Monday, March 29, 2010

Title IX and School Bullying

In January of this year, the US Department of Justice for the first time argued that it could enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., to seek protection against discrimination based on gender expression. The DOJ made the argument in a Memorandum of Law in support of its motion to intervene in the case of J.L. v. Mohawk Central School District filed in US District Court for the Northern District of New York. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed the civil rights complaint in August of 2009 on behalf of a male teenage student bullied for acting too effeminate. The suit maintained that district officials were aware of the bullying and did nothing to stop it. The School District denied the allegations. The Motion to Intervene presented to the District Court a novel question about the reach of Title IX.

Before the Court could rule on the motion, the parties reached a settlement agreement providing $50,000 to the plaintiff, $25,000 to the ACLU, district-wide training on appropriate responses to anti-gay harassment, and payment to cover the plaintiff's continued therapy. The NY Times’ article Gay Student Settles Lawsuit Against NY District and the NYCLU website provide more detail on the facts of the case and a link to the settlement agreement.

The issue of bullying and especially cyber-bullying in schools has drawn the attention of lawmakers. NY State Senator Kemp Hannon has spread cyber-bullying awareness on Long Island and across New York State and introduced legislation which prohibits bullying and cyber-bullying on school property and establishes a statewide central registry for bullying, cyber-bullying and hazing complaints. “Tragically, cyber-bullying has become a new reality, and thus, a serious focus in our communities. We must respond by increasing awareness as well as prohibiting such dangerous behavior,” said Senator Hannon whose bill S7158 increases penalties for hazing and prohibits bullying and cyber-bullying.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection material on the topic. See Confronting Cyber-Bullying : What Schools Need to Know to Control Misconduct and Avoid Legal Consequences by Shaheen Shariff (Call # HV6773.2 .S5 2009) with these chapters: Cyber-misconduct : who is lord of the bullies? -- Profile of traditional and cyber-bullying -- Cyber libel or criminal harassment: when do kids cross the line? -- Student free expression: do the schoolhouse gates extend to cyberspace? -- Fostering postive school environments: physical and virtual -- Censoring cyberspace: can kids be controlled? -- The tragedy of the commons: lessons for cyberspace?

See also Bullying in Schools: How Successful Can Interventions Be? edited by Peter K. Smith, Debra Pepler, and Ken Rigby (Call # LB3013.3 .B85 2004) a comparative account of the major intervention projects against school bullying carried out by educationalists and researchers since the 1980s, across Europe, North America and Australasia.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Episode 053 - Conversation with Environmental Law Society

Episode 053 - Conversation with Environmental Law Society.mp3

This podcast is of a conversation with two officers of Environmental Law Society (ELS) at Brooklyn Law School. ELS is a student organization with interests in environmental law, international law, the laws of war and bio-terrorism, real estate law, land use and zoning laws. The ELS officers talk about their efforts to create opportunities for its members by hosting events where students can meet with leading experts in a variety of fields. They also discuss their plans for the upcoming year. ELS recently sponsored Irena Salina's award-winning documentary investigation into an important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century - The World Water Crisis. The documentary is called Flow: How Did a Handful of Corporations Steal Our Water?

ELS showed the film during the same week when the United Nations sponsored World Water Day on March 22. Starting in 1993, the United Nations General Assembly by resolution designated March 22 of each year as the World Day for Water. Here is the trailer for the documentary Flow.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

BLS Library Alum in the News

Former Library Student Circulation Assistant Francisco Rivera, Brooklyn Law School Class of 2008, is making news in the job market despite the harsh reality of the current economic downturn. Featured in a article Community Action Helping Unemployed Find Work, Rivera explains that he put his dream of becoming a practicing lawyer temporarily on hold and sought alternative employment options.

Funds from the 2009 Stimulus Bill, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) (Pub. L. 111-5), allowed Rivera to find alternatives at this stage of his career. “Without ARRA, my job search might still be continuing,” said Rivera, who is now employed as a Community Advocate with the Westchester Community Opportunity Program (WestCOP), a private not-for-profit agency providing multipurpose social service assistance and operating community programs to combat poverty in Westchester and Putnam counties.

According to the article, WestCOP has received $2.1 million in ARRA funding for job creation and training and has added 43 staff members to help others in the community through the Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling (CASAC) program and to place them into paid jobs. In addition to social assistance and outreach supported by ARRA, Westchester and Putnam county residents in need can receive resume writing direction, often the first step towards securing employment.

