Vol. 31 No. 9 (November 2021) pp. 148-150

THE POLITICS OF FEDERAL PROSECUTION, by Christina L. Boyd, Michael J. Nelson, Ian Ostrander, and Ethan D. Boldt. Oxford University Press. 2021. 252pp. Hardcover $99.00. ISBN: 9780197554685.

Reviewed by Banks Miller. Department of Political Science, University of Texas – Dallas. Email:

THE POLITICS OF FEDERAL PROSECUTION, by Christina Boyd, Michael Nelson, Ian Ostrander, and Ethan Boldt, successfully demonstrates the various ways in which United States Attorneys (USAs) are politically responsive. The book is a concise and accessible introduction to the role of USAs in American politics and several new areas of study, including, most interestingly, the role of USAs in criminal asset forfeiture.

Chapter 1 introduces the topic by describing the importance of federal prosecutors, who have virtually unfettered discretion within the criminal justice system. Chapter 2 describes the historical evolution of USAs and the growth of the Department of Justice in response to the problems of Reconstruction. An important point here is that Congress sought to centralize control of federal prosecutors under the Attorney General. This chapter also notes the explosive growth in the size of the Department of Justice and in the number of federal crimes. Chapter 3 details the confirmation of USAs. Chapter 3 does a good job of placing the political appointment process into historical context, including a discussion of attempts to reform the system by moving to a merit-based selection system. This chapter also includes useful information on the demographics of who gets nominated to serve as a USAs (and not just those who are ultimately appointed). One major theme emerging from the discussion in Chapter 3 is the importance of local ties in the selection of federal prosecutors. Chapter 3 also includes a model of the time it takes for a nominee to be confirmed to a position, with two central findings. First, as the ideological distance between the President and the Senate Judiciary Chair increases, so too does the time to confirmation. Second, the nominees of more popular presidents tend to receive quicker confirmation.


Vol. 31 No. 9 (November 2021) pp. 142-147

CONSTITUTIONAL STATECRAFT IN ASIAN COURTS, by Yvonne Tew. New York: Oxford University Press. 2020. 272pp. Cloth $80.00. ISBN: 9780198716839.

Reviewed by Mark Rush, Department of Politics, Washington and Lee University. Email:

CONSTITUTIONAL STATECRAFT IN ASIAN COURTS is a refreshing work of comparative scholarship where Yvonne Tew offers insights into constitutional development in Singapore and Malaysia. In so doing, she offers important insights into the comparative study of judiciaries and perspectives on the role of courts and notions of the rule of law that westerners in general and Americans in particular will find challenging and enlightening.

Tew’s principal premise is that courts must play a strong, assertive role not only in the review of legislation and interpretation of constitutions, but also in the assessment of the legality of constitutional amendments. Such a claim would certainly meet considerable resistance in climates such as that of the USA among scholars and pundits who are as preoccupied with the political affiliations of the president that appointed a particular judge as they may be with the rule of law or the workings of government.

Tew anticipates this sort of response as she quickly and powerfully sets forth the context of her analysis. She says that “[f]or constitutional democracy to thrive, in Malaysia or elsewhere,” it is necessary to “shift away from preoccupation with particular personalities or political parties” (p. 3). Therefore, CONSTITUTIONAL STATECRAFT “charts a path forward for courts to protect and build constitutionalism in aspiring but fragile democracies in Asia… the foundational constitutional principles it draws on are located in the framework of…post-colonial Southeast Asian constitutional orders, not from what are perceived as Western universal traditions.” (p. 10)

The Malaysian and Singaporean contexts are quite different from that of the American or other western counterparts.


Vol. 31 No. 9 (November 2021) pp. 139-141

THE TRUTH MACHINES: POLICING, VIOLENCE, AND SCIENTIFIC INTERROGATIONS IN INDIA, by Jinee Lokaneeta. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020. pp.250. Hardcover $95.00. ISBN: 978-0-472-05439-8.

Reviewed by Keally McBride. Department of Politics. University of San Francisco. Email:

What happens when you have a problem that everyone knows about, but it cannot be fixed without removing the inequities that are the root cause? Police torture of people in custody in India is a fact of life that is well known. The problem is so well known that the legal system has developed some pretty zany new techniques for trying to avoid what are called “third degree interrogations”. This is the subject of Jinee Lokaneeta’s THE TRUTH MACHINES: POLICING, VIOLENCE, AND SCIENTIFIC INTERROGATIONS IN INDIA. The book details the position of policing in India’s democracy and recent attempts to introduce scientific methods to achieve adherence to human rights. Lokaneeta is appropriately skeptical about these new practices, but also provides a compelling discussion of state power, legality, and policing through this particular lens.

While many concerned people in the United States have decided that body cameras will fix the problem of overzealous policing, India is focusing on the site of many instances of torture--interrogations. Instead of having the police question suspects, why not have forensic psychologists in white lab coats administer polygraph tests, brain scans (in India these are called brain electrical oscillation signatures or BEOS), and inject suspects with drugs that promote easier speaking (narcoanalysis)? Scientists have a much better reputation than the police; why not use them to do police functions? One of the most remarkable aspects of Lokaneeta’s book is that it shows you can maintain a system of criminal justice even when one of the primary practitioners—the police—are broadly distrusted. The Supreme Court of India has ruled that confessions given to a police officer are inadmissible as evidence—in part due to the notoriety of the methods used to extract these confessions. But forensic psychologists carry the veneer of impartial science, and therefore their results are accepted by the courts.

Lokaneeta’s discussion establishes that three techniques of “scientific interrogations” are embraced as humane alternatives to police beatings and torture.


