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Law Library News

Law Library News Archive

Jan. 24, 2005.
Kristy Moon, editor.

  • Indian Law
  • BOW: A Judgment for Solomon: The d'Hauteville Case and Legal Experience in Antebellum America

Indian Law

by Pegeen Mulhern, Reference Intern

No need for panic, yet, but starting with the Summer 2007 Washington State bar exam, one of the subjects to be tested will be Indian law. Economic development among Washington State’s twenty-nine federally recognized Indian tribes has given rise to an array of business transactions, regulatory issues, and litigation matters between tribal and non-tribal parties.

The Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) has determined that the integrity and competence of the legal profession would be enhanced if attorneys generally understood significant federal jurisdictional Indian principles, particularly the common law doctrines of tribal sovereignty, tribal sovereign immunity, tribal subject matter jurisdiction (both criminal and civil), and the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. You can read the WSBA resolution by visiting http://www.wsba.org/indianlawres2004.doc. The WSBA also noted that the jurisdictional question could be included as an element in family law, contracts, or other substantive areas. So anyone planning to practice law here in Washington State should keep this change in mind.

Fortunately, here at the Gallagher Law Library, we have numerous resources on Indian law. For starters, try the Indian law research guide at http://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/indian.html. Here you can discover finding aids (research guides and bibliographies, library catalogs, directories), secondary sources (treatises, looseleafs, CLE materials), and primary sources (compilations of treaties, tribal codes, and tribal constitutions). While the treaties that serve as a basis for much of the current Indian law can be really difficult to find, the Law Library has some useful tools to assist researchers. List of Indian Treaties (KF8201.A55 I57 1964 at Reference Area) provides lists of treaties by name and date, and gives cross-references to relevant statutes. Another way to track down treaties is by using A Chronological List of Treaties and Agreements Made by Indian Tribes with the United States (KF8202.A73 I572 at Reference Office). Finally, the United States Code Service (KF62 1972 .L38 at Reference Area) includes some Indian treaties in the supplemental volumes.

Book of the Week: A Judgment for Solomon: The d'Hauteville Case and Legal Experience in Antebellum America

by Shannon Malcolm, Reference Intern

Michael Grossberg, A Judgment for Solomon: The d'Hauteville Case and Legal Experience in Antebellum America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) (KF228.D48 G76 1996 at Classified Stacks).

Long before there were Tom and Nicole or Britney and …er…what's-his-name, there were Gonzalve and Ellen.

Ever hear someone decrying the breakdown of the family or the nasty tenor of modern divorces, and lamenting the loss of the good old days? Most of us have. But have you ever asked yourself, "Were the good old days really all that good after all?"

Readers of this book will be surprised and intrigued to discover both shocking similarities and striking differences between divorce and custody disputes in our own time and those in the nineteenth century.

History professor Grossberg walks readers through a very nasty divorce and custody dispute between European aristocrat, Gonzalve d'Hauteville, and his Boston Brahmin bride, Ellen Sears, in an engaging narrative constructed from his own detailed examination of original historical documents. The result is a surprisingly accessible scholarly work which is as entertaining as it is educational, as the two parties, backed by their rich, strong-willed parents and scads of high-powered lawyers, battle for custody of their son, Frederick. The tale even includes some surprising cameos (for example, Daniel Webster was a part of Ellen's legal team).

Even if you think the last thing you want to read is another book about the law, A Judgment for Solomon is a good read. Because of the litigants' social prominence, their dispute was decided in the popular press as much as in the courtroom; and there is much here of sociological interest regarding the phenomena of celebrity scandals and trials in the court of public opinion. But the book is much more profound than that observation might suggest. At its heart is an issue about which feelings continue to run high today: how do we strike some acceptable balance between the rights of fathers, mothers, and children? Grossberg doesn't offer any easy answers precisely because there aren't any; but what he does do is make readers think. Like any good work of history, this one presents the d'Hautevilles' case accurately and objectively, leaving readers to judge for themselves who was right, who was wrong, and whether the final outcome of young Frederick d'Hautville's custody was decided correctly – and whether, indeed, there even are correct answers to such quandaries.