Rivera, as part of his work with WestCOP created the Resume Improvements for Securing Employment (RISE) to help those looking for employment. “It is all in the presentation. Regardless of your background or what type of job you are seeking, the resume is a universal language that can make an impact upon employers,” said Rivera, who is providing help to both Spanish and English speaking individuals looking to create or enhance their resume. “I am so grateful to be in a position where I am helping young people in my community get into college. I’m providing tax assistance and even helping with job placement,” said Rivera. “There is a lot of hardship out there, but there is also a lot of help.”

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Call for Proposals at ILW 2010

The American Branch of the International Law Association and the International Law Students Association will present the annual International Law Weekend (ILW) at Fordham Law School in New York on October 21-23, 2010. The event marks the the 89th annual meeting of the American Branch. The overall theme at this year’s ILW 2010 is “International Law and Institutions: Advancing Justice, Security and Prosperity.” ILW organizers are seeking proposals for 90-minute panels with three or four speakers, in a point-counterpoint, roundtable, or other format. Proposals for panels are due no later than Friday, April 9, 2010. Panels at past ILWs have addressed a wide range of topics related to public and private international law. At last year's panel, Brooklyn Law School Professor Claire Kelly chaired a panel on Trade and Climate Change.

Friday, March 19, 2010

New US Supreme Court Site

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court began hosting its own website The Court assumes responsibilities for site management from the Government Printing Office (GPO) which provided hosting services for the past ten years. The new site has a new clean look.

The former, much maligned GPO URL,, will redirect users to the new site through July 1, 2010. The Office of Public Information of the US Supreme Court issued a press release saying :
Visitors will find that the Supreme Court Web site has an updated and more user-friendly design. The site continues to provide online access to the Court's slip opinions, orders, oral argument transcripts, schedules, Court rules, bar admission forms, and other familiar information. But it also has several new features, including enhanced search capabilities, an interactive argument calendar, improved graphics, and additional historic information. The Court plans to continue to update and expand the site's features over time.
The appearance of the new site is a vast improvment over the old one but the White House, Senate and House of Representaive websites appear more user-friendly. While the front page has links to recent opinions and the argument calendar and rotating pictures of the Supreme Court building, users may encounter some difficulties when they link to Supreme Court material from other sites. Many links simply default to the home page rather than linking directly to the desired material. For example, readers who link to the recent case of “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission” from the New York Times story on it will come to a default link to the home page and not the actual opinion. It seems that the webmasters have not yet forwarded many old URLs to new ones. Another item is that the Sliplists opinions go back only to the 2006 term. Before that, the website has bound volumes 502 to 548 and users need to know the citation in order to access material in the bound volumes. The Supreme Court’s improved Web site, as visually appealing as it is, continues to remain incomplete as an exhaustive historical record.

On the bright side, does provide access to orders, dockets, Court calendars, Argument Transcripts, Argument Calendars, Rules, case-handling guides, and press releases. As for Merit Briefs, the content of the new website is the same as that of the old website and researchers are left to use subscription databases or other internet sources.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Episode 052 - Conversation with Prof. Aliza Kaplan

Episode 052 - Conversation with BLS Prof. Aliza Kaplan.mp3

This podcast is of a conversation with Professor Aliza Kaplan, Brooklyn Law School’s resident award-winning documentary film producer. Beside teaching legal writing and representsing asylum seekers through the Law School’s Safe Harbor Project, Professor Kaplan sits on the National Advisory Committee of Equal Justice Works, the nation’s leading public interest law fellowship program. She is the former Deputy Director of the Innocence Project, a not-for-profit that uses DNA evidence to exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners. In addition to representing inmates in their efforts to obtain DNA testing, she coordinated the Innocence Project’s media and fundraising events.

For more on the award-winning film, read the Brooklyn Law School News & Events page Professor and Producer: Aliza Kaplan's Post-9/11 Film, "The Oath," wins Sundance Award. Before serving as Co-Producer for The Oath, she was Co-Producer for My Country, My Country (2006), Advisor for After Innocence (2005), Advisor for Deadline (2004), Consultant for the PBS documentary, Burden Of Innocence (2003) and Consultant for Court TV’s Stories of the Innocence Project.

