Friday, March 28, 2008


Today's Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports on a new website that offers practical advice to law students looking for judicial clerkships.

The site,, was started this past February by Ellen Carey, a 32-year-old clerking veteran. In an interview with the Law Blog, she talks about what led her to create the website and gives some details about the clerkship application process. The website's menu has links to the Application Process (with practical tips about the best time to apply, letters of recommendation, writing samples. cover letters and resumes); the Interview; Job Hunt Strategies; On-The-Job Advice; and FAQs. There is also a fairly extensive list of Clerkship Vacancies from around the country with links to useful resources like the Clerkship Notification Blog, the US Courts Job Vacancies Page and the Federal Law Clerk Information System web page.

Brooklyn Law School offers a variety of resources and assistance to students interested in applying for post-graduate judicial clerkships. For the current version of the Clerkship Manual and other information about applying for clerkships, BLS students can consult the Judicial Clerkship page on the Career Center webpage

Source: WSJ Law Blog, SoYouWantToBeALawClerk? A New Web Site Claims to Lead the Way by Dan Slater, March 28, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

E-Voting and the Integrity of Elections

Episode 021 – Conversation with Josh Benfey, Class of 2009.mp3

In this pod cast, we hear from Josh Benfey, Class of 2009 and a member of the BLS chapter of the American Constitution Society, one of over 160 law school chapters of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. The ACS was founded in 2001 and is one of the nation's leading progressive legal organizations. Its projects address a range of issues such as: Access to Justice; Constitutional Interpretation and Change; Criminal Justice; Democracy and Voting; Economic, Workplace and Environmental Regulation; Equality and Liberty; Religion Clauses; Separation of Powers and Federalism; and International Law and the Constitution Working Group. This week, the BLS chapter of ACS hosted a screening of “Hacking Democracy”, a non-partisan, critically-acclaimed, Emmy-nominated 2006 documentary from HBO. The film addresses electronic voting machines which, since the 2000 presidential election, count nearly 90% of US votes.

See the trailer for the film.

Designed to eliminate voting problems that occurred in the 2000 election, especially in Florida, touch screen voting machines have had a history of security flaws in states such as Florida, New Jersey and Ohio. Law suits and congressional reports have questioned the reliability of e-voting. A recent NY Times article reports on a New Jersey lawsuit challenging the results from voting machines used in the February 8, 2008 primary election. Another recent news report tells of calls to shift away from paperless systems citing the 18,000 uncounted votes in the 2006 elections in Florida's 13th district that critics attributed to error or tampering with the electronic voting machines. A House Judiciary Committee Report requested by Rep. John Conyers entitled "Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio" raised questions about electronic voting in the 2004 presidential election. The GAO issued a Report of E-Voting Challenges in April 2007 citing concerns that included “vague or incomplete voting system standards, system design flaws, poorly developed security controls, incorrect system configurations, inadequate testing, and poor overall security management." Despite these concerns and legislative efforts by Sen. Bill Nelson (FL) and Rep. Rush Holt (NJ) bill to pass the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2000 to require voter-verified permanent paper balloting, the 2008 elections will likely use electronic voting.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Episode 020 – Conversation with Margaret Hanson, Class of 2008

Episode 020 – Conversation with Margaret Hanson, Class of 2008.mp3

In this pod cast, we hear from Margaret Hanson, Class of 2008, and Editor-in-Chief of the Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Financial and Commercial Law. Founded in 2005, it is the newest of the student-run journals at BLS and is devoted to business law topics, specializing in corporate, financial and commercial law subjects, including securities and bankruptcy law. Margaret talks about the benefits of working on a scholarly journal and the lessons learned as Editor-in-Chief. She also discusses plans for the upcoming year for the journal with the new Editor-in-Chief, Andrew Kirkpatrick and the new Managing Editor, Paul Schwartz.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Iranian Gays Seek Asylum in UK to Avoid Execution in Iran

The cases of a twenty-year-old gay Iranian in London on a student visa and a forty-year old Iranian lesbian show the complex legal, political and personal issues in the law of political asylum. The stories highlight governmental policies with profound human rights implications: Iran’s barbaric policy of executing its citizens for homosexual conduct by a method of slow strangulation designed to maximize suffering; the British Home Office policy of reducing the number of successful asylum applications and increasing the rate of refugee deportation; and a flawed EU agreement designed to work out an orderly political asylum application process for refugees.

