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Select Legal Topics, by Andrew J. Schatkin, 
University Press of America, 625 pp (Sept. 2009), $69.95

Select Legal Topics, by Andrew J. Schatkin, 
University Press of America, 625 pp (Sept. 2009), $69.95

Book Review by Matt Clarke

The overwhelming characteristic of Select Legal Topics: Civil, Criminal, Federal, Evidentiary, Procedural, and Labor, by Andrew J. Schatkin, is density of information. This book is 625 pages long with small typeset; it contains an enormous amount of information on an impressive variety of legal topics.

Schatkin is a principal partner of a New York-based law firm and a leading legal commentator who has been practicing law in multiple fields and at various levels of state and federal jurisdiction since 1978. Select Legal Topics is a compendium of his legal journal articles covering a wide variety of topics such as criminal law, evidence, civil procedure, labor and employment law, family law, civil rights, tort law and federal procedure, which were originally published between 1980 and 2006.

Each article is well-researched and extensively annotated with relevant case law and explanations of legal principles. Schatkin’s writing style makes the understanding of complex legal questions and reasoning accessible to non-lawyers. Although his articles were published in legal journals and directed at attorneys, Schatkin writes in a pedagogic fashion, filling in the history and background of a legal topic before going on to explain the current rulings and reasoning. His articles are as educational as they are topical.

One would expect that a compendium of legal articles written by a New York attorney would be of greatest interest to people dealing with the legal system in the State of New York, and this is undoubtedly so. However, Select Legal Topics is handy for many others as well. One reason for its universal usefulness is that developments in the laws of one state generally track those of other states. New York, having one of the largest populations among the states, tends to set the trend rather than follow it. Thus, a person dealing with another state’s laws could easily use case law from New York as a persuasive precedent in a legal argument.

If that were the only reason for non-New Yorkers to buy Select Legal Topics, it would be a good one. But Schatkin’s writing is comprehensive enough to transcend what might otherwise be a geographical limitation. Even his articles on New York criminal law, which take up almost half the book, are frequently annotated with federal and out-of-state citations. This makes this book useful to anyone dealing with the law throughout the nation. Additionally, some articles deal with issues such as federal procedure, federal civil rights law and labor law that are federal in character and thus find application beyond New York’s borders.

Published by University Press of America and retail priced at $69.95, Select Legal Topics would enhance the bookcase of anyone who wants to understand the law in the United States and especially in the State of New York. Its density of information and extensive annotation also make it a useful starting point for research on numerous legal topics.

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