by Randall Peerenboom and Tom Ginsburg (eds). New York: The Cambridge University Press, 2014. 386pp. Cloth $99.99. ISBN: 978-1-107-02815-9. Paper $39.99. ISBN: 978-1-107-60919-8.

Reviewed by John Alexander, Department of Political Science, University of California, Irvine. Email: jsalexan [at]


This edited volume contains a diverse set of chapters focusing on issues of law and development in middle-income countries (MICs) from legal scholars and political scientists, as well as NGO workers. The book’s subtitle suggests it focuses on the ‘middle-income trap’ or why so many countries fail to progress out of middle-income status. However, the essays inside address a number of different issues associated with MICs including developmental models, good governance, and the judicialization of social and economic rights. The resulting work makes a clear contribution to our understanding of the assorted challenges facing this important group of countries. It will be of use to scholars across disciplines with interests in the developing world and offers a great introduction to those unfamiliar with some of the issues confronting MICs.

The book contains sixteen chapters divided across five parts and seeks answers to a number of different questions. Randall Peerenboom’s excellent introduction outlines eight different questions related to MICs that are addressed to varying degrees in the following chapters. These include: is MIC a useful analytic category, is there a middle income trap, other than wealth what do countries that have moved from MIC to high-income country (HIC) have in common, what are the benefits and challenges of globalization for MICs, what is the relationships between wealth, the rule of law, and good governance, and how can MICs best deal with pressing socioeconomic issues? The individual chapters use a variety of different methods and almost all are comparative. Regionally, the book focuses on Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

Part I examines ‘The Politics of Development in MICs’ and contains two chapters that highlight how political considerations can prevent MICs from adopting the policies necessary to advance beyond middle-income status. In chapter 2 Tom Ginsburg argues that MICs must create more autonomous courts in order to join the ranks of HICs. However, autonomous courts cannot develop without particular institutional underpinnings and political conditions that are often missing in MICs. These prerequisites are often absent because of decisions made earlier in the development process. Surain Subramaniam compares the developmental states of Singapore and Malaysia in chapter 3, and argues Singapore’s success is due in part to political interests taking a backseat to the goal of development. In contrast, Malaysia struggles to deliver on its development goals because policies are [*334] altered to make concessions to politically powerful ethnic groups. As a consequence, authoritarianism remains stable in Singapore, while Malaysia’s government confronts increasing calls for liberalization in the face of the government’s failure to deliver on its economic promises.


by Mary Christina Wood. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 436pp. Cloth $115.00. ISBN 978-0521195133. Paper $45.00 ISBN: 978-0521144117.

Reviewed by Sam Kalen, Professor, University of Wyoming College of Law. E-mail: skalen [at]


Climate change is the defining challenge for modern environmental law, and Mary Wood’s NATURE’S TRUST presents an ambitious argument for why modern environmental law has failed and why we need a “Nature’s Trust.” Her book “aims to bring environmental law face to face with the new ecological age” and “presents a transformative framework – Nature’s Trust – to fundamentally redirect government’s environmental policy from its present course of legalizing colossal damage to a project of epic restoration” (p.5). Animated by our consumption of nature’s capital – the ecological services provided by our air, land, water, and wildlife resources, and concerned that we are depriving future generations of those resources, Mary Wood constructs a novel legal paradigm based on the traditional principles of fiduciary obligations to protect our ecological resources as well as secure future generations’ ability to enjoy those resources. This new paradigm relies on active citizen involvement with the courts to constrain governmental actors from dissipating our ecological trust assets. And it would impose on those governmental actors a fiduciary obligation as a trustee to protect the assets for the “public” as the beneficiary.

A dominant theme permeating NATURE’S TRUST is that federal environmental agencies have been “captured” by the industry they regulate, and that courts contribute to this phenomenon by affording those agencies “deference” when parties challenge agency decisions. Although the Justices on the modern Supreme Court are currently engaged in a dialogue about the breadth of deference afforded agencies (this became evident in the parry between Justices Scalia and Chief Justice Roberts in CITY OF ARLINGTON 2013), the extant judicial deference doctrine is premised upon a few core principles. The doctrine assumes, when Congress has not spoken to the precise issue being addressed, that it implicitly intends to delegate to the administering agency the authority to make a reasoned decision about how best to address that issue. The application of deference further treats agency officials as “experts” capable of making policy decisions that are beyond the ken of the judiciary.

