Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 



In preparation for law school, there are many books you can read. This article lists books I have treasured—and some I have not.

Will reading all these books get you better grades in law school? Probably not.

After fifty years, I can still recall the shock and awe of those first few weeks in law school. Nothing had prepared me for the experience. It was another planet, where I never felt at home. As I commented earlier, what really matters in law school is how your brain is wired, and there's little you can do about that.

Prior readings have their value, however. They give you context and understanding for the law as you learn it. They place you in the flow of legal history. They shape your moral standards for your career as attorney or judge.

Books on Law, Lawyers and Judges

Billy Budd by Herman Melville. A judge can experience agonizing tension between making a decision in the public interest and a decision as to what's fair in this particular case. Melville details the agony.

The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. This western tragically demonstrates the necessity for procedural due process in criminal cases. Read the book and/or see the movie starring Henry Fonda.

A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt. Set in the reign of Henry VIII, this play shows how a faithful, witty follower of Jesus combines success in law, politics and faith. Sir Thomas—St. Thomas after his beheading—showed how a great lawyer thinks and a great public servant prays. St. Thomas is the patron saint of lawyers.

U.S. History: Law school assumes that you have a firm grasp of U.S. history. If your grasp slips, I'll recommend four sources. The American Past by Roger Butterfield and Glorious Burden: A History of the Presidency by Stephen Lorant. (Due to these two books, I was able to exempt a year of American history at Dartmouth College.) Also recommended are the writings of Howard Zinn, who visualizes our history from the viewpoint of the poor and oppressed, and also Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury.

Gideon's Trumpet is both a book and a movie. The book is by Anthony Lewis and shows how the Supreme Court decided that every citizen accused of a crime is entitled to legal counsel. Again, Fonda stars in the movie. In addition, José Ferrer plays Gideon’s attorney, Abe Fortas. Ferrer/Fortas shows how an experienced lawyer can be effectively at ease before the Supreme Court.

Leviticus. Yes, the third book of the Bible. It is preeminently the book of the law. At times, it has legal standards more sophisticated than ours. For example, there is no imprisonment. (Think about it. The Hebrews wandered for 40 years in the desert. Imprisonment would have meant execution by dehydration.) The penalty for theft is restitution, plus a fifth. Also, Leviticus chapters 19 and 25 are marvels of legislation. Continuing Chapter 25 on the Jubilee, Deuteronomy 15:4 prophesies that "there shall be no poor among you." We're a long way from meeting that standard.

Miracle at Philadephia by Catherine Drinker Bowen. This book chronicles the complex infighting that produced the U.S. Constitution during the hot summer of 1787 in Philadelphia. It's a good read—important, useful, excellent background.

The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. The Papers are in the Great Books series. Are they good reading? I don't know. I never tried.

The Autobiography of Ephraim Tutt by Arthur Train. It's long out of print, but if you can get a copy, it's a brilliant chronicle of a public-spirited attorney a century ago.

Felix Frankfurter Reminisces, a series of talks recorded and edited by Harlan B. Phillips. This is a marvelous book—one that I've reread several times. It will recast your view of American history in the first half of the 20th century. It gives an inside view of both the Harvard Law faculty and the Supreme Court. If you only read one book in this list, this is the one.

The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong. This book is based mostly on interviews with former Supreme Court clerks. It's a disturbing account of how Chief Justice Warren Burger effectively resigned his judgeship while staying on the Court and how Justices Brennan and Stewart together took over his duties. Along the way, you get many insights into how the Supreme Court works.

Attorney for the Damned, edited by Arthur Weinburg, presents Clarence Darrow's criminal-trial summations. I loaned my copy to a friend, Al Mechley, a trial lawyer. He kept it at his bedside for late-night reading. He never returned it, and I never asked to have it back. It was better invested with him than with me.

May It Please the Court: The Most Significant Oral Arguments Made Before the Supreme Court Since 1955 edited by Peter H. Irons and Stephanie Guitton. You can experience these either as a book or as CD’s. Since ‘55, the U.S. Supreme Court has recorded attorneys' arguments to give us this storehouse of legal savvy.


