Fundamental Cases

  • by Alan M. Dershowitz
  • Narrated by Alan M. Dershowitz
  • 7 hrs and 54 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

The courtroom trial has fascinated human beings from the beginning of recorded history. Trials are theater, trials are history, and the great trials of the 20th century and beyond provide a unique window into American history and the sense of America's enduring commitment to law.It was Alexis de Tocqueville who, when he visited the new republic for the first time, said that America was a unique country when it comes to law. Every great issue eventually comes before the courts.With this in mind, esteemed professor and civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz looks at history through the prism of the trial, because a trial presents a snapshot of what's going on in a particular point in time of the nation's history.What's a great trial? People will often say the trial of the moment. But those trials are often not enduring. The focus of this course is on landmark trials and the important, dramatic aspects of the history of the time in which they occurred.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

I'd rather be able to rate each section.

This is a book that has 5 star segments and 1 star segments. A better title is "Dershowitz talks about cases he finds interesting," but that's not bad in and of itself. Any legal scholar does that to some extent. And when he stops to talk actually about law, he offers some really interesting points, what I think of as the best kind of ideas, the ones that give you new ways to think about things, or help you focus why you disagree. However, a considerable portion of the lecture is also dedicated to "Dershowitz retries cases," which is at best dull, and at worst a cheap act of dirty pool, specifically at the points where it's plain he's just trying to win a lost case by turning around public opinion. The historical parts are about average, where his analysis is solid if a bit unremarkable. So, listen, but feel free to skip parts.
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- Amazon Customer


The cases included in this series were not fundemental and most had no lasting impact on our court system. The cases reviewed were media sensational cases, although all very interesting. I think, however, that the cases were chosen for another reason. Each had some social implication he could champion. While I agreed with his conclusions on the facts of almost every case he chose to review, his opinions marred the presentation.
He defends judicial activism and then condemns conservative judges for doing so. I hope that history will condemn both left and right for this practice.
His treatment of Roe v Wade was fair, but ultimately tainted by a long lecture of his personal views, which I do not share. Most of the justifications for his opinions would not stand up to even a mild scrutiny of logic. The fact that european countries have abolished the death penalty is presented as a reason we should do so.
The only case that was shockingly and irresponsibly misrepresented was the Al Gore presidential vote counting case. He presented no argument, claiming that this was the "worst decision in the 200 year history of the Supreme Court" and that the Supreme Court "may never regain credibilty." Not one actual legal fact or argument was introduced to support this. He cited no law or precedent. He just went on about Sandra Day O'Connor's alleged preference for who would win as though that made her incapable of fairness or legal reason. Mr Dershowitz is billed as a professor, but is clearly just a lawyer trying to persuade.
There is a wealth of cases both state and federal which actually did change our legal system. None of my top 10 were in this book.
While I did learn details about some cases I would not have otherwise looked into, if you are interested in cases that actually did change our legal system try "Men in Black" by Mark Levin.
I love the Modern Scholar series and will not let this deter me from enjoying other installments
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- Lauren

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-18-2008
  • Publisher: Recorded Books