This general acquiescence to agency decisions, Mary Wood opines, is both destructive to the environment and to democracy itself. It is environmentally deleterious, she suggests, because federal environmental agencies are not maximizing the potential under modern environmental statutes to address critical environmental threats, such as from climate change. Instead, they are “often operat[ing] in tight alliance with industry and private interests” (p.50). Here, NATURE’S TRUST accepts the theory of agency “capture:” that as environmental [*330] agencies have become too cozy with the regulated community those agencies have softened their implementation and enforcement of the 1970’s era environmental statutes. This, she concludes, then vests the Executive Branch with too much power, tilting the balance of power in our constitutional structure (p.53). And Part 1 of NATURE’S TRUST chronicles how a too powerful Executive Branch has allowed politics and influence to shape decisions “to favor industry over the public interest [and] threaten[ing] democracy itself” (p.102). The result, therefore, is that agencies promote Nature’s destruction rather than retard environmental threats (pp.50-51).


by Jill Norgren. New York: New York University Press, 2013. 286pp. Cloth $30.00. ISBN: 9780814758625

Reviewed by Kiki Jamieson, The Fund for New Jersey. Email: kjamieson [at]


Stories of the struggles faced by the United States’ first women lawyers, related judiciously by Professor Jill Norgren, bring to life women who have not often been the subjects of study. Like the best accounts of plaintiffs in landmark cases, REBELS AT THE BAR highlights the happenstance of law and legal history. Although with modern hindsight the inclusion of women as lawyers seems inevitable, the actual record Norgren highlights shows that it was instead the outcome of lucky coincidences, benevolent male supporters, and, most importantly, the dogged perseverance of a handful of remarkable women. Through detailed explorations of the lives of eight women, and sojourns into the experiences of many others, Norgren charts the slow progress from individual women’s perhaps quixotic desire to be lawyers in the late 1860s, to the burgeoning camaraderie of the “sisters-in-law” who formed the Congress of Women Lawyers in 1893, to 1900 when twenty women had been admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar and more than 1,000 identified themselves as lawyers.

Myra Bradwell, the most famous of the group, was the subject of an 1872 U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming state’s powers to regulate the practice of law. She is known to even beginning students of legal history as the object of Justice Bradley’s hyperbolic concurring opinion, in which he declaimed:

[T]he civil law, as well as nature herself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. Man is, or should be, woman's protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life. … The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator. And the rules of civil society must be adapted to the general constitution of things, and cannot be based upon exceptional cases (BRADWELL V. THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, 83 US 130 (1873) quoted at pp.140-142).

But Norgren tells us something new: that “lawyers in the courtroom laughed out loud as Justice Bradley read his theory of separate spheres” (p.42). These disparate reactions to the idea of women lawyers are explored in great detail through six chapters of biography.


by Carol Nackenoff and Julie Novkov (eds). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. 320pp. Cloth $59.95. ISBN: 978-0-8122-4571-4.

Reviewed by Brandon Thomas Metroka, Department of Political Science, Syracuse University. Email: btmetrok [at]


In an enjoyable, well-researched, and well-edited compilation of eclectic case studies edited by Carol Nackenoff and Julie Novkov, scholars examine how non-state actors of various civic, social, and ideological groups during the Progressive Era brought the state back in as a means of achieving desired policy ends. The accounts are notable for drawing attention to previously unexamined policy areas that provide leverage for claims that statebuilding is not always rational or linear, the distinction between public and private actors is not so cut-and-dried, and that the agency of actors is bounded by institutions and prevailing ideologies of the public good. Taken together, the chapters of this important contribution to the subfield of American Political Development exemplify the quintessential nature of the fragmented, piecemeal, inconsistent, and often jarring development of the capacity of the American state.

