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William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

LexisNexis was kind enough to send me a review copy of "Civil Litigation in New York" by Oscar G. Chase and Robert A. Barker, of NYU and Albany Law, respectively). As it happens, I am acquainted with Professor Chase through the New York Bar Association's CPLR Committee-- with the committee's chair, David L. Ferstendig, he is an editor of the Weinstein, Korn and Miller CPLR Manual. The CPLR, a lovely statute that I have enjoyed for years, is in their DNA, and the casebook is terrific. It's a challenging field, far more volatile than federal civil practice, and the book navigates it well. In particular, the text's treatment of the two areas of New York civil practice that are of special interest to me is very well done-- the section on discovery is clear and articulate-- not something that is easy to do in this context. And the discussion of Brill v. City of New York, a frequent topic at CPLR Committee meetings, captures the issues nicely. I hope they sell a ton of them-- but I also think that $99 bucks is crazy money to charge for a book that has a half-life of six months. The original edition came out in 1986, a happy time in which many CPLR issues seemed pretty much settled. The Second Edition came out in 1990, and the Third six years later. The Fourth Edition appeared in 2002, so you can't say that they rush the thing, but let's be realistic. Students take New York Practice, at UB anyway, in their senior year. At the end of the semester they'll be lucky to get half price at the bookstore. The book has next to no value as a reference. It's really just another illustration of the way that LexisNexis and West hose lawyers. They take material that is in the public domain, tart it up, and charge premium prices for it. As a work of scholarship, "Civil Litigation in New York" is a fine thing-- a solid tool for the instruction of a complex area. If I taught a full-blown course in New York Practice it is probably the text I would use, if it were half the price. Unfortunately, David D. Siegel's New York Practice hornbook is half the price-- and has ongoing usefulness to a practicing lawyer. I don't like the teaching style using Siegel moves one towards-- responsive reading from a treatise is how European lawyers are trained, and I have always felt that it tends to stifle creativity. Because I remember what a bite books were to my budget, I teach from materials that I put together myself and post on-line, but doing that for an entire survey course on civil practice would be a pretty heavy load for someone like me that practices full-time, and teaches for kicks. LexisNexis should suck it up, and sell the damn thing between soft covers for thirty bucks. For that kind of money a lot more people would be willing to use it-- and the students that had to buy it wouldn't feel like they'd been screwed.

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