Vol. 27 No. 7 (September 2017) pp. 117-121

WORKING LAW: COURTS, CORPORATIONS, AND SYMBOLIC CIVIL RIGHTS, by Lauren B. Edelman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 312pp. Paper $30.00. ISBN: 9780226400761.

Reviewed by Ryan C. Black, Department of Political Science, Michigan State University. Email:

Why, after more than half a century since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, do we continue to observe racial and gender discrimination in the workplace? This is the central question in Edelman’s WORKING LAW: COURTS, CORPORATIONS, AND SYMBOLIC CIVIL RIGHTS and it should be of interest not just to her primary audience (i.e., law and society scholars such as herself), but also to students (at a variety of levels) and teachers of the American judiciary more generally.

To motivate the problem, Edelman asks us to consider a number of employment statistics. First, the ratio of employment-to-population for women (both white and of color) and black males continue to lag behind their white male counterparts (p. 7). Second, beyond just simple employment, both of these groups continue to be underrepresented in management positions (pp. 7-8). And, third, these groups (and also Hispanics) continue to earn significantly less in terms of salary than white males employed in identical positions (p. 7).

So, given these conditions, who’s to blame? Edelman’s causal story ends with the observation that courts typically show a high degree of deference to companies and industries when they have implemented anti-discrimination policies. This is harmful because the tendency to defer is so strong that courts ignore objective evidence of systematic discrimination that continues to persist, even though some sort of (clearly ineffective) policy in place. As such, these policies “represent little more than cosmetic compliance” (p. 11).

But, judicial deference is only the final stage in Edelman’s thought-provoking theoretical account, which she labels “legal endogeneity theory.” This theory is “a process through which the meaning of law is shaped by the widely accepted ideas within the social arena that law seeks to regulate” (p. 12). As she elegantly elaborates on just a few pages later, “Under these circumstances, law tends to operate on myth and ceremony in a way that renders the impact of law dependent on the effectiveness of the structures that organizations create. When organizations hold the key to the meaning of law, they also harness its power, weakening the potential of social reform laws to achieve [their intended] ideals” (p. 15).

Such deference is not, of course, created overnight, but rather is the culminating step in a six-stage model Edelman introduces in Chapter 2 and fleshes out in subsequent chapters. Although she warns the reader that it will contain more “sociolegal jargon” than the rest of the text, even I, a mouth-breathing judicial politics researcher, found it to be pithy, accessible, and engaging. Here I provide a very short synopsis of each before diving into the evidence she marshals in the remaining individual chapters.


Vol. 27 No.7 (September 2017) pp. 113-116

THE US SUPREME COURT AND THE DOMESTIC FORCE OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW, by Stephen A. Simon New York: Lexington Books, 2016. 222pp. Cloth $85.00. ISBN: 1498534708.

Reviewed by Ilya Somin, Professor of Law, George Mason University. Email:

Should international human rights law ever be given the force of domestic law in the United States? If so, when? These questions are increasingly the object of debate in the legal and political community. They also come up in a variety of important cases that the Supreme Court has considered in recent years. Stephen Simon’s book is an excellent introduction to these controversies and the arguments deployed by contending scholars and jurists.

As Simon explains, “internationalists” argue that the United States can both promote universal principles and more effectively advance its own national interests by incorporating international human rights norms into its domestic law. By contrast, their “sovereignist” opponents are skeptical about the merits of much of international human rights law. They fear that giving human rights domestic force would erode American autonomy, undermine democratic self-government, and saddle the U.S. with dubious laws.

Simon expertly traces the clashes between these schools of thought in a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases over the last two decades, focusing on four areas: the application of customary international law through the Alien Tort Statute, the extent to which treaties are incorporated into domestic law, the scope of international law constraints on U.S. policies in the War on Terror, and the use of foreign law in interpreting the parts of the U.S. Constitution. While the each of these fields raises distinct issues, Simon shows important commonalities. For example, the same Supreme Court justices who are skeptical of the idea that treaties should be presumed to be “self-enforcing” in American courts, also take a narrow view of the extent to which international treaties limit wartime executive power, and reject the utility of using foreign and international law to interpret the Constitution.

