The author is Lamar Professor of Law at Emory University, Atlanta in Georgia and retired Professor at Dresden University. His purpose is to provide a non-American audience, e.g. practitioners, students with an overview of American Law.
The book consists of seven chapters which introduce the audience with the sources and development of the U.S. Law. At the beginning of the book the author reveals historical aspects and roots of the US-American Law System. The other chapters provide an audience with detailed information about material law and judicial system. The material law is treated by description of Public Law, Private Law, Business Law and Criminal Law. The Chapter about the Judicial System includes information about the Court Organization, Jurisdiction and Civil Procedure.
The Private Law (chapter 5) contains the mayor part of the book. The author follows the same order the German Civil Code does. At the beginning he treats in detail the law of Contracts including Breach of Contract, Remedies/Damages and Assignment of Rights. Then he describes Unjust Enrichment, Law of Torts, the Law of Property, Family and Inheritance Law.
The author empathizes just in the beginning of the part A- The Law of Contract- that American law is more comprehensive than in some civil law systems because it encompasses more than legal remedies that apply when a contract has in fact been concluded und subsequently goes awry. It also extends to quasi-contract or restitution, comparable to aspects of unjust enrichment in some legal systems. American contract law has a pronounced economic orientation. It has his origin in English common law and, in many of its aspects, continues to be common law in nature and methodology.
Very different to it is the nature of family law, which the author presents us in part E of the chapter 5. Family law is state law. In large part, it is statuary law, but case law nevertheless plays an important role. A number of Uniform Laws unify or harmonize the law of some or even all of the states in certain areas. Family law in America addresses the traditional legal problems of marriage and child custody, but also extends to more contemporary forms of interpersonal interactions and to the legal problems to which they give rise.
Not less important is Chapter 6- Business Law and Economic Regulation. Peter Hay provides us with a good overview about company law and the Law of Capital Markets. He pays especially attention to the juridical construction of Agency, unincorporated Business Association, incorporated Business Association and the Limited Liability Company.
In the part B of this chapter we get to know a little bit about the law of Insolvency, what is especially interesting because the German law of private insolvency derives some principles from the American law.
In the part D we get information about employment and welfare law. To a large extent, labor law and social legislation are federal law. There are, different to Germany, no special courts for these questions in America. Hay gives a historical introduction to the theme, describing the “Norris-La Guardia Act” of 1932, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 followed by other Acts, which were the basis of modern labor law in the USA.
For audience who is interested in criminal law chapter 7 will provide some interesting information and facts. Traditionally substantive criminal law has been state law. However, federal government has used federal legislative competences to adopt far reaching federal criminal law. Many state statues have adopted the provisions of the Mode Penal Code to a large extent. Hay tells us that like in German law also the criminal offences are divided into “felonies” and “misdemeanors”.
A separate paragraph is dedicated to death penalty. Hay begins this paragraph with an excellent point: “The Eight Amendment of the Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual punishment” The provision has existed since 1791, yet punishment such as flogging, imprisonment in chains, and imprisonment in public cages was permitted into the 20th century”.
Hay adds his perfectly structured work four appendixes: a case law illustration and commentary; legal education and the legal profession in the U.S.; map of federal Courts of Appeal and District and the U.S. Constitution.
I mostly liked the clear language of Peter Hay and the clear line, which leads us through the foreign world of American law.
This book fits especially the German audience, e.g. lawyers, who desire a doctor degree, because the author, the retired German Professor, often compares some principles of the US-American Law with the German Law. But a German practitioner can take advantage of it as well because he can find the useful information in terms of contract or company law, e.g. in respect of company formation und foundation.