When Should Law Forgive?
By Martha Minow (New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Co., 2019). 256 pages. $15.69. Order, www.amazon.com.
Reviewed by Bill Thedinga
Forgiveness is a difficult fit for a rules-based system like the law. The legal system provides a framework for righting wrongs, punishing wrongs that are criminal, and compensating wrongs that are noncriminal; forgiveness throws out the rules and wipes away the consequences of the wrongs.
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In When Should Law Forgive, Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor and former dean of Harvard Law School, argues that although forgiveness is a difficult subject for the law to incorporate, it is a necessary component of a fair and just legal system. She argues that new frameworks are needed for understanding and applying the idea of forgiveness in the American legal system.
Minow’s discussion of specific examples of forgiveness in the legal system is bracketed by a lengthy introduction and a concluding section titled “Reflections.” In the main chapters, she focuses on three topics to illustrate the place of forgiveness in the legal system. The first is a discussion of how the criminal law treats minors. The second is a discussion of bankruptcy as an example of providing a fresh start. And the last is a discussion of amnesty and pardon. Although the topics are disparate, Minow uses them to suggest possible frameworks for incorporating forgiveness into the legal system.
Minow has been studying, speaking about, and writing about forgiveness for many years. This book is the synthesis of her prior work; it is a comprehensive and exhaustive treatment of the place of forgiveness in the legal system. (The footnotes take up 69 pages of the 256 pages of the book.) For anyone interested in the subject, this book should be the starting point.
Bill Thedinga, Harvard 1973 (where he was president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau), is a former shareholder and partner in the Eau Claire office of Weld Riley. He is now retired and living south of Boston.
Making a Difference: My Fight for Native Rights and Social Justice
By Ada Deer & Theda Perdue (Norman, OK: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 2019). 232 pgs. $26.95. Order, www.oupress.com.
Reviewed by Rita Knauss
As Nelson Mandela said, “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in our hands to make a difference.” That is exactly what Ada Deer did, as she explains in her inspiring memoir, telling how she reversed the forced termination of the Menominee tribe and ensured the sovereignty and self-determination of all tribes.
Deer aptly begins the book with the following words: “I am a Menominee Indian. That is who I was born and how I have lived.” She was born to a white mother and a Menominee Indian father and grew up in poverty on the Menominee Reservation. Her accomplishments include earning degrees in social work, running for Congress, and serving as the Assistant Secretary of Interior and head of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs during the Clinton administration, and she was recently inducted into the National Native American Hall of Fame. Her life was not without roadblocks: losing her run for Congress, termination of her tribe, having to fight for its restoration instead of continuing in law school. Deer just kept going.
Her stories are told in a conversational style and are full of humor. For example, when making her run for Congress, she said, “Friends, I’ve been waiting all my life to say this: Me nominee.” She also shows her dedication to her cause: “I do not regret having no children of my own. My life has been full and rich, and my time has gone to trying to make this country a better place for all children.” The book includes photos of Deer with such public figures as Gloria Steinem, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Ted Kennedy.
Everyone should read this book. It is inspiring to women, Native Americans, and anyone who wants to effect change. It is living American and Wisconsin history. The book will inform you about the complicated issues involved in public policy toward Native Americans. It may inspire you to make your world a better place. Couldn’t we all use that?
Rita Knauss, U.W. 1996, is an attorney editor at the State Bar of Wisconsin.
VERDICT: It’s a Keeper
101+ Practical Solutions for the Family Lawyer: Sensible Answers to Common Problems (4th Ed.)
Edited by Gregg Herman (Chicago, IL: ABA Family Law Section, 2019). 719 pgs. $149.95. Order, www.shopaba.org.
Reviewed by Sue Taylor
This comprehensive resource is loaded with tips from family lawyers and other experts from around the United States. The contributors and editor have come across some situations that might never even occur to other people working in the family law field. They also have tips for issues that come up all the time, and everything in between.
The fourth edition is extremely readable, because the chapters are short and to the point. In a perfect world, every lawyer practicing family law could implement the “Sensible Answers,” whether setting up an office or developing trial strategies. There is new material for every family lawyer, from new to seasoned. For example, the chapter on electronic evidence is relatively new to most.
Although this book should be read cover to cover and kept on the family lawyer’s shelf for reference, some of the tips seem untenable because of cost and human behavior. Many of the suggestions in this book are not affordable by the average middle-class client. These clients are not willing to spend money for an appraisal, an expert, and so forth. Other clients simply cannot or will not follow your advice.
Having said that, the book thoroughly goes through the issues for a lawyer to address, with suggestions on how to work with clients – even difficult clients.
Gregg Herman’s fourth edition of this book replaces the third edition, published in 2009. He culled the compilation of articles to remove stale chapters and included new articles taken from family law continuing legal education programs presented in the interim. The book contains numerous useful forms and lists to adapt for your practice. It is well organized with a useful table of contents and deserves kudos for format and ease of use. With decades of family law practice and several seriously useful publications, Herman has produced an excellent resource.
Susan K. Taylor, Maryland 1980, has practiced law in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Semi-retired, she now works as a paralegal with Nickolai & Poletti LLC, Burlington.