Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About American Law
“Jay M. Feinman covers a vast number of topics in an engaging and thoughtful manner, bringing the often-arcane world of legal proceedings to a level that everyone can gain a basic understanding of how our legal system does and maybe should work.”
Americans are fascinated by the law. Every day there are TV shows about lawyers and high-profile legal cases are often showcased in the news. But how much do Americans really know about the law and our legal system? Probably less than we think, but author Jay Feinman is here to help the rest of us understand our often complicated and overwhelming legal system with this fascinating and dare to say, fun and interesting book.
It may be difficult to consider a book about the law to be fun, but the author’s ability to break down the legal system in detail without getting bogged down in minutiae and complicated legal terms make this book perfect not only for high school or college students perhaps interested in a legal career, but general readers who just want to understand better how our legal system works and doesn’t always work to dispense justice.
The book overall is laid out, as the author describes, in the general order of topics that a first year law student would cover: Constitutional Law, Litigation, Tort Law, Contract Law, Property Law, and Criminal Law. Each of these topics is covered with real life examples, both the absurd and the important, to show how the law works, which often, as the author states, is not always how it is written in the law books. It might surprise readers to find out how many ways legal statutes can be interpreted and how settling legal issues is not always simple or straightforward.
The first two chapters alone will amaze people. Covering Constitutional law and our basic constitutional rights as citizens, the author covers nearly every controversial topic today—abortion, states’ rights, freedom of speech, and the separation of church and state. Using judicious quotes from numerous Supreme Court cases, he discusses not only the evolution of the Federal Courts and their process for deciding which cases to review and how their review process works, but the implications of their decisions for to state and local laws as well. Many Americans may not understand the complicated interactions between local, state, and Federal courts, but the author makes a good effort in showing how the Constitution affects all of them and how legal proceedings concerning fundamental Constitutional questions can proceed from state to Federal courts.
He also answers some of the more common questions that regular people may have about the law and lawyers, i.e. are civil and criminal litigation procedures different, and why? How is an oral contract enforceable? Probably one of the more compelling sections, at least one that everyone has probably dealt with is property law. What exactly does property law do? Why is it important? For anyone who has had to buy or sell a home or settle a relative’s estate or deal with setting up a trust to protect your family assets, these are challenging real-world situations in which a book like this is particularly valuable to give someone a working knowledge. The author even weighs in on recent legal issues such as intellectual property, cryptocurrency, and ownership and copyright issues on the internet.
Finally, the author breaks down the very complicated criminal procedure process and what constitutes a crime. In particular, he does not shy away from the extremely controversial topic of self-defense and when the use of deadly force is authorized by someone who feels they are in imminent danger. This analysis carries over to discussing the authorization and use of deadly force by police officers in the course of their duties. All of these highly controversial topics are discussed in plain language and with very relevant examples to show how a split-second decision made to either use or not use deadly force is evaluated by the criminal justice system. Other common topics such as the use of the insanity defense and how a death penalty may be imposed are also covered.
Overall, Jay M. Feinman covers a vast number of topics in an engaging and thoughtful manner, bringing the often-arcane world of legal proceedings to a level that everyone can gain a basic understanding of how our legal system does and maybe should work.