Law Street Book Review

Niambi Steele and Ashanti Lumpkin

The preamble to the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Law Street a book written by Wim J. M. Touw is a work on literature made to inform readers about the wrongdoings of America’s legal system. He focuses on our rights that are constantly being violated by the people in power. The preamble clearly states what should be given to us and that if these are violated then we should do something about it. Touw was able to inform us of the corruptness in a simpler manner then went on to tell us how it can be reformed for the better.
This book is written by a Dutch man born and raised in the Netherlands who moved to America in his 30’s to be with his wife. In his lifetime he was the president of a subsidiary of two major companies in which he worked both in litigation and education committees. Even though he did not have a strong legal background besides earning a law degree at the University of Leiden, he was still able to write a good book about the inside of the legal community and the disastrous turn it has taken. He himself said, “Lawyer friends with whom I have discussed my objections against the American jury system tell me that I am an elitist with an arrogant disdain for the common man’s wisdom and intelligence.”(Touw 59) This statement is false because he cared enough to try and simplify the dysfunction of the legal system for the people who are uneducated on these manners.
Touw, while discussing his opinions on these matters, always made sure to give a brief history on where the root of this dysfunction comes from or how it has been mistreated. In one section he talked about the Magna Carta and how the writers of the Constitution included it to protect us from executive government’s potential abuse. The Magna Carta states, “No free man shall be captured, and or imprisoned, or diseased of his freehold and or of his liberties, or of his free customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against him by force or proceed against him by arms, but by the lawful judgement for his peers…”. In current times this basically means a jury has to be present in order for a person to be tried and convicted legally. While juries are used for good purposes, Touw shows where they go wrong with the picking of the jurors. For example, doctors, lawyers, and professors are a “threat” to prosecution or defense attorneys because they are too intelligent and shopkeepers, businessmen, self-employed people, and entrepreneurs are usually dismissed because they are “indispensable” to their community. This then results in it not being diverse enough to be labeled as your peers serving on a jury. People who usually do serve on juries are of the lower class, have no degrees, or are “blue collar” workers. Though they started with the right idea of not letting all the power stay with the executive branch, nowadays the people you pick to stand in as the jury may still not be equal. Your fate should not be based upon untrained people. Another use of referring to our history to show how corrupt our system is, is shown after Touw states, “…when America changed from a rural to an industrial and more urban society, numerous laws were adopted and cases adjudicated that rendered the American legal system today completely distinct and separate from British common law.”(Touw XX) He then went to further explain that the result of this change made new laws that no longer focuses on pureness and equity but rather its new reforms have resulted in unfair rulings and a dysfunctional system. By going back and reminding the readers of how our system began and the values we built our country off of, he can further back up his ideas of how our legal system is now failing.
Law Street is a good book because it is relatable and readers are able to see that their problems are not being ignored all together. He discusses current popular social problems and how the legal system reacts to them. For example Touw discussed the O. J. Simpson trial with a mainly black jury that declared Simpson innocent and a entirely white jury who found the officers in the Rodney King trial innocent despite the evidence that shows them committing the act. Readers are then able to think about their current issues of today and relate. For example people today can think about the countless times in the last few years many officers have not been indicted for their killing of innocent black men further showing the problems of our judiciary branch. Another important problem he discussed was white collar versus blue collar people and how their crimes are treated. People of the white collar community are already put on a pedestal because of the amount of money they have and it is easier for them to be able to pay all their legal fees. Much like for most of the book he used a case to back up the facts he was saying. Three white rich males were accused of raping an African-American woman in a predominantly black community but due to their rich parents they were able to pay anything to get out of the situation. People of the blue collar community often can’t afford a great defense attorney so even if they are innocent they will be pressured into a plea bargain resulting with them in jail for a crime they didn’t commit due to their economic suffering. He also has a whole chapter on the contingency fee, a fee given to your attorney once you win and although it at first it had a good purpose it is now being abused. Touw tells you the point of the fee, how it was once good, and how it has evolved to be something attorneys in civil suits focus on getting, rather than doing the best for their client. For most of this book this is the pattern he followed. His ability to compare these social disparities and problems and their relationship with the law was strong.
Many other people also found this book to be very good for the purpose he proposed. They believed that he wrote “the best summary of the American Justice system… ever heard”. (Finman 2015) Many described their favorite parts of the book such as Touws part on insurance companies and their suffering within the legal system. Then proceeded to say what they will now do based upon what they read. Another reviewer recommended it for law and civics classes.
Based on this book people will begin to be discouraged by the system we have at hand and there will not be much trust in the system. In the end of the book Touw concluded with what reforms can be made in order to make our system better. This is smart but for our country to change our whole system and attempt to wash out all the bad that is in our system will take forever. The regular people will have to make a change or inform themselves enough to know whether or not they are being bamboozled. We should appreciate the freedoms that we do have but know at the same time that many attorneys care more about the money more than granting justice. Throughout the whole book Touw was able to say many problems and how they are being abused to which people are able to learn and reform for the better.
Law Street is a good book because it was written to better everyones knowledge of the truth of our legal system. His method of talking about the problem, giving cases, then saying how it could be better gave us a better understanding of the problem. He wrote his book using knowledge he already had and many other books that described the same problems. Instead of just finding all books on the bad he made sure to inform himself on the subjects all together. For example a book called Democracy in America written by Alexis de Tocqueville that described America’s government. Based on his previous knowledge and the amount of research he did on this subject this book is a great analysis on the iniquity of America’s legal system.