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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 79, No. 11, November 2006

    Book Reviews


    Indefensible

    Indefensible

    By David Feige (New York, NY: Little, Brown & Co., 2006). 288 pgs. $24.95.

    Reviewed by Kevin J. Cords

    Indefensible provides a day-in-the-life look at a Bronx public defender. The author, a former Bronx public defender and a 1991 U.W. Law School graduate, provides back stories, extended exposition, and examples so that the import of the various daily events are fully felt. The author also gives one a sense of the agony of waiting - both at the court house and in the local jail - that goes hand-in-hand with being accused of a crime.

    This book is accessible for a wide variety of people, both in the legal profession and outside it. While it will be of most interest to people working in the field of criminal law, it provides an invaluable insight into the practice of law and its operation and is a forthright and genuinely sincere exposé of the reality of our legal system. The book serves as a useful reminder of the travails of practicing law, and the positives and negatives the author notes will be familiar to any practitioner. Policy makers also could put the book to valuable use.

    The pace is fast and the tone is surprisingly upbeat and positive, despite the many problems the author identifies. His humanity comes through repeatedly, especially when he admits doubts and pressures. This depth is lacking at the outset but it develops throughout.

    New law students may be particularly well served by reading this book, as an insight into the practice of law and as an exposure to a type of practice that many will never see. Unlike in A Civil Action, readers of Indefensible do not see one case from beginning to end, although large portions of the stories are shared. What Indefensible best conveys is the human side of the law, something that should not be forgotten in our educations and careers.

    Kevin J. Cords, U.W. 2002, is an attorney at Balisle & Roberson, S.C., Madison, practicing primarily in family law.

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    Guide to Winning in Small Claims Court

    By Jeffrey A. Isaac (San Diego, CA: The Lawyer in Blue Jeans Group, 2006). 65 pgs. $29.95. Order, (619) 683-2345.

    Reviewed by Jason Hanson

    This book, a 65-page spiral bound handbook, is written by Jeffrey Isaac, a California lawyer who hosts a radio show called "Blue Jeans Law." The book apparently is written for pro se litigants who are prosecuting or defending actions in California small claims courts.

    Most of the book is very specific to California and contains information that would be very misleading, if not wrong, for Wisconsin litigants. For example, the book indicates that a small claims litigant cannot be represented by an attorney and cannot file more than two small claims cases per year, and that a small claims plaintiff cannot appeal an adverse decision. These statements may all be true in California, but they are not true here. Wisconsin residents who read the book, which contains no admonition that it applies only in California or that law varies from state to state, may make bad choices if they follow some of the rules specified in the book.

    The book contains several typographical errors, such as missing words or punctuation, and improper capitalization. The book also has a few strange aspects - as one example, it provides an order blank for ordering other books in the series but neglects to provide a mailing address.

    The book does contain a decent overview of the small claims hearing process. It also provides good general advice on how to determine whether pursuing a claim makes sense, given the time and expense of even informal court proceedings, and the difficulties in collecting on judgments. It would be a good guide for a California resident considering a small claims suit, albeit a bit expensive at its $29.95 retail price. A Wisconsin resident would be better served by using the many resources available from the State Bar of Wisconsin, the state court system, and local law libraries.

    Jason J. Hanson, U.W. 1998, a Dane County circuit court commissioner, presides mainly over family and small claims cases.

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    Your Lawyer: A User's Guide

    By Lawrence J. Fox & Susan R. Martyn (Charlottesville, VA: LexisNexis, 2006). 100 pgs. $12. Order, www.lexisnexis.com/yourlawyer.

    Reviewed by Martha C. Carlson

    Published by Lexis Nexis, Your Lawyer: A User's Guide seeks to fill the void in the existing literature by giving clients a quick introduction to the experience of working with a lawyer and the ethical obligations that their lawyer must adhere to. At 100 pages, A User's Guide provides a brief outline of the following topics: lawyer advertising, lawyer referrals, attorney fees, conflicts of interest, how to handle client-attorney problems, improper attorney conduct, reporting attorney misconduct, and alternative dispute resolution. The cartoons satirizing the professional life of an attorney keep the book light and easy to read.