I have appreciated biographies of great judges and lawyers—particularly those who defended the poor and oppressed. Among those I value are:

The Lion and the Throne is a biography of Sir Edward Coke) by Catherine Drinker Bowen. If you don’t know about Lord Chief Justice Coke, you should. He drafted the Petition of Right--one of the three great documents of English constitutional history. It established many rights you now take for granted.

Attorney John Adams successfully defended the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre.

His son, John Quincy Adams, after his presidency, was the pro bono oralist before the Supreme Court in defending the African rebels in the Amistad case.

Yankee from Olympus by Catherine Drinker Bowen—biography of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The American: A Middle Western Legend by Howard Fast. Illinois Governor Peter Altgeld was a great American that you never heard about in high school history.

Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned by John A. Farrell. This one’s the biography.

Courtroom by Quentin Reynolds tells the life of outstanding trial-lawyer Samuel S. Liebowitz.

A Season for Justice: The Life and Times of Civil Rights Lawyer Morris Dees by Morris Dees and Steve Fiffer. Dees demonstrates that the way for you to destroy hate groups, such as the Klan, is to sue them into extinction. In doing so, however, be prepared to become a target.

Two More

            And here are two excellent books which I discovered in the past month:

Reflections on Judging by Richard A. Posner. Judge Posner is on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The author of nearly 40 books, Judge Posner is the most cited legal scholar in the 20th century according to The Journal of Legal Studies.

Law school can destroy your writing abilities by focusing you on minutiae, so I appreciated Judge Posner's views on good legal writing, pages 255 to 260. However, I was disappointed that he didn't also describe the major source of Anglo-American legal jargon: Five-hundred years ago in England, law clerks were paid by the word. So, legal English is the product of an out-of-control piece-rate pay system.

Packing the Court—the Rise of Judicial Power and the Coming Crisis of the Supreme Court by James MacGregor Burns. The author, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, takes us through American history as seen from the Supreme Court bench.

Because the justices have lifetime tenure, Burns shows how dinosaurs on the bench—relics of prior administrations—have usually frustrated progressive, democratizing governmental programs throughout our history. (The Warren court was a notable exception.) Burns concludes with a bold proposal to rein in the Court's power over the elected branch. Bold? Perhaps even brash.

Biographical Resources

Comment: Reading books about law is a good time to start the habit of learning about authors before you read their books. You have excellent resources on your computer:

Booknotes.  http://www.bookmarks.org/Watch/ Hour-long TV interviews with 800 non-fiction authors. The interviews aired on C-SPAN between April, 1989, and December, 2004.

Wikipedia, other encyclpedias and Google.

Note: I don’t give full citations because title or author are all you need with Amazon.com. or your public library.

And a warning: I'm half a century out-of-date in my legal reading. You should discover several valuable books on law of which I am ignorant.

Books to Avoid

I'll mention four other books:

The Constitutional History of England. Several authors have covered this subject. I read the one by George Burton Adams, revised by Robert L. Schyler. Logically, a study of England’s constitutional history should be required reading. However, I found the history mostly tedious and unmemorable.

One chapter, however, did capture my attention and memory. It was about the Long Parliament, where the Roundheads were working out the fundamental liberties of the British people. While many of their efforts did not take immediate effect in England, they were enshrined in our Constitution and especially in the first ten amendments. You can, however, get substantially the same learning by reading the "Long Parliament" entry in Wikipedia or an encyclopedia.  It should take you about twenty minutes.

The Common Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and The Nature of the Judicial Process by Benjamin N. Cardozo. These are great legal classics. I also found them tedious and unmemorable. The value of reading Holmes’ book is his famous page-one quote about the law: "An ounce of history is worth a pound of logic." However, if I had read them after legal training and experience I might have found them fascinating. I don't know; I didn't try.

John Grisham's Novels. Gresham makes law exciting, unrealistically so. Bear in mind that he's really writing movie scripts. Gresham personally is an excellent example, however, not as a lawyer, but as a writer. He self-published his first novel and peddled it from the trunk of his car.


Purpose of this blog is to compile several books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright  ©  2013 by Jack Towe


I welcome your reactions.  Please click below on "Post a Comment".