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Eve Brensike Primus

Michigan Law Professor Joins Lead Authors in Contributing to Modern Criminal Procedure

By Lori Atherton
July 13, 2012

It wasn't long ago that Eve Brensike Primus, '01, was a student copiously studying from Modern Criminal Procedure. Now, she's a Michigan Law professor who not only uses the casebook in class, but coauthored the latest edition.

Primus contributed two chapters on the right to counsel and pre-trial witness identification that were previously written by Yale Kamisar, the Clarence Darrow Distinguished University Professor of Law Emeritus and professor emeritus of law, who has been a lead author of Modern Criminal Procedure since its first edition in 1965. Kamisar asked Primus to take over as his successor on the chapters, with the understanding that she would assume the writing of more chapters over time.

"Yale was my criminal law professor," Primus said, "and I did research for him on the book when I was a student. He made it clear to me when I joined the faculty that this day was coming after I got tenure. It's an exciting project, and I'm honored that he asked me to be involved with it."

Largely considered for decades to be the leading criminal procedure casebook in American legal education, Modern Criminal Procedure covers all of the units taught in a criminal procedure class. Because criminal procedure is often divided into two courses at many law schools, including Michigan, the content in the large-volume Modern Criminal Procedure is divided into two smaller casebooks: Basic Criminal Procedure and Advanced Criminal Procedure. All three casebooks, which are published approximately every three years, are in their 13th edition. A separate casebook, Criminal Procedure and the Constitution: Leading Supreme Court Cases and Introductory Text, is published yearly and contains excerpts from the most recent Supreme Court cases related to criminal procedure. Primus wrote about recent Supreme Court developments in pre-trial eyewitness identifications for the Criminal Procedure and the Constitution casebook.

Primus was drawn to the project not only because of the opportunity to collaborate with Kamisar (as well as coauthor Jerold Israel, the Alene and Allan F. Smith Professor of Law Emeritus), but also because it afforded her the chance to shape her students' thinking. "People don't often think about how casebooks will shape the minds of law students and affect how they approach a given subject," she said. "The way in which you organize and order a chapter is the way in which students will internalize the material that they are being taught. This is a unique opportunity and one that I really value."

Also valuable and important, Primus said, is the dedication of the authors to providing a balanced perspective of the cases that they write about. "One of the things that I think is important for a casebook to do," she said, "is to push students to think critically about the cases that they are reading. Because this book includes dissenting opinions as well as majority opinions, students learn that there is more than one way to think about an issue."

Although the newest editions of the Criminal Procedure series were published in late June, Primus and her coauthors aren't resting on their laurels. They're working with publisher Thomson/West to create a teacher's manual for the casebook series, as well as a website that would enable other professors to contribute feedback and relevant articles that could be cited in the books.

"It's just another way of ensuring we stay on top of everything," Primus said, "and that we're responding to what the users want to see in the casebook."

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