As Simon emphasizes, the dispute between the two sides encompasses disagreements over both the substantive merits of international human rights law and the process by which it is produced. Internationalists argue that the international human rights regime includes a variety of valuable principles that the United States would do well to follow. They also contend that, despite some flaws, the process by which international human rights law is produced is generally a good one – representing the considered judgment of a diverse and increasingly sophisticated global community.


Vol. 27 No. 7 (September 2017) pp. 109-112

ABOUT ABORTION: TERMINATING PREGNANCY IN TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY AMERICA, by Carol Sanger. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017. 320pp. Hardcover $29.95. ISBN: 9780674737723.

Reviewed by James Daniel Fisher, Department of History, Politics, Languages & Cultures, Edinboro University. Email:

Carol Sanger’s ABOUT ABORTION examines “how women confront and decide about unwanted pregnancy within the complicated structures of constraint—personal, cultural, legal—that frame the issue of abortion in modern America” (p. ix). As such, it is not directly or primarily a study of the law. Sanger notes, however, that any worthy study of abortion politics in the United States must involve some legal analysis. American abortion law, furthermore, simultaneously reflects and affects larger political and social forces and itself cannot be understood without a broad examination of those forces. For that reason, ABOUT ABORTION is an important complement to books that engage in narrower jurisprudential analyses. It is an excellent example of how to unlock insights about law and politics by disregarding disciplinary boundaries and exploring all of the various dimensions of the human condition necessary to gain leverage over a difficult and irreducibly complex issue.

Sanger’s main empirical conclusion is that “the secrecy surrounding women’s personal experience of abortion has massively, though not irreparably, distorted how the subject of abortion is discussed and how it is regulated” (p. xi). This secrecy is the result of traditional stigma against abortion. That stigma has been exacerbated in recent years by “visual technology,” like ultrasound machines, being used “opportunistically” by anti-abortion activists to create a “visual politics” that advances the view of the fetus as a person with a right to life. At the same time, the individual experiences of women considering or having an abortion are pushed further from the realm of acceptable public discourse—a phenomenon Sanger calls “abortion silence” (p. 67). This tilting of the intellectual and emotional playing field of abortion politics—or, put another way, the foregrounding in the public consciousness of the fetus-as-child and pregnant-woman-as-mother—results in laws that Sanger concludes are harmful, like mandatory ultrasound requirements for women seeking abortions, and “judicial bypass” procedures for minor women who want to obtain an abortion without obtaining consent from, or giving notice, to a parent.

The “silence” around the individual experiences of abortion patients (that would make more clear the nuanced and complicated contexts within which women make abortion decisions), also contributes, in Sanger’s view, to the common view of abortion “as war, as struggle, as clash, as battlefield” (p. xiii), a simplified and unproductive public discussion, and a politics and law of abortion framed by false dichotomies.

Sanger would like to find a way to “normalize” the public discussion of abortion. “Normalizing” in this sense would involve reframing abortion as a “common medical procedure” (which it is). This would, in Sanger’s view, lower the temperature around the discussion of [*110] abortion, allowing for people of diverse views to discuss and truly comprehend the mindset of others, including the fine-grained reasons women decide to have abortions; their sometimes-mixed views about those decisions; and the multiplicity of ways that people understand what the fetus “is,” depending on the context.


Vol. 27 No. 7 (September 2017) pp. 105-108

INCREASING LEGAL RIGHTS FOR ZOO ANIMALS: JUSTICE ON THE ARK, by Jesse Donahue (ed.), Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. 163pp. Hardback $90.00. ISBN: 978-1-4985-2894-8. eBook $85.00 ISBN: 978-1-4985-2895-5.

