Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jury Duty

A summons for jury duty from my local county New Jersey Superior Court evoked thoughts like those of many others: serving will be time-consuming, inconvenient, and tiresome. What excuses work to get out of jury service? That instinct is understandable. With pay for jurors set at $5 for each day of service, no one wants to miss work and wait all day to sit on an actual jury. The law (N.J.S.A. 2B:20-14) imposes fines up to $500. Those who are barred from serving as jurors are non-citizens, ex-felons, illiterates, minors, and those whose disabilities would prevent them from serving. The New Jersey Orientation Video is in two parts here:

The privileges and benefits of performing jury duty are explained in The Jury and Democracy: How Jury Deliberation Promotes Civic Engagement and Political Participation by John Gastil et als. (Call JK1764 .J87 2010) available in the Brooklyn Law School Library main collection. Through a combination of narrative, quantitative analysis, and anecdotal illustrations, the authors argue that performing jury duty is not only necessary to the health of American democracy but also is civically and psychologically rejuvenating for citizens.

To help the legal professional better understand the process of jury selection, the BLS Library has two recent additions to its collection. The Law of Juries, 4th edition, by Nancy Gertner and Judith Mizner (Call # KF8972 .G47 2010) has chapters on Right to a jury trial -- Compositional challenges -- Law of voir dire -- Peremptory challenges -- Venue -- Jury nullification -- Dealing with jury conduct/misconduct -- Structure of the jury -- Issues arising from jury deliberations -- Jury and the media.

Jury Selection: The Law, Art and Science of Selecting a Jury, 3rd editon, by James Gobert and Walter Jordan (Call # KF8979 .J67 2009) has chapters titled Right to jury trial -- Characteristics and features of the jury -- Mock and shadow juries -- Investigation of the venire -- Challenges to the array -- Challenges for cause -- Peremptory challenges -- Juror questionnaires -- Voir dire in civil cases -- Voir dire in criminal cases -- Voir dire in capital cases -- Choosing the jury.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Practical Law Company

A relatively new alternative to Lexis and Westlaw is Practical Law Company (PLC), a legal research resource that provides information and how-to guides on transactional practice. PLC is a UK-based legal publishing company that opened an office in New York in December 2008. The US based services include PLC Finance, PLC Corporate & Securities, and PLC Law Department. Last year, an Am Law Daily article had a good description of what the company does.

Its resources are written by experienced lawyers from top firms and legal departments and include overviews of practice areas, model documents and checklists, and updates on the current transactional landscape. Content description is like Live EDGAR but does not include full text SEC filings, court dockets, or cases. The database includes specific clauses, standard forms, and customized summaries of recent filings and transactions. It has drafting guidance, content by topic, and sources for international transactions.

Brooklyn Law School law students and faculty can sign up for free at this link. Sign up allows summer access and free usage for six months after graduation. PLC also features tools specifically designed for law students, including an Interview Survival Guide and a Summer Associate Survival Guide that provides information about common associate assignments such as running a closing, forming a corporation, drafting agreements, conducting due diligence, and more. A quick virtual tour is available here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Open Access Journals

Legal and multidisciplinary researchers at Brooklyn Law School have two databases of open access materials in the library’s e-resources: the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and Open J-Gate. Open access journals are those that do not charge readers or their institutions for access.

DOAJ is a free service with a librarian-vetted list of over 2,800 fully open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Its welcome screen, with links to seventeeen broad subject areas that expand to a larger easy to browse subset of subject, is shown here:

Open J-Gate, an alternative to the DOAJ that indexes more journals, is an electronic gateway to global journal literature containing over five thousand open access journals from a variety of subject disciplines. This portal to article-level searching is not directly comparable with DOAJ. Launched in 2006, Open J-Gate accesses millions of journal articles available online. It is also a database of journal literature, indexed from more than 3000 open access journals, with links to full text at Publisher sites.

Its six top-level subject categories are Agriculture Sciences, Arts & Humanities, Basic Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Engineering & Technology, and Social & Management Sciences with a three-layer hierarchy to find more specific subjects. The last of these subject categories include Law with materials on Arbitration, Banking Law, Constitution and Judicial System, Corporate laws, Crime, Criminology and Law Enforcement, Domicile and Immigration Laws , Environmental Law & Policy, Foreign Trade & Commercial Transactions, Industrial Relations Law, Insurance Law, Intellectual Property, Investment Laws, Regional and International Law, and Taxation Law.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cellphones and Driving

New York State has amended its Vehicle and Traffic (VAT) law effective, February 16, 2011, to impose two driver penalty points in addition to a fine of $100 for violations of using a cell phone while driving as well as using portable electronic devices while driving. Section 1225-c and Section 1225-d are the relevant VAT provisions. The statutes are also available in New York Vehicle and Traffic Law by James M. Rose (Call #KFN5470 .R67 1992) on reserve at Brooklyn Law School Library’s circulation desk.

In 2001, New York became the first state in the nation to ban hand-held phone use while driving. Using a hands-free device remains legal. The statutory change brings the hand-held cell phone law in line with the texting-while-driving law, which since 2009 has imposed a two-point penalty and a fine of $150. According to an article from Reuters, in 2009 there were 342,564 tickets issued in New York for cell phone violations.

