You may have heard Hamilton is coming off the $10 bill, but, in response to the extreme popularity of ‘Hamilton’ (the Musical), Hamilton is here to stay. Did you know that Seattle University’s undergraduate library has the book that inspired the musical? Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow is available in the Lemieux Library on the 4th Floor at E302.6 H2 C48 2004. And if you like the musical and biographies of the founding fathers, you’ll love Originalism (the judicial interpretation of the constitution that aims to follow closely the original intentions of those who drafted it). Here are two books we have on Originalism:

Living Originalism by J. M. Balkin, Available at SU Law Library LAW-4th Floor (KF4552.B35 2011)

Originalism: A Quarter-Century of Debate by Steven G. Calabresi, Available at SU Law Library LAW-4th Floor (KF4749.A2O75 2007)

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Today in Legal History: Former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew Disbarred

From WikipediaOn May 2, 1974, the Maryland Court of Appeals disbarred Former Vice President Spiro Agnew. A Baltimore grand jury had linked Agnew to political corruption—bribery, extortion, and tax evasion.  Agnew avoided indictments on bribery and extortion by pleading no contest to tax evasion. Agnew resigned from office in 1973, and while the government did not prosecute him on charges of bribery and extortion, he was nonetheless disbarred as a result of his no-contest plea.

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Law Day Legislation

Although celebrated previously, Law Day was officially codified in 1961 by Public Law 87-20. Law Day is May 1 and is intended to be “a special day of celebration by the American people in appreciation
of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States of America; of their rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under law in their relations with each other as well as with other nations; and for the cultivation of that respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.”

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April is Poetry Month!

Ven-Fuel was convicted of fraudulent acts,
By the Trial Court’s finding of adequate facts.
We think it likely that fraud took place,
But Materiality was not shown in this case.
So while the Government will no doubt be annoyed,
We declare the conviction null and void.

U.S. v. Ven-Fuel, Inc., 602 F.2d 747, 748 (C.A.Fla., 1979). Written by Judge John R. Brown.
Ven-Fuel had been convicted of importing fuel oil under an import license obtained by fraudulent statements, but the appellate court found the statements not material. The entire poem is 14 lines, and an elegant summary of the case.

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April is Poetry Month! Part 2

In our last blog post we celebrated Poetry Month with a poem from Fisher v. Lowe, 122 Mich.Ct. App. 418 (1983). Here’s an Easter Egg: Westlaw, in its summary of the case, responded with a poem of their own:

A wayward Chevy struck a tree
Whose owner sued defendants three.
He sued car’s owner, driver too,
And insurer for what was due
For his oak tree that now may bear

A lasting need for tender care.

The Oakland County Circuit Court,
John N. O’Brien, J., set forth
The judgment that defendants sought

And quickly an appeal was brought.

Court of Appeals, J.H. Gillis, J.,
Gave thought and then had this to say:
1) There is no liability
Since No-Fault grants immunity;
2) No jurisdiction can be found
Where process service is unsound;
And thus the judgment, as it’s termed,

Is due to be, and is,

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April is Poetry Month!

We thought that we would never see
A suit to compensate a tree.
A suit whose claim in tort is prest
Upon a mangled tree’s behest;
A tree whose battered trunk was prest
Against a Chevy’s crumpled crest;
A tree that faces each new day
With bark and limb in disarray;
A tree that may forever bear
A lasting need for tender care.
Flora lovers though we three,
We must uphold the court’s decree.

Fisher v Lowe, 122 Mich.Ct. App. 418, 419, 333 N.W.2d 67 (1983), written by J. H. Gillis for a three judge panel. The trial court had granted summary judgment for the defendant.

If the poem sounds familiar, it is based on Joyce Kilmer’s Trees.