Reviewed by Steven Tauber, School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies, University of South Florida. Email:

Since the 1980s, scholarship on the legal status of animals, also known as “animal law,” has proliferated in the fields of law and social science, especially as public concern for animal welfare has increased. However, the extant animal law literature had not concentrated specifically on animals living in zoos and aquariums (for brevity’s sake I will henceforth use the term “zoo” to refer to both zoos and aquariums), and this oversight had been problematic because zoo animals have a unique status compared to other animals. Similar to animals in research and entertainment facilities, zoo animals are captive, but similar to companion animals (i.e., pets), zoo animals receive care from their human custodians. Although the species of animals who live in zoos tend to be wildlife, the individual zoo animals are not wild because they live under human care. Fortunately, Jesse Donahue’s edited volume fills this gap in the literature by focusing on animal law as it relates to zoo animals. The central argument of this book is that many zoos harm animals, but abolishing zoos is not a viable solution. Therefore, Donahue and the contributors to this book offer a number of intriguing legal recommendations for improving the conditions of animals living in zoos.

In the Introduction, Donahue establishes the central point of her book. She recognizes that there is significant variation in the conditions of animals in zoos throughout the United States and the world. Many zoo animals suffer considerably in inhumane habitats; consequently, animal rights activists argue that zoos should be abolished. However, Donahue notes that abolishing zoos altogether will not improve animal welfare because there is no viable place to put all of the animals currently living in zoos. Therefore, Donahue proposes expanding legal rights for zoo’s animals. Donahue continues with this idea in Chapter 1. She begins with an interesting analysis of terminology for zoo animals and proposes the term “wild public companion animals” (p. 4). Zoo animal species tend to be wildlife, but the individual zoo dwellers are not wild. Unlike pets, zoos animals (and the facilities that house them) are generally owned by nonprofit organizations that charge admission to view the animals. Moreover, although zoo animals are not companion animals like pets, they do live among humans who are concerned about their welfare and often bond with them. More importantly, by renaming zoo animals as “wild public companion animals,” legal institutions can recognize zoo animals as “co-citizens,” which will result in significantly increased legal protections for the animals. Additionally, Donahue proposes creating a separate federal agency to enforce animal welfare laws in zoos. This agency’s single mission would result in greater animal protection, and it would give activists a central place to file complaints against substandard conditions at zoos. An agency devoted to zoo animals would be well positioned to thoroughly investigate these complaints. In short, Donahue proposes a new legal regime for protecting zoo animals. [*106]

Chapters 2 and 3 address specific issues facing zoos in the United States. Donald E. Moore – the Director of the Oregon Zoo – writes Chapter 2, which concerns reintroducing animals into the wild. He defines reintroduction as “transfers of animals born in captivity and then restored to their natural habitat” (p. 27). Conservationists favor reintroduction of endangered species in order to stave off extinction, and animal rights activists believe that reintroduction is preferable to captivity in a zoo because the animals live in their natural habitat instead of in a cage. However, Moore explains that reintroduction is extremely difficult because animals need to be able to make the transition from zoos, where humans care for them, to the wild, where catching prey is difficult, conditions can be harsh, and hunters are allowed to kill animals. Additionally, Moore notes that reintroduction policies allow human intervention on behalf reintroduced animals who are not thriving only when the animal is an endangered species. Consequently, reintroduced animals who are not members of an endangered species are more likely to suffer and die after being released. Animal Behavior specialist Susan Margulis writes Chapter 3, which addresses research conducted on zoo animals. Animal rights activists often conflate research conducted in zoos with research conducted on animals in laboratories; however, Margulis demonstrates that unlike research conducted on animals in laboratories, research conducted in zoos is humane and benefits the animals. The main reason for this difference is that accredited zoos must adhere to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) relatively stringent regulations governing the treatment of zoo animals, whereas laboratories only have to adhere to the laxer Animal Welfare Act, which permits animal suffering. Most research on zoo animals is noninvasive and voluntary – animals can opt out if they choose. The occasional invasive research must use anesthesia. Recognizing that there are still problems with research conducted on zoo animals, Margulis proposes ways to increase protections, such as establishing Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) and developing better techniques for inferring informed consent from the animals. She also advises zoos to better educate the public on the humaneness of their research and its benefits to the animals.

