| By Mike Tyrkus |
The need for a layperson’s comprehensive and understandable guide to terms, concepts, and historical developments in American law has traditionally been well met by The Gale Encyclopedia of American Law. Previously published in a third edition in 2010 (in eBook format) and 2011 (in print) by Gale, The Gale Encyclopedia of American Law has proven itself a valuable successor to West’s 1983 publication, The Guide to American Law: Everyone’s Legal Encyclopedia. and the 1997 and 2004 editions of The West Encyclopedia of American Law.
Since 1998, Gale has further extended the value of The Gale Encyclopedia of American Law with the annual publication of American Law Yearbook. This companion volume series adds entries on emerging topics not previously covered in the main set. To be considered authoritative, it’s critical that a legal reference present current content. The American Law Yearbook fills that niche as a vital companion to a key reference source. Uniform organization by The Gale Encyclopedia of American Law terms and cross-referencing make it easy to use the titles together, while inclusion of key definitions and summaries of earlier rulings in supplement entries—whether new or continuations—make it unnecessary to constantly refer to the main set.
Each edition of American Law Yearbook contains 150 entries covering cases, laws, and concepts significant to U.S. law. These entries are arranged alphabetically and use the same entry title as in The Gale Encyclopedia of American Law, or in American Law Yearbook when introduced in an earlier edition of the Yearbook. Users may also find several cases discussed under a given topic. The Yearbook includes a “Glossary of Legal Terms” containing definitions for a selection of the most important terms bolded in the text of the essays. Terms bolded but not included in the glossary of American Law Yearbook can undoubtedly be found in the dictionary volume of The Gale Encyclopedia of American Law. Additionally, within the entries of American Law Yearbook, terms are set in small capital letters to indicate that they have their own corresponding entries in The Gale Encyclopedia of American Law.
These features make it quick and easy for users to locate references to cases, people, statutes, events, and other subjects between the two titles. The “Table of Cases Cited” in American Law Yearbook traces the influences of legal precedents by identifying cases mentioned throughout the text. In a departure from The Gale Encyclopedia of American Law, references to individuals have been integrated into the general index to simplify searches. Litigants, justices, historical and contemporary figures, as well as topical references are included in the “Index by Name and Subject.”
The U.S. legal system is admired around the world for the freedoms it allows the individual and the fairness with which it attempts to treat all persons. On the surface, it may seem simple, yet those who have delved into it know that this system of federal and state constitutions, statutes, regulations, and common-law decisions is both elaborate and complex. It derives from the English common law, but includes principles older than England itself, along with some principles from other countries. The American legal system has a language all its own, and too often it’s an unfamiliar language as many concepts are still phrased in Latin. The Gale Encyclopedia of American Law and American Law Yearbook, however, explain legal terms and concepts in everyday language. They also cover a wide variety of persons, entities, and events that have shaped the U.S. legal system and influenced public perceptions of it, making the subject accessible to users of all ages.