by Michael Tanner
Reviewed by Susan L. Kelsey
“Is this a sin, Your Honor?” the woman asked. The act in question was the government-ordered destruction of a 500-year-old monastery in Russia, and the year was 1920. Seventy years later, a second blinding flash introduces the title character, Nikolai (Kolya). His road-to-Damascus experience propels him toward the destiny that has eluded him through harrowing military service in the Afghan War, years of soul-numbing factory work, and the profitable but dangerous arms dealing that had made him a rich man.
Nikolai Returns is based loosely on stories and experiences the author, a Florida Bar member practicing in Jacksonville, gained during multiple visits to Russia over a period of 20 years. The novel treats the reader to finely crafted characterization and authenticity. Moving between current scenes and flashbacks, it portrays with unflinching detail the realities of war, of friendships made and tragically lost, of the price paid in loss of humanity with no measurable return on the investment, of life in post-war Russia. We come to know Nikolai through the experiences of the student, the soldier, the working man; and through repeated, though fleeting, glimpses of the soul longing for the something more that his grandmother firmly believed lay in wait for him. The friends, family, and fellow citizens of the state that populate Nikolai’s existence are equally genuine, whether likeable or not. The level of research and authentic detail is remarkable. The story is engaging and entertaining, moving quickly to a didn’t-see-that-coming resolution that is as satisfying as it is surprising. Well written, worth reading.
The book is published by Telemachus Press, and is available from Amazon in paperback (334 pages), and e-book editions.
Susan L. Kelsey is a Florida Bar member and partner at Kelsey Appellate Law Firm, P.A., in Tallahassee.
Henry Friendly, Greatest Judge of His Era
by David M. Dorsen
Reviewed by Steven P. Cullen
For decades, Judge Henry Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit provided a fertile source of opinions for casebook editors. In turn, law students received a steady diet of Friendly cases on myriad subjects from habeas corpus, commercial law, torts, and federal jurisdiction. Books and law review articles authored by him spew endless legal wisdom. Suffering with a raging case of legal infantilism, inquiring minds may ask: Who was this guy Friendly, anyway? Although it took many years, author David M. Dorsen has brilliantly answered the rhetorical inquiry: Henry Friendly, Greatest Judge of His Era.
Born to a successful German-Jewish family in Elmira, NY, in 1903, Friendly attended public schools. After receiving a history degree from Harvard, his academic inclinations were apparent. At Harvard Law School, he achieved the highest numerical average since Louis Brandeis many years earlier. Felix Frankfurter mentored him at Harvard. After serving as a clerk to Brandeis, he shelved a passion easily within reach to teach history or law at Harvard. Choosing private sector work instead, Friendly climbed the ranks in a large New York firm, helped found his own firm, and served as general counsel to Pan American Airlines. The era of the Great Depression, which presented significant obstacles to the legal careers of many, did not slow him. Along the way, he married his beloved wife, Sophie, and consistent with the mores of the time, participated in raising three children.
Although known as a tireless advocate for his clients, the mediocrity of commercial, regulatory, and administrative work left him unfulfilled. With his sights set on appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Friendly’s quest was slowed by a less than well-known career, stealth candidates ahead of him, spotty openings, and of course, politics. In late 1959, the stars aligned perfectly as with the help of some political and legal heavyweights (Felix Frankfurter, Learned Hand, and Senator Lyndon Johnson) when the U.S Senate confirmed Friendly’s nomination by President Eisenhower.
Although Judge Friendly spent nearly 27 years on the Second Circuit bench, assessing his lifetime judicial labor presents several challenges. First, although the court’s workload is substantial, only a minute percentage of litigated federal cases ever get there. An even smaller number of lawyers habitually appear before a particular panel of judges. There is also a spirited debate, confined mostly to ivory towers, over whether judicial biography is a worthwhile endeavor at all. Skeptics of the genre suggest that judges are the product of boring lives and their legal work is tedious and uninteresting. Thus, the argument that judicial biographies belong in the literary wastebasket has “grown some legs.”
Saving the literary day here, however, Dorsen had at his disposal a great wealth of information from which to construct a masterpiece. The virtual trove includes nearly 1,000 opinions, four books, 72 articles, countless speeches and presentations, volumes of personal papers, 51 law clerks (including now Chief Justice John Roberts), family members, and scores of legal figures and laypersons who knew him. The dogged use of all of this material convinced one of the most outspoken critics of judicial biography expressed in the foreword, Judge Richard A. Posner, of the book’s value.
