Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NYC is “Marijuana Arrest Capital” with 39,700 Arrests in 2007

A 108-page study, "The Marijuana Arrest Crusade in New York City: Racial Bias in Police Policy 1997-2007", written by Harry Levine of Queens College and lawyer Deborah Patterson Small, was released yesterday by the New York Civil Liberties Union. The report shows nearly 400,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana since 1977, when the NY State legislature amended the Rockefeller Drug Laws by passing the Marijuana Reform Act of 1977. That reform made simple possession of marijuana a violation and not a crime under § (221) of the State Penal Law.

Notwithstanding these reforms, the report alleges that most of the arrests were based on a questionable stop and frisk campaign aimed primarily at minorities and young people and not for having marijuana “burning or open to public view”. Data provided by the Division of Criminal Justice Services showed that 52% of the suspects were Black, 31% Hispanic and only 15% White. Blacks represented 26% of the city’s population, Latinos accounted for 31% of the arrests but 27% of the population and Whites represented only 15% of those arrested while comprising 35% of the population.

The report puts the yearly cost to NYC of arresting, jailing and arraigning an average of 35,000 people a year, mostly teenagers and young adults, at approximately $53 million to $88 million. Despite NYPD claims that the effort is effective, the report says the arrests do not reduce serious or violent crime and may increase it by diverting officers from more effective anti-crime work.

Monday, April 28, 2008

US Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Law Requiring Photo ID for Voters

Today’s Bloomberg News reports that the US Supreme Court by a vote of 6-3 in the case of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board rejected a challenge by the Indiana Democratic Party to Indiana's photo id requirement for voters. The Indiana Voter ID Law (SEA 483), passed in 2005, is viewed as one the nation's strictest voter-ID law requiring registered voters to present photo ID’s to vote at the polls. According to the opinion, the statute applies to in-person voting at both primary and general elections but not to absentee ballots submitted by mail.

Justice Stevens, writing for the majority, writes at p. 11 of the opinion:
The only kind of voter fraud that SEA 483 addresses is in-person voter impersonation at polling places. The record contains no evidence of any such fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history…It remains true, however, that flagrant examples of such fraud in other parts of the country have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists.

Footnote 11, citing to voter fraud with a local New York flavor, reads:

One infamous example is the New York City elections of 1868. William (Boss) Tweed set about solidifying and consolidating his control of the city. One local tough who worked for Boss Tweed, “Big Tim” Sullivan, insisted that his “repeaters” (individuals paid to vote multiple times) have whiskers:
“When you’ve voted ’em with their whiskers on, you take ’em to a barber and scrape off the chin fringe. Then you vote ’em again with the side lilacs and a mustache. Then to a barber again, off comes the sides and you vote ’em a third time with the mustache. If that ain’t enough and the box can stand a few more ballots, clean off the mustache and vote ’em plain face. That makes every one of ’em good for four votes.”

Recalling the colorful past of Tammany Hall to justify voter ID laws seems dated and out of touch with todays' voters which Justice Souter’s dissenting opinion addresses in real terms:

Tens of thousands of voting-age residents lack the necessary photo identification. A large proportion of them are likely to be in bad shape economically…The Voter ID Law places hurdles in the way of either getting an ID or of voting provisionally, and they translate into nontrivial economic costs. There is accordingly no reason to doubt that a significant number of state residents will be discouraged or disabled from voting.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Free New Web-based Legal Library

An article in today’s NY Times reports on JDSupra, a website that began in February 2008 where consumers can do preliminary research on legal issues before seeking help from a lawyer. The site is free of charge but requires users to register in order to access documents. Lawyers and law firms can use the site as a marketing tool to promote their practice by uploading legal documents, memos, forms, filings and briefs for use by the legal community and the public.

The site is searchable by keyword allowing refined searches by jurisdiction, court/circuit/region, type of filing and subject matter. The number of organizations and firms that have contributed documents to the site is small bit growing. The firms with the largest number of contributions to the website are the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Morrison & Foerster.

There is a Hot Docs section of newsworthy filings, for example an April 21, 2008 NJ Supreme Court decision in State v. Reid (that ISP subscribers have a privacy right in their internet data and that law enforcement officials need a grand jury warrant to have access to their private information) and a newly posted U.S. Department of Labor - Employees' Compensation Appeals Board decision on an employee's claim that exposure to Agent Orange caused cancer. While these documents are available on commercial databases, the FAQ section on the website states:

Today there are millions of court filings, decisions, and articles on the law sitting idly in the various hard drives and filing systems of the legal community. Only a fraction of these documents are on Westlaw, LexisNexis, and other expensive services.
Given the limited number of participating lawyers and law firms registered with JDSupra and the fact that the accuracy of material posted on the site is dependent on users to flag questionable documents, it is not likely that JDSupra will provide competition for paid legal research providers like LexisNexis and Westlaw. But tech-savvy researchers now have a new web-based library tool.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Summer Reading Suggestions

Summer draws near and now is a good time to check out the local library for reading material other than casebooks while away from school. The Law and Politics Book Review has published a special issue devoted to fiction with reviews of 22 American, British and European novels from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Here is the list with links to the reviews. The BLS library call numbers are included for items (including videos) in our collection.