Contemporary scholarship in American Political Development has taken to heart the call to “bring the state back in” (Evans, Rueschemeyer, and Skocpol, 1985) to analyses concerning the development of administrative capacity of the American apparatus. Law figures prominently in this burgeoning line of inquiry; recent accounts explore the relationship between the regulatory power of private lawsuits and the expansion of the American Bureaucracy across several agencies, positing the conditions that empower or constrain agencies as they seek to augment enforcement powers (Mulroy, 2012). Yet, the focus on the agency of bureaucratic entrepreneurs (Carpenter, 2001) and the attention to the role of “courts and parties” as antecedents of the American administrative apparatus (Skowronek, 1982) has come at a price. The upshot has been somewhat narrow inquiries that gloss over the contributions of private associations operating within prevailing legal ideological currents to the development of state capacity. Nackenoff and Novkov’s volume is a welcome addition and necessary qualification to extant accounts of the building of the American state.

The ontological basis underlying all of these studies is that the development of state capacity is not “driven by a unified set of intentions, either those of private advocates or state actors.” Relatedly, the nature of statebuilding requires expanding the definition of political development from a durable shift in governing authority “resulting in a new distribution of authority among persons or organizations within the polity at large or between them and their counterparts outside” (Orren and Skowronek, 2004: 123), so as to untether “governance from direct association with [*322] state institutions and actors, thereby increasing the scope for identifying shifts” (p.21). The agency of policy entrepreneurs alone cannot account for increased state capacity, nor can longstanding institutional arrangements and cultural rhetoric be ignored as critical causes of the fractured development of the American state.

The volume is loosely organized by policy content, and is further divided into two broad areas of inquiry: the relationship between state actors and groups of non-state policy demanders, and the power of law to both constrain and enable the transformation of statebuilding capacity. Public law and sociolegal scholars will find much to like in these narratives, though the focus on law varies substantially. For example, legal ideology looms large in Ann Marie Szymanski’s examination of the relationship between Progressive Era police powers jurisprudence and both the national and state development of public wildlife protection. No less intriguing is the interplay between common law conceptions of morality and their effect on the development of the “animal welfare state” during the Progressive Era, as expounded by Susan J. Pearson and Kimberly K. Smith. Moreso than any other contribution to this volume, Pearson and Smith examine the complicated interplay between police powers legislation aimed toward protecting the public good, the entrenched doctrine of property rights, and the emerging individual rights jurisprudence of the Progressive Era. Progressive Era police powers Jurisprudence, as well as the jurisprudence of citizenship formed in the crucible of Reconstruction, is meticulously detailed by Julie Novkov as she compares the failed promise of Reconstruction for freed blacks to the Republican Party’s success in stigmatizing and ultimately outlawing polygamy in the Utah Territory.


by Yuksel Sezgin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 322pp. Cloth $99.00. ISBN: 978-1107041400.

Reviewed by Martin Edelman, Professor Emeritus, Political Science, University at Albany; Adjunct Professor, Kingsborough C.C., CUNY. ME354 [at]


This is an important book for students of comparative government and comparative law. Approximately one-third of the world’s population live under enforced religious family law systems. Professor Sezgin examines three different variations – in Israel, Egypt and India – to explore the impact this has on the daily lives of people. It is not a pretty picture. While journalistic and scholarly reports focus on macro-political trends, fundamental human rights of vast numbers of people are silently circumscribed by the religious family laws governing their domestic behavior.

Israel calls itself the Jewish State, but what that means is far from clear. Israel is not a theocracy. It does not enforce all the norms of Judaism as part of its operating legal system. Neither is Israel a completely secular state. Like Muslims, Druze, Bahai, or the members of the ten state-recognized Christian communities, the Jews living in Israel are mandatorily subject to the jurisdiction of religious courts. There is, for example, no civil law dealing with marriage and divorce. Rather those laws depend upon a person’s assigned religious community. As Sezgin notes, this means that in regards to marriage and divorce, people are treated “first and foremost as members of their [religious] communities rather than [as] rights-bearing equal citizens” (p.78).

