Tuesday, December 29, 2009

BLS Library in Ciudad Santiago

While Jean J. Davis, Brooklyn Law School’s Foreign and International Law Reference Librarian and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law, is touring law libraries in China, Harold V. O'Grady, Reference Librarian and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law at BLS, is visiting law libraries in South America. Interestingly, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet just inaugurated the exhibition, "The Ancient China and the Terracotta Army," in the central hall of the Cultural Center La Moneda Palace in Santiago.

Today's post updates the one here about the law library in Buenos Aires with news that he met today not only with law library personnel at the Facultad de Derecho of the University of Chile in Santiago but also with a distinguished alumnus of the law school and an American law professor on the campus for a visit. Caroline Maulin, Law Librarian, who led the tour of the Biblioteca on behalf of Director Nora Carrion, explained that because of Chile's smaller population, as compared to Argentina, the law school in Santiago is much smaller than the one in Buenos Aires. Here the school has about 1,300 law students who study law over a period of five years and students are required to complete three major components to earn a degree: a practicum, a thesis and an examination. For more detailed reading on the subject, see Antonio Bascunan Valdes, Legal Education in Chile, 43 S. Tex. L. Rev. 683 (2001-2002) in HeinOnline available to BLS law school community on the Library's A-Z List of subscription databases. Caroline explained that there were two libraries at the University, the central library for most of the law students and another for the exclusive use of post grads.

While the tour was in progress, the law students at the University of Chile were in the middle of their final exams which take place in December and January just before the summer recess. The photo here shows that whatever differences there are in legal education in Chile and the US, law students have one thing in common: exhaustion.

The library collection consists of about 50,000 print volumes of which about 6,000 are on reserve and about 3,300 are reference material. The collection also contains more than 14,000 theses completed by graduate and post graduate students as well as more than 650 legal periodicals, mostly from South America but also from North America and Europe. There is also a special collection of about 19,000 volumes that is one of the most valued in the country especially its historical collection. Chileno law students, like their Argentine counterparts, have access to electronic databases without charge only in the law library.

Also in attendance on the tour was Daniel Friedenzohn, J.D., M.A., Assistant Professor of Law who teaches Aviation Law at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach FL. The alumnus responsible for the tour was Guillermo Aguero, who earned his law degree from the University of Chile thirty years ago and a graduate law degree in labor law a dozen years ago. Aguero is now a member of the municipal council of Ciudad Santiago and discussed the upcoming presidential run-off election in Chile between the two candidates who received the most votes on December 13 — center-right Sebastián Piñera and center-left Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle. The run-off will be held on January 17 with the winner to replace President Michelle Bachelet, the first woman to hold the position in the country's history. She won the 2006 presidential election in a runoff and is ineligible to run for a second consecutive term under Chilean law.

Friday, December 18, 2009

BLS Library Goes to Buenos Aires

Today is one of a number of days in December and througout the year when students from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) School of Law (Facultad de Derecho) take part in graduation ceremonies. UBA is the largest university in Argentina and the largest university by enrollment in Latin America. The BLS Library Blog was present to witness the awarding of dipolmas to the more than 200 law students along with their family and friends. The reason there are several graduation ceremonies is that the student body at the Facultad de Derecho consists of 35,000 students who study over a period of 7 years, according to Silvia Abadal, Vicedirectora of the Biblioteca Central at UBA who gave me a tour of the law school and the library on behalf of the Director, Corrina Tiribelli.

The ceremony took place in the Aula Magna under a magnificient painting of the founding of the UBA in 1825. In attendance were professors who provide legal instruction as part of a faculty of 3,000 members under the leadership of the Dean, Atilio Anibal Alterini, el Decano de la Facultad de Derecho.

Vicedirectora Abadal led a tour of the library which contains 300,000 volumes along with about 3,000 legal periodicals mostly from Latin America but also many international legal periodicals including several from the US. At this time, there are none from Brooklyn Law School. One item of interest is that legal periodicals at UBA are not operated by student run organizations but rather by the faculty. There are many other differences in legal education in Argentina. For example, besides the 7 year course of study, most student take three courses per quarter during two quarters per year and attend class about 6 hours per week. The basic law degree comes at not cost to the students as it is paid for by the State. The doctoral degree is very costly. Most students live off campus, as there are no university dorms, and nearly all students are full time employees while attending law school. The library is able to provide students with free access to legal databases but only in a designated room operated by the two major legal database publishers, La Ley and Lexis. Students have to pay for off campus access as the cost of providing access off campus to so many students is prohibitive.

In addition to electronic databases, the library´s print collection is housed in two large rooms, a circulation room and a Reading Room (la Sala Silenciosa) which can accommodate less than 500 of the student body. Our tour of the library took place when it was closed and no students were using it as final exams took place in the past two weeks. With the closing the library, law students working for the library were engaged in an annual inventory of the collection. With my limited Spanish language skills, I was able to communicate with some of the student workers, who, while not fluent in English, were able to communicate with me. Most of the students with whom I spoke were about half way through their studies and had not yet decided their area of interest. Grading is on a scale of 1 to 10 with the average grade at 5. The library student workers I met were above average students with a grade of 7 and planned to pursue a graduate law degree depending on the availability of money from family or jobs as financial aid and student loans are not common in Argentina.

The classrooms in the enormous building total about 140 most of which have about 40 seats each. That helps explain the limited class time for most students and the length of study over 7 years. On leaving the vast entry hall, I had to work my way through the enormous crowd of family and friends of the graduates. The school will close for the month of January although there will be summer courses beginning the following month.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Episode 048 - Conversation with Professor of Law Derek Bambauer

Episode 048 - Conversation with Professor of Law Derek Bambauer.mp3

In this pod cast, Brooklyn Law School Professor of Law Derek Bambauer discusses his latest paper Cybersieves recently published at 59 Duke L.J. 101 (2009). Prof. Bambauer, who teaches Internet law and intellectual property, is also one of the co-authors of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School’s Info/Law, a popular blog that addresses Internet law, intellectual property, and information law. In his article, Prof. Bambauer discusses a framework for internet filtering and censorship that draws on procedural values respected in democratic societies. The abstract for the article reads:

This Article offers a process-based method to assess Internet censorship that is compatible with different value sets about what content should be blocked. Whereas China’s Internet censorship receives considerable attention, censorship in the United States and other democratic countries is largely ignored. The Internet is increasingly fragmented by nations’ different value judgments about what content is unacceptable. Countries differ not in their intent to censor material—from political dissent in Iran to copyrighted songs in America—but in the content they target, how precisely they block it, and how involved their citizens are in these choices. Previous scholars have analyzed Internet censorship from values-based perspectives, sporadically addressing key principles such as openness, transparency, narrowness, and accountability. This Article is the first to unite these principles into a coherent methodology. Drawing upon scholarship in deliberative democracy, health policy, labor standards, and cyberlaw, this Article applies this new framework to contentious debates about sales of censorship technology by Western companies, public law regulation of these transactions, and third-party analysis of Internet censorship.
Prof. Bambauer’s other scholarly publications are available on his publications page.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

VAT: Cure For Deficits?

