A Legal History of Santa Cruz County (2006 book)

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A Legal History of Santa Cruz County was published in 2006 by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH). The multiple authors and contributors are: Bob Bosso, Sara Clarenbach, Austin Comstock, Dwight Herr, Pat Pfremmer, Alyce Prudden, Stan Stevens, and Mark Thomas. A helpful section of the Acknowledgements breaks down authorship by chapter.

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The scope of this history is sweeping, beginning with pre-statehood days and continuing right up to 2003. It includes a wealth of information not previously collected, plus never-before-published interviews with many retired judges and attorneys, covering much of the late 20th-century legal happenings in Santa Cruz County.

This book was especially valuable for a member of the current History Publications Committee at the MAH, which is beginning work on issue 9 of the Santa Cruz County History Journal - an issue that will focus on land use history of the past 50 years or so. Most of those land use issues ended up in court, and the legal complexities are described in some detail in this book.

When I got semi-serious about local history in 2009, it was distressing to find differing versions of historical facts in different publications. Getting all local historians on the same factual page was one goal of this blog. With that in mind, there are a number of questionable statements in this book. As is often the case, the inaccuracies occur in the less-well-researched "background" sections, rather than in the core legal history material - especially in the earlier chapters.

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The image at left shows the table of contents page.

In contrast to the History Journals, the MAH History Publications Committee had little or no control over content in A Legal History. For that reason, a disclaimer was inserted on the publisher's page. With that caveat, this book is a valuable addition to the local history library. In the core subject areas, where the authors put most of their expertise and research, A Legal History adds a lot to the published historical record of Santa Cruz County.

You can see in the book cover image that the copy reviewed here came from Santa Cruz Public Library. Volunteers should perhaps be instructed not to cover up book titles with bar code stickers, but the unpaid helpers make valuable contributions to our library system. SCPL doesn't get enough credit for its efforts to remain a major repository of local history materials, and for supporting the Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County.