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Today in Legal History: Bay of Pigs Invasion

On April 17, 1961, a CIA-backed group of Cuban refugees tried to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. As soon as the party landed, they were met with resistance from Castro’s forces, and promised US air support never materialized. Of the 1,200 exiles trying to recapture their homeland, 100 died and the rest were captured.

Not only did the plan fail, it made the situation in Cuba even less desirable to the US government. Castro was able to put pressure on his Soviet allies for more support, and denounced the US to the world. Far from displacing Castro, the actions of the CIA cemented Castro’s control on Cuba, and made new president John F. Kennedy look weak and indecisive.

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G.I. Joe: Doll or Toy Soldier?

Courts decide so many fascinating questions. In 1989, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals was asked to determine whether G.I. Joe Action Figures were dolls or toy soldiers (technically, “Toy figures of animate objects (except dolls): Not having a spring mechanism: Not stuffed: Other”). The reason a court was involved is that a different tariff rate applied depending on the classification. From the final words of the opinion: “Even though G.I. Joe has lost this battle, hopefully he will not lose his courage for combat, despite being officially designated by the United States Customs Service as a “doll.””

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Books By and About Justice Scalia in SU’s Library Collection

Written By Justice Scalia:

Reading Law: the Interpretation of Legal Texts by Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner
Available at SU Law Library LAW-3rd Floor (K290.S33 2012)
Publisher’s Description:

In this groundbreaking book by best-selling authors Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner, all the most important principles of constitutional, statutory, and contractual interpretation are systematically explained in an engaging and informative style-including several hundred illustrations from actual cases. Never before has legal interpretation been so fascinatingly explained. Both authors are individually renowned for their scintillating prose styles, and together they make even the seemingly dry subject of legal interpretation riveting. Though intended primarily for judges and the lawyers who appear before them to argue the meaning of texts, Reading Law is sound educational reading for anyone who seeks to understand how judges decide cases-or should decide cases. The book is a superb introduction to modern judicial decision-making.

Making Your Case: the Art of Persuading Judges by Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner
Available at SU Law Library LAW-Reserve (KF8870.S28 2008)
Publisher’s Description:

In their professional lives courtroom lawyers must do these two things well: speak persuasively and write persuasively. In this noteworthy book, two of the most noted legal writers of our day Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner systematically present every important idea about judicial persuasion in a fresh, entertaining way. Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges is a guide for novice and experienced litigators alike. It covers the essentials of sound legal reasoning, including how to develop the syllogism that underlies any argument. From there the authors explain the art of brief-writing, especially what to include and what to omit, so that you can induce the judge to focus closely on your arguments. Finally, they show what it takes to succeed in oral argument.

A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law: An Essay by Antonin Scalia & Amy Gutmann
Available at SU Law Library LAW-4th Floor (KF4552 .S28 1997)
Publisher’s Description:

In exploring the neglected art of statutory interpretation, Scalia urges that judges resist the temptation to use legislative intention and legislative history. In his view, it is incompatible with democratic government to allow the meaning of a statute to be determined by what the judges think the lawgivers meant rather than by what the legislature actually promulgated. Eschewing the judicial lawmaking that is the essence of common law, judges should interpret statutes and regulations by focusing on the text itself. Scalia then extends this principle to constitutional law. He proposes that we abandon the notion of an everchanging Constitution and pay attention to the Constitution’s original meaning. Although not subscribing to the “strict constructionism” that would prevent applying the Constitution to modern circumstances, Scalia emphatically rejects the idea that judges can properly “smuggle” in new rights or deny old rights by using the Due Process Clause, for instance. In fact, such judicial discretion might lead to the destruction of the Bill of Rights if a majority of the judges ever wished to reach that most undesirable of goals.