Earlier this month BeSpacific linked to the U.S. Debt Clock, a site designed to inform the public of the US financial condition. “The numbers are laid out so as to give a complete real-time snap-shot of the country's balance sheet. . . All the debt clocks are updated continuously." The site uses government data to show different measures of the national debt. For example, the total US national debt now exceeds $12 trillion, with debt per each citizen approaching $40K and more than $110K per each taxpayer. In addition to US federal tax revenue of almost $2 trillion, the site lists the largest budget items for the federal government: $712 billion for Medicare/Medicaid, $642 billion for Social Security, $603 billion for defense/wars and $363 billion for interest on debt. The site also lists state revenues of just over $1 trillion along with state debt of an almost equal amount. In addition, there is data on money creation, trade numbers, business assets and employment statistics.

To deal with the growing national debt, the House leadership plans to raise the debt ceiling to nearly $14 trillion as part of a $626 billion bill next week to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and other military programs in 2010. President Obama is expected to seek an additional $30 billion early next year to pay for the 30,000 troop buildup in Afghanistan with another $50 billion to pay for a six-month extension of unemployment benefits and health care insurance subsidies for the long-term jobless. With growing concern about the federal budget deficit, more than half of senior executives surveyed by the Tax Governance Institute expect some type of value-added tax (VAT) to be introduced in the US within five years according to a press release. A recent NY Times Many See the VAT Option as a Cure for Deficits explains why a value-added tax may be good for economic purposes but bad politics. A Congressional Research Service report A Value-Added Tax Contrasted With a National Sales Tax addressed the recommendations of President Bush’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform's final report with analyses of both a national sales tax (NST) and a value-added tax (VAT). How the VAT works is explained in this short video:

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection the print version of Value Added Tax: A Model Statute and Commentary by the ABA, Alan Schenk, Reporter (Call #KF6598.A95 1989) which contains the report of the ABA Section Committee on Value Added Tax, an introduction to value added tax, the text of a model statute, and commentary on the statutory language. It is available on Westlaw (Database ID:ABA-VALADTAX). See also Reducing the Deficit through Better Tax Policy by Diane Lim Rogers published by the Brookings Institution (Call #HJ2051 .R64 2007) (INTERNET).

Friday, December 11, 2009

More Tips for Finals

Just in time for the Brooklyn Law School final examination period, the WSJ Law Blog has posted two items that BLS students may want to review. The first was a post called What Makes a Good Law School Exam Answer? Law Profs Weigh In with thoughts by six noted law professors that might shed some light on what professors lookfor. Next is On Crushing Your First-Year Exams: Advice From Some Who Did with responses from half a dozen students who finish this sentence: "The smartest thing I did while preparing for my 1L first-semester exams was . . .” Among the student responses was one from Max Shifrin, BLS Class of 2010 and a member of Brooklyn Law Review, who offered this advice:

The most crucial thing to do as a 1L, in my opinion, is start outlining early in the semester and finish [your outlines] early enough to take as many practice exams as possible in real time. Professors test the exact same things year in and year out. If you do enough exams, you’ll begin to see a pattern which will give you a huge advantage on exam day.
Those who have been less diligent in preparing for exams throughout the semester may want to check out A Law School Slacker's Guide to Cramming at Nuts & Boalts. To take a break from study, today's Law Librarian Blog in a posting under the category "Exams - Studying" about movies, A Tribute to the Movies, urges law students to give the brain cells a break and completely relax in order to be able to go back to the books refreshed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Episode 047 - Conversation with Professor of Law Michael Cahill

Episode 047 - Conversation with Professor of Law Michael Cahill.mp3

In this pod cast, BLS Professor of Law Michael Cahill discusses his latest paper about the crime of blackmail. Prof. Cahill, whose area of expertise is Criminal Law, co-authored the article Competing Theories of Blackmail: An Empirical Research Critique of Criminal Law Theory with Prof. Paul H. Robinson of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Daniel M. Bartels, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago. The article summarizes the results of an empirical study designed to test the competing theories of blackmail to see which best reflects prevailing sentiment. In this podcast, Prof. Cahill discusses the findings in the article as well as some of the unexpected issues uncovered by the study. Blackmail, a common object of criminal prohibition and a rich subject in popular culture (for example, the recent Letterman $2M sex affair extortion plot) is a crime in every American jurisdiction although with some variation in its formulation.

Prof. Cahill teaches courses at BLS in Criminal Law, Sentencing Law and Policy, Criminal-Code Drafting, Criminal Juries, Attempts and Endangerment Offenses. He co-authored with Prof. Robinson Law without Justice: Why Criminal Law Doesn't Give People What They Deserve (Call # KF9223 .R63 2006) on the role of retribution in the criminal justice system. His other scholarly publications are available on his publications page.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Religion, the Workplace and Justice

An article in BNA’s US Law Week (available on the BLS Library’s E-Journals & Databases A-Z list) reports that the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, with Brooklyn Law School’s former Dean and current Eastern District of New York Judge David G. Trager, sitting by designation, allowed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to seek more information about how UPS Inc. handles religious exemptions to its nationwide ban on beards for certain employees. The November 19 decision, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. United Parcel Service Inc., reversed the lower court's refusal to enforce the EEOC’s subpoena after concluding that “how religious exemptions to the UPS Appearance Guidelines are (or are not) granted nationwide was not relevant to the charges being investigated.” Before the ruling by the Second Circuit, employers cited the EEOC v. UPS lower court ruling for the proposition that an EEOC subpoena must be limited to what was relevant to the underlying charge.

