Friday, December 21, 2007

“A Fair(y) Use Tale”

The Center for Internet and Society (CIS) at Stanford Law School (part of the Law, Science and Technology Program) has posted a humorous and informative video by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University about the Fair Use of Copyright for education. The film called “A Fair(y) Use Tale” uses clips from almost every Walt Disney film ever made to convey the meaning of copyright law, public domain and how fair use exceptions for education can inspire creative presentations. The idea is to encourage creativity, while at the same time get people talking about how Disney and other companies have effectively lobbied to extend copyright from the original 14 years it once lasted, to the now 100 years for corporate copyrights and how that affects new uses of old media.

With the end of final exams and the start of the Christmas holiday, take the time to enjoy the film. BLS Library Blog looks forward to sharing more postings in the coming New Year.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Disappearing Jury Trial

Today's Wall Street Journal Law Blog has a post by Peter Lattman about the disappearing jury trial in the US justice system.
The American jury system is dying.
It is dying faster in the federal courts
than in the state courts.
It is dying faster on the civil side
than on the criminal,
but it is dying nonetheless.
—Judge William Young, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, March 6, 2004

That’s the epigraph of an essay in the American Interest by Neal Ellis, a lawyer at Hunton & Williams in Raleigh. Ellis thinks our legal culture has come to view trying cases as a failure of the judicial system rather than as its cornerstone. Here’s the evidence: Fewer than 2% of civil cases went to trial in 2002, down from 11% 40 years earlier.

While he praises alternative dispute resolution like mediation, he raises concerns over several reasons why jury trials are dwindling. Among them: Rising litigation costs deter potential plaintiffs and encourage the settlement of even negligible claims. Also: The growing fear — which Ellis says is unfounded — that jurors are too unsophisticated and too easily swayed by emotion to render fair verdicts in increasingly complex cases.

Among his suggestions for filling up more jury boxes: capping lawyers’ fees on cases and restricting lawyers’ ability to question potential jurors, which in his view would deepen the jury pool. Without reform, he warns, Americans’ confidence in the judicial system, including the Constitution’s right to a trial by jury, will be dangerously undermined.

Source WLJ Law Blog December 20, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

US Supreme Court on Sentencing Guidelines

Commentators have characterized this week’s decisions by the US Supreme Court (Kimbrough v. US and Gall v. US) dealing with sentencing guidelines as victories for criminal defendants. See the December 10 entry in the Volokh Conspiracy. At first blush, Kimbrough and Gall appear to be victories for opponents of the Sentencing Guidelines. In Kimbrough, the Court addressed the disparity in the sentencing guidelines related to convictions for possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine and affirmed that district court judges are free to impose sentences lower than the guidelines. In Gall, the Court held that a district court sentence of a defendant to a below-guidelines sentence should be reviewed only under a deferential abuse of discretion standard.

A case pending in the Eastern District of New York demonstrates that the grant of greater discretion to district court judges in the use of sentencing guidelines may also result in above-guideline sentencing. The December 13th edition of the New York Sun reports on a gun trafficking case in Brooklyn where Judge Charles Sifton of U.S. District Court sought to impose on a defendant a longer sentence than that sought by the prosecutors. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Judge Sifton on the theory that the stricter sentence would create widespread disparities across the country for how people are sentenced for violating the same federal law. Judge Sifton has reasoned that judges should be permitted to impose longer sentences for gun crimes in New York based on the large population of the community where the unregistered gun was transported. See 5 Fed Sent’g Rep. 303 (May/June, 1993). The Sun article states “Criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors are watching to see if the Supreme Court's case emboldens Judge Sifton to try again to get the longer sentence to stick.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Exam Time Etiquette in the Library

Library 20 minute rule!

Reading period and exam time is very stressful. It is the most crowded time in the Library and, therefore, the time when we need to be most considerate toward each other. There is a group of students that find it acceptable to hog workspace - table space, computer space and conference room space - by planting their personal belongings in the desired location and then leaving for hours at a time.

During exam time, we will enforce a 20 minute rule. This means that if you vacate a seat for more than 20 minutes, you will loose that spot to waiting students. This procedure has been applied to conference rooms for a number of years. We are now extending it to computer workstations. If you see a seat that has been abandoned by a physical body, you can ask someone at the circulation or reference desk to place a sign on the space indicating that the user has 20 minutes to return the sign to the library staff, or loose their space. Material will be moved to the side and if a library-owned computer is involved, that person will be logged off. We will not save your documents.

We hope that this presents a good solution to the problem caused by a few inconsiderate people. I'd be interested in hearing other solutions too!

Episode 012 - Conversation with District Attorney Joe Hynes

Episode 012 - Conversation with District Attorney Joe Hynes.mp3

Last month, Brooklyn’s own Charles J. "Joe" Hynes, the Kings County District Attorney spoke at the Law School’s Subotnick Center about his novel Triple Homicide. The event featured a reading and discussion by DA Hynes of his new novel which examines a district attorney’s fight to expose police corruption. DA Hynes, who serves as a BLS Adjunct Professor of Law and teaches Trial Advocacy at BLS, talked about some of the reforms in the police community since the Mollen Commission of 1992.

The audience for the novel is cops, trial lawyers and the library community. The Library Journal published a favorable review of Triple Homicide in its May 15, 2007 edition. In a recorded interview for the BLS Library Blog, DA Hynes shares some of his experience as a novelist and as a key player addressing official corruption.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Financial & Commercial Law

The Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Financial & Commercial Law has just published its latest issue, Volume 2 Fall 2007 Number 1.


Prima Paint Pushed Compulsory Arbitration Under the Erie Train
Richard L. Barnes

Against Shareholder Participation: A Treatment For McConvill’s Psychonomicosis
Harry G. Hutchison & R. Sean Alley

Attorneys’ Fees Incurred In Defending Insurance Policy Non-Covered Claims: Who Pays?
Joseph F. Cunningham with James N. Markels

The Case for Mandatory Disclosure In Securities Regulation Around the World
Allen Ferrell

A European Solution to the Regulation of Cross-Border Markets
Eric J. Pan

To Sue or Not to Sue: Video-Sharing Web Sites, Copyright Infringement, and the Inevitability of Corporate Control
Andrea Frey

Merkels & Acquisitions or Locusts and Labor Law: What’s Really “Plaguing” Cross-Border M&A in Germany?
Margaret L. Hanson

Hedge Fund Regulation: A Proposal to Maintain Hedge Funds’ Effectiveness Without SEC Regulation
Carl J. Nelson

The Need for a Long-Term Federal Backstop In the Terrorism Insurance Market
Laura M. Reiter