Vol. 31 No. 8 (October 2021) pp. 136-138

POWER, CONSTRAINT, AND POLICY CHANGE: COURTS AND EDUCATION FINANCE REFORM, by Robert M. Howard, Christine H. Roch, Susanne Schorpp, and Shane A. Gleason. Albany: SUNY Press, 2021. 162pp. Cloth $95.00. ISBN: 978-1-4384-8135-7. Paper $31.95. ISBN: 978-1-4384-8136-4

Reviewed by Joseph V. Ross, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Florida Gulf Coast University. Email:

The issue of school finance has been a lightning rod in state politics in recent years. POWER, CONSTRAINT, AND POLICY CHANGE: COURTS AND EDUCATION FINANCE REFORM is an important exploration of the broader topic with a specific focus on interbranch disputes between state legislatures and state supreme courts. The issue is complex enough to warrant a book-length treatment and careful consideration of various perspectives, as the authors have done here. The result is a compelling theory of when courts take action in education finance and how they justify their decisions through their own precedent and those of other state supreme courts. Though some aspects of the analysis are a little short on details, this work succinctly contributes to our understanding of how state supreme courts engage in the policy arena and how decisions and precedents are diffused across the country.

At first glance, it seems like the authors are tackling two distinct questions in the course of the book—when courts take action and how courts influence each other across the states—but the connections between these topics become clearer as the book unfolds. Aside from the excellent background on public education presented in Chapter 1 that sets the stage for the examination of the funding issue, the authors present a theoretical model of the policy space in which legislatures and courts may act, reminiscent of Langer’s (2002) work on judicial review in the states.


Vol. 31 No. 8 (October 2021) pp. 133-135

JUDICIAL SELECTION IN THE STATES: POLITICS AND THE STRUGGLE FOR REFORM, by Herbert M. Kritzer. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2020. 382pp. Paperback: $39.99. ISBN 9781108791960. Hardback $125.00. ISBN 9781108496339.

Reviewed by Michael P. Fix, Department of Political Science, Georgia State University. Email:

Most of the research on reforming judicial selection methods in the U.S. states has focused on the trade-off between independence and accountability (e.g. Bonneau and Hall 2009; Geyh 2019). This literature has provided a wealth of knowledge to scholars. As such, one might think that JUDICIAL SELECTION IN THE STATES: POLITICS AND THE STRUGGLE FOR REFORM would be another contribution to that literature. However, that is not the purpose of this insightful new book. While Kritzer does contribute indirectly to the independence versus accountability debate, this book approaches the topic of reforming judicial selection methods from a novel theoretical perspective that centers on the motivations of those seeking reforms. In taking this approach, Kritzer is able to provide new insights into the varied motivations underlying states’ decisions to alter (or maintain) their method of selecting and retaining judges.

In place of the independence versus accountability lens, Kritzer examines reforms to state selection and retention methods from the perspective of legal and democratic subcultures, borrowing from the classic work by Richardson and Vines (1970). In Kritzer’s framework, actors seeking to reform the method of judicial selection in a given state will tend to have particular goals that are in line with one of these subcultures. The legal subculture refers to the rules and norms that protect judges from external political pressures. Thus, actors that care about initiating reforms to maximize legal professionalism share the values of the legal subculture. Conversely, the democratic subculture is concerned with representation and reflects the values of actors whose goals in the judicial selection reform process are related to politics and policy.


Vol. 32 No. 8 (October 2021) pp. 130-132

NEW VOICES AND NEW PERSPECTIVES IN INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC LAW by J. D. Haskell and A. Rasulov (eds.). Switzerland, Springer International Publishing, 2020, £99.99, ISBN 978-3-030-32511-4

Reviewed by Charles Ho Wang Mak, PhD Candidate in International Law, School of Law, University of Glasgow. Email:

As one of the most well-established and dynamic academic disciplines, International Economic Law (“IEL”) has influenced the development and formation of public international law. Over the past few decades, there has been a steady increase in scholarship interested in IEL. However, there are considerable gaps in international economic legal literature. There are few books that explore the IEL from new perspectives (i.e. a new explanation to IEL’s systemic nature and the contemporary development in IEL that are different from prior understandings). As such, one of the most pressing tasks for the contemporary development of IEL is to re-examine the established narratives on IEL and its history. The EUROPEAN YEARBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC LAW book series, plugs in the gaps in the existing IEL literature. These series of books addresses a variety of issues in IEL, ranging from international investment law to international trade law. The primary purpose of this book series is to encourage a broader interest in contemporary IEL, heightening the awareness of the “new” discipline. NEW VOICES AND NEW PERSPECTIVES IN INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC LAW is a timely and essential contribution to the growing literature of IEL.

This impressive book is co-edited by Akbar Rasulov, professor at the University of Glasgow School of law and John D. Haskell, a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester School of Law. Both are leading figures in the field of international law. The book is a collection of nine essays written by eleven contributing authors in the area of IEL, including Michael Fakhri, Ntina Tzouvala, and Maria Tzanakopoulou. Instead of a collection of random essays, this book is a collection of essentially linked chapters centred around the new perspective in IEL. In the introductory chapter, Akbar Rasulov offers the necessary background information connecting those essays in the book, to assist readers in understanding “the underlying objectives and theoretical aspirations of the nine essays” (p. 12). He states that the essays included in the book “speak, with various degrees of directness, to both of these tendencies: the historical turn as well as the new programmatic-though project. Each of them, in a certain sense, can be understood as a product of both of these genres of inquiry” (p. 11). This book provides a ground-breaking approach and thought-provoking insights into subjects and topics in the area of IEL that have not attracted much attention before.

The primary purpose of the book