From Economics to History, Recent Books Showcase Depth and Breadth of Faculty Scholarship

March 12, 2021

Each year, the law school community gathers to recognize and discuss recent books by faculty members. This year’s virtual gathering, held Feb. 25, retained the typically festive spirit — and its intellectual heft, including comments and compliments from colleagues. 

“There are moments when I am just struck by what an amazing, terrific faculty we have,” Dean Erwin Chemerinsky said at the celebration as he surveyed the cornucopia of new tomes. “Books are special, to the reader and the scholarly community. Books make it possible to develop analysis, to develop arguments, in a way that no article allows.”

Fifteen books published in 2019 and 2020 were highlighted, each one discussed by a Berkeley Law colleague. (The Berkeley Law Library also published a complete list of books, including casebooks.) The topics ranged from economics and taxation to a history of law in the Middle Ages, aimed at a wide swath of audiences. 

Potent praise

Chemerinsky’s most recent book, The Religion Clauses: The Case for Separating Church and State, co-authored with Howard Gillman, makes a compelling case at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to make major moves in the opposite direction, Professor Sarah Song said. 

“I drew on their 2017 book (Free Speech on Campus) when I taught First Amendment law last year,” she said. “Like that book, this book provides valuable historical context, doctrinal analysis, and theoretical arguments which I very much look forward to sharing with students.”

Professor Russell Robinson co-taught a course in spring 2020 with Professor David Oppenheimer that used the book Oppenheimer co-edited, The Global #MeToo Movement: How Social Media Propelled a Historic Movement and the Law Responded. Berkeley Law’s own Catherine Fisk ’86, Lauren Edelman ’86, and Amelia Miazad ’02 are among the 48 contributors. 

“This is a really important contribution to thinking about #MeToo globally,” Robinson said. “To my knowledge, there’s been nothing else produced on this scale.”

Discussing Professor Ian Haney López’s Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America, Professor Kathyn Abrams called the book “a wholly unconventional work of legal scholarship.”

It’s an intellectually complex book, but one that’s almost compulsively readable and lively in a rare and wonderful way, she said. 

“In unfolding its admittedly wonky story, Merge Left is above all a lesson in what it means to care enough about your ideas that you don’t simply put them on the page. You walk them painstakingly into the world,” Abrams said. 

Fisk had equally effusive praise for In the Matter of Nat Turner: A Speculative History, by colleague Christopher Tomlins. He’s long been recognized, she said, as the leading historian of American labor law, but this new work “shows him to be a deep thinker and theorist of history more generally.”

The book reveals deep thought about how to write about the past and how to think about what law is and isn’t, what counts as a source, and how to read and write about those sources, Fisk said.  

“Tomlins breaks new ground on all three of those metal methodological challenges,” she said.

Talking about the “great many books” from the prodigious Professor Franklin Zimring, colleague Jonathan Simon ’87 J.D. ’90 Ph.D. joked he’d forgotten how many he’d read — but that Zimring’s latest is a must-read. 

The Insidious Momentum of American Mass Incarceration “is quite possibly his best and certainly his most urgent,” Simon said. 

Chemerinsky closed the event with more praise for these scholars and their work. 

“Hearing today from 15 of our faculty talking about 15 books by our colleagues certainly shows what a prolific and talented faculty is at Berkeley Law,” he said.

Here is the list of the books honored and those who discussed them:

Alan J. Auerbach (with Michael P. Devereux, Michael Keen, Paul Oosterhuis, Wolfgang Schön, and John Vella), Taxing Profit in a Global EconomyCommentator: Mark Gergen

David B. Oppenheimer (co-editor with Ann M. Noel), The Global #MeToo Movement: How Social Media Propelled a Historic Movement and the Law Responded 
Commentator: Russell Robinson

Erwin Chemerinsky (with Howard Gillman),  The Religion Clauses: The Case for Separating Church and State
Commentator: Sarah Song

Christopher Edley Jr. (co-editor with Judith Koenig, Natalie Nielsen, and Constance Citro),   Monitoring Educational Equity
Commentator: Victoria Plaut

Rosann Greenspan and Jonathan Simon (co-editors with Hadar Aviram), The Legal Process and the Promise of Justice: Studies Inspired by the Work of Malcolm Feeley 
Commentator: Jonathan S. Gould

Ian Haney López, Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America
Commentator: Kathryn Abrams

Alexa Koenig (co-editor with Sam Dubberley, and Daragh Murray), Digital Witness: Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation, and Accountability
Commentator: Rebecca Wexler

Laurent Mayali,  A Cultural History of Law in the Middle Ages
Commentator: David Lieberman

Peter S. Menell (co-editor with Ben DePoorter and David Schwartz), Research Handbook on the Economics of Intellectual Property Law
Commentator: Robert Merges

Robert Merges, Intellectual Property Strategy for Business
Commentator: Peter S. Menell

Daniel L. Rubinfeld (with Robert P. Inman), Democratic Federalism: The Economics, Politics, and Law of Federal Governance 
Commentator: Alan J. Auerbach

Eric Stover (co-editor with Henry Erlich & Thomas J. White), Silent Witness: Forensic DNA Analysis in Criminal Investigations and Humanitarian Disasters 
Commentator: Eric Stover

Christopher Tomlins, In the Matter of Nat Turner: A Speculative History 
Commentator: Catherine Fisk

Leti Volpp (co-editor with Marianne Constable, Bryan Wagner), Looking for Law in All the Wrong Places 
Commentator: David Singh Grewal

Franklin E. Zimring, The Insidious Momentum of American Mass Incarceration 
Commentator: Jonathan Simon