Marriage and divorce for Israel’s Jewish majority (approximately 75% of the population) is governed by Halakhah (rabbinic law) as interpreted by Orthodox Jewish dayanim [judges] in the Rabbinical Courts. Non-Orthodox Jewish Israelis must conform to those norms or remain unmarried. Individuals converted by Reform or Conservative Rabbis are not considered Jewish by the dayanim and cannot marry in Israel. The large number of Russians and Ethiopians who have immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return (for Jews) but who are not considered Jewish by the Rabbinate are in a similar position. Orthodox Halakhah sometimes make it impossible for a woman to be legally divorced. Thus the Rabbinic Court system is depriving a significant number of Israelis of their fundamental rights of religious belief, conscience and marriage and thereby impairs their very sense of identity.

Family law matters for Palestinian-Israelis (20.7% of the total population) are similarly governed by the religious courts of their communities. The Shari’a Courts, which exercise jurisdiction over personal status matters of Israeli Muslims (roughly 80% of the Palestinian-Israelis), also have exclusive jurisdiction over marriage and divorce and concurrent jurisdiction over other matters of personal status. Similarly, Christian citizens of Israel (about 10% of the Arab population) and the Druze [*319] (about 7% of the Arab population) are subject to the jurisdiction of religious courts. Israeli law has sought to restrict the religious laws of these communities when it was felt that they obviously interfered with human rights; there are State law restrictions on bigamy, underage marriage, and unilateral divorce against a wife’s will (talaq). But there is a deep distrust among Palestinian-Israelis of Jewish dominated State institutions, an inaccessibility of Hebrew-run courts to the Arabic speaking population, and the reluctance of the Israeli state to interfere in these communities merely to uphold its own laws on personal status (as opposed to matters of national security). Consequently little protection is afforded Palestinian-Israeli women when they seek to exercise fundamental rights related to marriage. For Palestinians, as for all Israelis, religious affiliation is considered not as a matter of personal conviction but as a matter of public policy.


by G.R. Sullivan and Ian Dennis (eds). Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2012. 370pp. Hardcover $142. ISBN: 978-1849461665.

Reviewed by Francesca Laguardia, Department of Justice Studies, Montclair State University. Email: laguardiaf[at]


In SEEKING SECURITY, G.R. Sullivan and Ian Dennis bring together a collection of essays on the debates surrounding the increasingly preventive practices of criminal law in the West. The book includes essays by many of the most prominent authors in this newly emerging body of literature, which is only beginning to receive the attention it deserves from legal scholars, political scientists, and criminologists.

The volume is primarily philosophical, exploring the tension between liberal democratic societies and the concept of preventive criminal law enforcement. Developments such as the criminalization of preparatory actions and quasi-criminal civil detention orders are primary examples of the preventive turn, and each is discussed by multiple authors in the volume. While several preventive measures are addressed by only one author, including increasing surveillance, the creation of obligations to disclose information, the use of force in self-defense and the risks preventive measures pose to innocent persons, those essays addressing similar issues are collected in close proximity to each other. These include four essays addressing prophylactic crimes, followed by two on civil detention, and three on post-conviction detention for “dangerousness.” Reflecting the fact that the majority of scholarly attention paid to this issue has been found in the United Kingdom, the editors and authors of this volume unabashedly limit their descriptions and analyses of these developments to those countries (generally without country-specific discussion), with some few references to comparable developments in the rest of the world.

The introduction by Sullivan and Dennis provides the context for the chapters to follow. As they assert, there is a general assumption in liberal democratic states that coercive measures should be a last resort. Individuals’ autonomy should be held at the highest premium, and therefore punishment should follow, rather than preempt, criminal activity. Yet current trends in criminalization clearly contradict these norms. Retributivist principles have been jettisoned in favor of prevention of harm. These new criminal and quasi-criminal interventions substantially interfere with the presumption of innocence, imposing on citizens’ autonomy and self-determination.

The thirteen essays that follow take up this contradiction. Rather than presenting a broader argument regarding preventive criminal justice, the book’s contributors offer varying perspectives on the extent to which the new preventive focus of criminal law should be altered or controlled. Each discusses an example in current law, and the [*314] morality of employing the coercive power of the state in such a manner. Many offer policy recommendations for limiting the breadth of the state’s preemptive impositions.


by Alan Paterson. Oxford, UK and Portland, OR: Hart Publishing, 2013, 366pp. Cloth $50.00. ISBN: 978-1849463836.

