Vanderbilt Law Review

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THEY CALL IT JUSTICE: COMMAND INFLUENCE AND THE COURT-MARTIAL SYSTEM. By Luther C. West. New York: The Viking Press, 1977. Pp.xii, 302. $12.95.

Reviewed by Daniel H. Benson

In his book West is dealing with a subject that is difficult to discuss without generating hostility, misunderstanding, and, occasionally, incredulity. He is attacking the classic military understanding of the basic purpose of the court-martial system. He asks the reader to accept his word and assurances concerning the accuracy of the problems he describes, over the assurances of the military justice establishment that all is well. In doing all of this, West joins the ranks of a small but constantly growing group of individuals who have had the courage and the persistence to tell the unvarnished truth about the realities of the court-martial system. His work as a maverick within the system is not entirely without precedent in the history of American military justice, and one of the most valuable aspects of his book is its brief summary of the work of the early reformers and of the battles they had to fight in order to be heard.


THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN LAW, 1780-1860. By Morton J.Horwitz. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press,1977. Pp. xvii, 356. $16.50.

"This study attempts to challenge certain features of the'consensus' history that has continued to dominate American historiography since the Second World War," observes Morton Horwitz in his introduction.' Specifically, Horwitz charges that historians sympathetic to the New Deal have been too uncritical in their assessments of earlier instances of governmental economic regulation.Eager to disprove the theory of an unbroken laissez-faire tradition,such figures as Louis Hartz and Oscar and Mary Handlin discovered in the early nineteenth century a pattern of governmental activism that seemed to them responsive to the needs of society at large. In fact, Horwitz argues, an interventionist legal policy grew out of conditions of "social struggle" in the antebellum years, and benefited "men of commerce and industry at the expense of farmers,workers, consumers, and other less powerful groups within the society." To demonstrate this thesis, he focuses upon changes in private law-in such professedly neutral areas as contract, tort, property, and commercial law--by which economic wealth and political power were redistributed to a privileged minority during the eighty years that followed the American Revolution.

Reviewed by Maxwell Bloomfield


THE RULE OF REASON: A NEW APPROACH TO CORPORATE LITIGATION. By Milton R. Wessel. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1976. Pp. xviii, 221. $10.95.

Reviewed by Donald E. Schwartz

Milton Wessel is a respected New York trial lawyer, a partner in a major law firm, a part-time law professor, and a former government prosecutor. His background is well suited to provide him with a sensitivity to trends in the courts, and he perceives that the character and the stakes of litigation-especially corporate litigation-are changing drastically. The change, Wessel believes, requires that corporations adopt a new strategy, not only for their own sake, but for the sake of society as well. He implores corporations to pursue this new strategy, which he calls the"rule of reason" and which serves as the title of his book. Wessel deals with a phenomenon of which business persons,lawyers, and legal scholars increasingly have become aware: our society is more litigious than it used to be. Federal litigation alone has nearly doubled in fifteen years,' and, more important, the nature of litigation affecting corporations has changed, especially since World War II. Issues of public policy, as distinct from merely private rights, are preoccupying the courts. Important questions concerning the environment, civil rights, consumer rights, and other areas previously left to legislatures now are resolved in the courts. These "socioscientific" disputes, as Wessel calls them, are the subject of his new approach to litigation.'