At issue for UPS was its Uniform and Personal Appearance Guideline prohibiting employees in public-contact positions from wearing any facial hair below the lower lip. Until 1999, UPS did not place employees who wore facial hair below the lower lip in public-contact positions. In 1999, UPS adopted a formal religious accommodation policy that allowed employees an exemption from the Appearance Guidelines for religious reasons. The suit on which the Second Circuit ruled involved the EEOC's investigation of two cases, one from Buffalo and the other from Dallas, with a Muslim job applicant who alleged that he was denied a public-contact driver position because he refused to shave his beard and a current UPS employee, who claimed that he was denied a public-contact driver position because he refused to shave his beard and that when he requested a religious accommodation form and an accommodation, he was denied both.

The EEOC subpoena sought (1) all documents related to the Appearance Guidelines and a list of all jobs which are subject to the Guidelines; (2) identifying information for all job applicants denied employment because of their refusal to adhere to the Appearance Guidelines since January 1, 2004; (3) identifying information for all employees who requested a religious accommodation exemption from the Appearance Guidelines and the outcomes of those requests since January 1, 2004; and (4) identifying information for all employees who were terminated for reasons relating to the Appearance Guidelines since January 1, 2004.

An employer's obligation to make reasonable accommodations to the religious views of its prospective and current employees is one of the most contentious and difficult areas for employees and employers to navigate. In a diverse and religiously pluralistic society, conflict is bound to occur not only about appearances but also about religious beliefs. Consider the case of Buonanno v. AT&T Broadband, LLC, 313 F.Supp.2d 1069, 93 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1204 (D.Colo. 2004) where the employer workplace diversity initiatives included acceptance of gays and lesbians that one employee found offensive on the basis of religion. The employee told his employer that his sincerely held religious beliefs against homosexuality conflicted with his employer's requirement that he sign a code of conduct that contains a diversity policy requiring each employee to “fully recognize, respect and value” differences among co-workers. He claimed that there was a conflict because he claimed he cannot value any “difference” that is “contrary to God’s word.” The District Court awarded $146,269 to the former AT&T Broadband worker after the company fired him for refusing to sign the diversity policy.

In reviewing that decision, an article entitled The Duty of Accommodation and the Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2003: From Bad Policy to Worse Law at 55 Labor Law Journal 155 (Fall 2004) (Call #P L12 and online in ProQuest Central in the Library's A-Z list) captures some of the difficulties in serving both the interests of employees in the exercise of their religious beliefs and the interests of employers in the exercise of their legitimate managerial prerogatives. With the Second Circuit broadening the subpoena powers of the EEOC in the enforcement of Title VII religious accommodation duty, employers face even more of a challenge when dealing with religious views in the workplace.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Food in the Library

The Brooklyn Law School Library’s most recent New Book List includes two informative items relating to food and the industrialization of our food supply. The first is In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan (Call #RA784 .P643 2009) which explores the question of what we eat from a health perspective. In his three-part essay, the author discusses the history of food in America, particularly in regards to nutritionism and government policy, explaining that we are no longer a society that eats food. Instead we eat food-like substances driven by a $32 billion marketing industry. The first section, The Age of Nutritionism, discusses diet experts, questioning the mutual interests of manufacturers of processed foods, marketers and nutritional scientists that have led to a national obsession with nutrition and diet and the idea of eating healthily. Part Two, The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization, addresses the Western diet and questions the idea that dietary fat leads to chronic illness. The third part, Getting over Nutritionism, proposes moving away from the Western Diet with a simple maxim: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Pollan writes “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize,” and “Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does,” adding humor to the message.

The second new item in the BLS Library collection on nutrition is Food, Inc.: How Industrial Food Is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-- and What You Can Do about It edited by Karl Weber (Call #HD9005 .F6582 2009). The 321 page book is based on the film of the same name and has expert commentators Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, asking: Where does food come from, and who processed it? What role do agri-businesses play in food production and consumption? Are healthy foods available and affordable? The BLS Library has the DVD in its Audio Visual Collection on the 1st floor past the Reference Desk. The makers of the film have created a web site with links to the issues about food safety and NGO allies on the topic, a list a actions to take and a bibliography of material addressing industrial food. Here is the trailer for the film Food, Inc.:

Friday, December 4, 2009

Plain Repugnancy: Securities Law and Antitrust Claims

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the federal securities laws preclude Sherman Act antitust claims. The decision, Electronic Trading Group v. Banc of America Securities, held that the plaintiff investors were precluded from asserting an antitrust claim against brokers accused of conspiring to charge excessive fees to short sellers where the federal securities regime provided for a remedy. The class-action alleged that the banks conspired to charge inflated borrowing fees through daily conversations, e-mails, and faxes, and jointly determined which securities they should classify as “hard-to-borrow.” The Second Circuit ruled that securities laws take priority over antitrust laws noting that “antitrust liability would inhibit conduct that the SEC permits and that assists the efficient function of the short-selling market.”

In his ruling affirming the dismissal of the antitrust allegations of the complaint by the New York Southern District Court, Judge Dennis Jacobs applied the preclusion analysis stated in Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC v. Billing, 551 U.S. 264 (2007). There, the US Supreme Court stated the four considerations of the preclusion analysis: (a) whether the “area of conduct [is] squarely within the heartland of securities regulations”; (b) whether the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has “clear and adequate authority to regulate”; (c) whether there is “active and ongoing agency regulation”; and (d) whether “a serious conflict” arises between antitrust law and securities regulations.

The Billing case involved antitrust claims brought by investors in an initial public offering alleging that the underwriters engaged in questionable “tying” practices that required purchasing less desirable securities and “laddering” practices that required buyers to take additional shares at escalating prices, forcing them to pay high commissions on subsequent buys. In Billing, the District Court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that federal securities law impliedly precludes application of antitrust laws. The Second Circuit reversed and reinstated the complaints. The US Supreme Court, addressing the question whether there is a “‘plain repugnancy’” between antitrust claims and federal securities law, concluded that there is, interpreting the securities laws as implicitly precluding the application of the antitrust laws to the conduct alleged in that case.

For more on the Electronic Trading Group decision, see Mark Hamblett's NY Law Journal article Antitrust Claim Found Precluded by Securities Regime (password required).