Reviewed by Herbert M. Kritzer, University of Minnesota Law School, kritzer [at]


Roughly 40 years ago (1972-73), Alan Paterson undertook an interview-based study of the judges of the United Kingdom’s highest court, then technically a part of the House of Lords. The result was his path-breaking book, THE LAW LORDS (1982). What made Paterson’s study unique was his ability to obtain interviews with fifteen sitting and former Law Lords, along with forty-six barristers who had appeared as advocates before the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (which was the formal designation of the subgroup within the House of Lords that acted as the UK’s court of last resort). Now we have his marvelous new book, FINAL JUDGMENT, which revisits the Law Lords who have now become the Justices of the UK Supreme Court. As this review tries to make clear, this is a book that anyone teaching or writing about the U.S. Supreme Court or equivalent courts around the world should read.

Paterson undertook this study in part to capture the end of the judicial function of the House of Lords (his original working title was THE LAST LAW LORDS, p.ix). The product reflects both that conclusion and the first years of the new UK Supreme Court (for a more extensive retrospective examination of the House of Lords in its judicial role, see Blom-Cooper et al. 2009). What he has produced is a study of change, both the change that occurred between the time of his first study and the end of the Law Lords, and the changes that can be discerned from the early years of the new UK Supreme Court. As with THE LAW LORDS, Paterson’s study is primarily based on interviews. While as a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford in the early 1970s, gaining access was a challenge; forty years later Paterson is one of the leading socio-legal scholars in the UK and access was much less of a problem (Paterson refers to “the huge responsiveness of those whom [he] approached for interviews this time round,” p.ix). His interviews included twenty-seven current or former Law Lords and Justices of the UK Supreme Court, plus twenty-four interviews with advocates (“counsel” in British parlance), other judges, and staff serving the Law Lords or Justices. In addition he had access to the judicial notebooks kept by two prominent Law Lords. These qualitative materials are supplemented by statistical summaries of various patterns.

In the LAW LORDS, Paterson focused on how the Law Lords of the 1960s and 1970s saw their judicial role. In FINAL JUDGMENT, his focus is on the process of decision-making among the Law Lords and the Justices. In this way, it is perhaps most similar to H.W. Perry’s, DECIDING TO DECIDE (1991), but it goes beyond the static view of Perry’s [*306] analysis to examine how things have shifted over time. The central concept that Paterson employs to understand the process is “dialogue”; that is the Law Lords and the Justices are engaged in dialogues among themselves and with various groups as they seek to make decisions and fashion opinions. The partners in these dialogues include colleagues, counsel, government officials, other courts, academics, and judicial assistants (similar to law clerks working for American judges). While Paterson has chosen to use the term “dialogues,” he is essentially using the term to refer to interactions; sometime those interactions involve two-way communication while at other times there seems to be little actual two-way communication occurring.


by Judith A. Baer. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 200pp. Hardback $81.00. ISBN: 978-1-137-03095-5.

Reviewed by Courtenay W. Daum, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Colorado State University. Email: Courtenay.Daum [at]


Judith Baer’s IRONIC FREEDOM: PERSONAL CHOICE, PUBLIC POLICY, AND THE PARADOX OF REFORM introduces readers to the concept of ironic freedom, a critique that she directs at liberal policy reforms. According to Baer, the paradox of reform is that liberals often support and advance policies that seek to expand individual freedoms without recognizing that upon implementation these laws may work to the detriment of certain individuals – those already marginalized by the patriarchal, heterosexist, and/or socioeconomic norms and constructs that shape contemporary American society – by restricting their liberties and choices. To be clear, ironic freedoms are not merely the unintended consequences of benign policy reforms. Instead, Baer explains that ironic freedom critiques are appropriately leveled at policy reforms that “decrease the freedom of the people who ostensibly benefit from the change and increase the power that other people, institutions, and conditions have other them” (p.4). As such, ironic freedom identifies and draws attention to the coercive tendencies and controls that result from certain liberal policy reforms. For legal scholars, Baer’s ironic freedom evokes the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lochner Era jurisprudence and the liberty of contract. In LOCHNER V. NEW YORK (1905), the Justices’ defense of bakers’ right to work and negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment expanded individual freedoms in principle but empowered employers and other institutional entities to exercise great control over labor markets and to exploit workers. As such, Lochnerian liberty worked to the detriment of the very workers it was intended to protect. Ironic freedom is similar to Lochnerian liberty but the former goes beyond legal constructs to identify how social constructs, expectations and circumstances restrict personal choices and freedoms.

