While the right to have one's day in court is a cherished feature of the American democratic system, alarms that the United States is hopelessly litigious and awash in frivolous claims have become ubiquitous. According to this view, litigation wastes precious resources, stifles innovation and productivity, and corrodes our social fabric and the national character. Calls for reform have sought, often successfully, to limit people's access to the court system. Alexandra Lahav's In Praise of Litigation provides a much needed corrective to this flawed perspective, reminding us of the irreplaceable role of litigation in a well-functioning democracy and debunking many of the myths that cloud our understanding of this role. Exploring cases involving freedom of speech, foodborne illness, defective cars, business competition, and more, the book shows that despite its inevitable limitations, litigation empowers citizens to challenge the most powerful public and private interests and hold them accountable for their actions. In Praise of Litigation shows how our court system protects our liberties and enables civil society to flourish, and serves as a powerful reminder of why we need to protect people's access to justice.
The central message of In Praise of Litigation is a powerful one: the benefits of lawsuits (and the harms from improperly restricting them) go far beyond the parties and their lawyers. The book is a tour de force in which Alexandra Lahav draws on a dazzling array of examples, from cases involving slaves seeking freedom in the 1850s to cases involving e. coli in fast-food hamburgers, and from little-noticed suits involving individuals to iconic Supreme Court decisions like Brown v. Board of Education, that stretch across both doctrinal boundaries and American history. Every law student and every lawyer should read In Praise of Litigation not just to understand more fully how litigation actually works today, but also to arm themselves better to defend equal access to the courts as a critical aspect of our democracy. -Pamela S. Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and Co-Director, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, Stanford Law School An important contribution to the ongoing debate over the role of litigation in promoting a just society. Alexandra Lahav convincingly demonstrates how and why American style litigation-'a form of political activity'-remains critical to our Nation's future. -Kenneth R. Feinberg, Former Special Master of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund In a culture where it has become fashionable to bash lawyers and the lawsuits they file, Alexandra Lahav reminds us, in forceful, engaging, and compelling prose, that litigation plays an essential role in our democracy. Her clear-eyed analysis engages the criticisms of litigation honestly and persuasively, and makes a powerful case for its role in a justice-seeking society. -David Cole, Professor, Georgetown Law, National Legal Director, ACLU, and author of Engines of Liberty In the face of the widespread popular perception that lawsuits are inimical to American society, law professor Lahav is persuasive in demonstrating that litigation 'is a social good and promotes democracy,' even if it is a far from perfect tool. Her contention is bolstered by her well-reasoned analyses that perfectly balance detail with brevity, making this work fully accessible to non-lawyers and readers unversed in the debates about access to justice and tort reform. -Publishers Weekly