Vol. 25 No. 7 (July 2015) pp. 102-103

FINDING JUSTICE: A HISTORY OF WOMEN LAWYERS IN MARYLAND SINCE 1642 by Lynne A. Battaglia (ed.). Staunton, Virginia: George F. Thompson Publishing. 2015. 352pp. Cloth $58.50. ISBN: 978-1938086298.

Reviewed by Mark Kessler, Department of Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies, Texas Woman’s University. Email:

This engaging volume was produced as part of the Finding Justice Project, a collaborative effort among a small group of judges, lawyers, and legal academics to recover and illuminate neglected histories of women in law in Maryland. Sponsored by the Maryland Women’s Bar Association Foundation, the project sought to identify and learn about the work and lives of as many women lawyers as possible practicing in Maryland since 1642. For this purpose, a research team collected information from many sources, including records of the names along with signatures of all who received bar admission, court records describing the cases in which women lawyers participated, birth and death certificates and census records of their families, and newspaper reports regarding the professional and personal lives of some women lawyers in the state. One product of these efforts is a list of nearly 25,000 women admitted to the Maryland bar through 2014, a list reproduced in an appendix organized by year of admission that is printed on nearly 100 pages (pp. 173-268).

We learn in the Preface that the Project initially hired an author to write a book based on the data collected. After the author withdrew, The Honorable Lynne A. Battaglia, the editor of this volume and a central advocate for the Project, developed a new plan to produce an edited collection to include several chapters written by a variety of women practitioners with different themes related to women in law, with emphasis on particular women in law, and with a focus on various historical moments. Although the chapters are generally brief in a book that includes only 167 pages of text prior to appendices, together they present a coherent and interesting portrait of the many challenges and opportunities experienced by diverse women interested in legal careers in Maryland over time. The chapters are well organized and conceived, and the details provided regarding legal careers in Maryland are often quite fascinating.


Vol. 25 No. 6 (June 2015) pp. 99-101

AMERICA’S EXPERIMENT WITH CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: REFLECTIONS ON THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF THE ULTIMATE PENAL SANCTION by James R. Acker, Robert M. Bohm, and Charles S. Lanier (eds). 3rd edition. Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press. 2014. 759 pp. ISBN: 978-1-61163-385-6.

Reviewed by Mary Welek Atwell, Department of Criminal Justice (retired), Radford University,

This is a classic collection of articles written by many of the most prominent scholars in the field of capital punishment. It has been released in a third edition, following earlier versions published in 1998 and 2003. Given the size and scope of the book, it would seem to be designed primarily for use in classes focusing on the death penalty for upper level undergraduate or graduate students. It would certainly expose such students to many of the significant questions and issues they should explore in learning about how capital punishment functions in the United States.

Like all anthologies, AMERICA’S EXPERIMENT WITH CAPITAL PUNISHMENT provides articles of varying appeal. Perhaps the volume would be more valuable if it were a bit less inclusive. A problem is not that the topics are insignificant, but rather that some the chapters are dated. The late Ernest van der Haag’s famous article on deterrence (a reprint of an earlier version) is largely of historic interest as it was widely discussed when first published several decades ago. With very little data, he maintains not only that the death penalty prevents murders but also that abolition would be immoral. The next article “Is Capital Punishment an Effective Deterrent for Murder,” which cites research that challenges van der Haag’s thesis is an exact reprint of the article from the 2002 edition. Again, although the arguments are interesting, much work has been done in the thirteen years since its earlier publication. Chapter 10, “Is Capital Punishment an Effective Deterrent for Murder: An Updated Review of Research and Theory,” is, as the title indicates, more current. It not only raises questions about the validity of the rational choice theory that underlies arguments in favor of deterrence, but looks at research that examines other decision-making models. A student wishing to become familiar with contemporary research on the issue would do well to concentrate on this chapter by Apel, DeWitt, and Bellandi.
A lengthy piece (over 40 pages), “Roots” by Robert Blecker focuses on the Old Testament and ancient Greece as sources of guidance for current capital punishment policy. He argues that an alternative to abolishing the death penalty is finding a “jurisprudence of informed emotion,” a moral intuition that will not do away with capital punishment but allow the procedure to be justly administered. He seems to suggest that the impulse to execute murderers is fundamentally inseparable from human nature. He does not explain why the United States is almost alone among developed countries in legitimizing this impulse.


Vol. 25 No. 6 (June 2015) pp. 93-98

REFLECTIONS ON JUDGING by Richard A. Posner. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 2013. 380pp. ISBN-10: 0674725085

Reviewed by Justin Wedeking, Department of Political Science, University of Kentucky,

For many Americans, if not most, the primary virtue of the judiciary is the belief that judges will make decisions grounded in “the law” that are compelled by precedent and previously established procedures. A core part of this belief, regardless of whether it comes in a concrete or abstract form, involves the nature of how judges’ decide cases and explain their reasoning, often drawing on philosophies that are marked by formalism, such as originalism or some other decision process that purportedly produces principled decisions. In fact, some might argue that this process plays a key role in enhancing and maintaining the legitimacy of the courts. In REFLECTIONS ON JUDGING, however, whatever notions or hopes you might have entertained that judging is a mechanical, straightforward and uncomplicated process that consists of judges deciding cases in a formulaic and impartial manner are quickly disposed of by Judge Richard Posner. The book is an eclectic and meandering mix of thoughts on his career and experiences. The book also provides philosophical advice to new judges, along with guidance to lawyers, and also includes his thoughts on how various aspects of the legal system should work. In all of this, several prominent themes emerge that should be familiar to those who are already familiar with Posner’s writings. Among these themes, perhaps the most prominent are those that focus on the growing complexity that judges must face, and a strong call for realism and pragmatism in judging. This leads to what I think is one of the disappointments of the book, the sparseness of novel material and the lack of an overarching theme that directly and explicitly connects all of the chapters. With that said, it is nice to have a variety of his material collected in one place and in some areas there is an effort to have the various parts and chapters “speak” to one another.

In what follows, I summarize the arguments made in each chapter, as they are varied and not always directly related to each other. I will generally try to avoid offering comments along the way, though this will not always be possible. Following my summary I offer a few more comments and conclude with my recommendations for the book’s future use.

The book has twelve total chapters, with ten of them being “numbered” chapters that are bookended by non-numbered introductory and concluding chapters. The book’s introductory chapter reviews several ideas and concepts that appear throughout the book. Specifically, Posner reviews legal formalism and legal realism, and the two kinds of complexity- internal and external – that he addresses later in the book. Posner then offers some thoughts on why his reflections might be valuable and a brief “roadmap” of the remaining book.