparative law.
By Marcelline Burns, Ph.D. (Tucson, AZ: Lawyers & Judges
Publishing, 2003). 468 pgs. Order,
Reviewed by Michelle L. Atkins
Lawyers may be challenged to understand and explain how drugs are
classified or their effects on performance and behavior. The challenge
increases as new medicinal drugs are introduced, and as patterns of drug
abuse change. Medical-Legal Aspects of Drugs compiles 16
up-to-the-minute articles that address the most common legal issues
concerning the classification, labeling, and behavioral effects of
While the chapters assume various degrees of familiarity with the
technical aspects of drugs, most are understandable even to the
neophyte. The first chapters educate on the Drug Recognition Expert
(DRE) classification system, pharmacology and toxicology,
pharmacokinetics, and laboratory issues. The articles addressing various
drugs' performance and behavior effects are absorbing; Trinka Poratta's
chapter on rave and club drugs is downright fascinating. Some, however,
such as Laurent Rivier's chapter on laboratory technology, are directed
less toward educating the average lawyer than toward guiding expert
witnesses or laboratory technicians in approaches best suited to legal
The chapters include several features, including detailed outlines,
glossaries, and bibliographies of academic sources. The authors draw
connections where possible to legal application of the information they
offer. Although the most common application is to how drugs affect
automobile drivers, a chapter is devoted to workplace drug testing, and
another to defending drug cases and the collateral issues involved in
such defense, such as forfeiture laws, immigration consequences, and the
effects on professional licenses.
Regulation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and
Drug Administration receives little emphasis, as do constitutional
issues such as search and seizure. However, the book should be a
valuable practical guide for lawyers seeking to understand drugs, drug
testing, and the influence of drugs on behavior and performance.
To Review a Book...
The following books are available for review. Please request the book
and writing guidelines from Karlé Lester at the State Bar of
Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158, (608) 250-6127, org klester wisbar wisbar klester org.
Publications and videos available for review
- Are You There Alone? The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea
Yates, by Suzanne O'Malley (New York, NY: Simon &
Schuster, 2004). 281 pgs.
- Basic PowerPoint Exhibits, by Deanne C. Siemer
& Frank D. Rothschild (Notre Dame, IN: National Institute for Trial
Advocacy, 2003). 178 pgs.
- Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century,
edited by Thomas W. Malone, Robert Laubacher, Michael S. Scott
Morton (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003). 443 pgs.
- LawyerLife: Finding a Life and a Higher Calling in the
Practice of Law, by Carl Horn III (Chicago, IL: ABA, 2003).
- The Lawyer's Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet,
Second Edition, by Carole A. Levitt & Mark E. Rosch (Chicago,
IL: ABA, 2004). 640 pgs.
- Taking and Defending Depositions, by Stuart M.
Israel (Philadelphia, PA: ALI-ABA, 2004).344 pgs.
- Uneasy Alchemy: Citizens & Experts in Louisiana's
Chemical Corridor Disputes, by Barbara L. Allen (Cambridge,
MA: The MIT Press, 2004). 224 pgs.