Despite their role in shaping all facets of life, the precise mechanisms by which courts function is a black box for many American citizens. Lawrence Baum looks to rectify this situation with American Courts: Process and Policy. This book is perfectly written for the upper-level undergraduate that has had some education about American government. The broad strokes that are painted with the introductory chapter (An Overview of the Courts) is expanded upon with chapters 2 (Court Organization), 3 (Lawyers), and 5 (Judges). For those that want to get into the nitty-gritty, the second half of the book breaks up Trial and Appellate Courts into four chapters.
Instructors that are looking to add this book to their class should pick up the seventh edition, as it captures the changes that Presidents Bush and Obama made to the court system. Going into substantial detail about the Deepwater Horizon case and the ongoing struggle with immigrants’ rights makes this text germane to a wider swath of readers. Baum has included considerable ink that will be relevant to those that are looking to have a law career, while the political chess game that goes into the appointment of judges at all levels is further expanded upon and broken down. The detailed look at the state level courts attempts to diminish the federal bias that is present in other titles that look into the American court system.
American Courts: Process and Policy is a title that would be best assigned in a Criminal Justice or Political Science setting. The current (seventh) edition represents a considerable upgrade from the sixth, both in terms of capturing the existing state of American courts and providing information in an intuitive way.
American Courts: Process and Policy / Lawrence Baum / Seventh Edition / Wadsworth Publishing / 368 Pages