The BLS Library subscribes to the Annual Review of Antitrust Law Developments (Call #KF1649 .A763) published by the Section of Antitrust Law of the American Bar Association, which summarizes developments each year in the courts, at the agencies, and in Congress. The annual supplements are recognized as an authoritative and comprehensive set of research tools for antitrust research.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Exam Strategy: Take Care of Mind and Body

The Brooklyn Heights Blog posted about the newly opened Wi-Pie Pizzeria at 155 Remsen Street around the corner from Brooklyn Law School. What makes this news item of interest to the BLS community, aside from the promise of inexpensive pizza, sandwiches, salads and cream cheese sticks, free wi-fi and its nearby location, is that the owner of the new pizzeria, Solomon Solomonov, is a student at Brooklyn Law School. As final exams approach, BLS students have an new option for food delivery at Wi-Pie Pizzeria.

Law students are equally, if not more, subject to stress during finals as undergrads and need to remember strategies to help relax and succeed on exams. In addition to taking time to eat a good meal, include protein as a reliable source of fuel during the test and avoid excessive carbohydrates and caffeine which may give a short burst of energy that may drop off in the form a sudden crash. Other useful test day preparations include:

  • If the exam is early, set the alarm enough in advance to take a quick shower, clean up and arrive with time to spare before the start of the exam. Lateness causes stress so allow for traffic and other factors that could effect your arrival time.
  • Be sure to bring what you need to the exam room including writing utensils and a bottle of water.
  • Instead of last minute cramming, calmly read over the material you have already studied to keep it fresh in your mind.
  • If time permits, try to get in a quick exercise session, like a brisk walk, to help clear your mind and keep you alert.
  • Before coming to the exam, spend about five minutes stretching those parts of your body that feel tense. During the exam, take quick breaks to stretch your arms, legs and hands.
  • Before the exam begins, take deep steady breaths especially when anxiety sets in as deep breathing calms the body and the mind.
  • Be sure to use the rest room before the exam begins.
  • If the exam tests you on something that you do not know fully, do not berate yourself. Do the best you can and move on. Mental lectures do no good while taking exams.
  • Avoid comparisons to how other students are doing. How quickly other students finish their exams is not your concern. Concentrate on your own exam taking and do not worry about anyone else.
  • Serious test anxiety is best discussed with an academic counselor who may have additional tips to relieve anxiety. They may also be able to offer students with serious anxiety extra time to take the exam or a different test environment in which to take it.
The BLS Library has several items related to taking law school examinations including Law School Success in a Nutshell: A Guide to Studying Law and Taking Law School Exams by Ann M. Burkhart and Robert A. Stein (Call #KF283 .B87 2008) which is on reserve at the circulation desk.

In the Main Collection, one recent item worth reviewing is Acing Your First Year of Law School: The Ten Steps To Success You Won't Learn in Class by Shana Connell Noyes & Henry S. Noyes (Call #KF283 .N69 2008).

There is another item in the Main Collection, Law School Exams: Preparing and Writing to Win by Charles R. Calleros (Call #KF283 .C35 2007).

Best wishes for a successful exam period.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bankruptcy and Supreme Court

Today the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two major cases dealing with bankruptcy law. The first, Milavetz v. US, deals with 11 USC § 526(a)(4) of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) which places restrictions prohibiting certain bankruptcy professionals including attorneys from advising consumer debtors “to incur more debt in contemplation of such person filing a case under this title”. Counsel for the petitioner law firm argued that the provision is unconstitutional under the First Amendment because it proscribes truthful information about entirely lawful activity and it harms the client. The lower court’s ruling by Judge Lavenski R. Smith called that part of section 526(a)(4) "unconstitutionally overbroad" and a violation of the First Amendment. The provision "prevents attorneys from fulfilling their duty to clients to give them appropriate and beneficial advice". Another federal district court in Hartford, Conn., came to the same conclusion as the 8th Circuit, holding in Connecticut Bar Association v. U.S. that "section 526(a)(4) is overbroad because it prohibits attorneys from advising their clients to incur any kind of debt prior to filing for bankruptcy, including debts that are legal and desirable in certain instances." Transcripts of the oral argument are available here.

In the second case, United Student Aid Funds, Inc. v. Espinosa, the Court heard arguments (transcripts of which are available here) on whether a debtor may obtain a discharge of a student loan by including it in a Chapter 13 plan if the creditor fails to object after notice of the proposed plan. The petitioner debt collector appealed a decision from the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which held that student loans can be discharged within a Chapter 13 plan if the creditor receives notice of the plan and fails to object. The ruling held that creditors in the business of administering student loans are unlikely to be misled by customary bankruptcy procedures and "crafty student debtors," ruling that bankruptcy courts have "no business" interfering in such procedures. Petitioner argued that Counsel for the US argued as amicus curiae on behalf of the petitioner. Counsel for the respondent debtor argued that "it would be very, very upsetting to the bankruptcy jurisdiction, exceedingly upsetting to make a very broad exception to finality."

Brooklyn Law School students may want to look at the library’s large collection of bankruptcy related material including The Modern Rules of Personal Finance for Professionals by Susan A. Berson (Call #HG179 .B47 2008).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards

The near unanimous 6-1 ruling by the NY Court of Appeals upholding the Atlantic Yards Brooklyn condemnation in Goldstein vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation comes on the same day that the prospective major tenant at the complex, the New Jersey Nets, extended its losing streak to 14 to begin the 2009 to 2010 season. The petition alleged two essential claims: that the proposed taking was not for a "public use" but for the benefit of a private party in violation of NY law and that the condemnation proceeding was illegal as the project it sought to advance was not limited in occupancy to persons of low income, despite begin financed with state loans or subsidies. The respondent sought dismissal of the petition on the grounds it was time barred. In May of 2009, the Second Department of the Appellate Division issued a ruling, reported at 64 AD3d at 168, in favor of respondent on the merits.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s majority opinion upheld the condemnation on the grounds that the area containing the private parcels was "blighted" and subject to condemnation under the state Constitution, acknowledging that the need to redefine the definition of urban blight. Judges Susan P. Read and Eugene F. Pigott Jr. issued a concurring opinion upholding the dismissal of the petition on the grounds that it was filed too late.

Last year, this site had a post about the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirming the dismissal of a complaint challenging eminent domain action on the grounds that it violated the Public Use Clause of the Fifth Amendment. This latest case may end legal challenges to the proposed development by opponents from the surrounding Brooklyn neighborhood although activists like Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn say otherwise. A Volokh Conspiracy post suggests that the Goldstein case may lead to more backlash against unfettered public takings with restrictive definitions of “public use” economic development takings of the kind upheld in Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005).

