Thursday, July 31, 2008

Professor Susan Herman to Present PLI Program

The Practising Law Institute (PLI) will be conducting its Tenth Annual Supreme Court Review on Tuesday, August 5, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the PLI Center, 810 Seventh Avenue at 53rd Street, New York City. The program will cover cases decided during the Supreme Court's 2007 Term including those involving the rights of enemy combatants, voting rights, the Second Amendment right to bear arms, the death penalty, the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule, and sentencing. Among the presenters will be Brooklyn Law School Professor Susan N. Herman. Links to many of Professor Herman's prolific body of writings are available on Selected Works.

A simultaneous live webcast of the session will be made available to webcast participants who will be able to submit questions electronically. The cost of the program is $995. PLI has a Law Student Scholarship where law students generally receive full scholarships to most programs, except for the $25 application fee.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Serenity Prayer and Law Librarian Research

One of the most emailed stories in yesterday’s New York Times was one by Laurie Goodstein entitled Serenity Prayer Stirs Up Doubt: Who Wrote It? Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), once vice president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York, is generally credited as the author of the Serenity Prayer. See the online version of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. The Times article reports the findings of Fred Shapiro, the Associate Law Library Director at Yale's Lillian Goldman Law Library:
Now, a law librarian at Yale, using new databases of archival documents, has found newspaper clippings and a book from as far back as 1936 that quote close versions of the prayer. The quotations are from civic leaders all over the United States — a Y.W.C.A. leader in Syracuse, a public school counselor in Oklahoma City — and are always, interestingly, by women.

Some refer to the prayer as if it were a proverb, while others appear to claim it as their own poetry. None attribute the prayer to a particular source. And they never mention Reinhold Niebuhr.

For the Yale Alumni Magazine article by Fred Shapiro cited in the Times story, click here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Episode 030 - Conversation with BLS Professor William Hellerstein

Episode 030 - Conversation with BLS Professor William Hellerstein.mp3

A posting on this blog last week told of the appointment of BLS Prof. William Hellerstein to the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Wrongful Convictions. In this pod case, Prof. Hellerstein talks about the work of the task force and his experience as a trial court and appellate litigator dealing with cases of defendants seeking exoneration after having been wrongfully convicted.

Prof. Hellerstein tells of the work that he has done with BLS students in the Second Look Clinic, including the successful outcomes in Schulz v. Marshall in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York and in People v. Wong, 784 N.Y.S.2d 158 (App. Div. 2004) (Westlaw password needed). For more information on the success of the Second Look Clinic in the Wong case, see the BLS link here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

World Justice Forum and the Rule of Law

This past weekend, Vienna played host to the World Justice Forum, a project of the ABA’s World Justice Project. In attendance were more than 500 participants, including dignitaries and world leaders from 112 countries, scholars in a number of disciplines, former and present heads of state, CEOs of multinational corporations, labor leaders and directors of key nongovernmental organizations who met for four days to discuss the rule of law. The WJP described the four universal principles comprising the rule of law:

1. The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law;
2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights,
including the security of persons and property;
3. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient;
4. The laws are upheld, and access to justice is provided, by competent, independent, and ethical law enforcement officials, attorneys or representatives, and judges who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
A news release issued by the American Bar Association reports that participants of the multinational conference reported on their collaborative programs to strengthen the rule of law. In the session on human rights, Pakistani human rights activist Dr. Parvez Hassan stated, “The only thing worse than injustice, is tolerating injustice.” Hassan likened the situation Pakistan faced last year with the deposing of a large percentage of the country’s judges, to what would happen in the United States if seven of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices were stripped of power.

Also speaking at the session on human rights was US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. An ABA Journal article reports that an audience member challenged Judge Ginsburg saying that the United States no longer offers the world a model for commitment to the rule of law because of its anti-terrorist policies. Responding to concerns that US policies violated international conventions prohibiting indefinite detentions and inhumane treatment of detainees, Judge Ginsburg dismissed calls for accountability based on a revenge motive saying "Where do we go, what lessons can we learn from the past? The important thing is, what you can learn from the past and make sure it doesn't happen again."

