This is a guest post to WestBlog from Greg Bell, principal attorney editor at Thomson Reuters in Rochester, New York:
My team at West is responsible for working with authors to produce and update a number of treatises and other titles focused on litigation practice.
WestBlog’s editors have asked us to check in occasionally about a title, author, or new development in litigation. So, in this post, I wanted to highlight a treatise I work on, Sutherland Statutes and Statutory Construction, which combines bedrock principles of legal analysis with practical tools.
As a lawyer and attorney editor at West, I’ve been a student of the choice of words and how they are put together. A few months ago, I became the editor on Sutherland.
During my ten years with West, I’ve had a chance to work on some of our flagship titles, but not one with so long and rich a history as Sutherland. Written by Jabez Gridley Sutherland and originally published in 1891 by Callaghan & Company (acquired in 1979 by Thomson), Sutherland is now going into its Seventh Edition and has grown to eight volumes.
Based on a Westlaw search at the time of writing, Sutherland had been cited in over 2,000 federal court decisions (including 73 times by the U.S. Supreme Court, most recently in the Heller decision on the Second Amendment) and in nearly 8,500 state decisions.
For nearly 30 years, it has been under the stewardship of Norman J. Singer, the Charles O. Stokes Professor of Law and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alabama. Professor Singer recently was joined by his son, J.D. Shambie Singer as co-author.
Justice Antonin Scalia described Sutherland’s place in a litigator’s quiver over ten years ago, writing: “There is to my knowledge only one treatise on statutory interpretation that purports to treat the subject in a systematic and comprehensive fashion . . . . [Sutherland] is one of those law books that functions primarily not as a teacher or adviser, but as a litigator’s research tool and expert witness – to say, and to lead you to cases that say, why the statute should be interpreted the way your client wants.” (Antonin G. Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law 15 (Princeton University Press, 1997).
While working on the supplement in 2008, Justice Scalia’s statement was in my head as I reviewed the hundreds of new cases that Professor Singer had added with something to say about the making of the sausage that is legislation and interpretation of the results extruded at the other end.
While Sutherland is focused primarily on understanding statutes and legislation in the United States, it has a much broader application. The same principles outlined in its pages can be put into service to understand the meaning of other legal instruments.
It also has applications beyond the shores of the United States. The potential reach of the treatise was illustrated shortly after I began working on it when I received an email from Professor Singer noting that, while waiting to meet one of the Justices of the High Court of Australia, he had come across a recently issued 7th Edition volume of Sutherland highlighted in the “new books” display in the Court’s library.
Even after 30+ years of working with this treatise, Professor Singer was proud of that.
So, now, am I.
Principal Attorney Editor