Books by Ellen Alderman

THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY by Ellen Alderman
Released: Nov. 10, 1995

Human-interest stories of privacy invaded, plus a smattering of legal concepts for the uninitiated. Alderman and Kennedy (In Our Defense, 1991) reprise their bestselling formula to explore that most nebulous of constitutional guarantees, the right to privacy, which, while not explicitly stated in the Constitution, has been judicially determined to be ``implied'' by it. As in their first book, the authors explore the parameters of the law by focusing on real-life dramas: the women strip-searched by the Chicago police for minor parking violations; the high school girl videotaped in the act of sex with her boyfriend; the female animal trainer whose photo appeared in a porno magazine without her permission. Most of the stories here involve women, a fact that the authors don't acknowledge. (Do women run into privacy issues more often? Do they just make better copy?) Some of the incidents we've read about in the newspaper, such as the attorney whose lesbian marriage ceremony led to her being fired from the Georgia attorney general's office, or the case of the divorced Tennessee couple battling over rights to frozen embryos. One story stands out: the case of the hospital struggling to decide whether to perform an emergency cesarean on a dying cancer patient in order to save her 26-week-old fetus. Here the authors tell a wrenching tale and fully explore the competing legal, ethical, and medical issues introduced at the emergency judicial hearing. But too much here is superficial: The authors recite the facts, describe the privacy issues involved, mention competing interests (such as freedom of the press), and cite related cases without comment. Alderman and Kennedy don't seem to have a take, legal or moral, on the right to privacy, and so ironically, their book offers little more than titillation. (First printing of 100,000; Book-of-the-Month Club selection; author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 18, 1990

An appealing introduction to the Bill of Rights, which, by recounting illustrative cases, gives constitutional law a human dimension. Alderman and Kennedy (yes, that Caroline Kennedy), both recent graduates of Columbia Law School, give concise summaries of the facts of recent important Supreme Court decisions construing each of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The cases are not classics—the landmark First Amendment decisions of Justice Holmes, for instance, are not here—yet each is modern, and reflects contemporary thinking on the Bill of Rights. The authors argue that while the litigants in many of these cases were not admirable, each litigant, in defending himself, benefited each of us by expanding the reach of the Bill of Rights. The authors' sometimes terse summaries do not always support very forcefully the argument that the decisions in each case benefited society (one could argue, for instance, that the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to bear arms has outlived its usefulness), and in some cases the reader untutored in law might be forgiven for thinking that the decisions produced absurd and inequitable results (for instance, in Green v. United States, a convicted murderer and arsonist, against whom there was overwhelming evidence of guilt, was freed under the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution on the grounds that the trial judge made an improper charge to the jury). Nonetheless, Alderman and Kennedy successfully show that abstract constitutional principles can have an enormous impact on ordinary human beings. Read full book review >