Prosecutions of violations of law have traditionally served both the desire for retribution and the hope that they will deter future violations.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge Waterfalls

The New York City Waterfalls may not be as beautiful or spectacular as Niagara Falls but viewing them from the South Street Seaport was worthwhile this holiday weekend. The project, a creation of Danish Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson consists of four towering waterfalls cascading down into the East River and New York Harbor. The towers, ranging in height from 90 to 120 feet, are located on the northern end of Governor's Island, by Manhattan's Pier 35, between Brooklyn's Piers 4 and 5, and most dramatically, beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

The falls draw water from the East River at a rate of 35,000 gallons per minute. Because of environmental concerns, the project had to navigate a Byzantine permit process involving 20 permits from 30 city, state and federal agencies and work from engineers, scientists, divers, riggers and environmentalists. Mesh-covered filters had to be installed at intake points to ensure that fish, other organisms and random East River garbage did not mix in with the waterfalls. According to attorney Ronald Daitz, of Weil, Gotshal and Manges, who served as volunteer counsel on the project, the project had unusual challenges including hiring an expert to screen for buried artillery on Governor’s Island, a former military base, now administered by the National Park Service as a National Monument.

The project’s cost, estimated at about $15m, was funded with money raised mostly from private donors by the Public Art Fund which is joining with NYC agencies and environmental organizations to develop resources for young people and adults to examine the waterfront through art, history, environmental responsibility, aquatic life, ecology, water conservation and other related subjects. The NYC Department of Education and the US Department of Environmental Protection have joined with the Public Art Fund to integrate a specially created curriculum inspired by the Waterfalls into New York City classrooms. The curriculum is expected to be released in August 2008. The waterfalls are scheduled to be in place through October 13.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Who's Winning the War on Drugs?

The NY Times editorial entitled Not Winning the War on Drugs says: “Over all, drug abuse must be seen more as a public health concern and not primarily a law enforcement problem. Until demand is curbed at home, there is no chance of winning the war on drugs.” The “War on Drugs” began in June of 1971, when President Nixon identified drug abuse as "public enemy No. 1." Two years later, in July of 1973, he created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to coordinate the efforts of all other agencies. Now, 35 years later, a new World Health Organization (WHO) survey of 17 countries reports that, despite American punitive drug policies, the United States has the highest levels of illegal cocaine and cannabis use. The countries surveyed were:

1. Colombia
2. Mexico
3. United States
4. Belgium
5. France
6. Germany
7. Italy
8. Netherlands
9. Spain
10. Ukraine
11. Israel
12. Lebanon
13. Nigeria
14. South Africa
15. Japan
16. People’s Republic of China
17. New Zealand

The survey concluded that, in general, the US had the highest levels of lifetime use of all drugs. Cannabis use in the US was measured at 42% of the population, far higher than in any other country except New Zealand also with 42%. The US was also an outlier in cocaine use at 16% of the population compared to 4% or lower in other countries for lifetime use of cocaine. Lifetime tobacco use was most common in the US at 74%. Lifetime use of alcohol in the US was measured at 91.6%, the sixth highest in the nations surveyed.

Comparing the statistics between the US and the Netherlands, with drug policies more liberal than in the United States, 19.8% of survey respondents in the Netherlands reported that they had used marijuana at least once in their lives. In the United States, where we arrest more than 800,000 people every year for marijuana, lifetime marijuana use is at 42.4%, according to the survey. The concluding remarks of the survey say: “Drug use is related to income, but does not appear to be simply related to drug policy, since countries with more stringent policies towards illegal drug use did not have lower levels of such drug use than countries with more liberal policies.”

See the following in SARA, the library catalog: Federal Narcotics Laws and the War on Drugs: Money Down a Rat Hole by Thomas C. Rowe, Call No. KF3890 .R69 2006 and How Goes the "War On Drugs"?: an Assessment of U.S. Drug Programs and Policy an electronic resource by Jonathan P. Caulkins.