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A kiss is just a kiss… until you write a book about it!

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment

“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” – Proverbs 24:26.

Honestly, but skipping the kiss, this book is interesting and intriguing from the start.The Legal Kiss, written by Victoria Sutton, Paul Whitfield Horn Professor at Texas Tech University School of Law, reads like a collection of short essays.

The clever titles for each chapter give you insight on where the author is going to take you – whether it be to the Garden of Gethsemane where Judas places an identifying kiss upon Jesus’ cheek or to a modern day New Delhi where Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty are publicly shamed for a passionate back-bending kiss at a charity event. In all of the situations that Sutton takes the reader, she outlines the act of the kiss and its intended and unintended consequences within society and the law.

As an academic librarian, I am always looking at how other people introduce and explain complex or abstract legal theories. For that purpose, I would recommend this book for being able to make obscure concepts of the law come to life. For example, Sutton discusses “the celebrated contractual kisses” in the context of whether or not a kiss (or a bunch of kisses) can be consideration for a contract. And if so, would the court require specific performance for the enforcement of said contract? In my opinion, it is much more interesting reading about specific performance when the performance involves the question of what constitutes a legal kiss rather than whether a duck is adequate consideration for a sales contract. As an added feature, I don’t believe libraries would have a hard time marketing this book to their patrons. It basically promotes itself. I think it would be an easy addition to any new books shelf or on a book display set up around our favorite February holiday because its title and appearance would spark the interest of shelf browsers.

Let me step back and take a hard look at the content, not just the packaging. Before Sutton begins to even explore the legal kiss, she provides the caveat that this work is not a complete treatise on the subject. Take her word for it. It is not. I was a bit disappointed in the lack of authority cited throughout the book and in the bibliography at the end. That being said, Sutton does provide the relevant authority when discussing subject-specific topics, such as citing the Restatements when discussing tort and contract claims, Supreme Court opinions when considering “Kisses and the Konstitution [sic],” and various other legal primary and secondary authority along the way. I believe the scope of the work is intentionally surface level, which provides an air of lightheartedness to the book.  Because of the coverage, I would not recommend this for a book to keep at reference, unless your reference staff is compensated with two lips in lieu of dollars and cents!

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  It was fun to sit and read about all the different ways a simple kiss on the cheek, lips, or a “Kiss my A**” has been twisted and construed by our courts and legislatures. If you plan to kick off your Valentine’s Day celebration with a kiss, make sure you read this book to be sure you’ll steer clear of any legal ramifications! Or if you do get caught kissing (say in Times Square) and someone makes big bucks off of the picture of you and your partner, know that you can consult this book for your chances to cash in. After reading this book, I kiss off with a positive and doting review.

This book review was originally published in the AALL Spectrum Blog.

The Legal Kiss: The Legal Aspects of the Kiss, by Victoria Sutton, MPA, PhD, JD. Vargas Publishing, Inc (2011). Trade paperback, 131 pages, listed on Amazon for $18.99.

Research Miscellanea: Everyone Researches

October 24, 2011 1 comment

After two posts about dictionaries you would think that the topic had been exhausted but not so. The new Bouvier Law Dictionary was  released this fall.  Despite its historical origins as the dictionary that was used by such legal luminaries as John Marshall, Daniel Webster, and Abraham Lincoln, the current version is  being advertised as the law dictionary for the modern student and has garnered praise for its usability.   It appears that author Steve Sheppard has been able to provide a comprehensive, yet concise dictionary that provides the user with detailed, yet clearly understood entries.  If you would like to judge for yourself, you can find the Bouvier Law Dictionary in our Reference collection, call number KF158.W65.

American University recently announced another new legal research resource.  The University is introducing a new online collection of international gender jurisprudence materials.  Working with the War Crimes Research Office,  American University’s Washington College of Law’s Women and International Law Program has developed a searchable  online database of documents culled from the War Crimes Research Office’s  Jurisprudence Collections, and will be developing digests of  key documents as well providing a forum for for expert commentaries.

“WASHINGTON, DC, September 8, 2011 – …. Reviewers have analyzed and cataloged more than 17,000 documents…., noting, for example, when evidence of sexual or gender-based violence appears in the record, when sexual or gender-based violence charges are brought, dropped, or dismissed, or when a defendant is tried for a crime of sexual or gender-based violence. The GJC features keyword and targeted search fields, which eliminate the need to sift through irrelevant documents when conducting research on the rapidly developing jurisprudence in these bodies….. To access the GJC and learn more about the project, please visit http://wcl.american.edu/go/gicl.  Please address any questions, comments, or suggestions to Alison Plenge, WCRO Jurisprudence Collections Coordinator, at genderjurisprudence@wcl.american.edu. ”

You cannot always count on that “perfect” legal research tool being available; sometimes it is up to you to do the hunting and gathering of information.  While everyone knows about LEXIS and Westlaw, everyone also knows about the cost.  Perhaps a visit to  Google Scholar  or even restricting your search further by using Advanced Scholar Search could meet your research needs for a lesser cost.  Basic Google Scholar provides a way to limit your searches to scholarly literature of all disciplines.  This is particularly helpful if you are conducting interdisciplinary research, or if want to search for news about legal and financial matters involving France and Paris without being bombarded with results featuring a vapid socialite.

Not the legal document that you were looking for!

There is a “Legal opinions and journals” section under Advanced Scholar Search that lets you  (logically enough) limit your searches  to legal opinions and journals,  and even to specific courts.  While a databases that lets you limit your searches by jurisdiction is not unique feature to legal researching, it IS unique when you do get billed for it.  If Google Scholar  sounds interesting to you, go to the Google homepage, click on the drop-down menu under “More” in the tool bar, and select “Scholar.”  After that, Google Scholar is yours to explore — and that’s hot.