Smith (West’s Law Dictionary, 1993, etc.) breaks down the ins and outs of U.S. government and law.
Beginning with the foundations of the U.S government, Smith provides an accessible resource for understanding how American law originates and evolves. Each chapter is brief, covering the most pertinent data in what can often feel like an endless number of legal categories and jurisdictions. The book covers everything from how a bill is made into law, the hierarchies of the court system, and various types of law, such as bankruptcy and administrative. Fortunately, simple structure and prose make this a user-friendly reference guide. However, Smith sometimes makes blanket statements that can feel out of place, as when discussing executive power: “For good reason, the President of the United States is often described as the most powerful person in the world.” This statement is never elaborated on, nor is his claim that those “who are eligible [for lawful permanent residency] would be well advised to consider applying.” Elsewhere, a section on civil rights law is poorly served with its slim two-page coverage. Since Smith makes clear that this book is for beginners, each section is appropriately paced and best suited for aspiring law students in college or even high school, foreigners and curious readers looking for an introduction to legal issues. Yet readers unfamiliar with the material should take the author’s more opinionated statements with a grain of salt. Readers can also jump to a specific section without feeling lost, making this guide useful as a desk reference, too.
A notable, brief overview of the state of American law, without the jargon.