Friday, August 23, 2013

Redirect Notice for BLS Library Blog and URL

With the launch of the Fall 2013 Semester, the librarians at the Brooklyn Law School Library are pleased to announce that its two blogs, the BLS Library Blog and the Brooklaw Library Weblog, have merged into one combined blog. The newly merged blog will use the name BLS Library Blog. Its new home is To continue reading blog posts by the librarians at the Brooklyn Law School, readers need to update their bookmark to the new URL.

All of the older posts from the two former sites, along with reader comments and resources remain available at the new site. We look forward to seeing you again at

The blog, Government Information, which Brooklyn Law School Library Government Documents Librarian Rosemary Campagna writes is about Politics, Legislation and Documents in the News. It retains its own URL

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Zoning Symposium on Land Use

Brooklyn Law School Professor Gregg Macey and former BLS Professor Christopher Serkin (now at Vanderbilt Law School) recently posted Symposium Introduction: Post-Zoning: Alternative Forms of Public Land Use Controls on SSRN.   The full text of the introduction appears at 78 Brooklyn Law Review 305 (2013). The abstract reads:

Brooklyn Law School’s 2012 David G. Trager "Public Policy Symposium, Post-Zoning: Alternative Forms of Public Land Use Controls", called for a critical new appraisal of modern land use regulation. In this Introduction, we describe the topic and introduce the outstanding papers produced for the Issue. Over the years, zoning has widened its reach and flexibility through innovations such as overlay districts and planned unit developments. But these regulatory tweaks continue to take the separation of incompatible uses of land as their point of departure. In this Introduction, we sketch zoning’s origins and suggest why its traditional goals may no longer be tenable. New challenges, from finer-grained externalities within communities to sea-level rise, demand that zoning respond to change at both broader and narrower scales. The impressive set of papers collected in the Symposium address, in varied and creative ways, zoning’s ability to adapt to new pressures on land use from the sublocal to the global. Included in this volume are papers by Vicki Been, Alejandro Camacho, Richard Epstein, Lee Fennell, William Fischel, Nicole Garnett, Rachel Godsil, Gerald Korngold, John Nolon, and Stewart Sterk.

Monday, July 29, 2013

History of the Voting Rights Act

The Brooklyn Law School Library has several items in its collection related to the Voting Rights Act. The latest is Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy by Gary May (Call #KF4893.M39 2013). This fast-paced history of the VRA offers a dramatic, timely account of the struggle that finally won African Americans the ballot—although, as May shows, the fight for voting rights is by no means over.

When the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870 granted African Americans the right to vote, it seemed as if a new era of political equality was at hand. Before long, however, white segregationists across the South counterattacked, driving their black countrymen from the polls through a combination of sheer terror and insidious devices such as complex literacy tests and expensive poll taxes. Most African Americans would remain voiceless for nearly a century more, citizens in name only until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act secured their access to the ballot.

The author describes how black voters overcame centuries of bigotry to secure and preserve one of their most important rights as American citizens. The struggle that culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act was long and torturous, and only succeeded because of the courageous work of local freedom fighters and national civil rights leaders—as well as, ironically, the opposition of Southern segregationists and law enforcement officials, who won public sympathy for the voting rights movement by brutally attacking peaceful demonstrators.

Many argue that the 2008 election of President Barack Obama rendered the act obsolete, and there have been renewed efforts to curb voting rights and deny minorities the act’s hard-won protections. The Supreme Court's recent decision in Shelby County v. Holder declared the protections in Section 4 of the VRA unconstitutional. Recent actions by the Department of Justice make clear that Section 2 and other sections of the VRA remain in play as methods to promote the goal of increasing voting rights. See the Jurist article for more on this issue.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Casetext: Open Access to Legal Texts

An interesting new case law research tool that Brooklyn Law Students can use to gain a better understanding of case law research is Casetext. It is a free, searchable legal database that readers can annotate. The beta version just opened to the public, and the site is building a community of annotators so that lawyers reading a case see related legal documents, articles, and commentary alongside the text.

The database currently contains the bulk of federal cases (all Supreme Court, circuit courts from 1 Federal Reporter 2d, and district courts from 1980); it also has Delaware cases in the Atlantic Reporter from 30 Atlantic Reporter. Co-founders Jacob Heller (former president of the Stanford Law Review) and Joanna Huey (former president of the Harvard Law Review) decided to build Casetext for their own research.

This site is building a community of annotators so that lawyers reading a case can see related legal documents, articles, and commentary alongside the text. Instead of selling access to documents, the site will support itself by offering additional tools that enhance search and save time. It will benefit from user feedback as well as their annotations.
See the instructional video below for more on how to use the database:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Alumni Named Rising Legal Stars

Recent Brooklyn Law School graduates have won praise from the legal community for their accomplishments. Earlier this year, Jeffrey Schulman, Class of 2000, a partner at Dickstein Shapiro LLP, was selected by the New York Law Journal as a Rising Star of 2013 for his work representing corporate and commercial policyholders. Four more alumni have been recognized for distinguished service and leadership.

