Professors team up to update textbook

A new version of a civil law textbook represents an expanded collaboration by SUNY Oswego faculty.

The third edition of “Understanding Law in a Changing Society” saw co-writers Dr. Bruce Altschuler and Dr. Celia Sgroi joined by a third faculty member, Margaret Ryniker, and securing a new publisher, Paradigm.

The first edition of the book developed when Altschuler and Sgroi added a course on contemporary developments in civil law to the Oswego curriculum about 15 years ago and could not find a book that addressed the subject matter. So they wrote one.

“These kinds of cases are a lot more likely to affect people than the criminal and Constitutional law courses undergraduates normally study,” Altschuler said. “In Central New York, courts see several times the number of civil law cases than there are criminal cases.”

Since much has happened in the world of law since the last printing in 1995, about a third of the material and about 25 percent of the cases cited are new, Altschuler said.

New noteworthy features of the book, published on July 1, include “you be the judge” discussion scenarios in each section and a chapter on family law penned by Ryniker.

The professors divided the chapter assignments, with Sgroi and Ryniker of the public justice department drawing on their experience and practice on civil law, while political scientist Altschuler concentrated on Constitutional law, due process and court system issues.

“Since we have all taught the (legal issues) course, we were able to factor in student feedback, knowing which cases and topics led to good discussions,” Altschuler noted.

In their search for well-written, lively and interesting legal opinions to include, the professors selected one passage by a then-obscure jurist now under a big spotlight. “We added a John Roberts ruling, not knowing at the time that he was going to be nominated for the Supreme Court,” Altschuler said of a legal decision on a malpractice inheritance case, which Roberts referred to as “a real-life ‘Bleak House’ saga.”

The previous edition is currently used in courses at colleges and universities across the country, and the new edition has already been picked up for use at the University of South Florida, Altschuler said. With a push from the new publisher, it may gain an even wider distribution, he added.

“Understanding Law in a Changing Society” sells for $44.95.

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(Posted: Sep 07, 2005)

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