Popular Books on Forensic Science and Forensic Medicine: Anil Aggrawal's Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine, Vol.5, No. 2, July - December 2004
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Anil Aggrawal's Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine and ToxicologyProfessor Anil AggrawalAnil Aggrawal's Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology

Anil Aggrawal's Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology

Volume 5, Number 2, July - December 2004

Book Reviews: Popular Books Section

(Page 5)


 Great American Court Cases (four volumes; Vol. 1-IV) edited by Mark F. Mikula, L. Mpho Mabunda (Editors), Allison McClintic Marion (Associate Editor). Hard Bound, 8.5" x 11".

 The Gale Group, 27500 Drake Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48331-3535, USA; Phones:800-877-4253, 248-699-4253.

 Publication Date June 1, 1999. 2,644 pp. in 4 vols, ISBN 0-7876-2947-2 (set), Vol 1 ISBN 0-7876-2948-0, Vol 2 ISBN 0-7876-2949-9, Vol 3 ISBN 0-7876-2950-2, Vol 4 ISBN 0-7876-2951-0; Order #GIN11700-112518. Shipping Weight: 20.00 lbs, 9.07 kgs. Price $450.00/4-vol. set

  Please click here to visit the Official site of this book.

Great American Court Cases (four volumes; Vol. 1-IV) edited by Mark F. Mikula, L. Mpho Mabunda (Editors), Allison McClintic Marion (Associate Editor)
Click cover to buy from Amazon

Imagine 778 greatest American legal cases, based on 53 different legal principles, all compiled in one encyclopedia! If you thought this was impossible, you would be wrong. Galegroup has come out with a "dream encyclopedia" - in four volumes - spanning some 2700 pages, 400 illustrations, a glossary of legal terms, an appendix that includes full text of the U.S. Constitution and amendments, a listing of U.S. Supreme Court justices throughout history, a cumulative general index in all volumes, and a volume-specific alphabetic case list with cross-references within each volume and a volume-specific chronological index to cases. All this and much more is now available and you can acquire this at a very reasonable price.

Great American Court Cases (four volumes; Vol. 1-IV) edited by Mark F. Mikula, L. Mpho Mabunda (Editors), Allison McClintic Marion (Associate Editor)
This is how each of the 778 cases in the encyclopedia start. This case is from page 475 of volume 3 in a legal section entitled "Rights of Gays and Lesbians". Note the citations at the top and a quick digest of all facts at the left in a "factbox"

Each of the four volumes is devoted to one unique legal theme: volume I deals with Individual liberties, volume II with criminal justice, volume III with equal protection and family law and volume IV with business and government. So regardless of what specialty you are associated with, you would find the encyclopedia a great companion. Each volume is subdivided into several smaller sections, each dealing with a separate legal principle and illustrating its various nuances with several legal cases. Volume II (dealing with criminal justice) for instance deals with eleven different legal principles. There is the section on capital punishment, dealing with 20 different cases illustrating several different legal shades related to it; criminal law, with 5 cases; Criminal procedure, with 17 cases; Damages, with 13 cases; drug laws, with 4 cases; juries with 12 cases; juvenile courts with 4 cases; the rights of the accused before, during and after trial dealing with a total of 20, 16 and 6 cases respectively and finally the legal principle related to search and seizure with 68 cases. In all there are 185 cases in this volume. Volume I deals with a total of 11 legal principles illustrated by 205 cases; volume II deals with 11 legal principles illustrated by 185 cases (as mentioned just before); volume III deals with 16 different principles illustrated by 211 cases and volume IV deals with 15 cases illustrated by 177 cases.

The encyclopedia has a popular appeal, and should find favor with people in all walks of life, be they school teachers, professors, legal personnel, lawyers, judges, police officers, researchers, office goers, students, doctors, chartered accountants or just plain housewives. Every intelligent person interested in knowing legal happenings around him would find it a great read. Of course the encyclopedia would be indispensable for all judges, police officers, lawyers and law students. Legal researchers would find it very valuable indeed.

Great American Court Cases (four volumes; Vol. 1-IV) edited by Mark F. Mikula, L. Mpho Mabunda (Editors), Allison McClintic Marion (Associate Editor)
The "factbox" in detail. This one appears on page 156 in volume IV in the case United States v. Nixon. This case appears in a legal section entitled "Federal powers and separation of powers"

The encyclopedia explains away several important points in the beginning itself. Take for instance the enigmatic numerals we so often find associated with legal citations. In my 25 years as a professor of legal medicine in a medical school, I have seen this as one of the biggest areas of ignorance amongst non-legal personnel.

For instance when talking of new and questionable forensic techniques, I have to teach the famous Frye Standard to my students which among other things states that "the thing from which the deduction is made must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs". The case from which Frye standard springs is generally cited as "Frye v. United States 293 F. 1013 (1923)". Students are quite confused about what these numerals mean. This encyclopedia explains this in the very beginning.