A recent WSJ article reports that, four years after the Kelo case, Pfizer Inc., the private developer, announced that it has abandoned its plans for a hotel and offices and will close its research and development headquarters in New London, Connecticut. For further reading on the Kelo case, the Brooklyn Law School Library has Little Pink House: a True Story of Defiance and Courage by Jeff Benedict (Call #KF229.K45 B46 2009) telling the story of how Susette Kelo and fourteen neighbors fought the corporate giant and the city government to save their homes as the city decided to exercise its power of eminent domain to condemn them.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mortgage Interest Deduction

An interesting paper on the history and future of the mortgage interest deduction (MID) is now available on SSRN thanks to University of California Davis School of Law Professor Dennis J. Ventry, Jr. This past summer, Prof. Ventry spoke at Brooklyn Law School’s Fourth Annual Jr. Tax Scholars Workshop on The American Nightmare: Tax Subsidies for Home Ownership. His new article, The Accidental Deduction: A History and Critique of the Tax Subsidy for Mortgage Interest, tells the history of the MID from the first federal income tax law, the Revenue Act of 1913 (38 Stat. 114) which while not explicitly providing for an MID contained a general offset for “all interest paid within the year by a taxable person on indebtedness”. Prof. Ventry tells of several unsuccessful reform efforts that sought to eliminate the MID including the Tax Reform Act of 1969 (83 Stat. 487) and the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (100 Stat. 2085). The 1986 statute ended the deductibility of interest on credit card and other consumer loans but left the mortgage interest deduction in place.

The article also includes criticisms of the subsidy from two generations of tax reformers and tax policymakers that are more applicable today than at any time during the deduction's nearly 100-year history including The Hidden Welfare State: Tax Expenditures And Social Policy in the United States by Christopher Howard (Call # HJ2381 .H684 1997) where the author identifies the MID, Social Security and Medicare as the three members of the “Holy Trinity of U.S. social programs”.

Prof. Ventry appeared on
All Things Considered this past weekend to discuss the paper in a segment Is Tax Deduction For Home Mortgages A Bad Idea? A transcript of the interview is available at the site along with an audio file for the interview. Any effort to eliminate or even modify the deduction for mortgage interest is likely to generate strong opposition from real estate interests, like the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders. History shows that with President Reagan and the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and with President Bush when his tax-reform advisory panel unsuccessfully urged restricting the MID. The issue will likely remain the "third rail" of tax reform as President Obama attempts to cap mortgage interest deductions on “higher income” households in his proposed budget. The Congressional Budget Office in its Overview of Federal Support for Housing estimates that the MID accounts for an estimated revenue loss of $80 billion in 2009. Members of Congress have already introduced bills and resolutions expressing opposition to efforts to modify the MID: Rep Leonard Lance (NJ-7) introduced H. Con. Res.130 expressing support for the current standards of the Federal mortgage interest tax deduction and Rep. Zach Wamp (TN-3) introduced H.R. 1805 to make the deduction for mortgage interest a permanent part of the tax code.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Suing Credit Rating Agencies

A NY Times article, Ohio Sues Rating Firms for Losses in Funds, reports that the Ohio attorney general has filed suit against the three major rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, to recoup losses on its state retirement fund. The state's complaint is that the agencies gave inflated ratings to mortgage-backed securities to boost profits and that their bad ratings cost the state $457 million when securities it purchased lost value. This type of litigation is now part of a growing trend of challenges to the actions of credit rating agencies which have successfully defended their actions on First Amendment grounds claiming their ratings of securities were constitutionally protected opinion.

That defense may no longer work especially when the complaint against the credit rating agency sounds in fraud or negligence. Consider the October 2009 ruling in Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and King County, Washington v. Morgan Stanley by Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Southern District of New York. That decision forced the defendants, which included rating giants S&P and Moody’s to respond to fraud charges in a class-action by investors claiming the raters hid the risks of securities linked to subprime mortgages. Judge Scheindlin’s ruling, dismissing all but one of the eleven claims against Moody’s, stated that the First Amendment does not provide a defense where the rating agency comments were distributed privately to a select group of investors and not to the general public and “if the speaker does not genuinely and reasonably believe it or if it is without basis in fact.”

Brooklyn Law School Library's catalog, SARA, , has reading on the topic. In addition to BLS Professor of Law David J. Reiss' article Subprime Standardization: How Rating Agencies Allow Predatory Lending to Flourish in the Secondary Mortgage Market in 33 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 985 (2006), there is Special Issue: Causes of the Financial Crisis (Call # HB3722 .S73 2009) with a series of articles on the financial crisis including one by Lawrence J. White titled Credit Rating Agencies and the Subprime Debacle. The abstract for that article reads:

By means of the high ratings that they awarded to subprime mortgagebacked bonds, the three major rating agencies—Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch—played a central role in the current financial crisis. Without these ratings, it is doubtful that subprime mortgages would have been issued in such huge amounts, since a major reason for the subprime lending boom was investor demand for high-rated bonds—much of it generated by regulations that made such bonds mandatory for large institutional investors. And it is even less likely that such bonds would have become concentrated on the balance sheets of the banks, for which they were rewarded by capital regulations that tilted toward high-rated securities. Why, then, were the agencies excessively optimistic in their ratings of subprime mortgage-backed securities? A combination of their fee structure, the complexity of the bonds that they were rating, insufficient historical data, some carelessness, and market pressures proved to be a potent brew. This combination was enabled, however, by seven decades of financial regulation that, beginning in the 1930s, had conferred the force of law upon these agencies’ judgments about the creditworthiness of bonds and that, since 1975, had protected the three agencies from competition.

Friday, November 20, 2009

DOMA Unconstitional?

An article in the LA Times reports that Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals issued an Order in the Matter of Brad Levenson that seems to declare unconstitutional that part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that declares that a same-sex marriage cannot be a marriage under federal law or for purposes of granting federal benefits. The plaintiff in the case is a deputy federal public defender who has had a same-sex partner for 15 years. After legally marrying in California in 2008 prior to passage of Proposition 8, the plaintiff tried to add his spouse to his health insurance, but was turned down by his employer, the Office of the Federal Public Defender, citing DOMA. The plaintiff then took the matter up for resolution by a circuit judge.

