Book Review: Constitutional Torts (Sheldon H. Nahmod, Michael L. Wells, Thomas A. Eaton)

In law school, my professor assigned Sheldon Nahmod’s Constitutional Torts for our course in Civil Rights Actions. Constitutional Torts was the best casebook I used in law school. It’s even served me well outside of law school.

The editing, organization, and case selection was excellent. What made Constitutional Torts superior was the notes at the end of each section.

At the end of each section, most casebooks have a serious of so-called "hypotheticals."  The hypotheticals are often nonsensical, irrelevant, and are almost always unhelpful. Nahmod’s however, are different.

Each hypothetical contained the legally-operative facts of a relevant opinion – usually a Court of Appeals opinion interpreting the Supreme Court case we had just read.  At the end of the factual; summary, there was also a case cite to the opinion.

I was thus able to read the facts; analyze them under the Supreme Court case we just read; and then log into Westlaw to pull up the opinion. There are meta-level questions, of course: Did the lower-court sincerely apply the Supreme Court’s holding? More helpful, though, was seeing the lower court’s reasoning applied to a specific set of facts.

Instead of simply throwing out some silly hypotheticals, Nahmod included relevant cases that allowed a student to analyze a set of facts based on the rule we had just learned. We were then able to "check our work," by pulling up the Court of Appeals opinion. While preparing for my exam in Civil Rights Actions, I'd analyze the facts Nahmod had included - which guaranteed academic success.

Even after law school, I’d occasionally find myself looking for cases by consulting Nahmod’s Constitutional Torts. Often one would find a helpful lower-court opinion by skimming a section for relevant case citations.

While there are better secondary sources for law practice (such as Nahmod’s treatise on Section 1983 litigation), there is no better casebook for a law student than Constitutional Torts.