According to CNN International, Mehdi Kazemi, originally sought asylum in the UK after learning that his boyfriend had been executed in Iran after saying, under torture, that he and Kazemi had been in a gay relationship. The British Home Office, rejecting Kazemi's request, ordered him to be deported in a written statement saying that even though homosexuality is illegal in Iran, it did not believe that gays were routinely persecuted purely on the basis of their sexuality. After he was ordered deported, Kazemi fled to the Netherlands where the Council of State (the highest administrative court in the Netherlands) rejected Kazemi’s plea for asylum on the grounds that it had to comply with the Dublin Regulation and return Kazemi to Britain. Under the Dublin Regulation, adopted by the EU in 1997, an asylum seeker must lodge an application for asylum in the first EU country where he or she arrives. The Dublin Convention was designed to prevent “asylum shopping” and is an effort to harmonize asylum policies in the EU.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution this past Thursday (by a vote of 46 to 2 with 12 abstentions) urging a solution to the case, pointing out that the Iranian authorities "routinely detain, torture and execute persons, notably homosexuals" and that "Mehdi's partner has already been executed, while his father has threatened him with death". It also urged EU members “to take action to prevent similar situations in the future, while acknowledging that the Commission has announced, for 2008, amendments to the Dublin Regulation”. The resolution also cited the case of an Iranian lesbian, Pegah Emambakhsh, whose asylum application had been denied by UK authorities despite fears that she would face execution if deported to Iran. A report in the British newspaper the Independent gives the details of her case.

For now, Kazemi’s asylum application is under review by the British Home Office which has announced a temporary stay on his deportation. "This is very positive. But reconsidered doesn't mean he'll get a permit, they could still deny what he is asking," Kazemi's Dutch lawyer told according to a Reuters report.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Episode 019 - Conversation with Jared Goodman, Class of 2009

This week, the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund hosted a screening of Earthlings, a 95 minute documentary narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. The film is an in-depth examination of factory farming and mankind's dependence on animals for food, clothing, entertainment and use in experimentation. Using hidden cameras and other footage, the film chronicles the day-to-day practices of industries that rely on animals for profit – industries such as the leather and fur trades, the sports and entertainment industries and the medical and scientific professions. The film also focuses on animal abuse in pet stores, puppy mills and animal shelters. See the trailer.

In this conversation, Jared Goodman, President of the BLS Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, and SALDF member Kathleen Christatos, Class of 2010, discuss the film and the work they do as the local chapter representing the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Episode 019 - Conversation with Jared Goodman, Class of 2009.mp3

Readers interested in learning more about the subject can check out books from the BLS Library collection including Peter Singer's In Defense of Animals: the Second Wave, Call # HV4711 .I6 2006.

The BLS Library has a fairly extensive collection of related material such as the seminal, philosophical 1983 treatise The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan, Call # HV4708 .R43 1983 and Steven M. Wise's Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals, Call # HV4708 .W57 2000.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

W&L Law School to Teach Practice of Law

In an innovation that may well transform the future of legal education, the Washington and Lee School of Law has announced a new third-year curriculum that will replace all academic classes with practical simulations, real-client interactions and the development of law practice skills. In addition to exposing students to “actual interactions with clients,” the program will teach them to “keep track of their billing hours” according to an article by Vesna Jaksic in today’s National Law Journal. The subject matter of the simulations will include traditional topics like banking and corporate finance, securities law, environmental law and family law. The program will require students to obtain a Virginia practice certificate and take part in real life client cases during the course of a year long professionalism program.

The pioneering program, aimed at providing more of a hands-on experience for future lawyers, may have some disadvantages that practice oriented professionals may overlook. Law schools by their nature are academic institutions that are devoted to scholarship. Arguably, the law school experience is already too short a time to learn a significant amount of substantive law. Devoting the third year to practice rather than substance might shortchange students in the study of law. After all, many of them will be spending the rest of their lives in the practice of law.

A medical school model for the third year of law school has its attraction from the point of view of the practitioner. Revising law school curricula to integrate more clinical education into traditional scholarship may be a better way to take into account the practical aspects of law without sacrificing the academic mission of law school. In any event, the challenge of a modern practical legal scholarship is a daunting one.

Law Student Mental Health Initiative

This month, the American Bar Association Law Student Division has launched a mental health initiative to help law students battling depression, anxiety and substance abuse. The culmination of the project is National Mental Health Day on March 27. According to the organization’s web site, it will provide participating law schools with a mental health toolkit for student bar organizations and law deans to make available to students. Included in the toolkit is The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress a pamphlet written by Lawrence Krieger, a clinical professor at Florida State University College of Law.