Chapters 4 and 5 address zoos outside the United States. Animal rights activists Michael Morris and Mary Murray write Chapter 4, which focuses on New Zealand. Similar to the United States, New Zealand has statutes that govern zoo animal welfare, and it has an accrediting agency that scrutinizes animal welfare and ensures that zoos prioritize conservation and education. Nevertheless, the authors contend that these regulations do not sufficiently protect New Zealand’s zoo animals. To rectify this problem, the authors propose concrete recommendations, including banning high-functioning mammals and exotic animals from captivity and creating an independent agency to enforce protections more vigorously than they do now. Primatologist Govindasamy Agoramoorthy writes Chapter 5, which concerns zoos in Southeast Asia. Most Southeast Asian nations have animal protection laws, but they are weak and often unenforced. Additionally, the Southeast Asian Zoo Association (SAZA) represents zoos in Southeast Asia, but unlike AZA, it does not regulate the treatment of captive animals. Southeast Asian zoos frequently impede animal welfare by housing exotic animals in ill-equipped facilities; subjecting the animals to humiliating performances; [*107] and allowing physical, psychological, and emotional abuse. He suggests providing greater legal rights for zoo animals through stronger laws prohibiting the use of animals in entertainment; stricter standards for zoos’ conservation and rescue functions; more funding devoted to animal welfare; and more wild animal parks. He also advocates that the key stakeholders – conservation groups, the zoo owners, and animal rights groups – work together to improve the treatment of zoo animals in Southeast Asia.


Vol. 27 No. 6 (July 2017) pp. 101-104
AMERICAN COURTS EXPLAINED: A DETAILED INTRODUCTION TO THE LEGAL PROCESS USING REAL CASES, by Gregory Mitchell and David Klein. St. Paul, MN: West Academic Publishing. 2016. 247pp. Softbound $49.00. ISBN 978-1-63459-879-8.

Reviewed by Christopher P. Banks, Department of Political Science, Kent State University. Email: cbanks6 [at]

AMERICAN COURTS EXPLAINED uses two actual cases, COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY V. WOODALL (a criminal case) and PROMOTION IN MOTION V. BEECH-NUT (a civil case) as the basis for taking students through a detailed examination of the adversarial process from start to finish. Designed as a stand-alone or supplemental text, it differs from other judicial process textbooks that present course material in a more conventional format that typically analyze topics such as the nature and origins of law, judicial organization, judicial selection, the legal profession, criminal and civil litigation, and appellate decision-making, and judicial policy-making. While most, but not all, of those areas of study are addressed by Mitchell and Klein, their exploration is contextualized within the framework of the Woodall kidnapping, rape and murder trial, and the Beech-nut breach of contract and warranty civil action. In a rather unique way, the book discusses relevant concepts by detailing the “law of procedure” underlying each case, thereby elucidating “how cases get filed in court and how they progress through the state and federal courts.” (p. 202). In short, the main cases serve as the template to analyze select topics within the judicial process in an effort to underscore their conceptual significance to the study of law and courts, and politics in general. Moreover, in the preface the authors explain that the book is a “descendant” (p. iii) of Daniel Meador and Mitchell’s AMERICAN COURTS, a casebook that is used in law schools and part of West’s American Casebook series. In this sense, AMERICAN COURTS EXPLAINED is an analogous textbook that is aiming for a share of the undergraduate liberal arts market.

In order to accomplish its aims, the first chapter logically introduces students to the WOODALL criminal case and the PROMOTION IN MOTION civil action. Undoubtedly, both are interesting in their own right and each illustrates the procedural and substantive complexities of criminal prosecutions and civil litigation. In WOODALL, the defendant, a former sex offender that was recently released from prison, was prosecuted and ultimately convicted of the brutal kidnapping, rape, and murder of a sixteen-year old victim that was snatched from a convenience store in Greenville, Kentucky after she drove there to rent a movie. After a grand jury indictment, the prosecutor indicated that the Commonwealth would seek the death penalty at trial, and the defendant initially pled not guilty even though the police were able to secure shoeprint, fingerprint, and DNA evidence that strongly suggested that he was guilty as charged. Shortly before trial, and after a successful defense motion to change the trial’s venue to another location, Woodall changed his plea to “guilty,” which meant that the only remaining issue was whether he should be put to death after a sentencing hearing. At the sentencing hearing, the trial judge refused a defense counsel request to instruct the jury to not draw any negative inferences about Woodall’s decision to not take the stand and testify. After the jury sentenced him to death, the trial judge’s decision became the basis for state and federal court appeals (including habeas corpus) that ultimately affirmed his death sentence over a span of sixteen years.