While judicial brilliance lies only through the lens of the “beholder,” Dorsen outlines at least several universal truths about Friendly. He demanded hard work from himself, lawyers, clerks, and staff. After hearing argument and meeting in conference, he wrote in longhand, a complete opinion that he rarely edited. Regardless of the substantive or procedural issue at hand, Friendly had his eyes not only on fairly disposing of the case, but also where it would fit into a complex doctrinal matrix.
While difficult to label, Friendly’s jurisprudence can fairly be termed generally conservative, but sometimes contrarian. His usual tough-on-crime approach yielded if the government took advantage of a defendant. Habeas corpus relief, in his mind, lies only in exceptional cases. Mirroring the general conservative approach, Friendly’s opinions generally favored business and management interests. Predictably, administrative agency decisions received significant deference at his hands.
Friendly’s judicial brilliance “extinguished itself” when in March 1986, he committed suicide at the age of 82. His daughter, Joan Goodman, reflected that his legal accomplishments were quite remarkable in light of a dark and pessimistic worldview. A commemorative medal, struck after his death was recast as the initial version showed him smiling, an act that others documented he rarely engaged in. Readers naturally will make their own conclusions about Friendly’s attributes. This book, however, makes a strong case that he was in fact the “Greatest Judge of His Era” and is a richly rewarding read. Dorsen breathes new life into the craft of judicial biography.
Published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, the book is 359 pages and retails for $35.
Steven P. Cullen is a Florida Bar member and practices mediation, arbitration, and private judging in Jupiter.
Litigation and Prevention of Insurer Bad Faith
By Dennis Wall
Reviewed by Perry Ian Cone
Insurer “bad faith” is a hot topic in Florida. It is fertile ground for policyholder insurer attorneys, an area of serious concern for insurer counsel, and the subject of much debate within the business community. Opposing forces have battled it out in the legislature the last two years.
Hot off the presses is Dennis Wall’s third edition of Litigation and Prevention of Insurer Bad Faith. Wall’s comprehensive treatise covers the waterfront in two volumes. It is the quintessential A-to-Z guide, a resource for both Florida and the entire U.S.
Wall’s vast collection of cases and secondary resources provides a wide array of food for thought on the intricacies of bad faith. It should be especially helpful to attorneys pushing the envelope, on the cutting edge, or seeking to create new law, and an equally valuable resource for insurer attorneys seeking to shore up their defenses or advising their clients on the prevention of bad faith.
The meat and potatoes of Litigation and Prevention of Insurer Bad Faith is its detailed and distinct treatments of third-party claims and first-party bad claims. In Part II, Third-Party Claims, Wall first covers insurers’ standards of conduct with familiar topics such as settlement, refusal to defend, and conduct of defense. Adequate shelf space is next given to the responsibilities of the insured and to an insurer’s defenses to bad faith claims. The foregoing summary does not do justice to the treatise’s depth and detail. For example, the topic of third-party settlement is separated into 50 different sub-topics.
In many respects and in Florida in particular, first-party bad faith is a very different animal from third-party bad faith. These differences are reflected in Wall’s treatment of first-party claims in Part III. Given the variety of sources of the standards of insurer conduct, Wall divides this subject into 32 sub-topics. As with Part II, Part III on first-party claims covers responsibilities of the insured, insurer defenses, and discovery.
The treatise is national in its perspective of the complex subject matter. The challenge, as Wall recognizes, is that there are essentially 50 disparate perspectives representing the viewpoints of 50 states.
While national in scope, the treatise does not overlook Florida. Orlando is home to Wall, who has been a distinguished member of The Florida Bar for more than 30 years. (Speaking of Florida, insurer bad faith will soon observe its 75th birthday as a legal theory of liability in Florida. See Auto Mut. Indem. Co. v. Shaw, 184 So. 852, 859 (Fla. 1938)).
Litigation and Prevention of Insurer Bad Faith is a serious read and an essential legal resource. You may not want to take it on your vacation, but you will want to keep it at hand in your office to help you work through thorny legal issues.
