Sunday, October 31, 2010

Witchcraft in Print

In time for Halloween, the first floor library display case has a number of books from the library collection on the Salem Witch Trials and earlier trials of witches in England. Brooklyn Law School Associate Librarian Linda Holmes has included these items:

The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide by K. David Goss (Call #KFM2478.8.W5 G67 2008), interpretations of the trials from the earliest historians to late 20th century analysis with relevant and instructive black-and-white photos and illustrations. Fifty court-related primary documents, selectively detailed biographies of key trial figures, an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Witch-Hunting In Seventeenth-Century New England: A Documentary History 1638-1693 edited by David D. Hall (Call #BF1575 .W62 1999), a collection of court depositions and excerpts from the diaries and letters of contemporaries on witch-hunts seen through the eyes of the accusers, the victims, abd the judges revealing the emotions in communal life and family relationships within New England's small towns and villages.

The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History by Peter Charles Hoffer (Call #KFM2478.8.W5 H645 1997), an examination of the Salem witch trials where the author shows how rights we take for granted today did not exist in colonial times and also demonstrates how these cases relate to current instances of children accusing adults of abuse.

Witch-Children: From Salem Witch-Hunts to Modern Courtrooms by Hans Sebald (Call #BF1576 .S43 1995), a study of the participation of small children and adolescents in witch trials, whether as the accused or as the accusers, determining the fates of many unsuspecting men and women. The author maintains that the classic "Salem syndrome" is not mere past history but often reenacted in modern courtrooms where children accuse others of molesting or seducing them, with or without satanic ritual, with a public mind-set predisposed to believe them.
A Trial of Witches: A Seventeenth Century Witchcraft Prosecution by Ivan Bunn and Gilbert Geis (Call #KD371.W56 G45 1997), a case study of the witchcraft trial of two women in 1662 Lowestoft, England, including a description of the accusers and prosecutors and an analysis of the trial itself, which was cited as a precedent in the Salem witchcraft trials.

Witchcraft & Witch Trials: A History of English Witchcraft and its Legal Perspectives, 1542 to 1736 by Gregory Durston (Call #KD371.W56 D87 2000), a book of scholarship showing that the English persecution of witches was overwhelmingly a secular legal phenomenon, rather than the result of popular or ecclesiastical action.

Witchcraft in England, 1558-1618 by Barbara Rosen (Call #BF1581 .W79 1991), a rare collection of documents - pamphlets, reports, trial accounts, and other material - that describes the experience, interpretation, and punishment of witchcraft in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Costly Lessons of Campaign 2010

The 2010 election campaign is drawing to an end with money playing a greater role than ever. The January 21, 2010 US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC opened the way for more campaign spending on TV commercials by corporations and labor union. The Center for Responsive Politices predicts that by Election Day on November 2, this year's midterm elections for the House, Senate, and state governors will have cost nearly $4 billion. The Public Campaign Action Fund estimates that combined House and Senate candidate fundraising and spending will near $2 billion, an average of more than $4 million for each of the approximate 470 open seats. This Wordle visual map of campaign cash used words from 10 articles by Media Consortium members on the topic published from October 25-29.

Whether the voting public has learned any lessons from all this spending is questionable as this year's campaign has been more entertainment than education. In its collection, the Brooklyn Law School Library has the latest issue of the Election Law Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3 (2010) (Call #K5 .L33) with Should Election Campaigns Be Deliberative? by Joseph Bessette.

The article is a book review of What are Campaigns For? The Role of Persuasion in Electoral Law and Politics by James A. Gardner (Call #JK2281.G37 2009) in which the author states that campaigns do not shape public opinion but instead measure it and that election campaigns are "inadequate, undignified, and beneath not only our aspirations but also our capacity as a democratic people seeking to shape our own collective destiny in the world.” The book is an historical account of public participation in the electoral process in the US. The history dates from the early 18th Century when people were “incompetent to evaluate either public policy or the job performance of hierarchically superior government officials” to the Progressive Era of reform from the 1890s to the 1920 when candidates campaigned openly for office and sought to persuade voters of the wisdom of their principles and policies.

The increase in fundraising and spending in election campaigns is significant. The real test of democracy is voter turnout. The New York City Board of Elections has an online Poll Site Locator to find polling places throughout the city. Polling Places are open on Election Day 6:00am to 9:00pm. In addition to choosing Senators, Representatives, Governor, and Attorney General, voters have a choice on two citywide ballot questions approved by the New York City Charter Revision Commission. The questions appear on the back of the ballot. Question 1 is on restoring a limit of two consecutive terms for Mayor, City Council member, Public Advocate, Borough President and Comptroller. Question 2 has seven subparts on Elections and Government Administration. See the 2010 Ballot Questions here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Brooklyn Judge and Flawed Foreclosures

With the mortgage crisis spreading throughout the country, major news stories have been reporting on flawed foreclosure paperwork that the nation's largest banking institutions have allegedly used courts nationwide. Employees of these institutions - "robo-signers" - have submitted misleading affidavits to the courts saying they had examined documents when in fact they had not examined them. In an effort to address the issue earlier this month, the Congress passed H.R. 3808, the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010. The bill did not become law as the President withheld approval of the bill citing The Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655 (1929). A Presidential Memorandum of Disapproval explained the possible unintended impact on consumer protections as the basis for the pocket veto.