In contrast, PROMOTION IN MOTION, which took four years to litigate, is a civil action that involved a breach of contract claim filed by Promotion in Motion against Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation in a New Jersey trial court after Beech-Nut removed Fruit Nibbles from the market, a product that Promotion in Motion manufactured and packaged for Beech-Nut. [*102] Beech-Nut did so after receiving customer complaints and internal quality control reports indicating that the Fruit Nibbles’ product, which was ingested by toddlers, degraded in a short period of time after was put in stores, thus making it “shriveled, disgusting-looking snacks” of poor quality (p. 7). After successfully removing the case to a federal trial court, Beech-Nut not only denied in its answer that it breached their agreement but also filed a counter-claim seeking damages against Promotion in Motion, alleging that the failure to deliver acceptable Fruit Nibbles breached express and implied warranties of merchantability and fitness. Subsequently, Beech-Nut eliminated its own liability after it received a favorable motion for summary judgment against Promotion in Motion, a development that left Promotion in Motion potentially liable for damages on Beech-Nut’s breach of warranty claims. After a jury trial, Beech-Nut prevailed and received a $2.2 million damage award which Promotion in Motion paid in full after pursuing an unsuccessful appeal before a federal appellate court.

Before moving to an explanation about where (geographic, subject matter, and personal jurisdiction) and how (filing complaints and related procedures) criminal and civil actions begin, chapter two supplies a basic overview of the organization, docket composition, and staffing mechanisms of state and federal courts. In relation to the subsequent chapters, chapter two is the most conventional because it conveys the same type of information that is commonly found in other judicial process textbooks: the dual system of courts and their organizational structure, the origins of law, the types of cases (or business) appearing on criminal and civil dockets, judicial federalism, and judicial selection processes of federal and state courts are all briefly touched upon. Taking on the larger concepts about how federal and state courts intersect with each other obviates the need to discuss the main cases that serve as the framework for the book’s analysis of key topics; but their discussion provides the background and context for grasping the procedural logistics and complexities of the WOODALL and PROMOTION IN MOTION cases, a narrative that begins in earnest in chapter three.


Vol. 27 No. 6 (July 2017) pp. 97-100

PICKING JUDGES, by Nancy Maveety. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. 2016. 122pp. Cloth $100.00. ISBN: 978-1-4128-6274-5. Paper $44.95. ISBN: 978-1-4128-6330-8.

Reviewed by Jennifer Diascro, University of California Washington Program (UCDC). Email:

PRESIDENTS, PACK THOSE COURTS! At a time when we receive regular communication—from the President of the United States, no less—in 140 characters and in all caps for dramatic emphasis, this might have been the title of Nancy Maveety’s compact but thorough volume published as part of the (now) Routlege Presidential Briefing series. The central thesis is that presidents have not only the constitutional authority to staff the federal courts with judges of their choosing, but they have the political obligation to do so. Despite the more staid headline, PICKING JUDGES, Maveety’s purpose is clear: to advise presidential staff—and President’s themselves—that they should step up to their rightful place in the appointment process, exercise their discretion and leadership in taking every opportunity to engage in the selection of judges that align as closely with their political agenda—their electoral mandate—as institutional and political circumstances allow.

Maveety does an admirable job. There’s barely a word wasted in this “briefing.” In five short chapters filled with history and political science research, she lays out her case for the significant role that presidents can and should have in selecting judges. It’s a bit hard to imagine that a president’s staff—let alone the president himself—would read this book in preparation for judicial appointments, but it’s a good idea…and they should. At the very least, this volume would be an excellent addition to undergraduate courses on the presidency and, of course, judicial process.

