May 01, 2017

What could be more useful to a courtroom lawyer than a guide written by a judge, a judge whose intent was to offer “invaluable tips, courtroom strategies and helpful insights into the trial process…?”  That is the premise and promise of Judge Curtis Karnow’s LITIGATION IN PRACTICE (12 Tables Press, 2017).

The problem is that the promise of the book is not fully realized.  Judge Karnow takes on important subjects, especially the use (and mis-use) of statistics and probability evidence in the courtroom.  But despite some useful and indeed essential illustrations of common probabilistic analyses, too many will find that chapter less an entrée into a perplexing subject than an excess of formulae and a writing style that assumes mathematical and statistical knowledge and comfort.

The courtroom discussions are similarly mixed in utility.  Judge Karnow tells how not to use a Motion in Limine but spends no time explaining how to do it well.  The discussion of jury selection offers essential insights in how to not test for potential bias, but errs when it categorically asserts that “[w]hat is plainly objectionable are questions designed to educate the jurors about the case…”

Are there strengths?  Many.  Judge Karnow specializes in complex litigation, and his chapters on TIMING SETTLEMENT and COMPLEXITY IN LITIGATION offer a great deal to those who practice in these areas.  But there is not enough here to commend LITIGATION IN PRACTICE to the average practitioner, except perhaps to offer insight into the view from the other side of the bench.


Curtis Karnow, LITIGATION IN PRACTICE (Twelve Tables Press, 2017)