Locally, the issue of robo-signing and flawed foreclosure filings has drawn the attention of Brooklyn State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Schack. This week, in Onewest Bank, F.S.B. v Drayton, 2010 NY Slip Op 20429, Judge Schack ruled that the bank, which relied on an admitted “robo-signer” to transfer the $492,000 mortgage on the pro se defendant's East New York home, failed to prove it owned the property in question. “To prevent the waste of judicial resources, the instant foreclosure is dismissed without prejudice,” Schack wrote. The decision is the latest of several that have turned Judge Schack into a hero of troubled homeowners across the nation.

This video from the October 14 edition of PBS NewHour features Judge Schack and others discussing the flawed foreclosure paperwork that has led attorneys general in every state and the District of Columbia to launch a joint investigation into the issue and to a temporary halt by banks in foreclosure proceedings.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection the recently published third edition of the National Consumer Law Center's Foreclosures: Defenses, Workouts, and Mortgage Servicing by John Rao (Call #KF697.F6 R3 2010) described as the best book for in-depth legal research on the subject of foreclosure. The related library record links to the book's companion website for which the publisher has a description here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

National Hispanic Heritage Month

Earlier this month, the nation marked National Hispanic Heritage Month which Congress established in 1988 with the passage of Pub. L. 100-402 designating the “31-day period beginning September 15 and ending on October 15" to recognize the contributions Hispanic Americans have made to American society and culture. That law amended Pub. L. 90-498 which Congress passed twenty years earlier, in 1968, to authorize the President to issue an annual proclamation designating National Hispanic Heritage Week. President George H.W. Bush issued the first proclamation, Presidential Proclamation 6021, for National Hispanic Heritage Month on September 14, 1989. Since then, Presidents George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have issued annual proclamations for National Hispanic Heritage Month. The most recent was President Obama’s Presidential Proclamation 8561 to "honor Hispanics for enriching the fabric of America, even as we recognize and rededicate ourselves to addressing the challenges to equality and opportunity that many Hispanics still face."

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection several items on the subject of Hispanic Americans the most recent of which is Latino/a Rights and Justice in the United States: Perspectives and Approaches by José Luis Morín (Call # E184.S75 M675 2009). The author, a professor of Latin American and Latina/o Studies Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, provides an understanding of the Latino/a experience of discrimination and economic and social injustice in the United States. The book, in its second edition, discusses the racial and ethnic bias that Hispanics encounter in law enforcement and the criminal justice system, citizenship rights, immigration and crime. The author challenges conventional ideas and popular myths about Hispanics in the US.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

BLS Launches LL.M. Program

Brooklyn Law School will begin a new LL.M. program for foreign-trained lawyers in the Fall 2011 semester. The new program offers three specializations: Business Law, Intellectual Property Law, and Refugee and Immigration Law. The LL.M. degree requires completion of 24 credits. There are two required courses (Fundamentals of American Law and Legal Writing & Research for Foreign-Trained Lawyers); the remaining credits are taken as electives based on student goals and specializations.

Prior to applying, applicants must register with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) at it website. To be eligible for admission to the LL.M. program for foreign-trained lawyers, prospective students must hold the equivalent of a J.D. from a foreign university, meet minimum requirements for English language proficiency under TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), and submit at least two letters of recommendation from law school professors, employers, supervisors or other individuals who can the applicant'spotential for successful graduate legal studies. The Early Action application deadline is December 1, 2010 and the Regular Review application deadline is February 1, 2011. More information about the LL.M degree program is on the Brooklyn Law School website.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Google for Lawyers

On the Brooklyn Law School Library’s recent New Book List is Google for Lawyers: Essential Search Tips and Productivity Tools by Carole A. Levitt (Call # K87 .L48 2010). Law librarians do not usually advise using Google but this book recommends that lawyers include effective Google searching as part of their due diligence. It also cites case law that mandates that lawyers use Google and other resources available on the Internet. The book, which targets intermediate and advanced users, demonstrates various advanced search strategies and shows hidden search features that many may not know.