First, Maveety begins with an historical overview of how the president’s constitutional and political power has developed over time. This is a story about the struggle between presidential power to nominate and Senate power to advise and consent, all in the context of broader legislative authority to define the institutional parameters of the federal judiciary. Constitutional power may be the least of the factors involved in selecting judges as presidents must navigate a multitude of obstacles and constraints in their particular political landscapes to put their preferred judges on the bench. From George Washington and Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson and Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and most recently George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barak Obama, Maveety illustrates the various successes and failures of judicial appointments. The reader learns quickly about the constant (and intentional) conflict between the political imperatives of elected officials and the essential independence of judges in American democracy. From the focus on party loyalty and geographic representation in the early years of the Republic, to the merit-based qualifications of individual candidates, to the increasing significance of interest groups and demographic representation, and the prominent role of political ideology and policy agendas, the evolution of the active and even aggressive executive role in staffing the federal bench is illuminated. Maveety introduces us to Chief Justice Taney, Justice Brandeis, Robert Bork; to the “the switch in time that saved nine,” Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” and the notions of a living constitution and an ideological litmus test; and much more, as she describes how presidents have maneuvered—more and less successfully—around Senate obstacles and through the opportunities and challenges posed by laws that have expanded and constricted the size and authority of the courts over the years.

Because the appointment process starts (at least technically) with the president’s nomination of an individual or slate of candidates to fill judicial seats, Maveety turns in Chapter Two to the demographic, political, and merit-oriented [*98] characteristics that may –or should—affect a president’s choices as he faces a Senate and individual senators who may have alternative ideas about who would best serve as a federal judge. The reader is again treated to some interesting history as Maveety tells stories of presidential successes and failures to weigh appropriately—in light of Senate veto points like senatorial courtesy, blue slips, and scheduling hearings and votes (p.70-77)—the relative significance of factors such as legal and political qualifications, experience, integrity, and demographic characteristics like race, ethnicity, sex, and age. Among others, she reminds us of George W. Bush’s failure to put qualifications above favoritism in his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and of the successful Supreme Court “firsts” by Johnson (Justice Marshall), Reagan (Justice O’Connor), and Obama (Justice Sotomayor), who recognized the electoral benefits of candidate qualities.


Vol. 27 No. 6 (July 2017) pp. 92-96

REPRESENTING MASS VIOLENCE: CONFLICTING RESPONSES TO HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN DARFUR, by Joachim J. Savelsberg. Oakland: University of California Press. 2015. 341 pp. Paper $24.95. ISBN: 978-0-520-28150-9.

Reviewed by Wesley T. Milner, Office of International Programs, University of Evansville. Email:

Numerous scholars view the last century as one of the most destructive in human history, with massive conflict and human rights degradation. Additionally, the last two decades have seen advancing technology and the almost instantaneous proliferation of information around the globe. As we enter the seventh year of an increasingly devastating civil war in Syria and widespread reports of human rights violations throughout the world, some may question if we have become desensitized to the egregious practices we continue to inflict on our fellow human beings.

In this context, sociologist Joachim Savelsberg utilizes the situation in Darfur as a case study for investigating a much wider set of interesting inquiries. Some may question his focus on Darfur as much of the world’s attention has unfortunately, if not understandably, moved on to other crises. Drawing heavily from the “justice cascade” as illustrated by Sikkink (2011), Savelsberg carefully examines the fields of human rights and criminal law, humanitarianism, and diplomacy as they intersect with media conceptualizations of mass violence in this region. Through studying some 3400 newspaper reports in eight countries (i.e., Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States) and conducting extensive interviews with journalists, non-governmental organization (NGO) officials and diplomats, the author asks why we see such differences in reporting and framing. He argues that focusing on similar states - wealthy, western, free-market democracies - provides for better isolation of crucial variables. Here, he also attempts to move beyond “methodological nationalism” toward a quantitative and qualitative intersection of global, national and local inputs (Beck and Sznaider 2006). The book is very systematic in its organization and execution with the main body separated into four, distinct sections.

Part I focuses on the emerging justice frame and examines the human rights field and fight against impunity. In the first chapter, the reader is whisked through a brief but effective introduction to international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and transnational advocacy networks (TANs) and the acceptance of criminalization and individualization of international law. Here we see the initial utterance of the word “genocide” by Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W. Bush in 2004 to describe the atrocities in Darfur quickly followed by the United Nations Security Council referral of the case to the new International Criminal Court (ICC). This ultimately led to the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Notwithstanding the progress in favor of the justice cascade (Sikkink 2011), Savelsberg honestly acknowledges the limits of this approach and the fact that no Darfur case has reached the trial stage. The second chapter focuses on civil society and human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, the Enough Project, and especially Amnesty International. Savelsberg portrays Amnesty International as a formal, centralized organization that is very effective at the grass roots. While also seeking other goals of peace and victim protection, Amnesty International pushes first for justice in the expectation that justice is perhaps needed as a precondition for the achievement of these other desirable ends.