To demonstrate the concept of ironic freedom, Baer identifies five liberal policy positions intended to increase individual freedoms and then proceeds to articulate and offer evidence in support of each policy’s ironic freedom critique. The five case studies include liberalizing laws to allow for assisted suicide (Chapter Two), occupational choice (legalizing sex work and somewhat differently outlawing the military draft to allow for voluntary military service) (Chapter Three), same-sex marriage (Chapter Four), and reproductive choice (including access to contraceptives, abortion and surrogacy) (Chapter 5). Central to each case study is the distinction between policy reforms that may allow for certain actions and choices versus those that lead to or compel certain outcomes as a result of either official or social coercion. Baer [*303] explains that, “Ironic freedom arguments worry that ‘guaranteeing people the freedom to do x will lead to people’s being forced to do x’” (p.14). While the line between freedom and coercion is thin and blurry (p.15), the may versus must and can versus should distinctions are key to elucidating the difference between a policy that results in increased individual freedom versus one that results in ironic freedom. For example, in Chapter Three Baer explains that legalizing sex work will lead to forced prostitution. At the same time that legalized sex work may enhance individual liberties for some sex workers and improve their working conditions, wages and personal safety, this policy change will simultaneously result in some women and children being forced into prostitution. Legalized sex work will provide legal cover for pimps who coerce women into sex work against their will but also will lead women with limited economic resources and choices to participate in the sex market out of financial necessity. Thus, Baer argues that liberal supporters of legalized sex work should be aware of and take into account the ironic freedom critique of this policy proposal in order to better understand the costs associated with this reform. Baer suggests that conversations move beyond simple yes or no discussions – do you support legalized sex work? Yes or no? – in favor of more nuanced questions such as “‘How can we secure these individual rights while eliminating, or at least reducing the risk of abuse?’” (p.117).


by Justin D. Levinson and Robert J. Smith, eds. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 284pp. Cloth $99.00. ISBN: 978-11070-10956. Paper $33.99. ISBN: 978-11076-48180.

Reviewed by Aaron R.S. Lorenz, Law & Society, Ramapo College. Email: alorenz [at]


In this book, professors of law Justin D. Levinson and Robert J. Smith edit a series of essays that explore the cultural embeddedness of race. Presenting racism as an overt act that has defined American life, the contributing authors examine the continued subordination of racially disadvantaged groups and how the law has contributed to that inequity. Since this is an edited book with a series of contributions, a central thesis may not be as formally presented as one might see in a traditional academic piece. Levinson and Smith both provide numerous additions to the book but Levinson’s introduction is as close to a classic thesis as one might see. Levinson posits that implicit racial bias impacts all areas of the law where disparities exist.

With contributions from the leading scholars in the field on race and law, Levinson (University of Hawaii School of Law) and Smith (University of North Carolina School of Law) edit an important compilation in the field presenting racial biases as a part or American law and life. The contributors range from law professors, to retired judges, to law clerks, to medical directors.

Comprised of fifteen contributions, the first several introduce the theoretical and contextual issues surrounding racial bias and law. The diligence of the editors is clear as the reader can immediately see that the solicited work quickly addresses racial disparities in the legal system from the perspective of the social scientist. While this field is replete with work addressing inequity in the law as it relates to race and many scholarly works on this subject spend considerable time explaining how and where racial bias exists, this book shows in clear detail – with easily relatable evidence – and without using too much space, that there is implicit racial bias in the law. The contributors particularly show that this bias is present in both the procedural and substantive components of the legal system.


by Michael Boudreau. Vancouver, B.C.: University of British Columbia Press. 2012. 352pp. Cloth $85.00. ISBN 9780774822046. $34.95 Paperback ISBN 9780774822053.

Reviewed by William Lyons, Professor of Political Science, University of Akron.


