Looking for novels, memoirs, and academic books on law?
March 26, 2020 7:08 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for some interesting and stimulating memoirs, novels, and interesting academic books/academic papers on understanding law/courts -- especially from a Canadian perspective. Or any interesting Canadian trials and international famous/interesting trials. (I also loved To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, 12 Angry Men, and the Verdict as well - but want to dig deeper in the memoir, novel, academic papers/books aspect to law as well.)

I am currently reading the memoir "Truth Be Told" by former Chief Justice of Canada, Beverley McLachlin and I cannot put it down. I am wanting to learn more about Canadian law of all kinds (especially charter of rights and freedoms, criminal law, environmental law, social justice, historical law trials, supreme court of Canada, etc).

TL;DR: Just pretty much want to sink my teeth into any interesting read about Canadian law/law in general.
posted by RearWindow to Law & Government (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Douglas Harris' book "Fish, Law and Colonialism: The Legal Capture of Salmon in British Columbia" is worth a look. Not necessarily easy to find a copy, depending on your library access situation.
posted by Rumple at 7:42 PM on March 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Jonathan Harr, A Civil Action (this is still standard reading for first-year law students, despite being a couple decades old--it's the narrative of a mass-environmental-tort case)

Richard Kluger, Simple Justice (the story of Brown v. Board of Education)

Steve Bogira, Courtroom 302 (a year in a single Chicago criminal courtrooom)

Cornelia Hughes Dayton, Women Before the Bar (study of women's involvement with the court system in colonial New Haven)

William Ian Miller, Bloodtaking and Peacemaking (the development of the Icelandic court system, one of the earliest forebears of the common-law tradition)

Sorry, no Canadian offerings, but hopefully something in the mix might appeal.
posted by praemunire at 7:49 PM on March 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, international law: A Scrap of Paper (development of international law through WWI).
posted by praemunire at 7:52 PM on March 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you're reading her memoir, have you read her novel?
posted by sardonyx at 8:21 PM on March 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

No Canadian angle, but I find Leo Katz's Bad Acts and Guilty Minds super engaging. You can read it straight through, or you can flick it open and read whatever snippet presents itself.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 8:30 PM on March 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Louise Arbour and her book War Crimes and the Culture of Peace seems to tick a lot of your boxes.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:34 PM on March 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Night Justice by Peter Edwards is a fascinating and infuriating account of the infamous Black Donnelly murders, not just of the murders themselves (which are more fully revealed than in any cultural legend we know), but of the ridiculous and absurd perversion of justice which followed (of which you likely know nothing at all). It's a fascinating study not just of the event itself, but of how it wasn't all that long ago that Canadian courts could be a complete joke.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:00 PM on March 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Not a novel, memoir, or academic book per se, but the Kaufman Commission Report (executive summary here) on the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin for the murder of Christine Jessop is worthwhile reading in this vein.

It's a two-fold tragedy: Guy Paul Morin was wrongfully convicted for a horrific murder of a child, and the police and the Crown didn't bother following up any leads into the crime, thereby undermining an effective investigation because they thought they'd nailed the "weirdo" who did it. Also, the Ontario Centre for Forensic Sciences fundamentally botched the handling of crime scene evidence.

But those cops and Crown attorneys went on to keep working in their respective professions even after it was revealed they had shit the bed so spectacularly, lied to the courts, and convicted the wrong guy.

As Steve Earle put it, Justice in Ontario.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:35 PM on March 26, 2020

Bleak House by Charles Dickens is a literary classic (moving, funny, political, etc., etc.) with an ensemble cast of characters one of which happens to be a long-running civil case in London's chancery court.
posted by caek at 9:58 PM on March 26, 2020

Not Canadian but someone got me the law memoir / history book East West Street, and we couldn't put it down.
posted by johngoren at 4:12 AM on March 27, 2020

You might like the biography of former Supreme Court of Canada chief Brian Dickson, who was Chief Justice following the introduction of the charter and had a very interesting personal and jurisprudential life:

Kent Roach, one of the co-authors, is a very engaging writer, and I’d recommend any of his books on Canadian law (maybe not the casebook) but Canadian Justice, Indigenous Injustice on the Colton Bushie case, in particular.
posted by Minnowish at 6:24 AM on March 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also! Possibly better, even (sorry for amazon links):

Bora Laskin, Bringing Law to Life
: former SCC justice (from the Osgoode society page): he embarked on a quest to make the judiciary more responsive to modern Canadian expectations of justice and fundamental rights. In the struggles of a man who fought anti-Semitism, corporate capital, omnipotent university boards, the Law Society of Upper Canada and his judicial colleagues, Philip Girard chronicles the emergence of modern Canada.

If you're interested in Indigenous law, the works of John Borrows, like Canada's Indigenous Constitution, are the standard.

If you want the gossipy retelling of the break down of a major Canadian law firm, give Breakdown: The Inside Story of the Rise and Fall of Heenan Blaikie a try.
posted by Minnowish at 7:09 AM on March 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

There are lots of books on the Scopes "monkey trial". Probably the best known is Inherit The Wind.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:50 AM on March 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's American, and it's artsy-fartsy, but the novel A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava. It is about a public defender in New York City and it's the most revealing and insightful thing I've read about how the law treats people on the margins.
posted by zeusianfog at 1:42 PM on March 27, 2020

It is historical fiction, but Alias Grace.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:18 PM on March 27, 2020

UK, but you might like The Secret Barrister's Stories of The Law and How It’s Broken.
posted by paduasoy at 12:59 AM on March 28, 2020

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