Prof. Kaplan talks about her role as co-producer for Laura Poitras’ latest film The Oath, the second in a post-9/11 trilogy. The film is a portrait of two brothers-in-law, both former associates of Osama bin Laden: Abu Jandal, who became bin Laden's bodyguard, and Salim Hamdan, who was his driver. Jandal left before 9/11 but Hamdan stayed and was captured and later was the subject of the landmark Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. This video of an interview with Laura Poitras, director of The Oath, shows some clips of the film.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Cost-Effective Legal Research

The librarians at Brooklyn Law School have long promoted cost-effective legal research to patrons and to students in their Advanced Legal Research classes. In academia, students enjoy free access to Westlaw, LexisNexis and Bloomberg databases to facilitate their research. That changes when law school students start their first clerking positions and when graduates start as firm associates. In the practicing world, firm economics limit the resources available to clerks and associates. Learning about the firm’s pricing plans for its LexisNexis or Westlaw subscriptions, as well as the firm culture for use of either service is important. Pricing plans involve these components
• Transactional or per search charges depend on the file you select – the larger the file, the higher the fee. Start with the smallest file that you need, then conduct a broad search, using Focus or Locate commands to narrow results within search results to avoid a new search charge.
• Hourly fees for searching each file depends on its size and complexity. Start with the smallest file needed, print off a cite list, and view results offline.
• Flat rate – Some of the databases may be outside the contract and incur additional fees for access. Be sure to understand the applicable restrictions and firm policies for searching.
• Printing and Retrieval – Both services assess additional fees for printing and downloading (per document or per line) as well as retrieving using the Get A Document or Find commands, and conducting Shepard’s or KeyCite searches.
Pricing changes for legal databases are likely now that Westlaw is offering its new interface, WestlawNext, and LexisNexis is planning its own revamped platform, New Lexis. The promise of new and improved searching on legal databases may require more thought about cost-effective techniques according to Three Geeks and a Law Blog’s post, WestlawNext Pricing - Up To $3400 Per Hour!! WestlawNext’s results are comprehensive and come from all of the WestlawNext databases, whether or not they are in the firm’s contract. If a user clicks on one of those results and views a document that is out of contract, ancillary charges are assessed. A first-year associate that clicks on a 50-State Survey and reads it online for an hour or two will likely incur hefty charges that will draw unwanted attention from superiors. Thomson Reuters document "WestlawNext: Pricing Guide for Commercial Plans" has generic pricing from February 8, the launch date of the new product and is subject to change. The importance of becoming educated on cost is paramount especially with new products such as WestlawNext.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Episode 051 - Conversation with Matthew Handler, Class of 2010

Episode 051 - Conversation with Matthew Handler, Class of 2010.mp3

Today's podcast features Matthew Handler, Brooklyn Law School Class of 2010. Matt won first place in the 2009 Chief Justice John B. Doolin Writing Competition sponsored by the Oklahoma Supreme Court for his article, “Tribal Law and Disorder: A Look at the System of Broken Justice in Indian Country and the Steps Needed to Fix It” published in the Oklahoma Supreme Court Sovereignty Symposium Compendium (2009). The article also appears in Volume 75, Number 1 of the Brooklyn Law Review (2010).

In this conversation, Matt talks about what led him to write the article, the first section of which has an historical overview of Indian Law. He also discusses difficulties in law enforcement arising from the tribal/federal dichotomy and analyzes the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2008 with suggestions to deal with crime in Indian country most effectively. For more information about Matt and his article, see the Brooklyn Law School News & Events page Matthew Handler ’10 Wins First Place in Oklahoma Supreme Court Writing Competition.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Brooklyn Journal of International Law Vol. 35.1

The current issue of the Brooklyn Journal of International Law Volume 35 Number 1 (2010) is available here. The Table of Contents is displayed below:

The Journal, which began in 1975, publishes three issues per year. Since its inception, the Journal's commitment to publishing substantive, scholarly articles has made it one of the top ranked international journals in the nation. Brooklyn Law School Professor Claire R. Kelly serves as the faculty advisor for the Brooklyn Journal of International Law.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Twitter and Law Schools

Today's post on the Law Librarian Blog discusses how professors in schools hit hard by the recession are using Twitter as an inexpensive solution to the growing problem of increasing class sizes and to improve class participation. The video about University of Texas at Dallas Professor of History Dr. Monica Rankin's Twitter Experiment shows how Twitter helps her reach more students and involve them in class discussions both in and out of the classroom.

The Social Media Law Student's post, How Law Schools are Using Twitter, reports that law schools are now catching on to how thousands of colleges and universities have been using Twitter to communicate with students and the rest of the world stating that "Twitter also promotes law school websites. Most law school websites are updated frequently but no one can keep track of all the updates. However, a law school’s Twitter feed can update simultaneously with the school’s website updates thus providing a central place for law schools to communicate with students and the community about the law school." The post has a list of Law Schools Using Twitter.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has been using Twitter this past year. Follow Us on Twitter.