Abbey, Edward, The Monkey Wrench Gang Reviewed by Darren Botello-Samson

Asimov, Isaac, I, Robot Reviewed by Susan M. Behuniak

Atwood, Margaret, The Handmaid’s Tale Reviewed by Kathleen A. Cameron

Campbell, Bebe Moore, Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine Reviewed by Angela Mae Kupenda

Camus, Albert, The Stranger Reviewed by David S. Mann

Carofiglio, Gianrico, Involuntary Witness Reviewed by Christoph Konrath

Dickens, Charles, Bleak House (BLS Library Call # PR4556 .A1 1992) Reviewed by R. B. Bernstein

Drury, Allen, Advise and Consent Reviewed by Trevor Parry-Giles

Grisham, John, A Time to Kill (BLS Library Call # PS3557.R53 T562 1996 (VIDEO)) Reviewed by Laura J. Hatcher

Guterson, David, Snow Falling on Cedars (BLS Library Call # PS3557.U846 S65 1995) Reviewed by Margaret S. Hrezo

Huxley, Aldous, Brave New World Reviewed by Tracy Lightcap

Kafka, Franz, The Trial (BLS Library Call # PT2621.A26 T75 1998 (VIDEO)) Reviewed by Adelaide H. Villmoare

Lee, Harper, To Kill a Mockingbird (BLS Library Call # PN1997 .T59 1998 (VIDEO)) Reviewed by Richard A. Glenn

McEwan, Ian, Saturday Reviewed by Lynne S. Viti

Melville, Herman, Billy Budd, Sailor Reviewed by Stephen A. Simon

Motley, Willard, Knock on Any Door Reviewed by Walter J. Kendall III

Rowling, J.K., Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Reviewed by Bruce Peabody

Stevenson, Robert Louis, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Reviewed by Simon Stern

Twain, Mark, Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins Reviewed by Christopher P. Banks

Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr., Cat’s Cradle Reviewed by Stephen McDougal

Warren, Robert Penn, All the King’s Men Reviewed by Susan McWilliams

Wolfe, Tom, The Bonfire of the Vanities Reviewed by David Schultz

Source: Law Librarian Blog, dated April 25, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Episode 026 - Conversation with Professor Anita Bernstein

Episode 026 - Conversation with Professor Anita Bernstein.mp3

Professor Anita Bernstein joined Brooklyn Law School in 2007 as the new Anita and Stuart Subotnick Professor of Law. Before coming to BLS, Prof. Bernstein held faculty chairs at both Emory University School of Law and New York Law School. Teaching and writing primarily on tort law, she also focuses on feminist jurisprudence, professional responsibility and products liability. The Selected Works web site lists many of the works of this prolific author. In this pod cast, Prof. Bernstein discusses her latest work entitled Asbestos and Gender (BLS password required) which considers how gender affects what plaintiffs receive in mass tort actions using asbestos litigation as one of several illustrations.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pre-Release Screening of “At the Death House Door”

Tonight at 8pm in the Subotnick Center on the 10th Floor of 250 Joralemon Street, the 90 minutes film “At the Death House Door” will be shown. The film is a look at the death penalty in the State of Texas seen through the eyes of Pastor Carroll Pickett, who served for 15 years as the death house chaplain to the infamous "Walls" prison unit in Huntsville. During his career, Pastor Pickett presided over 95 executions, including the world’s first lethal injection. After each execution, Pickett recorded an audiotape account of his trip to the death chamber.

The film will be followed by a half hour discussion period led by Professor Ursula Bentele. All are welcome. Here is the trailer for the film.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Episode 025 - Conversation with Visiting Scholar Davide Leiballi

Episode 025 - Conversation with Visiting Scholar Davide Leiballi.mp3

In this conversation, Visiting Scholar Davide Leiballi talks about his legal studies in Italy and in the United States. Davide came to New York to further his legal research on trademark dilution in the US and the EU, the subject of the dissertation he is writing for his Master of Law degree in Italy. He explains that it is the scholarly association of Prof. Arthur R. Pinto of Brooklyn Law School and Prof. Gustavo Visentini of Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome that brought him to BLS. Prof. Pinto has been a visiting lecturer on American corporate and securities law at LUISS University in Rome.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

90% of Life is Showing Up

There is an old saying most often attributed to Woody Allen that "90% of life is showing up." Actually, it turns out that the number is somewhere between 75 and 90, depending on the recollection of the person reciting the quote, but either way, the balance of life is about following up. Allen's point is a good one. Just get involved, make the call, or introduce yourself. The results will astonish you. In fact, once you take the initiative, momentum alone can drive you toward your goal.