One objective of the initiative is to help de-stigmatize problems with depression and anxiety among students. Often students avoid seeking help because they are concerned that they may have to disclose their problems in order to sit for the bar exam in their jurisdiction. On February 11, 2008 the ABA House of Delegates adopted as ABA policy a new Model Rule on Conditional Admission to Practice Law for bar applicants who have substance abuse or mental health conditions. Many jurisdictions may deem applicants unfit to practice for those reasons. The model rule, which is only advisory, would allow admission authorities to monitor such individuals for a period of time to insure that recovery is successful. It also provides for confidentiality so that those using its provisions will feel free to seek treatment without suffering stigma or denial of admission.

Locally, the New York City Bar Lawyer Assistance Program (NYC LAP) has a free, confidential service, available to attorneys, judges, law students and their family members, in New York City, who are struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, depression, anxiety, stress, as well as other addictions and mental health issues.

Source: National Law Journal, Leigh Jones, ABA Law Student Group Tackles Depression, March 12, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Mann Act or the White Slave Traffic Act

With Gov. Spitzer’s resignation, now might be a good time to look at the federal statute on which the Justice Department based its wiretap investigation of him as we wonder why the federal government prosecuted him in the first place. The Mann Act, officially known as the White Slave Traffic Act, was passed in 1910. Now codified in 18 US Code §2421, it reads:

Whoever knowingly transports any individual in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory or Possession of the United States, with intent that such individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

A 1986 amendment to the Mann Act substituted the current phrase "engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense" for earlier language, which prohibited transportation of any "woman or girl" in interstate or foreign commerce for the "purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose".

Historical events leading to the enactment of the original statute are worth noting. From 1907 to 1914, there was wave of hysteria about "white slavery," the alleged practice of actually kidnapping young women and forcing them into brothels. The statute, initially passed to implement US adherence to the 1904 International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic aimed at the trade in white women in forced sex-for-hire, was a legislative response to an early 20th century “white slavery panic”. Also, prostitution, being an established fact of life in big cities and the subject of intense concern among reformers, was viewed as a threat to public decency and public health due to the sexually transmitted diseases associated with it. Puritans, social reformers, and hygienists all agreed that prostitution was a behavioral problem that needed to be controlled and changed through legislation.

In a series of cases from Hoke v U.S., 227 U.S. 308 (1913) to Caminetti v U.S., 242 U.S. 470 (1917), the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the original language of the Mann Act under a view of federalism that expanded federal regulatory power. Since then, the Mann Act has been used to prosecute a number of controversial political and public figures. Among them were the famous black boxer Jack Johnson for his affair with prostitute Lucille Cameron whom he later married, Charlie Chaplin for his involvement with actress Joan Barry and singer Chuck Berry after he invited a 14-year-old Apache waitress whom he met in Mexico to work as a hat check girl at his club.

Whether the Mann Act is a legitimate exercise of federal power or a statute that has been misused by overreaching federal prosecutors is a debate worth having. Useful reading on the topic is David Langum's Crossing Over the Line: Legislating Morality and the Mann Act, Call # KF9449 .L36 1994 in the BLS Library.

See also Sex, Corruption, Federalism, & the Mann Act posted in yesterday’s PrawfsBlawg.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Preparation for Future Law Clerks

This month, the popular law blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, posts several entries of interest to soon-to-be judicial clerks that include reading recommendations of books, articles, blogs and other material. See the postings here and especially here to find useful comments of current and former judicial clerks. Most of the titles listed here were suggested in the comments and are available in the BLS Library collection with the Call Number:

Frank Morey Coffin, On Appeal: Courts, Lawyering, and Judging
Call # KF8750 .C62 1994

Frank Morey Coffin, The Ways of a Judge: Reflections from the Federal Appellate Bench
Call # KF8750 .C63

Erwin Chemerinsky, Federal Jurisdiction
Call # KF8858 .C43 2007

Bryan A Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage
Call # PE2827 .G37 2003

Ruggero J. Aldisert, Opinion Writing, West Pub., 1990.

Other recommendations are Joseph Kimble’s 2006 article on plain language, The Straight Skinny on Better Judicial Opinions; the Green Bag's Clerkship Politics and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines at The law clerks suggested daily reading of leading blogs like Sentencing Law & Policy, How Appealing, Decision of the Day, SCOTUSblog and The Volokh Conspiracy.