    From an attorney's perspective, the most important sections of the book address conflicts of interest and the ethical obligations of our profession. Written in a question and answer format, A User's Guide explains what a client's lawyer cannot do (for example, pay the client's rent in lieu of fees, lie to the court on behalf of the client, engage in a sexual relationship with the client). Although much of the book will feel like a regurgitation of the Lawyers Code of Professional Conduct, many clients are just not aware that there are certain limitations on their lawyers' behavior.

    The book also includes a glossary of legal and professional terms, including "billable hour," "expenses," and "reasonable." A User's Guide does a nice job of explaining the different kinds of fee arrangements, including contingent fees, fixed rates, and hourly fees.

    While this book may not be an essential component of the practitioner's library, at a retail price of $12, it is a relatively inexpensive way to provide clients with a brief background of the attorney-client relationship before a consultation.

    Martha C. Carlson, Marquette 2003, practices in Burlington, focusing on criminal law, family law, and general civil litigation.

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    Mr. Tutt's Case Book

    By Arthur Train (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1944).

    Reviewed by Douglas E. Baker

    "It is not enough for a lawyer to know either the law or the judge, or even both. To succeed in his profession he must, above all else, know his fellow man." - From The Liberty of the Jail Something compelled me to pull the book from the free-books bin outside the local half-price bookstore. It couldn't have been the faded olive-green cover with illegible flecks of gold gilt lettering or the pile of musty books around it. But something did. When I opened it, a vaguely sophisticated odor of pipe tobacco drifted out, creating a passing mental image of a smoking jacket in a darkly paneled home library, in which rows of books stood smartly at the edge of the yellow reading light, waiting to share old confidences and reflections. The pages, reflecting every one of their 60-some years, were yellowed and stiff. But I recognized the title on the flyleaf and found myself drawn into Mr. Tutt's Case Book, a collection of 26 stories about the practice of law in the 1920s and '30s, the way it was - or ideally would have been - practiced.

    I had a passing acquaintance with the firm of Tutt & Tutt, having come across it in a short story collection years ago. That familiarity inspired me to take the book home and further investigate. I soon came to know and appreciate Ephriam Tutt, a tall, urbane, older, gentleman attorney equally at home in the courtroom, the board room, and the barroom, with his (even then) old-fashioned stovepipe hat and penchant for smelly cigars. To some extent he seemed an American Horace Rumpole,1 committed to the pursuit of justice, which usually involves defending the "little guy" against moneyed interests and their pompous advocates. Like Rumpole, Mr. Tutt (as he is invariably called by everyone) is given to spouting poetry whenever it strikes him as apropos of a particular situation. Their primary difference is that Mr. Tutt possesses the wealth and sophistication that Rumpole seems to simultaneously desire and disparage.

    The other half of Tutt & Tutt is the younger and stouter Samuel Tutt (no relation to Ephriam and never referred to as "Mr.") who does the legal grunt work and trial preparation. The junior Tutt tends to argue purely on the side of the controlling law, reasoning that because "the law is wise, based on generations of experience," it ought to be presumed that the legal answer is the end of the question. Mr. Tutt is more drawn to the equitable side of the law: "In a word," the author writes, "he applied to any given situation the law as it ought to be and not the law as it was." This interplay between Mr. Tutt and Tutt provides much of the intellectual savor of the book, resulting, as the author deftly puts it, in Mr. Tutt "always tilting like Don Quixote at some imaginary windmill, dragging a very unwilling Sancho Panza after him, in the form of his reluctant partner." Over the years each has come to appreciate and rely on the other, and the fact that the firm prospers is a testament to the ability of each partner to rise above his individual prejudices and to find an answer that satisfies both perspectives.