Where many of us falter, however, is in the follow-up. We expect to be rewarded for our risk taking, not realizing that success is the product of both good ideas and great execution. That execution requires you to be one part relentless telemarketer (in the most respectful way, of course), one part super cheerleader (without the pom-poms) and one part Zen master (to control the anxiety), all of which are contrary to traditional legal training. Even the most successful among us get rejected the first few times we attempt something. That rejection is usually not a reflection of the merits of an idea or strategy. More often, it is simply a function of poor timing. If someone sends you a letter thanking you for your resume and advising that there are presently no openings, it is very possible that there really are no openings. Our collective instinct is to assign another meaning to that message and consider it a negative judgment on our qualifications. Next time, considering following up with a thank you note and check back in a few months. The great follow-up balancing act is to control the urge to call or e-mail someone ten times per day, but fight the complacency of making contact once and giving up. Here are some tips to manage the follow-up process.

Establish a schedule
Between classes or billable hours, you must schedule items you need to complete. To-do lists are fine, but I would suggest using an electronic calendaring system of some sort with reminders. If you speak with someone about a job or client development opportunity, add a follow-up e-mail or phone call to your calendar. It could be a month, it could be six, just keep in touch.

Be polite
When calling someone, ask whether the timing is convenient. If not, thank them and end the call. If they have a minute, take it, but not much more. Learning about the person you are calling is also a courteous gesture. Be sure to understand his or her business/practice area (a Google search should suffice) and try to find some memorable common ground (something as simple as practicing in the same city may work, but being alumni of the same school or residents of the same town is ideal). The key is to be yourself in the most positive way that you can while relating to the person you are contacting on both a professional and personal level.

Be succinct
Once you find common ground, get to the point. Chitchat is fine, but your goal is to follow up on whatever you original request may have been. Your contact knows you are calling out of the blue for a specific reason and is giving you an opportunity to share it. Take the opportunity and run. Describe exactly what you are following up on and why it is important for him or her to consider.

Be resilient
If (when) you get rejected, don't over-analyze that judgment. The best action you can take is to send a thank you note and move forward. Immediately follow up with the next person on your list. You will eventually speak with someone at a time that is convenient for him or her, and who has a sincere interest in what you are discussing.

Evaluate your performance
Although it is a mistake to criticize yourself for rejection, the great achievers and connectors use it as a chance for personal evaluation. Have you mastered your pitch? Is your tone authoritative? Be honest.

In the end, the key is to follow up in a way that demonstrates thoughtful commitment to the issue, but flexible understanding of the circumstances surrounding that level of contact. You already get 90% for showing up, work for the extra 10% and you will be handsomely rewarded.

Source: The National Law Journal, The Other 10% of Life
Ari Kaplan / Special to, April 14, 2008

Episode 024 – Conversation with Bettina Chin, Class of 2008

Episode 024 – Conversation with Bettina Chin, Class of 2008.mp3

The Editor-in-Chief of the Brooklyn Law Review, Bettina Chin of the Class of 2008, talks about being a member and editor of the oldest of the student-run legal periodicals at BLS. The Law Review began publication in 1932 and usually publishes four issues each year with articles covering a broad range of current legal issues. Each issue contains articles written by eminent legal scholars, practitioners and judges, and notes and comments on new legislation and case law written by student members. In addition to her own student note, Regulating Your Second Life: Defamation in Virtual Worlds, 72 Brook. L. Rev. 1303 (Summer 2007), Bettina addresses working with her colleagues and the Law Review’s Faculty Advisor Dana Brakman Reiser. She also offers suggestions for the upcoming year when Anita Nabha will be the new Editor-in-Chief.

Friday, April 11, 2008

NARA's Web Harvest Program to End

A recent article in reports that for the first time in the history of the internet, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has decided to abandon its Web Harvest Program where it records snapshots of Executive Branch websites at the end of each presidential administration. A recent NARA memo (NWM 13.2008) states:

“After considering our other records management program priorities for FY 2008, availability of harvested web content at other "archiving" sites (e.g., ), and the resources required for conducting and preserving a government-wide web snapshot, NARA has determined that we will not conduct a web harvest or snapshot at the end of the current Administration.”