Michael Boudreau provides a detailed historical analysis of Halifax during the period between the two world wars to examine the ways that Halifax elite responded to crime as a condensation symbol for the anxieties and fears associated with modernity more generally. “In response to largely media-manufactured ‘crime waves,’” Boudreau argues that public and private sector elites in the city “demanded a more punitive and aggressive course of action to defeat the ‘criminal class,’ and they usually found a convenient scapegoat in the figure of the ‘deviant alien’” (p.6).

It is not surprising that Boudreau finds a mutually constitutive relationship between law and community in Halifax (see Greenhouse, Yngvesson, and Engel, 1994). As Stuart Scheingold has observed in the American context, “Street crime … is a powerful condensation symbol, which can under some circumstances be readily and safely politicized … to ward off threats to the political order” (Scheingold, 1991:173). Boudreau further integrates into his analysis of law and community a robust discursive examination of the competing narratives animating traditional and progressive elites as they struggle to navigate a city disrupted by deindustrialization and the unsettling demographic changes associated with it.

Anxieties about the atrophy of traditional values intersect, in a struggle between two discourses about crime and governance (Simon, 2009), with initiatives to professionalize law enforcement as well as ongoing efforts to protect the ‘city trenches’ (Katznelson, 1981) that mark the boundaries between the powerful and the power-poor, to enforce and reinforce existing race, class, and gender subordination.

“Halifax’s citizens found themselves in a rapidly changing city that was becoming more and more modern. They emphasized building a city of order to limit the impact of modernity. To this end, from 1918 to 1935, a campaign arose in Halifax to modernize the city’s criminal justice system ... to meet the challenges posed by crime. These challenges were firmly associated with modernity…. In this specific context, the perception surfaced that the substance of daily life had altered completely. People no longer automatically knew their neighbors or spoke their language; they could not assume a consensus on religion or morality; they lived to a large extent among strangers and worked in impersonal institutions; they shopped in new massive stores and were [*296] influenced by the new arts of the radio broadcaster and the advertiser; and they felt themselves to be part of a society in which the safety of neither person nor property could be assured” (p.5).



by Daniel S. Medwed. New York: New York University Press, 2012. 239pp. Cloth $65.00 ISBN 9780814796245. Paper $23.00 ISBN 9781479893089.

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Donovan, Department of Political Science, St. John Fisher College. Email: kdonovan [at]


They say the first step to curing addiction is admitting that you have a problem. Daniel Medwed’s terrific book, PROSECUTION COMPLEX: AMERICA’S RACE TO CONVICT AND ITS IMPACT ON THE INNOCENT, attempts to do exactly that. The thesis of the book is laid out in the first few pages: prosecutors are professionally and politically incentivized to earn the greatest number of convictions. In conjunction with vast discretion over an individual’s case and powerful psychological forces that discourage prosecutors from critically entertaining the possibility of being wrong, an estimable but ultimately unknowable number of innocent people are convicted and sentenced to prison. As a result, just as with any other addiction, prosecutors’ thirst for convictions ultimately ends up hurting the ones around them, sometimes for unconscionable lengths of time.

The book is organized into three parts that correspond to the three major phases of a criminal case: pre-trial, trial, and post-conviction. In turn, each part is composed of three chapters that detail different decision points of these phases. Part I examines charging decisions, discovery and plea bargaining. Part II examines witness prep, the use of forensic evidence, and summation. Part III outlines prosecutorial resistance to post-conviction claims of innocence, DNA testing, and continued denial of innocence even after exoneration.

Each part begins with a real-world example of a wrongful conviction that is useful in two respects. First, it puts a face on the problem, adding a sense of urgency to the need for reform. The skeptical reader might be unimpressed with the actual number of exonerated individuals, particularly given the total number of people who find their way into the criminal justice machine each year. It is much harder to discount their convictions as unfortunate but unavoidable evils when faced with the story of Stephen Schulz, for instance, who maintained his innocence and, as a result, spent four more years in prison than he would have if he had pled guilty and accepted a plea bargain. These stories also highlight the fact that a) exonerations only occur in instances for which irrefutable evidence can be produced to the contrary (suggesting that the number of wrongful convictions is likely much larger); and b) every innocent person convicted means a guilty person that goes free, a compelling argument that Medwed mentions almost in passing.