« New Reading Material | Main | Achilles Heel and Plastic Hair »

Not To Be Tossed Lightly Aside, But Hurled With Great Force...

I've blogged before about how Sullivan's Constitutional Law textbook is poorly-edited. After 80 pages of reading today, I'd just like to repeat that if, as a 1L, you somehow end up with a choice of professors, avoid like the plague any class that requires you to use this text. We'll leave aside that fact that punctuation and spelling seem to have been left aside as a non-issue. (The count today? Two sentences without verbs, one of which was almost certainly meant to be a question.) The book has several highly annoying features:

1: Entire paragraphs that are nothing but questions. This is common to law textbooks (what is it about law that makes de rigueur rhetorical questions to which no answer is ever attempted?), but this text will fill a quarter of a page with them. If those questions were then answered, in order, in the paragraphs ahead, it might make sense. This is not always the case.

2: The lack of any structure whatsoever. Some cases are in bold and used as 'main selections.' These may be in sections of their own, but sometimes they're cases that answer a single subheading of a section. Notably, these cases will be listed in a larger, darker font than either the heading or subheading that precedes them. No introduction exists to explain what is considered more important, or to give guidance as to how the book is to be used.

Furthermore, there's no apparent rhyme or reason to which cases are in the notes and which are 'main' cases. Length is no indicator--there's 'notes' cases with excerpts that go on for over four pages. The only difference seems to be that the editing of 'notes' cases is more strict, which means dozens of ellipses and brackets.

Finally, if the cases in a section are in coherent order, I've not discovered it. References to cases fifty pages backward, or worse, forward in the text are given, sometimes without reference. The editing of the references is similarly abysmal. Today's reading included one reference that was off by two-hundred pages, and another off by five.

We're about a fifth of the way through the book. I'm considering just reading the whole thing cover to cover in a few weekends, so as never to have to touch it again.

(If you blog and have suffered through this monstrosity, I encourage you to link to this text with the words "sullivan constitutional law textbook" in the text: if we're lucky, the magic of Google would put criticism before the eyes of the editors.)

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.threeyearsofhell.com/cgi-user/mt/mtPleaseLinktoMe.cgi/408

Comments

I actually keep Sullivan/Gunther on my bookshelf as a reference. However, your criticisms are valid. It is not well-edited, and it is not terribly useful as a student's first encounter with constitutional law. I suggest that you purchase Erwin Chermerinsky's Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies and read what he has to say on the assigned topics either as a preliminary exercise to reading assignments from Sullivan/Gunther or in lieu of the assigned readings (if the most recent edition of Chermerinsky is not too dated on any given topic). Chermerinsky has a well-justified reputation for being politically far to the left, but his descriptive accounts of the state of actual constitutional law are quite good.
I have Chemerinsky, and have been reading him along with Sullivan--but that volume of reading is rapidly becoming unsustainable. I've therefore been trying to make do with the Legalines outline to the casebook and Chemerinsky. And yet there's something in me that says, "In a rational world, I shouldn't be able to pass a course by completely ignoring the text and working with a summary and a better treatise." I know, I know. It's law school, not a rational world.
Try reading Dressler on Criminal Law... "feuding" is spelled as "fueding" throughout the casebook, along with other less spectacular spelling errors. (They also end sentences with "with," but that's another story.) And my biggest peeve? When Dressler writes such sentences as, "The murderer that..." It's not "that"! It should read "The murderer who..."
As to the references that don't line up, my guess is that it's the result of their not being updated from earlier additions- very sloppy work. They should hire a student to go through and fix it. I'm sure someone would be happy for the summer work.
Your con law professor should probably bare some of the blame. First, he or she perhaps shouldn't have selected the text. And second, assuming the selection, he or she should've perhaps edited, ignoring certain notes/pages/etc. and giving you an outline for where the CLASS was going. I used the book in con law and didn't have a problem with it. I think the worst textbooks are published by West's, in the ugly brown color. I definitely agree that it's f'ing stupid that you have to buy 2-3 EXTRA books in order to learn what the text should teach you. That's one of the problems with law school. The professors think, Why bother to teach them the law when Barbri will do this, so let's get on to the obscure theory. They then spend the entire class, instead of making it clear where the law IS, asking where it's SUPPOSED to be, or harp on an obscure matter that they're currently writing a law review piece on. Completely useless. But the most frustrating point has to be when, after spending 90% of class time discussing theory, the exam is 100% black letter law. . .
Not to denigrate Gerald Gunther, himself a former Columbian (before Stanford raided your school in '62), but I agree, the G/S ConLaw book sucks. Chemerinsky's is the most accessible I've come across, and plus, he teaches at USC, my alma mater. :)
we use it at GW and it is terrible. i am constantly finding mistakes. and the questions do go on forever! maybe that's why i hate reading it.
We used the G/S text for conlaw, and I found it to be quite good. It has some annoying tics, but no more than most conlaw books. (For a variety of reasons, and classes, I've accumulated most of the now-standard conlaw texts.) I found G/S to be much more clear and helpful, for instance, than the Stone and Sunstein book. The discussions following the cases -- even those phrased in the infernal questions -- were insightful and generally helpful. And either the Foundation Press or the Aspen Series are far, far better than anything West produces (the horrible "brown" casebooks.) One that I have always heard good things about but have not read is the Brest, Levinson, Balkin & Amar one -- though from what I understand it is organized far differently than the others and so not as useful as an outside resource. Were there any justice in the world the standard text for all classes would be Tribe's. It was -- and remains -- an invaluable resource. If only he would hurry along the second volume of the third edition . . .
And my biggest peeve? When Dressler writes such sentences as, "The murderer that..." It's not "that"! It should read "The murderer who..."
This is my biggest pet peeve as well, though I may let it slide for murderers. Ryan (Note: murderers, not alleged murderers.)
Hey -- it could be worse. Try reading McCormack's Con Law testbook published by Lexis. Until I read this website, I didn't even know law texts were supposed to be edited at all.
I fully support this attempt to bring criticisms of S/G 15th edition to the attention of the editors. It is lousy!!!