The two-volume set of Litigation and Prevention of Insurer Bad Faith (1,383 pages) is available in hard copy for $473, and as an e-book for $497, from West Publishing.
Perry Ian Cone is a Bar member with Gray Robinson, P.A., in Tallahassee practicing insurance regulatory, corporate, and government law.
The Law of Florida Homeowners Associations, Ninth Edition
By Peter M. Dunbar and Charles F. Dudley
Reviewed by Steven H. Mezer
For 18 years, The Law of Florida Homeowners Associations has been relied upon as a practical and easy-to-use guide for community living. There probably is not a community association law practitioner in Florida who has not relied on this work. It is written in a format and a style that can be understood by nonlawyers, yet also meaningful to counsel. Seven prior editions have provided community association leaders and homeowners with a reliable reference source on issues ranging from proper membership meeting procedures to association budget preparations. This operational manual offers insight and guidance on the proper exercise of the authority of the board of directors, and it explains the rights and responsibilities of the individual homeowners in the community. Its use extends from single-family subdivisions to townhouse communities and master associations.
The ninth edition continues a tradition that began in 1992, and it brings up to date the most complete guide on the laws governing community living in Florida. The text and the citations of authority are current through the most recent legislative changes and the decisions from Florida appellate courts. With more than 600 footnotes of authority, two dozen sample forms and documents, and a complete subject matter index, it is the most comprehensive manual for operations in Florida homeowners’ association.
This book offers the reader a practical analysis of requirements of F.S. Ch. 720 and the other laws that govern community living. The commentary in the manual is efficiently organized into 115 sections in 10 chapters, and it is presented in clear, concise language. The comprehensive index allows for convenient access to all of the material in the text, and the footnoted authority provides the reader an opportunity for additional in-depth analysis.
If there is any doubt as to the value of this book, one need only look on-line at the endorsements and rave reviews from community association board members, licensed community association managers, and attorneys who have used the prior editions of this handbook for homeowners’ associations. Pick up a copy and you, too, will see why this is the book that is relied on as this single source for reliable information about homeowners’ association law.
Published by Pineapple Press, Inc., the book is 192 pages with 27 sample forms, and retails for $16.95.
Steven H. Mezer is a Florida Bar member, board certified in real estate, and is a a partner at Bush Ross, P.A., in Tampa.
The Condominium Concept, 13th Edition,
By Peter M. Dunbar
Reviewed by Steven H. Mezer
I have to confess, I have the second edition of The Condominium Concept on my shelf in the office. It is well worn. So, this recent revision is going to be welcomed by even the most experienced community association law practitioner. The 13th edition of The Condominium Concept continues a tradition that began more than 20 years ago, and it brings to print the most complete guide on law governing condominium living in Florida. The text and the citations of authority in the new edition are current through the most recent legislative changes, division rule modifications, and appellate court decisions. With more than 1,000 footnotes of authority, 69 sample forms and documents, and a complete subject matter index, it continues to be the most comprehensive operations manual for Florida condominiums.
For more than two decades, the Concept has been relied upon as a practical and easy-to-use guide for condominium living. Eleven prior editions have provided a generation of condominium association leaders and unit owners with a reliable reference source on matters ranging from proper membership meeting procedures to association budget preparations. It offers insight and guidance for the proper exercise of authority of the board of directors, and it explains the rights and responsibilities of the individual owners in the community. It is an indispensable tool for those who work or live in condominium communities. The Condominium Concept has been used in Florida law schools to teach condominium law and in offices to assist community association law practitioners.
The Condominium Concept offers the reader a practical analysis of the requirements of Florida’s Condominium Act and the rules of the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes that govern condominium living. The commentary is effectively organized into 251 sections in 14 chapters, and it is presented in clear, concise language. The comprehensive index allows for convenient access to all of the material in the text, and the footnoted authority provides the reader an opportunity for additional in-depth analysis.
Whether your practice includes a significant amount of condominium issues or you are a condominium owner, this book can be your “go to” resource for accurate information.
Published by Pineapple Press, Inc., the book is 376 pages with 69 sample forms, and retails for $27.95, hardcover; $21.75 softcover.
Steven H. Mezer is a Florida Bar member, board certified in real estate, and is a a partner at Bush Ross, P.A., in Tampa.
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