In an earlier ruling, Judge Reinhardt concluded that the plaintiff and his spouse were entitled to their benefits, but the federal government still refused. Judge Reinhardt’s recent Order awards the plaintiff money to compensate him for the cost of the additional insurance. The Order, in dicta, states that marriage, traditionally regulated by state law, is a fundamental right and for the case at hand, the judge “need determine only whether same-sex spouses who have been legally married under the laws of the relevant state may, because of the sex or sexual orientation of the couple, be denied federal benefits that are afforded to other spouses legally married under such laws.” The conclusion on page 16 of the order speaks in broad terms:
In sum, to the extent that the application of DOMA serves to preclude the provision of health insurance coverage to a same-sex spouse of a legally married federal employee because of the employee’s and his or her spouse’s sex or sexual orientation, DOMA, as applied, contravenes the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and is therefore unconstitutional.
In addition, the Ninth Circuits Chief Judge Alex Kozinski entered a similar Order in the Matter of Karen Golinski on behalf of another federal employee who had legally married her same-sex partner but denied benefits given to opposite-sex married couples. He also ordered published his previous Order, from January 2009, which initially ordered that her spouse be granted federal benefits.

In New York, the Court of Appeals on Thursday dismissed a complaint in Godfrey v. Spano by taxpayer plaintiffs challenging directives by county officials that recognized out-of-state same-sex marriages for purposes of public employee health insurance coverage stating on page 4 of the opinion "Although the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) authorizes the states to pass so-called "mini-DOMAs" . . . New York has not, and the Legislature has enacted no other law expressly forbidding the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions or expressing any legislative intent that such marriages be voided."

The Brooklyn Law School Library has a number of related items in its collection. See What's the Harm?: Does Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Really Harm Individuals, Families, or Society? edited by Lynn D. Wardle (Call # KF539 .W53 2008).

See also Same-sex marriage and the Constitution by Evan Gerstmann (Call # KF539 .G47 2008) with chapters that include Reason and prejudice: is the heterosexual monopoly on marriage rational? -- Looking for stricter scrutiny: sexism, heterosexism, and class-based equal protection -- The fundamental right to marry -- Same-sex marriage and the fundamental right to marry -- Should courts create new rights?

See also Same Sex, Different States: When Same-Sex Marriages Cross State Lines by Andrew Koppelman (Call # KF539 .K67 2006) including these chapters: Marriage, choice of law, and public policy -- Miscegenation in the conflict of laws -- Against blanket nonrecognition -- Choice of law rules: the options -- When to (and when not to) recognize same-sex marriages -- The irrelevance of full faith and credit and the Defense of Marriage Act -- The difference the mini-DOMAs make.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Case Law on Google Scholar

Google Scholar has garnered a great deal of attention for its new Case Law service, some flattering and others critical. See the WSJ Law Blog post News You Can Use: On Google’s Adding Caselaw to ‘Scholar’ and the Resource Shelf’s post Legal Info Now Part of Google Scholar Database; Federal and State Legal Opinions and Patents, Law Journals Also Part of the Mix both of which raise questions about the new service. While it permits free access to full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts, it also contains citation features. In its blog entry about the new service, Google Scholar states that the “Cited by” and “Related articles” links will help the average citizen understand the impact of a given opinion. For example, a search for Roe v. Wade will yield not only the text of the decision but all 22,841 citing documents including cases and articles that cite to it. It is questionable whether an experienced legal researcher, let alone the average citizen, will be able to process that much information.

There is a separate patent search interface in addition to the legal opinions and journals which the searcher can choose to add to the search results. In order to search content from all 50 states (and DC) at one time, the search must check each “state” box on the advanced search page.

The addition of free access to the “laws that govern us” along with the emergence of Bloomberg Law to the world of legal information is likely to get the attention of LexisNexis and Westlaw, the two main commercial online databases which lawyers and legal research scholars use to search for this material. The ABA has recently launched its Media Alerts on Federal Courts of Appeals Website summarizing federal court opinions and upcoming cases for its audience of lawyers and other legal professionals. However, with so much information available on the web, whether for free or for fee, it is important to remember the distinction between search and research. As stated in this Westlaw video “Our Salute to Law Librarians” featuring UCLA Prof. Bob Berring, NYU Prof. Arthur Miller and Linda Will, Law Librarian Consultant, industry leaders reflecting on the invaluable work of law librarians “There’s a difference between research and search.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Episode 46 - Conversation with Joshua Fox, Class of 2010

Episode 46 - Conversation with Joshua Fox, Class of 2010.mp3

On Saturday, November 14, the Brooklyn Entertainment and Sports Law Society (BESLS) held its first annual panel called Perspectives in the Sports and Entertainment Legal Professions at Brooklyn Law School’s Feil Hall. There were four
panels of lawyers including a music panel “Keeping up with the Times: Adapting to Changes in the Music Industry”, a sports panel “Paths to a Career in Sports Law”, a fashion panel “The Rise of the Frugalista: The Fashion Industry's Response to the Recession” and a television/film panel “Evolving Technology, Slowing Economy: Emerging Legal Issues in Film & TV. Among the 16 practitioners on the panels were nine alumni of Brooklyn Law School (Dona Fraser, Class of 2001, Jason Pascal, Class of 1995, Peter A. Fields, Class of 1990, Karen Lapidus, Class of 1984, Doreen Small, Class of 1984, Ira Cure, Class of 1983, Hayden M Goldblatt, Class of 2008, Michael Maizner, Class of 2003 and Steven Paul Mark, Class of 1973).

This episode of the podcast series of the BLS Library Blog features BESLS President Joshua Fox, Class of 2010, who addresses the group’s purpose, what activities the group has done in the past, plans for this year, and summarizes what occurred at the group’s first major event this past weekend. BESLS is organized to promote an increased knowledge of and greater interest in the legal fields of entertainment law. More information about BESLS is available on its TWEN page on Westlaw.