In order to help attorneys become more productive and cost effective, Google for Lawyers shows some lesser-known features of Google such as Google Voice, Google Scholar Case Law search, and Google Translate as well as the better-known office applications like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar. The book will help lawyers learn the ins and outs of Google search shortcuts to save time and money and how to use Google’s advanced features for research to uncover valuable information on the Internet that might have otherwise been missed. There is also discussion of Google’s free office applications to become more efficient in legal practice and save money. Readers can learn to utilize the various Google tools and databases quickly and efficiently to access free case law; find newspaper and magazine articles; set up Alerts; and locate information about expert witnesses, the opposition, jurors, existing and potential clients, missing witnesses. In addition to Google Analytics to track statistics for your web site, lawyers can advertise and market their firms using Google Advertising Services. With step-by-step descriptions, Search Tips, and screenshots that detail the “how” of using all of these features, this book has many Practice Tips and “war stories” from legal professionals.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Plain Writing Act

On October 13, 2010, the President signed into law the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (Public Law No: 111-274) which requires that federal agencies use “plain writing” in every “covered document” issued to the public. Covered documents include any document that would be relevant to getting federal benefits of any type, finding out about federal benefits, or learning how to comply with federal requirements. Included are letters, publications, forms, notices, or instructions but, unfortunately, not regulations. That regulations are excluded is unfortunate given that the language of most regulations is almost unreadable. However, instructions for complying with federal regulations are among those “covered documents,” so it possible that the net effect will be some reduction in that paperwork burden. The complexity of regulations and the way they are written combine to make it difficult for individuals and business to understand. Whether or the new law makes compliance easier remains to be seen. Section 4 of the Act states the responsibility of federal agencies:
Not later than 9 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the head of each executive agency to: (A) designate one or more senior officials within the agency to oversee the agency’s implementation of this Act; (B) communicate this Act’s requirements to the agency’s employees; (C) train agency employees in plain writing; (D) establish a process for overseeing the agency’s ongoing compliance with this Act’s requirements; (E) create and maintain a plain writing section of the agency’s website that is accessible from its homepage; and (F) designate one or more agency points-of-contact to receive and respond to public input on (i)the implementation of this Act; and (ii) the agency reports required under section 5.”
According to H. Rept. 111-432, the history of the effort to implement plain language dates back to 1979 when President Carter issued Executive Order 12174 encouraging agencies to draft forms ‘‘to elicit information in a simple, straightforward fashion.’’ The title of the original bill, H.R. 946, was the Plain Language Act of 2009 when Rep. Bruce L. Braley of Iowa introduced it in February 2010. The Committee on Oversight and Government, chaired by Brooklyn Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns, reported the bill to the House in March 2010 and changed its name to the Plain Writing Act.

The new law is not retroactive so that regulations in effect at the time of its enactment, along with instructions for implementing them, need not be rewritten unless they are being “substantially revised”. Furthermore, the new law becomes effective one year after the date of its enactment in order to give federal agencies time to comply. Congressman Braley issued a press release with three before-and-after examples of plain language in federal documents.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Play Ball!

The Yankees, Rangers, Phillies, and Giants will soon face off in the League Championship Series to determine which team will be the 2010 World Series Champions. It is timely to review items in the Brooklyn Law School Library collection on the subject of baseball. The most recent acquisition, Smart Ball: Marketing the Myth and Managing the Reality of Major League Baseball by Robert F. Lewis, II (Call #GV880 .L55 2010) examines the business of baseball, tracing the history of our national pastime from its pastoral roots as a sport and domestic cottage industry to its position as an economic giant with protected legal status. It also explores the challenges posed by unionization, racial diversity, the steroid scandal, and the international marketing of the business. The chapter on the development of the baseball monopoly is worth reading.

The author, a Cleveland Indians fan, traces his interest in baseball to the 1948 World Series contest when the Indians defeated the New York Yankees and won its last World Series title. But the 176 page book is not about baseball’s heroes, their statistics, or the strategies of team managers. Instead, Smart Ball looks at the business side of the game. Chapters, following the four bases that are part of the game, are titled: First Base - Baseball as a Sport: Creating Power; Second Base - Baseball as a Domestic Monopoly: Developing Power; Third Base - Baseball as a Neocolonialist Abusing Power; and Home Plate - Baseball as a Global Business: Balancing Power. This book is not for the casual baseball fan but is for those interested in understanding the business of baseball.

Another item in the BLS Library collection is The Little White Book of Baseball Law by John H. Minan and Kevin Cole (Call # KF3989 .M563 2009). The 226 page book looks at legal disputes from baseball history with an examination of some of the more arcane rules in baseball. The chapters use baseball’s inning structure offering eighteen innings (a double-header as stated in the preface) of legal disputes resolved by the courts. They include cases on ticket scalping, Lainer v. City of Boston, 95 F.Supp.2d 17 (2000), beanball pitches (Avila v. Citrus Community College District, 41 Cal. Rptr. 3d 399 (2006), and Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption, Flood v. Kuhn, 407 U.S. 258 (1972). The authors use an "Umpire's Ruling" segment after each chapter explaining a legal issue of the game. There is even an explanation of the “infield fly rule”. This book will appeal to both lawyers and sports fans with its short-story format and references to movies, songs, history, and other trivia.