Each volume starts with a general essay on "The American Legal System" which gives a broad overview of the court system. We also get to read the structure of the American legal system, origins of the state judicial systems and federal judiciary, judicial hierarchy, criminal and civil procedures and a number of other similar topics.

Each of the 778 cases is a unique gem in itself. The legal citation appears at the head of each case profile, enabling researchers to access the authoritative records of the court action. To my mind, the single feature which makes this encyclopedia uniquely important is a fact box which appears on the first page of every single case. This fact box is a kind of "digest" of what is to follow; just read it to get an idea whether you want to read the case or not. Among other things, it gives the names of litigants, the initiating litigant's claim, the names of chief lawyers on each side, the name of the judge or justice who wrote the majority opinion or decision, as well as names of those who concurred or dissented, the date and location of the decision, the summary of the decision and above all, the significance of the decision. As I delved into this encyclopedia deeper and deeper I found myself first scanning this fact box invariably before going ahead. This feature proved very helpful in putting before me "in perspective" every case I studied. I could then decide if this was the case I needed to study right then or not. If, for instance, I am researching on the legal rights of, say, gays and lesbians, I don't have to read each and every case detailed under this legal principle to locate the right case I am in need of. All I need to do is to read the fact box and decide.

Great American Court Cases (four volumes; Vol. 1-IV) edited by Mark F. Mikula, L. Mpho Mabunda (Editors), Allison McClintic Marion (Associate Editor)
The encyclopedia is replete with historical photographs, contemporary lithographs, newspaper cuttings, cartoons, lampoons and other related visual material such as the one shown here. This cartoon appears on page 87 in volume III. The case is Yick Wo v. Hopkins in a legal section entitled "Civil rights and equal protection". The case relates to an alleged discrimination against a Chinese. The contemporary cartoon from 1880 illustrates the anti-Chinese sentiments. In this reviewer's opinion, visual material such as this is very helpful.

Another useful feature of this encyclopedia are the sidebars included with almost every case. These throw interesting sidelights to the case. Take for example Korematsu v. United States 323 U.S.214 (1944). The case is an important landmark in civil rights and equal protection law. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US government illegally imprisoned about 112,000 persons of Japanese origin living in the United States. Of these, 70,000 were actually American citizens. The prisons were known by the euphemism "internment camps". One of the sufferers, Toyosaburo Korematsu brought a case against the United States government asserting that the order to arrest innocent Japanese was illegal. We do get to read the decision of the court and its reasoning thereof, but in a sidebar entitled "Japanese American Internment camps", we also get to read about these camps; what these camps were like, where they were located, what did it mean to live in those camps and so on.

Most cases are illustrated with historical photographs, contemporary lithographs, newspaper cuttings, cartoons, lampoons and other related visual material. In all there are about 400 photographs and graphics. Scanning the encyclopedia I discovered several cases the details of which I was searching for long and was not able to get them anywhere. Among others I got to read such important cases as Gitlow v. New York (1925), Hustler magazine v. Falwell (1988), Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health (1990), Toth v. Quarles (1955), California v. Acevedo (1991), Santosky v. Kramer (1982), Escobedo v. Illinois (1964), Hylton v. United States (1796), Mapp v. Ohio (1961), Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), Frontierro v. Richardson (1973), Roe v. Wade (1971), Duffield v. Robertson, Stephens & Co (1998), Baker v. Carr (1962) and United States v. Nixon (1974). Each case is described in an average of about 2-4 pages.

Great American Court Cases (four volumes; Vol. 1-IV) edited by Mark F. Mikula, L. Mpho Mabunda (Editors), Allison McClintic Marion (Associate Editor)
The book also has a number of "sidebars" such as these. Almost every case has one. This one is from page 139 from Vol. II. This "sidebar" is included in the case "Wiener v. United States" in the legal section entitled "Damages". Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote for the court in this case, and the editors decided to give more information about him in this "sidebar".

The encyclopedia rounds up with a complete statement of the Constitution of the United States (this appears in volume IV, from pages 621-630) and a chronology of U.S. Supreme Court Justices. Alphabetical and chronological lists of court cases, a thorough glossary consisting of more than 600 words and phrases and a cumulative index appears at the end of each volume.

Who should read this encyclopedia? I would imagine every intelligent person interested in knowing the legal happenings around him must read it, be he interested in legal cases related to the use of internet, to libel and obscenity, right to bear arms, freedom of speech and press, custody and child support, rights of the disabled, sexual harassment, voting rights, immigrant rights, gender discrimination, civil rights and equal protection, assisted suicide and the right to die, drug laws, capital punishment, business and corporate law, environmental law, military issues, national security, consumer protection or taxation.

The language is completely non-technical and should be comprehensible even to a general reader. This encyclopedia is going to be my inseparable companion for the rest of my life. It has given me innumerable hours of joy already and would undoubtedly keep doing so in future. At $450.00, it is virtually a steal.

 Order this Book by clicking here.


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-Anil Aggrawal

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