Post a comment

NOTICE TO SPAMMERS, COMMENT ROBOTS, TRACKBACK SPAMMERS AND OTHER NON-HUMAN VISITORS: No comment or trackback left via a robot is ever welcome at Three Years of Hell. Your interference imposes significant costs upon me and my legitimate users. The owner, user or affiliate who advertises using non-human visitors and leaves a comment or trackback on this site therefore agrees to the following: (a) they will pay fifty cents (US$0.50) to Anthony Rickey (hereinafter, the "Host") for every spam trackback or comment processed through any blogs hosted on threeyearsofhell.com, morgrave.com or housevirgo.com, irrespective of whether that comment or trackback is actually posted on the publicly-accessible site, such fees to cover Host's costs of hosting and bandwidth, time in tending to your comment or trackback and costs of enforcement; (b) if such comment or trackback is published on the publicly-accessible site, an additional fee of one dollar (US$1.00) per day per URL included in the comment or trackback for every day the comment or trackback remains publicly available, such fee to represent the value of publicity and search-engine placement advantages.

Giving The Devil His Due

Choose Stylesheet

What I'm Reading

cover
D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
cover
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


Shopping

Projects I've Been Involved With

A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
Parents for Inclusive Education (From my Clinic)

Syndicated from other sites

The Columbia Continuum
Other Blogs by CLS students

De Novo
Theory and Practice
Liberal Federalism?
Good News, No Foolin'


Althouse
Nancy Pelosi covers her head and visits the head of John the Baptist.
Vlogging in from Austin.
Omikase/"American Idol"


Jeremy Blachman's Weblog: 2007
Happy Passover
Looking for Advice re: LA
Google Books


Stay of Execution
What I've Learned From This Blog, or My Yellow Underpants
The End
Mid Thirties


Legal Theory Blog
Program Announcement: Summer Programs on the Constitution at George Washington
Book Announement: Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy by Whittington
Entry Level Hiring Report


The Volokh Conspiracy
Making the Daily Show:
Civil unions pass New Hampshire House:
Profile of Yale Law Dean Harold Koh:


Crescat Sententia
Hillary II
Hillary
Politics and Principal/Agents


Law Dork
Election Approaches
Following Lewis
New Jersey High Court: 'Same Rights and Benefits'


IrishLaw
Homecoming
Surveying the revival
Birds of paradise


Half the Sins of Mankind
Cheney Has Spoken Religious conservatives who may ...
Does Ahmadinejad Know Christianity Better Than MSN...
Borders as Genocide In discussions of climate chan...


pf.org
Progress
For lovers of garden gnomes...and any China-freaks out there
We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming


Ideoblog
Does SOX explain the flight from NY?
More Litvak on SOX effect on cross-listed firms
What did the market learn from internal controls reporting?


The Yin Blog
Iowa City = Riyadh
Jeffrey Rosen's "The Supreme Court"
Geek alert -- who would win between Battlestar Galactica and the U.S.S. Enterprise?


Letters of Marque
Graduation
And there we are
Oil!


BuffaloWings&Vodka
Signing Off


Dark Bilious Vapors
Jim (The Waco Kid): Where you headed, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
Jim: Nowhere special. I always wanted to go there.
Bart: Come on.
--"Blazing Saddles"

Technical Difficulties... please stand by....
The Onion should have gotten a patent first....


Legal Ethics Forum
Interesting new Expert DQ case
Decency, Due Care, and The Yoo-Delahunty Memorandum
Thinking About the Fired U.S. Attorneys


Ex Post
Student Symposium- Chicago!
More Hmong - Now at Law School
Good Samaritan Laws: Good For America?


Appellate Law & Practice
Those turned over documents
CA1: courts can’t help people acquitted of crimes purge the taint of acquitted conduct
CA1: restrictions on chain liquor stores in Rhode Island are STILL okay


the imbroglio
High schoolers turn in plagiarism screeners for copyright infringement
talisman
Paris to offer 20,600 bikes at 1,450 stations to rent by the end of the year


The Republic of T.
The Secret of the Snack Attack
links for 2007-04-04
Where You Link is What You Get

Distractions for stressed law students

The Other Side: Twisted AnimationsSomething Positive, a truly good webcomic

Syndicate This Site

Sitemeter

Technologies


Stop Spam Harvesters, Join Project Honey Pot