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).