The Brooklaw Library Weblog had a recent posting Play Ball! Sports & the Law by Associate Librarian Linda Holmes with links to related books and law review articles. The posting provides links to several items in the BLS catalog, SARA. See also Inside the Minds: the Legal Sides of Entertainment, Sports, & Media edited by Michaela Falls (Call #KF4290 .I57 2004) with chapters that include Sports law: an emerging area of practice -- The successful entertainment lawyer -- Media law and the passion for freedom of speech -- The growth of entertainment law -- The entertainment lawyer: protector of the creative and innovative -- Integrity and responsibility: keys to entertainment law success -- Making it as an entertainment lawyer -- The long and winding road: finding your way in the entertainment industry -- Sports law: beyond the media madness -- Achieving success and personal satisfaction in entertainment law.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Constitution in 2020

The two decades of the Warren Court (1950s and 1960s) saw a decidedly liberal American constitutional jurisprudence with landmark cases like Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). With the Warren Court, constitutional law became more conservative aided in large part by Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and the subsequent rise of the Federalist Society. Since the 1970s, with conservatism dominating American politics, constitutional law has shifted from a forward looking progressive jurisprudence to one that looks to past precedent and the plain language of the founders.

The shift from a conservative constitutional jurisprudence to a liberal, progressive one is the subject of The Constitution in 2020 by Jack Balkin and Reva Siegel (KF4550 .C576 2009) in the BLS Library collection. Inspired by a 2005 Yale Law School conference sponsored by the American Constitution Society and other progressive groups, the book seeks to define a progressive constitutional agenda for the coming century. The conference followed with a website with a blog, book reviews, sample chapters, related news items, bios of the authors, and related readings.

The editors, two of America's leading constitutional scholars, provide a framework for addressing the most important constitutional issues of the future featuring a collection of 27 brief essays by notable "progressive" scholars of law and politics – Cass Sunstein, Bruce Ackerman, Robert Post, Harold Koh, Larry Kramer, Noah Feldman, Pam Karlan, William Eskridge, Mark Tushnet, Yochai Benkler and Richard Ford, and others. In addressing a wide range of issues, from the challenge of new technologies, presidential power, international human rights, religious liberty, freedom of speech, voting, reproductive rights, and economic rights, the book calls on liberals to articulate their constitutional vision to gain the confidence of ordinary Americans. Whether the “democratic constitutionalism” Balkin and Siegel offer will in fact lead to a new generation of liberal lawyers to counter the strict-constructionist conservative lawyers of the Federalist Society who dominated the federal courts in the Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 eras is uncertain.

A central idea of the book is that courts should pursue similar social justice ends as the Warren Court by using more modest, less activist means and acting with progressive political movements. It suggests that the courts are not the only players to promote social progress. “Decisions made by legislatures and executive officials about our rights are just as important” as judicial decisions, if not more so, Balkin and Siegel write in the introduction. They also state: “This book contests the conservative belief that we should cleanse constitutional law of contemporary understandings and restore the Constitution to an imagined past, a time when we obeyed the founders . . . We think the past several decades of conservative judging have often departed from the best understandings of the Constitution, as the contributors of this book explain in detail. But the goal of constitutional interpretation is not only restorative – it is also redemptive. Our Constitution is not only a bond with the past; it is a bond with the future, expressing commitments that the American people have yet fully to achieve.” The book, with the most provocative constitutional thought of the progressive movement, is certainly worth reading for anyone interested in politics or constituional law.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

Tomorrow, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) will celebrate Veterans Day, a federal holiday which dates to the ending of World War I. The armistice was proclaimed on November 11, 1918, and took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning — the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month". It was not until June 28, 1919 that the war officially ended when Germany and the Allies signed the Treaty of Versailles. Interestingly, the United States was a signatory, but the U.S. Senate never ratified the treaty. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a National Armistice Day on November 11, 1919 to commemorate those who died during the war. By Act of May 13 1938, 9 (52 Stat. 351, 5 U.S.C. §87a) Congress made Armistice Day a legal holiday dedicated to world peace to honor veterans of the Great War.

In 1954, Congress passed legislation (Public Law 83-380, 68 Stat. 16) to change the name of the holiday to Veterans Day to honor all veterans as there were then more veterans of WWII than there were of WWI. Later that year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation".

On June 28, 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363, 82 Stat. 250) was enacted to ensure that the four big federal holidays – Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day – would always be celebrated on Mondays, thus preserving the three-day weekend and allowing for travel and recreational activities. Under the new bill, Veterans Day was moved to the last Monday of October and fell on October 25. Because of the significance of the date November 11, citizens and veterans groups around the country wanted to continue to recognize that day. On September 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed Public Law 94-97 to return the observance back to its original day. Veterans Day is on November 11 every year, regardless of what day of the week it falls on. The DVA website states that Veterans Day is a “celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

Recent years have seen efforts to commemorate veterans with more than a single day’s observance. On August 4, 2001, the U.S. Senate by Resolution 143 designated the week of November 11 through November 17, 2001, as "National Veterans Awareness Week" calling for educational efforts directed at elementary and secondary school students concerning the contributions and sacrifices of veterans. The practice has continued most recently with the 2008 Senate Resolution 692. This week, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced that DVA and the Library of Congress will offer a Veterans History Countdown web site with oral histories of veterans from every state and US territory. The site provides background about the program, a guide for volunteers to follow in recording and submitting veterans' oral histories, and access to the project's extensive digital archive with links that allow access stories in a number of methods:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Law School Costs and Access

The Government Accountability Office recently issued its October 2009 report Higher Education: Issues Related to Law School Cost and Access which addresses the cost of getting a law degree. The report says that law school costs have increased at a faster rate than the costs of comparable professional programs. Averaging $14,461 in the 2007-8 academic year, in-state tuition at public law schools have risen 7.2 percent higher than the cost 12 years earlier. In comparison, the cost of a medical degree from a public institution increased 5.3 percent over the same period, to $22,048 annually. Costs for nonresidents and at private institutions also increased at a slower rate over that period to an average of $33,042 about twice as much or more compared with residents' costs at public institutions. Click on the chart below from the GAO report for a larger image. It was posted along with others on the TaxProf Blog entry GAO: U.S. News Rankings, Not Accreditation, Key Driver of Law School Tuition.

The report attributes the rise in law school tuition costs to competition for better rankings and a more hands-on approach to educating students for the increased price of a law degree rather than to accreditation standards of the American Bar Association. The report states that law schools are providing courses and student-support programs that require more staff and faculty. At the same time, the report noted decreases in state appropriations as a reason for rising tuition.