As for the upcoming World Series, may the best team (the Yankees?) win.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Episode 058 – Conversation with Cataloging Librarian Jeff Gabel

Episode 058 – Conversation with Cataloging Librarian Jeff Gabel.mp3

This pod cast features Brooklyn Law School Cataloging Librarian Jeff Gabel. Jeff joined Brooklyn Law School in July 2006. His principal areas of responsibility include contributing to the development of the school catalog and managing the Law School's e-resources. His publications include “Grammatical Noun Cases for Non-Linguists: Bibliometrics Applied to a Subset of the Literature on Finnish Linguistics,” in Collection Management, “Improving Information Retrieval of Subjects through Citation-Analysis” in Knowledge Organization (presented at the Ninth International ISKO Conference, Vienna, July 5-7, 2006), and “Visualizing Similarity in Subject Term Co-Assignment” (presented at the 2009 Vancouver ASIS&T Annual Meeting).

Besides his work at the BLS Library, Jeff discusses his art work for which he recently won the Eight Cuts Gallery Prize for the best literature of 2010. This high recognition is an online literary prize discussed in more detail at the Eight Cuts website “a space to bring writers to readers and readers to writers in the most exciting way possible”. The site recognizes Jeff’s blog (called Thomas Stolperer) and says that his August 12, 2010 post, Small Slidable Plastic Tiles, may be the best thing on the whole internet. Jeff talks about his Facebook page (sign in required) for Thomas Stolperer which he developed from a character in a book by Carl Zuckmayer. The Spencer Brownstone Gallery in New York has shown Jeff’s art work which led to a Critic’s Choice designation in Art Forum. The Village Voice also featured an article Meet Jeff Gabel's Sad-Sack Antiheros.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Citation Index Databases at BLS

The Brooklyn Law School Library has online subscriptions to two Thomson Reuters databases, Web of Science and Journal Citation Reports (JCR), that together provide valuable information for faculty members working toward promotion and tenure. Both databases contain information that can help assess the impact of a particular author, article, or periodical. The datebases are accessible on campus via the Library's A-Z List of databases.

Web of Science is an online citation index that will lead to books, academic journals, and other literature that have cited to a particular work. Researchers can obtain literature showing the greatest impact in a field, or more than one discipline. For example, a paper's influence can be determined by linking to all the papers that have cited it. In this way, researchers can assess current trends, patterns, and emerging fields of research. Web of Science has indexing coverage from the year 1900 to the present. A Thomson Reuters tutorial for Web of Science is available at this link.

JCR allows researchers to evaluate and compare journals using citation data drawn from over 7,500 scholarly and technical journals from more than 3,300 publishers in over 60 countries. It is the only source of citation data on journals, and includes virtually all areas of science, technology, and social sciences. A tutorial for using JCR is at this link. Journal Citation Reports will help the researcher identify the:
  • Most frequently cited journals in a field
  • Highest impact journals in a field
  • Largest journals in a field
Citation and article counts are important indicators of how frequently current researchers are using individual journals. By tabulating and aggregating citation and article counts, JCR offers a unique perspective for journal evaluation and comparison.

These databases provide valuable information for students beginning research in a particular discipline or area of research. The databases do have limitations as not every journal that is published is listed in JCR. Together they provide a great deal of valuable information for both the new researcher and the more experienced faculty member applying for tenure.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Resources for International Law Students

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection Serving the Public: A Job Search Guide (Harvard Law School's Handbook & Directory for Law Students and Lawyers Seek Public Service Work) (Call #KF299.P8 P83) in the Main collection. Volume 2 of this annual publication is dedicated to International work. It describes working in IGOs, NGOs, and in foreign government settings and provides advice and information on required skills, salary ranges, internship and volunteer opportunities. It also lists fellowships and grants and includes a directory of NGO, IGO, and governmental employers. It also includes information on law school summer employment opportunities.

The International Law Students Association (ILSA) has Chapter Program Grants on this link. The American Society of International Law has a web page on Fellowship and Research opportunities. The ABA Section on International Law has the Rona R. Mears Student Writing Competition & Scholarship Awards with a January 2011 deadline. The New York State Bar Assciation has the Albert S. Pergam International Law Writing Competition Award with a December 2010 deadline for a $2000 prize. There are others. Searching for law student scholarships involves creativity and work. Think broadly while looking for scholarships. Feel free speak to a reference librarian at the ref desk for more information.