The article says that the "last Executive Branch web harvest that NARA conducted preserved 75 million web pages, many [of] which will be valuable records for historians in the coming decades. The Internet Archive may cease to exist in 10 years, but the archives will only grow more valuable with time. Not capturing federal web sites now may mean losing millions of web pages authored under the Bush administration when leadership changes in January 2009." The Sunlight Foundation comments that "The fact that digital preservation is done by others outside NARA isn't an excuse for NARA to abdicate their responsibility, but an argument that they should be capable of fulfilling it." (Digital Preservation Under Threat? by John Wonderlich, April 9, 2008)

This move is contrary NARA’s mission to enable people to personally inspect the record of what the government has done. It is not clear what prompted this decision. A comment suggests limited funding by Congress and the Administration is the cause. The NY Times addressed the issue this week in an article by John Schwartz In Storing 1's and 0's, the Question Is $. It is not a technological issue; it is an issue of funding and policy and control.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Episode 023 – Conversation with Shannon Haley, Class of 2008

Episode 023 – Conversation with Shannon Haley, Class of 2008.mp3

In this pod cast, Shannon Haley of the Class of 2008 and Editor-in-Chief of the Brooklyn Journal of International Law, talks about her experience as a member and editor of the journal. BJIL began publication in 1975 and usually publishes three issues each year with articles on both public and private international law by authors from academia, government service and private practice. In addition to her own student note, A Shot Across the Bow: Changing the Paradigm of Foreign Direct Investment Review in the United States, 32 Brook. J. Intl L. 1157 (2006-2007), Shannon addresses the impact of the BJIL symposia issues on the scholarly reputation of Brooklyn Law School. She also discusses the journal competition process and the upcoming year when Laura Scully will be the new Editor-in-Chief. Students wanting information on the journal competition process can read more about it at

Saturday, April 5, 2008

DNA Evidence Used For Inculpation and For Exoneration

In the past twenty years, advances in forensic DNA technology have revolutionized the American criminal justice system. DNA analysis not only has the power to exonerate the innocent, it also has the potential to eliminate suspects in many cases as well. A recent article in the Science Section of Thursday’s New York Times shows that it also helps apprehend the guilty. The article discusses an investigative technique called "surreptitious sampling" where law enforcement officers tail a suspect until he or she discards an item like a cigarette butt, a soda can, a disposable coffee cup, a tissue or similar trash that the officers can use to retrieve a DNA sample for comparison to DNA recovered at a crime scene. This method of gathering evidence also includes giving a suspect a can or glass during interrogation and keeping it to test for a DNA sample.

Critics claim this practice constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and therefore violates the privacy rights of the accused and of citizens in general. However, some courts have held that such DNA material was abandoned when the suspect threw away the cigarette or coke can and that there is no need for a court to approve such evidence gathering or issue any type of warrant. In 2007, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, in Commonwealth v. Cabral, 866 N.E.2d 429, held that the a defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in his saliva that he spit on the sidewalk and that the DNA evidence collected from the sample was admissible. Other lower court judges generally agree with such reasoning. How the US Supreme Court will address the issue is discussed in a 2006 article in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics entitled Is Obtaining an Arrestee’s DNA a Valid Special Needs Search Under the Fourth Amendment? What Should (and Will) the Supreme Court Do?”

As the NY Times article suggests, there will be a number of different approaches to this problem in years to come. Permitting the use of evidence gathered through surreptitious sampling may require that law enforcement meet a standard of reasonable suspicion. Adding this requirement would ensure that random people are not subject to such surreptitious sampling. Courts so far have sided with the police as it has long been accepted since the US Supreme Court case of California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988) that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left outside of a home for collection based on a theory of reasonable expectation of privacy.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Episode 022 – Conversation with Nick Reiter, Class of 2008

Episode 022 – Conversation with Nick Reiter, Class of 2008.mp3

In this conversation, we hear from the Editor-in-Chief of the Brooklyn Journal of Law and Policy, Nick Reiter of the Class of 2008. The Journal of Law and Policy began in 1993 and usually publishes two issues each year. Its mission is to analyze and promote the debate of law-related issues and public policy through articles written by legal scholars, law students and distinguished members of the legal and policymaking communities. Nick talks about his article, Dollars for Victims Of "Victimless" Crime: A Defense Of Drug Dealer Liability Acts published in Volume XV, No. 3 (Winter 2007) of the Journal at pp. 1329-1374. He also talks about the support from Prof. David Reiss, Prof. Margaret Berger and the journal members in helping him in the management of the journal this year. Nick also discusses plans for next year's journal under the management of Seth Cohen, the incoming Editor-in-Chief.