    The stories are well-crafted, fun, and elegant, most involving a series of interesting and all-too-human recurring regulars, with the occasional appearance of a transient and evil villain. The plots seldom reach beyond the realm of credulity, invariably reaching a plausible, if sometimes a bit forced, ending in which right is done after all.

    Train, in his nonliterary hours, served as assistant district attorney of New York County and special deputy attorney general of New York State, and his stories reflect his experiences and his legal background. Each story is followed by a sort of brief, in which another attorney traces the legal issues raised in the story, including the then-current authority usually supporting - but occasionally refuting - the outcome of the story. These annotations often seem quaint and Olympian, reflecting a long-gone era when the practice of law was seriously considered a profession and an art, rights and justice arguably mattered more than money, and the sums in dispute were incredibly paltry by modern standards.

    The stories are not perfect, however. For one thing, they sometimes rely on period references that seldom make sense to modern readers. More disturbing, though, are occasional lapses into casually racist comments, usually in the form of references to biases and phrases that seem to have been a part of the lingua franca of the day. A similarly subtle sexism also appears, in that, although there are plenty of old ladies and damsels in distress, there are almost no female authority figures. The one exception might be the firm's "chief clerk" and moral compass, Miss Minerva Wiggins, who does have a law degree. But she never appears in court, and Train goes out of his way to describe her as "a maiden lady of forty years."

    Disappointing though such unconscious flaws can be, it might be said that they also impart value to the stories, suggesting that even the gilded age of the practice of law had its imperfections, and reminding us that not everything lost was worth keeping.

    Mt. Tutt's Casebook is a delight, and one of several collections of stories about Tutt & Tutt that appeared in the first half of the 20th century. You would do well to pick one up - if you can find it. [Editor's Note: A search at Amazon.com produced several results.]

    1If you don't know Horace Rumpole, don't expect me to deliver you from your ignorance here.

    Douglas E. Baker, Creighton 1989, is a legal editor for State Bar of Wisconsin CLE Books, Madison.

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    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

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    • The Electronic Evidence and Discovery Handbook: Forms, Checklists, and Guidelines, by Sharon D. Nelson, Bruce A. Olson, & John W. Simek (Chicago, IL: ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2006). 768 pgs. CD-ROM.

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    • Executive Compensation and Related_Party Disclosure: SEC Rules and Explanation, by James Hamilton (Riverwoods, IL: CCH, 2006). 193 pgs.

    • Fighting Son: A Biography of Philip F. La Follette, by Jonathan Kasparek (Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society, 2006). 332 pgs.

    • Guiding Those Left Behind in Wisconsin, 2nd Ed., by Amelia E. Pohl, with Dale M. Krause (Boca Raton, FL: Eagle Publishing Co. of Boca, 2003). 243 pgs.

    • Insincere Promises: The Law of Misrepresented Intent, by Ian Ayres & Greg Klass (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 2006). 306 pgs.

    • The Landscape of Reform: Civic Pragmatism and Environmental Thought in America, by Ben A. Minteer (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006). 272 pgs.

    • The Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006). 176 pgs.

    • The Myth of Judicial Activism: Making Sense of Supreme Court Decisions, by Kermit Roosevelt III (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 2006). 262 pgs.

    • Nonlegal Careers for Lawyers, 5th Ed., by Gary A. Munneke, William D. Henslee & Ellen Wayne (Chicago, IL: ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2006). 208 pgs.

    • Peace Mom: A Mother's Journey Through Heartache to Activism, by Cindy Sheehan (New York, NY: Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, 2006). 224 pgs.

    • Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches, by Nolan McCarty, Keith T. Poole, & Howard Rosenthal (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006). 240 pgs.

    • Software Licensing Handbook, by Jeffrey I. Gordon (Raleigh, NC: Jeffrey I. Gordon, 2006). 248 pgs. Review copy is in PDF format. Call Wisconsin Lawyer associate editor to discuss reviewer's printing option.

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