Thursday, January 03, 2013

Law, Secrecy, and Literature


The Secrets of Law
Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas, and Martha Merrill Umphrey (eds.)
Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2012, 288 pp.
ISBN: 9780804782593

The Secrets of Law explores the ways law both traffics in and regulates secrecy. Taking a close look at the opacity built into legal and governance processes, it explores the ways law produces zones of secrecy, the relation between secrecy and justice, and how we understand the inscrutability of law's processes.
The first half of the work examines the role of secrecy in contemporary political and legal practices—including the question of transparency in democratic processes during the Bush Administration, the principle of public justice in England's response to the war on terror, and the evidentiary law of spousal privilege. The second half of the book explores legal, literary, and filmic representations of secrets in law, focusing on how knowledge about particular cases and crimes is often rendered opaque to those attempting to access and decode the information. Those invested in transparency must ultimately cultivate a capacity to read between the lines, decode the illegible, and acknowledge both the virtues and dangers of the unknowable.

Contents

- Transparency and opacity in law : an introduction / Martha Merrill Umphrey, Austin Sarat and Lawrence Douglas
- Open secrets and dirty hands / Alasdair Roberts
- Secret trials and public justice / Lindsay Farmer
- Spousal secrets : same-sex couples and the functional approach to marital evidentiary privileges / Edward Stein
- Wilkie Collins' law books : law, literature, and factual precedent / Bernadette Meyler
- Historiographic secrets of the labour contract : the law and literature of Lewis Jones' "Cwmardy" and "We live" / Melanie Williams
- Duly noted or off the record? : sovereignty and the secrecy of the law in cinema / Richard Burt.


Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College.
Lawrence Douglas is James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst College.
Martha Merrill Umphrey is Associate Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst College.

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