Dealing with law enforcement, courts, judges, and correctional institutions is serious business. I have the utmost respect for the law and love when it functions the way it was intended. We all know though that sometimes things go wrong. Politics may get involved. Money may be an issue in obtaining competent representation. Overcoming public opinion or media bias may be factors in the outcome of certain criminal trials. Mental illness may also complicate many cases.
Once again this topic of law is so vast there is no way I can do it justice in just one or two blog entries. The broader categories I’ve read through are (general) law, law of nations, constitutional & administrative law, military (defense, public property, public finance, tax, commerce [trade], industrial law), labor law (social service, education, cultural law), criminal law, private law, procedures & court, laws, regulations, cases and law of specific jurisdictions, areas (socioeconomic regions, regional intergovernmental organizations). It’s been difficult to choose just a few books to comment on. In my last post I commented on the lighter side of law. In this post I will comment on a couple of book types. The first type are true cases gone awry and the second type are self help books.
During my library read through, I’ve encountered several books which talk about things that have gone wrong. One such book is The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham.
In this heartbreaking book Ron Williamson, former pro baseball player for the Oakland A’s, was accused of a crime he did not commit. Grisham documents the unbelievable (but true) events that landed an innocent man in jail and the appeals process which ultimately got him out. During the incarceration period, much damage was done and mental and physical health concerns were negelected. The man who was unjustly sent to prison was not the same man who came out. In this case (and many others I have read) mental illness was a factor.
While I would love to comment in depth on the mental health issue alone, for now I will suffice it to say that we as a society need to step up and take some responsibility in these types of situations by ensuring that the mentally ill receive proper treatment. For anyone with a conscience, I highly recommend this book.
There are several types of legal self help books available. One that I consider extremely noteworthy is The Easy Will and Living Will Kit by Joy S. Chambers, Attorney at Law.
This book is written in easy to understand language and walks the reader through the entire process of creating the most common legal documents needed. The author explains when these forms are enough for legal purposes and when one might need to go beyond these forms and consult an attorney. Additionally various state laws are addressed when using do it yourself forms.
My husband and I were already discussing some legal forms we need to have (a result of my read through in the economics section!). This book answered many of our questions and sometimes brought up topics that we hadn’t necessarily considered or aspects of topics we hadn’t realized were necessary. For instance, do you have a plan for the care of your pets in case you are suddenly unable to care for them? Will they have to be relocated to another home if something were to happen to you? Do you want to be the one to specify the terms of their care? How will you provide for their needs (food, shelter, etc)?
Most people need to have three major legal documents on file:
- A simple will (this leaves all property to one person such as a spouse or a child)
- Financial Power of Attorney (this is used in emergencies when you are temporarily or permanently unable to manage your own finances)
- Health Care Advance Directive (aka a Living Will to make your wishes about your medical care known)
The book will point out certain situations when an actual attorney should be consulted. In most cases though, one can just fill out the proper forms and take them to a notary public and have them notarized to make them legal.
Not only does this book do a great job explaining legalities, it provides hard copy forms with examples, explains who needs which forms, and also has a CD Rom included. The CD Rom is extremely user friendly and allows the user to just click and fill in blanks.
Going further still, the book explains how to store your copies safely, where to store your copies (I found some of this surprising), and who you should give copies of what forms.
Overall I would say that this is a very thorough book for the average person and well worth the reader’s time to check out!