Written About Justice Scalia:

Scalia: A Court of One by Bruce Allen Murphy
Available at SU Law Library LAW-4th Floor (KF8745.S33M87 2014)
Publisher’s Description:

Scalia: A Court of One is the compelling story of one of the most polarizing figures to serve on the nation’s highest court. Bruce Allen Murphy shows how Scalia changed the legal landscape through his controversial theories of textualism and originalism, interpreting the meaning of the Constitution’s words as he claimed they were understood during the nation’s Founding period. But Scalia’s judicial conservatism is informed as much by his highly traditional Catholicism and political partisanship as by his reading of the Constitution; his opinionated speeches, contentious public appearances, and newsworthy interviews have made him a lightning rod for controversy. Scalia is “an intellectual biography of one of [the Supreme Court’s] most colorful members” (Chicago Tribune), combined with an insightful analysis of the Supreme Court and its influence on American life over the past quarter century.

American Original: the Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by Joan Biskupic
Available at SU Law Library LAW-4th Floor (KF8745.S33B57 2009)
Publisher’s Description:

Combative yet captivating, infuriating yet charming, the outspoken jurist remains a source of curiosity to observers across the political spectrum and on both sides of the ideological divide. But for all his public grandstanding, Scalia has managed to elude biographers―until now. In American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the veteran Washington journalist Joan Biskupic presents for the first time a detailed portrait of this complicated figure and provides a comprehensive narrative that will engage Scalia’s adherents and critics alike. Drawing on her long tenure covering the Court and on unprecedented access to the justice, Biskupic delves into the circumstances of his rise and the formation of his rigorous approach on the bench. This book shows us the man in power: his world, his journey, and the far-reaching consequences of a transformed legal landscape.

What Good is Legislative History?: Justice Scalia in the Federal Courts of Appeals by Joseph L. Gerken
Available at SU Law Library LAW-4th Floor (KF425.G47 2007)
Publisher’s Description:

This title from Hein is the first to study the influence of Justice Antonin Scalia’s criticism of legislative histories in more than 250 court decisions. Gerken paints a picture of Justice Scalia’s influence on the judicial system with his approach to statutory interpretation. This book provides unique insight into how judges think and what reasoning goes into their decisions.

Justice Antonin Scalia and the Conservative Revival by Richard A. Brisbin
Available at SU Lemieux Library 4th Floor-Books (KF8745 .S33 B75 1997)
Publisher’s Description

As the leading legal voice of the American conservative movement, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has challenged the assumptions and legal methodology of American liberals. In this thorough and exacting study of the development of Justice Scalia’s legal principles, Richard Brisbin explores the foundation and elaboration of the justice’s conservative political vision. After reviewing Scalia’s legal experiences before joining the Supreme Court and describing the influences on his political and legal thought, Brisbin undertakes a detailed analysis of Scalia’s Supreme Court voting record and opinions. The conservative philosophy emerging from Scalia’s legal decisions, Brisbin argues, assumes the legitimacy and propriety of political regimes functioning under the rule of law. It disciplines—sometimes harshly—inappropriate uses of liberty and accepts the proposition that the law can serve as an effective means to structure, interpret, and control political conflicts. The most comprehensive study of Justice Scalia’s politics and jurisprudence yet published, Justice Antonin Scalia and the Conservative Revival joins a vital discussion on contemporary American conservatism and the use of the law to restrain or undermine the New Deal state.

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Today in Legal History: Constitution Goes into Effect

The Constitutional Convention was the result of intense negotiation and compromise, although it is said that George Washington, who was president of the assembly, spent much of that time fishing. One of the central controversies was the form of government for the new country. Some delegates favored the adoption of a monarchy, but Madison, an ardent advocate for a strong central government, strongly opposed. The battle over ratification was acrimonious. Many anti-Federalists believed the new Constitution favored wealthy landowners and there were misgivings that the majority of the people did not, in fact, support the new Constitution. As a result of these battles, the Bill of Rights was created, with Madison as its greatest advocate. Somehow, in spite of the bitter divisiveness and disagreement, the framers managed to create the world’s shortest constitution and one that stood the test of time. The U.S. Constitution is the oldest, single- source derived constitution still in effect.

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