Local author Daniel Park hopes to get readers testing their intuitions and playing judge with his new book, “How Would You Rule? Legal Puzzles, Brainteasers and Dilemmas from the Law’s Strangest Cases” published by University of California Press. The book helps demystify fundamental concepts of law through a collection of strange but true legal cases, interesting stories that illustrate important legal concepts in a way that is accessible.
“The book is meant for anyone with an interest in learning about the law or thinking about the problems and dilemmas that arise when people argue about right and wrong in court,” Park said. “It was really fun to write because this is what the law is, really great stories about people living their lives and getting into unusual situations.”
Park, a Carmel Valley resident for 12 years, is a graduate of Yale Law School and serves as the chief campus counsel of UC San Diego. His first book, “The Legal Mind: How the Law Thinks, ” was published three years ago and provides a “backstage pass” to the logic of the law and legal system.
With his second book, Park wanted to go a step further and answer the questions of what are the right rules for particular cases and how do the courts come up with the right rules?
“It’s easier to explain if you experience it so the book puts the reader in the position of the judge. They hear the facts of the case and then make a judgment,” Park said.
After coming up with their own solutions, the readers can learn about how the actual judges resolved the disputes.
“The best way to learn the law is by practicing it. This book gives you that chance,” Park writes. “By working your way through the stories in the book, you will get the chance, just as real judges do, to try your hand at teasing out the strands of justice from tangles of competing claims and contentions.”
Over the two years he took writing the book, Park’s challenge was to find the most interesting cases. There are some that are more quirky, such as the case about someone who purchased a house, decided it was haunted and wanted their money back. Another is more serious: does a person with a terminal illness have the right to end their own life? Each case is written in a compelling way by Park — “dry and stodgy legalese has been stripped out, leaving only the essence of the legal question” — and each chapter ends with questions to help generate more thinking.
He hopes that the cases will lead to healthy debates at the kitchen table or within a book club.
“Ideally the reader will walk away with more insight of how the legal system works, how they think about what’s right and what’s wrong and how they would explain it other people,” Park said. “The book helps you think critically and understand what you think more clearly.”
Park said he thinks he may have a third book in him as there are so many parts of the law to explore.
“The law is something that should be understood by more people because it controls so much of their lives,” Park said. “A lot of people have misconceptions about how it works and what’s really going on.”
“How Would You Rule?” is available on Amazon.com