Chapter 3 explores the linkages to civil society in the human rights field and highlights the outsize role of the US in the progress of the justice cascade. This is especially surprising since the US has never ratified the Rome Statute [*93] and distances itself from the ICC. At the forefront of this movement are the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (who in 2004 issued a genocide alert for Darfur) and the Save Darfur campaign. Savelsberg notes during this period US media were more likely to recognize victimization compared to the other seven countries he studies. He also shows empirically that the US media use the crime frame more often than other states and are much more likely to cite the genocide frame. Here, the depiction of mass violence through the crime frame exposes these egregious acts as criminal and the perpetrators as violators of and subject to international law. Moving beyond the Clinton Administration’s reluctance with Rwanda in the 1990s, both the US government and civil society organizations portrayed human rights violations in Darfur unmistakably as genocide.


Vol. 27 No. 6 (July 2017) pp. 89-91

SUPREME COURT CONFIRMATION HEARINGS IN THE U.S. SENATE: RECONSIDERING THE CHARADE, by Dion Farganis and Justin Wedeking. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press. 2014. 176pp. Cloth $65.00 ISBN: 9780472119331.

Reviewed by Christine Nemacheck, Government Department, College of William and Mary. Email:

It seems every time there is a new appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, the debate about the value of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings swirls once again. President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Scalia’s death in February 2016 was no different. In fact, falling as it did on the heels of the Senate’s refusal to even meet with President Obama’s nomination of DC Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland, anticipation for these hearings was arguably even greater than typical. Then Judge Gorsuch managed to avoid major missteps and, if anything, he appeared to some senators as almost too prepared in his responses to their questions. During the hearings, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) expressed her concern with the Judge’s answers by asserting that he had been “able to avoid specificity like no one [she had] ever seen before….”

Senator Feinstein is hardly the first person to imply, or assert outright, that little new information results from the typically lengthy confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominees. To better understand the value of these confirmation hearings, Dion Farganis and Justin Wedeking undertook an extensive examination of Supreme Court confirmation hearings between 1955 and 2010. Their book, SUPREME COURT CONFIRMATION HEARINGS IN THE U.S. SENATE: RECONSIDERING THE CHARADE, provides an excellent framework to evaluate the kinds of questions senators’ ask and the responses nominees provide during their confirmation hearings. Farganis and Wedeking’s findings on the degree of candor with which Supreme Court nominees typically respond meaningfully to senators’ questions should reassure Senator Feinstein and others that the process does produce relevant information as to their jurisprudence.

Since the mid- to late-20th Century, and perhaps particularly since the hearings on Judge Robert Bork’s Supreme Court nomination, academics and pundits alike have bemoaned Supreme Court confirmation hearings as “exercises in obfuscation.” Or, as Justice Elena Kagan put it in 1995, long before her own confirmation hearings, a “vapid and hollow charade” (p. 941). Typically such assessments are contrasted with a long-ago time when hearings resulted in richer discussions about substantive issues. Farganis and Wedeking set out to determine whether these negative views of confirmation hearings are actually supported by the evidence. The authors examined every exchange between a senator and the nominee in every Supreme Court confirmation hearing since 1955. In all, the authors analyzed 10,833 exchanges in the hearing transcripts from Justice Harlan’s 1955 hearing through Justice Kagan’s hearing in 2010.

As it underpins their analysis, Farganis and Wedeking’s data collection efforts merit some discussion. The authors coded the exchanges into two broad categories: “Questions of Fact” and “Questions of View.” Within each broad category, the authors then coded the topic of the questions asked and the degree to which the nominees’ answers were forthcoming. When nominees’ answers were not forthcoming, the exchanges were classified into one of five explanatory categories. In short, collecting and coding the data was a massive undertaking. Farganis and Wedeking developed an extensive database and followed the standard protocols for intercoder reliability.