The ""other"" Arthur Miller--Harvard Law School professor and host of a PBS television show (whence the title)--has produced...



The ""other"" Arthur Miller--Harvard Law School professor and host of a PBS television show (whence the title)--has produced the best legal-thinking-for-laypeople book we are likely to see for some time. His approach is refreshing: rather than offering a cram course in 92 areas of substantive law or rehashing cases, Miller aims to take readers ""step by step through the reasoning process that a lawyer or a judge engages in."" The effect is like being run through a law school's Socratic teaching method in print and, as any law school student will confirm, nothing comes out black-and-white. The legal reasoning process, says Miller, ""resembles the peeling of an onion in that as you strip away one layer of complexity you find another one just below it. . . ."" The issues are lively and topical (e.g., school prayer, sports violence, obscenity, abortion, genetic engineering); and like a good law professor, Miller argues all sides. Just when an intellectually defensible resolution of a problem appears in sight, zap: another question. Here, for example, is Miller on capital punishment (which is unconstitutional if it's ""cruel and unusual""): Are we in the clear on the ""cruel"" side if we simply avoid pain in the process of execution? Suppose we screw up the actual execution once, and the condemned man suffers but doesn't die? Is it ""cruel"" to try again? Is it ""cruel"" to execute people for crimes that don't cause death? And, cruelty aside, what exactly does ""unusual"" mean? When it was new, the electric chair was ""unusual,"" wasn't it? Quite at home in gray areas, Miller readily acknowledges that some legal questions (in the obscenity field, for example) seem to lack any clear answer, and his overall approach presupposes an attentive, thinking (sometimes, counterpunching) reader. For those who hang in there, however: a first-rate introduction to thinking-like-a-lawyer-plus (amaze your friends) well-argued pros and cons on over a dozen Big Issues.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981

Close Quickview