Michael Asaro, Class of 1998, was named to Law360’s 2013 list of Rising Stars Under 40 in the Securities Bar. Asaro is a partner in the New York office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, focusing on U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigations, white-collar criminal defense, corporate internal investigations, and commercial litigation. As a former federal prosecutor and enforcement attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission, he used his decade of experience as a government lawyer to help hedge-fund industry giants navigate high-stakes litigation. He has also been recognized as a leading lawyer by Chambers USA, New York Super Lawyers, and BNA’s Securities Regulation & Law Report. J

Joshua Bernstein, Class of 2001, is a partner at Pryor Cashman LLP and a member of the firm’s Real Estate Litigation and Hospitality Litigation Groups. Bernstein was also recognized by Law360 as a 2013 Rising Star in the Real Estate category. Several of Bernstein’s most high-profile cases have secured multimillion-dollar judgments for developers fighting against global hoteliers, including Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Mandarin Oriental Hotel & Residence. Described by Pryor Cashman as “an unstoppable force in the courtroom,” he advises clients in disputes ranging from the acquisition and development of real property to the operation and management of hotels. Bernstein has also written two articles on hospitality litigation for the New York Law Journal.

Angela L. Baglanzis, Class of 2002, an associate in the Philadelphia office of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP, was selected as a 2013 Pennsylvania Rising Star in bankruptcy law. Featured in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazines, Rising Stars are chosen by their peers and through the independent research of Thomson Reuters. In her practice, Baglanzis serves businesses in need of restructuring, reorganization, and liquidation. Her clients represent a variety of industries, including retail, bars and restaurants, construction, and real estate. Complementing her focus on bankruptcy and real estate, Baglanzis is a volunteer lawyer for the Homeless Advocacy Center, helping the homeless community find housing and employment.

Cassandra M. Porter, Class of 2004, is counsel to Lowenstein Sandler LLP in the firm’s Bankruptcy, Financial Reorganization & Creditor’s Rights Group. Her practice focuses exclusively on bankruptcy, restructuring, debtor-creditor law, and bankruptcy litigation. Porter’s successful representation of major clients such as U.S. Eagle Corp and its affiliates, Meridian Behavioral Health LLC, and RoomStore, Inc., led to her inclusion on the New Jersey Super Lawyers 2013 list of Rising Stars. She is also the secretary and member of the board of directors of The Financial Clinic, a leading nonprofit dedicated to helping the working poor build financial security.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Beauty of Citizens United

Professor Joel Gora recently posted on SSRN his latest article Free Speech, Fair Elections, and Campaign Finance Laws: Can They Co-Exist?. The full text of the article appears at 56 Howard Law Journal 763 and is available here. The abstract reads:

A prominent politician once observed that, "You can either have free speech or fair elections, but you can’t have both." In the view of this article, that has it precisely backwards. In fact, you cannot have one without the other. The election of 2012 tested that thesis because it was the most expensive federal election in history and it contained what many claimed was a great deal of negative campaign speech and rhetoric. This paper argues that, under the First Amendment, election speech is supposed to be "uninhibited, robust and wide-open" and unrestrained in both quantity and content. Accordingly, the increase in campaign spending and activity by candidates, parties, non-profits organizations, labor unions, corporations and so-called "super pacs" is a good thing for free speech principles and democracy, not a bad thing, and efforts to impose greater limitations on campaign funding should be opposed. The same is also true for the supposed increase in the "negative" nature of the content of much campaign speech. There too a proper view of the First Amendment would applaud and encourage such robust debate about core issues of governance. The article concludes by advocating a number of reforms which will make our electoral speech even more vigorous than it is now.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Municipal Bankruptcy

The City of Detroit's filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, and the breaking news that Michigan Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina has issued an Order directing Governor Rick Snyder to withdraw the petition because the filing violated the state’s constitution, raises serious issues for financially stressed local governments. For more on this development, see the NY Times article.The potential for the Detroit bankruptcy as a test case for municipalities restructuring retirement benefits in bankruptcy court is significant.  

On the subject of municipal bankruptcy, the Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection When States Go Broke: The Origins, Context, and Solutions for the American States in Fiscal Crisis by Peter Conti-Brown and David Skeel (Call #KF1535.S73 W48 2012). Chapter 3 is entitled Public Pension Pressures in the United States. The book collects insights and analysis from leading academics and practitioners that discuss the ongoing fiscal crisis among the American states. No one disagrees with the idea that the states face enormous political and fiscal challenges. There is, however, little consensus on how to fix the perennial problems associated with these challenges. The book fills an important gap in the dialogue by offering an academic analysis of the many issues broached by these debates. Leading scholars in bankruptcy, constitutional law, labor law, history, political science, and economics have individually contributed their assessments of the origins, context, and potential solutions for the states in crisis. It presents readers - academics, policy makers, and concerned citizens alike - with the resources to begin and continue that important, solution-oriented conversation., the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history,