The comments also include useful practical tips that prospective law clerks will want to read. Not the least of these is to “introduce yourself to the law librarians. They can be terrific sources of help to you with research, acquiring materials from other places, and information re navigating the courthouse and its personnel. Law librarians are hardwired to be helpful -- and they really want you to be a success at your clerkship.”

Friday, March 7, 2008

Episode 018 - Conversation with Professor Ann Althouse

Episode 018 - Conversation with Professor Ann Althouse.mp3

Visiting Professor of Law Ann Althouse joins the faculty at Brooklyn Law School this academic year from the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, where she has been a Professor of Law since 1984. At BLS, Professor Althouse teaches Constitutional Law and Federal Courts and the Federal System. In today's conversation, we discuss Prof. Althouse's popular blog, Althouse, which she has written since 2004, posting photographs and commentary on law, politics, and popular culture. Prof. Althouse also addresses the impact of blogs on the future of legal scholarship citing her 2006 article Why A Narrowly Defined Legal Scholarship Blog Is Not What I Want: An Argument In Pseudo-Blog Form from the issue of the Washington University Law Review on bloggership.

For the past twenty years, Prof. Althouse has made significant contributions to traditional legal scholarship. See a list of her key scholarly works in Wikipedia. She has been a guest columnist for the New York Times. And if you can’t get enough of the divine Ms. Althouse, check out Audible Althouse for a collection of pod casts talking about blogging and other topics.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Brooklyn Judge Urges U.S. to Stop Seeking Death Penalty

A recent order by the Hon. Jack B. Weinstein, Senior Judge of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn and former Adjunct Professor of Law at BLS, describes the high financial costs of a death penalty case in the federal courts. The order dealt with scheduling and jury selection in the case of a defendant charged with capital murder after he had confessed to a grisly double homicide of two fellow drug dealers. Judge Weinstein, after reciting the substantial judicial effort of the case involving 11 separate rulings, stated:

“To date, more than $769,000 has been spent on defense costs alone in this capital case. It is likely that the prosecution has expended an equal amount. Thus, from its inception until today -- before trial has even begun -- the insistence of the government on a death sentence has cost over $1.5 million. With 500 or more jurors and an extensive two-phase trial taking months, an additional amount equal to what has already been laid out will probably be required. These sums are typical of those expended in other capital cases in this district… Based on the history of the cases tried in metropolitan New York, the chance of Pepin receiving the death penalty is virtually nil.”

An article in today’s New York Sun describes the U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn as the hub of death penalty prosecutions in the Northeast where other local federal judges have asked the Justice Department to reconsider decisions to seek the death penalty. The requests to the Justice Depart to review pursuing capital punishment are based on the monetary and manpower costs of holding capital trials rather than opposition to capital punishment. Judge Weinstein’s order shows that the monetary and ideological arguments are interwoven when he states:

“From an analysis of other capital cases brought in the Eastern District of New York…the killing of two colleagues over a drug trafficking disagreement [is] not likely to result in a jury verdict of death. Apparently, the only death penalty judgment imposed in New York federal courts in the last fifty years was one where the defendant deliberately killed, under terrible circumstances, two policemen.”

Source: New York Law Journal, Mark Fass, Judge Urges U.S. to Stop Seeking Death Penalty News Briefs dated March 3, 2008

Monday, March 3, 2008

BLS Law Students for Veterans Rights

One of the newest BLS student organizations, Law Students for Veterans Rights is devoted to representing veterans in the New York City area. Law students offer veterans returning from combat help in resolving problems of inadequate medical care, delays in benefits, treatment and rehabilitation for injuries, homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, domestic problems and reintegration into civilian life. The organization works with other local public service groups such as Iraq War Veterans, LGBT Veterans of New York City, Congressional Advocacy groups and a clinic of 10 New York City law firms.

Elizabeth Towell, Class of 2009, and Susannah Ashton, Class of 2009, talk about the work of the Law Students for Veterans Rights. They also discuss the film When I Came Home which the group will screen on Wednesday, March 5 at 5pm in Geraldo’s at Feil Hall. The film features homeless American veterans who served in Vietnam and the current war in Iraq and looks at the challenges they face in obtaining veterans’ benefits.

Episode 017 - Conversation with Law Students for Veterans Rights.mp3