Witkin Guides at the Alameda County Law Library by Eric Yap
(Photos by Eric Yap)
“Where can I find Witkin’s?” When patrons so inquire, we have to ask a few questions of our own. Are they looking for an overview of California law, or for focused coverage of procedure, evidence, or criminal topics? Do they prefer using print or going online? Regardless of the answers, the patron has chosen an excellent resource. The guides originally authored by Bernard Witkin are the gold standard among treatises on California law: they have guided attorneys for decades and have been cited in countless judicial decisions over the years.
How did these guides come to be the leading authority on California law? It all started when Bernard Witkin, who had recently graduated from UC Berkeley’s School of Law, realized there was high demand for the notes he had compiled to study for the California bar exam in 1928. While working for the California Supreme Court as a law clerk and then as reporter of decisions, he continually updated the materials, which were eventually published as “Summary of California Law.” His efforts later expanded to specialized treatises in various areas of the law. Over his long career, Witkin also dedicated himself to improving judicial education, served with distinction on the California Judicial Council, and was renowned for his philanthropic endeavors.
In 1996, a year after he passed away, Alameda County Law Library’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution to name the library after Bernard Witkin, in honor of the many contributions of the long time Alameda County resident. Together with the Witkin Legal Institute, the library sponsors an annual Witkin Memorial Symposium that has covered conflicts of interest in the practice of law, the civil justice crisis in California, and learning from ethical nightmares, among other topics. This year’s program, on the topic of dependency law, will be held on May 3, 2016. The speakers will be Janet Sherwood and Margaret Coyne from Avokids.
Today, Bernard Witkin’s legacy continues in the form of many print and online resources patrons use on a daily basis at ACLL:
Summary of California Law 10th ed., by B.E. Witkin and members of the Witkin Legal Institute (call number: KFC 80 .W5 2005). The original treatise authored by Bernard Witkin is a 16 volume set that includes coverage of torts, contracts, real property, commercial law, corporations, wills and trusts, and other legal topics. Summary of California Law is updated in print through cumulative annual supplements, and available online through Westlaw.
California Procedure, 5th ed., by B.E. Witkin and members of the Witkin Legal Institute (call number: KFC 995 .W52 2008). This 10 volume treatise covers various topics in California civil procedure including pleadings, motions, pretrial proceeding, and trial proceedings. It is updated in print through cumulative annual supplements, and accessible through Westlaw.
California Evidence, 5th ed., by B.E. Witkin and members of the Witkin Legal Institute (call number: KFC 1030 .W52 2012). California Evidence covers burden of proof and presumptions, circumstantial evidence, opinion evidence, hearsay, discovery, witnesses, and other aspects of California evidence law. At ACLL, these volumes are updated in print through the 2014 Supplement, and patrons can access the current version using Westlaw.
California Criminal Law, 4th ed. by B.E. Witkin, Norman L. Epstein, and members of the Witkin Legal Institute (call number: KFC 1155 .W52 2012) The 7 volumes include coverage of crimes against persons, crimes against property, punishment, criminal procedure, and criminal trial and appeal, among others. California Criminal Law is updated in print through the 2014 Supplement, and patrons can use Westlaw for the most updated version.
Finally, if you are interested in a classic work by Bernard Witkin, the library has a copy of his Manual on Appellate Court Opinions (call number: KFC 75 .W53), which was published in 1977. Do check it out!