The report also addresses access to law schools and concludes that minorities are making up a larger share of law-school enrollments than in the past, despite a drop in the percentage of African-American students. In the academic years from 1994 to 2007, black students went from 7.5 percent of law school students to 6.5 percent, while the number of blacks earning bachelor's degrees grew two percent. Law school rankings may account for lower or static enrollment rates of minorities as "Schools are reluctant to admit applicants with lower LSAT scores because the median LSAT score is a key factor in the U.S. News & World Report rankings." Another posting on TaxProf Blog, U.S. News: GAO Wrong to Blame Us For Rising Law School Tuition, links to a contrary view in a U.S. News & World Report article, Who's at Fault for the High Cost of Law School?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Life without Parole for Juveniles

On November 9, the US Supreme Court will hear oral argument in two juvenile sentencing cases that question whether it is unconstitutional, under the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” to impose a life sentence without parole on a minor. The two cases, Graham v. Florida (08-7412) and Sullivan v. Florida (08-7621), will give the Court an opportunity to review an earlier decision in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), which ruled the death penalty for minors unconstitutional under the Eight Amendment partly on the theory that juveniles are not as responsible for their actions as adults. Advocates for juveniles argue that sentences of life without parole are the equivalent of death-in-prison sentences and should be judged by the same constitutional standard as a sentence directly imposing death. Advocates for tougher sentences for violent crime argue that life without parole is an effective and lawful sentence for the worst juvenile offenders with a place in our laws where 43 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government have set the
maximum punishment for juvenile offenders at life without the possibility of parole. See Adult Time for Adult Crime: Life Without Parole for Juvenile Killers and Violent Teens by the Heritage Foundation.

The facts of the both cases are worth reviewing. A NY Times article from early this year stated that the then 13 year old Joe Harris Sullivan admitted that he and two older friends had burglarized the home of a 72 year old Florida woman. But he denied rape charges. The victim testified that her assailant was “a colored boy” who “had kinky hair and he was quite black and he was small.” She said she “did not see him full in the face” and so would not recognize him by sight. She recalled her attacker saying something like, “If you can’t identify me, I may not have to kill you.” At trial, Sullivan had to repeat this phrase several times. Although the victim did not clearly identify Sullivan, he was convicted after a one day trial where he was represented by a lawyer who made no opening statement and whose closing argument occupies about three double-spaced pages of the trial transcript. The lawyer was later suspended, and the Florida Bar’s Web site says he is “not eligible to practice in Florida.”

A recent Newsweek article states the then 17 year old Terrance Jamar Graham tried to rob a restaurant with two accomplices. Charged as an adult, he pled guilty to armed burglary charges, and received one year behind bars and three years probation. When he violated probation, he was sentenced, without trial, to life without parole.

Among the amicus briefs that the Supreme Court will consider is the Brief for Former Juvenile Offenders Charles S. Dutton, Former Sen. Alan K. Simpson and others in Support of Petitioner which argues for giving juveniles a second chance. Charles S. Dutton attended Yale University’s School of Drama and made his Broadway debut in1984 and received two Tony nominations. Alan K. Simpson served in the US Senate from 1979 to 1997, serving, among other positions, as Republican Whip and Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. He has also served several terms in the Wyoming legislature.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection material related to the topic of sentencing juveniles to life without parole. See, for example, Symposium on Youth and the Law (Call # P N84 v. 22 no. 1) in 22 Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics, & Public Policy (2008) with its lead article at page 9 by Barry C. Feld entitled, "A Slower Form of Death: Implications of Roper v. Simmons for Juveniles Sentenced to Life Without Parole".

See also The Rest of their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States by Alison Parker of Human Rights Watch (Call # KF9820 .R47 2005) which found "at least 2,225 people incarcerated in the United States who have been sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison for crimes they committed as children."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

FDsys Online Tutorials

For the last decade, GPO Access, the online version of the US Government Printing Office, has provided free electronic access to documents produced by the Federal Government. This free service, funded by the Federal Depository Library Program, arose out of Public Law 103-40, known as the Government Printing Office Electronic Information Enhancement Act of 1993. GPO Access has been the online source for the US Code, bills, committee reports, hearings, the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations, and other documents; most materials are available in PDF back to the mid-1990s. However, GPO Access's primitive search engine was generally useful for retrieving known citations.

Now, the Federal Digital System (FDsys - accent on the D) is the new advanced digital system that will enable GPO to manage Government information from all three branches of the US Government. The migration of information from GPO Access into FDsys will be complete in 2009. Until then GPO Access will contain all content. FDsys (http://fdsys.gpo.gov/) is currently available in beta format. It currently offers more than 150,000 of the same congressional and executive documents as GPO Access, with advanced search capabilities and a more user-friendly interface. It is also the only source for the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents which replaced the former Weekly Compilation earlier this year.

GPO has made available brief FDsys video tutorials, including an FDsys overview, simple search, advanced and citation search, and browsing. The FDsys tutorials are:
  • FDsys Overview - This video is a brief overview on the background of FDsys.
  • FDsys Simple Search - This is a video tutorial on how to perform simple searches within the system and filter your results.
  • FDsys Advanced Search - This is a video tutorial on how to perform advanced searches and citation searches within the system.
  • FDsys Browse - This is a video tutorial on how to browse for government publications within FDsys.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Episode 045 - Conversation with Professor of Law Joel M. Gora

Episode 045 - Conversation with Professor of Law Joel M. Gora.mp3

In this pod cast, recorded on Election Day 2009, BLS Professor of Law Joel M. Gora discusses his book Better Parties, Better Government: A Realistic Program for Campaign Finance Reform that he co-authored with American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Peter J. Wallison. The book describes how campaign finance laws prohibit political parties from fundraising on behalf of individual candidates, forcing candidates to finance their campaigns independently. The current campaign finance system favors wealthy candidates and protects incumbents while discouraging challengers. In the book, the authors argue that allowing parties a greater role in campaign fundraising would strengthen the political parties. It would also attract more qualified candidates, and free officeholders to govern without undue financial influence. The publisher AEI Press, besides issuing the print version earlier this year, has posted an online version of the book.

Prof. Gora teaches Election Law: the Law of Democracy, Federal Courts and the Federal System, Constitutional Law III: First Amendment, Constitutional Law, First Amendment Seminar at Brooklyn Law School. He has had an extensive history with free speech and other civil liberties issues including serving as General Counsel for the New York Civil Liberties Union and National Staff Counsel and Associate Legal Director with the American Civil Liberties Union. His many contributions to legal scholarship are listed on his Selected Works page.