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Recent Publications — May 2016

Divorced from Reality: Rethinking Family Dispute Resolution. By Jane C. Murphy & Jana B. Singer. New York, N.Y.: New York University Press. 2015. Pp. viii, 219. $45.00. In the last thirty years, the legal system has dramatically changed its approach to resolving parenting disputes. What was once an adversarial model focused on the law and dependent on third-party decisionmaking has transformed into a collaborative and interdisciplinary model that relies less on judges and legal norms. Accompanying this shift is a wider diversity in the types of families that experience this new process. Divorced from Reality acknowledges an improvement in the dispute resolution regime but argues that this problem-solving model still “fails to meet the diverse needs of today’s disputing families” (p. 155). Professors Jane Murphy and Jana Singer offer several recommendations to address this model’s shortcomings. For example, they suggest moving families and nonadversarial services from courts to communities in order to improve accessibility and to allow courts to focus on their area of expertise. To improve the wellbeing of children, Murphy and Singer recommend increasing childrens’ participation in the dispute resolution process. Divorced from Reality provides a detailed analysis of family dispute resolution developments and their successes to give valuable, practical recommendations for the future.

American Justice 2015: The Dramatic Tenth Term of the Roberts Court. By Steven V. Mazie. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2015. Pp. xiv, 167. $24.95. From The Economist’s Supreme Court correspondent Steven Mazie comes a summary of the Supreme Court’s October Term 2014 that is both accessible and informative. Seeking to reach a public that remains deeply affected by the Court’s decisions yet largely unaware of its actors and day-to-day practices, Mazie “dives into the people, principles, and arguments at the heart of the fourteen most significant cases of Chief Justice John Roberts’s tenth year at the helm” in a way designed to reach “the educated layman in Bangalore or Bangkok” (p. xi). The book begins with a candid recognition, along with a partial defense, of the perceived politicization of the Court’s work, acknowledging “charges that the Justices are driven by ideological, if not strictly partisan, commitments” (p. 10) but offering “evidence of [their] fair-mindedness” (p. 11) as well. Proceeding in a topical fashion through the term’s highlights — Walker, Glossip, King, and of course Obergefell, among others — Mazie provides pithy explanations, historical backdrops, and forward-looking analyses of the cases. The book is a helpful primer for anyone interested in the Court’s recent work, lawyer and layman alike.

Punishment in Popular Culture. Edited by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. & Austin Sarat. New York, N.Y.: New York University Press. 2015. Pp. ix, 306. $27.00. America is both audience and judge, and punishment is “a marvelous spectacle of condemnation” (p. 2). In their fifth coedited work on punishment, Professors Charles Ogletree and Austin Sarat gather authors across disciplines to examine what it means for punishment to be a “spectacle” — to consider the role that cultural images play in shaping, reflecting, and critiquing our penal system. The pieces cover a broad range: one tracks the rise of law-and-order conservatism in the wake of the Vietnam War through the crime films of GOP stalwarts like Clint Eastwood and Chuck Norris; while another looks at how popular depictions of trial practice and forensics may lead jurors to lend unwarranted credibility to often-flimsy types of evidence such as eyewitness identifications and videotaped confessions. Unifying the pieces is the common theme of depictions of punishment as culturally ubiquitous and normatively significant. As such, the collection compellingly posits that these depictions constitute a rich and understudied avenue through which to understand better our conceptions of responsibility, evil, and justice.

Second-Best Justice: The Virtues of Japanese Private Law. By J. Mark Ramseyer. Chicago, Ill.: The University of Chicago Press. 2015. Pp. xii, 283. $50.00. Why do Japanese citizens file fewer lawsuits per capita than Americans? Some have pointed to Japanese culture and others to the inefficiency of Japan’s court system as potential answers. Second-Best Justice offers a more nuanced and compelling explanation: low rates of lawsuits result from a trust in the consistency of the Japanese legal system. Cases are systemically treated so predictably that potential claimants often see no need to resolve their disputes in a courtroom — they already know how the case will turn out. Professor Ramseyer illustrates this point by using examples from tort law, product liability, medical malpractice, and other legal areas. In contrast to American courts, which aspire to find idiosyncratic solutions to every dispute, Japanese courts aim for “mostly right” results, choosing systematization over perfection (p. 239). Published rules in Japanese tort law, for example, lead to standardized charts for compensation. This estimated justice allows most suits to settle outside of court and allows victims to be compensated without lengthy legal battles. Ramseyer provides significant support for his contentious claim that American courts, with their made-to-measure approach to justice, could learn much from the off-the-rack variety of their Japanese counterparts.