at Seattle University Law Library

January 2001


Endings and beginnings: law, medicine, and society in assisted life and death by Larry I. Palmer. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. KF3827.E87 P35 2000

As society struggles to cope with the many repercussions of assisted life and death, the evening news is filled with stories of legal battles over frozen embryos and the possible prosecution of doctors for their patients' suicides. Using an "institutional" approach as an alternative to the prevailing "rights" based analysis of problems in law and medicine, this study explains why society should resist the tendency to look to science and law for a resolution of intimate matters, such as how our children are born and how we die. Palmer's institutional approach demonstrates that legislative analysis is often more important than judicial analysis when it comes to issues raised by new reproductive technologies and physician-assisted suicide. A reliance on individual rights alone for answers to the complex ethical questions that result from society's faith in scientific progress and science's close alliance with medicine will be insufficient and ill-advised.

Larry I. Palmer is Professor of Law at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York, where he has taught courses on law and medicine for many years. He is the author of Law, Medicine, and Social Justice (1989) and numerous journal articles dealing with law, medicine, and policy. He is executive producer and author of the study guide for the award-winning educational video, Susceptible to Kindness: Miss Evers' Boys and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study (1994).

Read a review from the Cornell Daily Sun (LEXIS password required)

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The cultural life of intellectual properties: authorship, appropriation, and the law by Rosemary J. Coombe. Durham : Duke University Press. KF2979.C66 1998

Logos, trademarks, national insignia, brand names, celebrity images, design patents, and advertising texts are vibrant signs in a consumer culture governed by a regime of intellectual property laws. In The Cultural Life of Intellectual Properties, professor of law and cultural anthropologist Rosemary J. Coombe brings an illuminating ethnographic approach to an analysis of authorship and the role law plays in shaping the various meanings that animate these protected properties in the public sphere.

Although such artifacts are ubiquitous in contemporary culture, little attention has been paid to the impact of intellectual property law in everyday life or to how ownership of specific intellectual properties is determined and exercised. Drawing on a wide range of cases, disputes, and local struggles, Coombe examines these issues and dismantles the legal assumption that the meaning and value of a text or image is produced exclusively by an individual author or that authorship has a single point of origin. In the process, she examines controversies that include the service of turbanned Sikhs in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the use of the term Olympic in reference to the proposed gay Olympic Games. Other chapters discuss the appropriation of such celebrity images as the Marx brothers, Judy Garland, Dolly Parton, James Dean, and Luke Skywalker; the conflict over team names such as the Washington Redskins; and the opposition of indigenous peoples to stereotypical Native American insignia proffered by the entertainment industry. Ultimately, she makes a case for redefining the political in commodified cultural environments.

Rosemary J. Coombe is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Toronto.

Read a review: 24 Law & Soc. Inquiry 575 (WESTLAW password required)

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A law of her own: the reasonable woman as a measure of man by Caroline A. Forell and Donna M. Matthews; foreword by Barbara Y. Welke. New York: New York University Press. KF9325.F67 2000

Despite the apparent progress in women's legal status, the law retains a profoundly male bias, and as such contributes to the pervasive violence and injustice against women.

In A Law of Her Own, the authors propose to radically change law's fundamental paradigm by introducing a "reasonable woman standard" for measuring men's behavior. Advocating that courts apply this standard to the conduct of men-and women-in legal settings where women are overwhelmingly the injured parties, the authors seek to eliminate the victimization and objectification of women by dismantling part of the legal structure that supports their subordination.

A woman-based legal standard-focusing on respect for bodily integrity, agency, and autonomy-would help rectify the imbalance in how society and its legal system view sexual and gender-based harassment, rape, stalking, battery, domestic imprisonment, violence, and death.

Examining the bias of the existing "reasonable person" standard through analysis of various court cases and judicial decisions, A Law of Her Own aims to balance the law to incorporate women's values surrounding sex and violence.

Caroline Forell is Professor of Law at the University of Oregon. Donna Matthews is an attorney in private practice in Oregon.

Read a discussion of the issue in Newsweek (available on LEXIS and WESTLAW, passwords required)

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Business on trial: the civil jury and corporate responsibility by Valerie P. Hans. New Haven: Yale University Press. KF8972.H267 2000

Are jury verdicts in business trials influenced less by a corporation's negligence than by sympathy for the plaintiffs, prejudice against business, and a belief in the corporation's "deep pockets"? Many members of the public and corporate executives believe that this is so, and they feel that the jury's decision making presents serious problems for American business competitiveness and its justice system. This book-the first to provide a systematic account of how juries make decisions in typical business cases-shows that these assumptions are false or exaggerated.Drawing on interviews with civil jurors, experiments with mock jurors, and public opinion polling, Valerie P. Hans explores how jurors determine whether businesses should be held responsible for an injury. She finds that many civil jurors, rather than being overly sympathetic to plaintiffs who bring civil lawsuits, are often hostile to them, that there are only occasional instances of anti-business prejudice, and that there is no evidence of the deep-pockets hypothesis. Hans concludes that jurors do treat businesses differently than individuals, but this is because the public has higher expectations of corporations and more rigorous standards for their conduct.

Valerie P. Hans is professor in the department of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware.

Read a review in The Dallas Morning News (available on WESTLAW and LEXIS, passwords required)

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No equal justice: race and class in the American criminal justice system by David Cole. New York: New Press: Distributed by W. W. Norton. HV9950.C58 1999

Leading constitutional scholar and civil rights lawyer David Cole conclusively shows that, despite a veneer of neutrality, race and class-based double standards operate in virtually very criminal justice setting, from police behavior, to jury selection, to sentencing. Cole, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a leading thinker on constitutional law, argues that our system depends on these double standards to operate; such disparities allow the privileged to enjoy constitutional protections from police power without paying the costs associated with extending those protections across the board to minorities and the poor.

The double standards themselves inflict even greater costs on society, Cole argues, by compromising the legitimacy of the criminal justice system, and by exacerbating racial divisions nationally. The most potent force in the war against crime is the perceived legitimacy of criminal law, so if large segments of our population lack faith in the system's fairness, the system is bound to fail. Each chapter includes specific suggestions for moving beyond the double standards we have tolerated, and the book concludes with a powerful argument for rebuilding the sense of community that is so essential to a safe and healthy society.

David Cole is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

Read a review in BOOKS-ON-LAW

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