January’s Book of Month is Introduccion al Common Law by Fernando Cuñado de Castro and Ruth Gámez González (and, yes, I do realize I’m publishing this post in March, but better late than never). If you read in Spanish and are interested in learning about Common Law in the UK and US compared to Civil Law in the Spanish-speaking world, I highly recommend this book.
As far as introductions to foreign legal systems go, I would say it is as comprehensive as they come. Throughout seven chapters, the authors maintain an objective, informative, and reader-friendly approach to a subject that is essential for legal practitioners and translators alike. If you are from the Spanish-speaking Civil Law world, by the end of the book, you will understand the main underlying principles of the Common Law system, how it differs from the Civil Law tradition, and even how the two major Common Law traditions (US and UK) differ from each other.
In Chapter One, the authors provide a fascinating historical account of the system’s origin and evolution. In Chapter Two, not only are the sources of law under the Common Law tradition explained in depth, but they are also compared to the sources of law under the Civil Law tradition, helping readers understand why Common Law judges often adjudicate so differently from their Civil Law counterparts.
Chapters 3 and 4 focus on Constitutional Law. In Chapter Three, the mystery of Britain’s unwritten constitution is brilliantly explained and revealed—a subject that is particularly perplexing to those of us from Latin American constitutional democracies. In Chapter Four, American Constitutional Law is explained in both historical as well as academic terms, revealing, perhaps inadvertently, the influence the physical distance between the Old and New Continent had over legal traditions and jurisprudence.
Chapter 5 provides a detailed, systematic, and comparative description of the political structure of the US and UK. And, lastly, Chapters 6 and 7 really get down to brass tacks and cover the law from two different points of view: how the judiciary is organized and how lawyers are trained to work in those organized systems.
What I like best about this book is the obvious amount of research that went into it. It was a pleasure to read it from beginning to end, and I learned something interesting and new in every chapter. But the authors didn’t stop there, they added a little surprise at the end: a complete English-Spanish glossary with all the key terms used throughout the entire book, which I’m sure bilingual lawyers and translators reading the book will really appreciate.
I commend my colleagues Ruth and Fernando for this high-quality publication and look forward to their next one!