rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 2: p. 170
Sources: The U.S. Justice System: An Encyclopedia
Jacquelyn N. McCloud, J.D., M.L.I.S.

Electronic Services Librarian, The University of Iowa Law Library, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

The U.S Justice System: An Encyclopedia is a reference work that provides introductory, as well as in-depth essays, short entries, and excerpts of important legal documents relating to the justice system in the United States. This three-volume set also features a glossary of common legal terms, general bibliography, and index. This multi-volume encyclopedia is also available as an e-book.

The first volume contains ten introductory essays that provide an overview of the U.S. justice system. Beginning with the Constitution, each essay builds on its predecessor setting forth the concepts that comprise the foundations of democracy and justice in the United States. These topics include the structure and function of the federal government, the federal and state judiciary, judicial power and policy, the civil and criminal justice system, civil and criminal procedure, administrative law and regulations, and public interest law.

The second volume contains 126 alphabetically arranged topical short entries that primarily focus on the federal courts and constitutional law issues. Entries provide easy access to information on the federal judiciary, including biographical information on Supreme Court cases, and key concepts of constitutional law. Additionally, each entry contains citations for further reading and helpful cross-references.

The third volume contains 69 chronologically arranged entries about key primary documents in U.S. legal history, as well as excerpts from the documents, starting with the Magna Carta, 1215, to the present with the USA PATRIOT ACT of 2001. Each entry provides the user with useful background information, providing context and insight into the significance of these primary sources.

This encyclopedia is best suited for a general audience. It is recommended for high school and public libraries, as well as a supplemental purchase for college and university libraries serving undergraduate students. Other works are more useful to reference collections of college and university libraries serving undergraduate and graduate students. An excellent alternative is the single-volume A-Z encyclopedia The Oxford Companion to American Law, edited by Kermit L. Hall (Oxford University Press, 2002). This work is very broad in scope with approximately 500 entries on American legal issues, including entries focused on the U.S. justice system. Another great alternative is the Gale Encyclopedia of American Law, 3rd ed., edited by Donna Batten (Gale, 2011), (formerly known as West’s Encyclopedia of American Law), which is broad in scope and depth. This 14-volume set includes nearly 5,000 alphabetically arranged entries on legal terms, concepts, cases, events, and people that have influenced the U.S. legal system.

Two volumes are titled “Milestones in the Law” and provide an overview of landmark cases, as well as reproductions of the briefs and opinions for each case. A single volume also reproduces key primary documents.

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