Those interested in comparing state laws on the prohibition of using cellular phones while driving can look at West’s 50 State Statutory Surveys (password required). The web page of the Governors Highway Safety Association also has a chart outlining all state cell phone and text messaging laws. An excerpt from West's 50 state survey showing complete prohibitions, learner's permit prohibions, school bus and miscellaneous prohibitions for the tri-state region is reproduced here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Episode 062 – Conversation with Judith Soto, Class of 2011

Episode 062 – Conversation with Judith Soto, Class of 2011.mp3

In this podcast, Brooklyn Law School Student Bar Association President Judith Soto, Class of 2011, talks about her experience with the SBA, the umbrella organization for all student organizations at the Law School. The SBA plans, supervises, and sponsors educational and social events throughout the academic year. She also discusses her lifelong desire to work as an attorney and her experience as a clinician with the Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy (BLIP) Clinic for two semesters representing Internet, new media, communications and other tech entrepreneurs and innovators on a variety of legal issues.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lincoln and the Closing Argument

Today marks the 202nd anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth on February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. March 4 will mark 150 years since Lincoln first took the oath of office as president and delivered his first inaugural address. The speech was directed to the people of the South and the seven states that had declared their secession from the United States before Lincoln took office. The state and dates of secession were:

• South Carolina (December 20, 1860)
• Mississippi (January 9, 1861)
• Florida (January 10, 1861)
• Alabama (January 11, 1861)
• Georgia (January 19, 1861)
• Louisiana (January 26, 1861)
• Texas (February 1, 1861)

Denouncing secession as anarchy and hoping to avoid the coming conflict, Lincoln closed the address with this famous plea: "I am loathe to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

As a lawyer, Lincoln knew how to craft successful closing arguments. In the Gettysburg Address, perhaps the greatest closing argument in history, Lincoln showed that he knew how to persuade a bitterly divided country into ultimately doing what was right for all. The short 200 page book, Lincoln's Counsel: Lessons from America's Most Persuasive Speaker by Arthur L. Rizer, III (Call #KF368.L52 R59 2010) in the Brooklyn Law Library collection, has examples from Lincoln's great speeches and closing arguments. The book instructs in the art of persuasion by providing lessons from Lincoln's career as a lawyer and politician, and by analyzing those lessons and discussing how to apply them. The appendix has Lincoln's First and Second Inaugural Speeches, the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Cooper Union Speech.

In Chapter 7, The Greatest Closing Argument Ever Made: The Gettysburg Address, the author states “Even today, brevity in closing arguments isn't universally appreciated. If an attorney gave a three-minute closing argument, he may be sued for malpractice. Despite this, with the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln used his skills as a persuasive litigator to breathe life into a cause that was costing so much human life. The speech was more than simple dedicatory remarks for a memorial site. He set out a position that advocated why his position was correct, much as a lawyer does in making a closing argument, and he did it quickly and beautifully.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Metadata in FOIA Releases

US District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the Southern District of New York ruled that federal government agencies, when responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, must release documents in a searchable format and provide the document's metadata when making releases in electronic format. The ruling in National Day Laborer Organizing Network et al v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency et al. is a groundbreaking case going beyond FOIA and e-discovery issues which she addressed Zubulake v. UBS Warburg LLC, 217 F.R.D. 309 (click on the case name to view it in LexisNexis).

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Cardozo School of Law filed the complaint in February 2010 demanding records related to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) “Secure Communities” program that involves local and state police in federal immigration enforcement. The program requires local and state police to run individuals’ fingerprints through multiple databases upon arrest even if no charges are brought and regardless of how minor the charges are. Besides the potential of erroneous information in those databases, critics of the program charge that it uses racial profiling to funnel people into the ICE detention and removal system. The FOIA action by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NLDON) sought materials necessary to provide comprehensive information on the program, including policies, procedures and objectives; fiscal impact; statistical information; individual records; communications; and assessment records.

In response to the FOIA requests, the government delivered documents grouped together in large files that were not searchable and in which individual documents could not be identified without reading through the entire file and e-mails were separated from their attachments. In the conclusion of her 27 page opinion in NLDON v. ICE, Judge Scheindlin remarked:

Once again, this Court is required to rule on an e-discovery issue that could have been avoided had the parties had the good sense to "meet and confer," "cooperate" and generally make every effort to "communicate" as to the form in which ESI would be produced. The quoted words are found in opinion after opinion and yet lawyers fail to take the necessary steps to fulfill their obligations to each other and to the court. While certainly not rising to the level of a breach of an ethical obligation, such conduct certainly shows that all lawyers -even highly respected private lawyers, Government lawyers, and professors of law -need to make greater efforts to comply with the expectations that courts now demand of counsel with respect to expensive and time-consuming document production. Lawyers are all too ready to point the finger at the courts and the Rules for increasing the expense of litigation, but that expense could be greatly diminished if lawyers met their own obligations to ensure that document production is handled as expeditiously and inexpensively as possible. This can only be achieved through cooperation and communication.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection The Federal Information Manual: How the Government Collects, Manages, and Discloses Information under FOIA and Other Statutes by P. Stephen Gidiere (Call # KF5753 .G53 2006) with these chapters: An overview of federal information disputes -- Agency collection of information -- Management of agency records -- Classified information -- Access to federal records -- Electronic records and federal public websites -- Elements of a successful FOIA request -- Reasons for the withholding of agency records -- Litigation involving federal records -- Homeland security information.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Email Out; Texting In

If you wonder why you get no response to your emails, it may be that fewer people are reading them. Measuring the U.S. digital media, a recent study, the 2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review, recaps key trends in e-commerce, social networking, online video, search, online advertising and mobile. (Download a free copy at this link.) This chart shows the trend that teenagers are using email less and relying more on social networks and text messaging:

The biggest decline in e-mail usage was among teenagers (down 59%). They are not alone. Total web-based email usage declined 8% in the past year. Usage marginally among 18-24 year olds, with more noticeable declines among 25-34 year olds (down 18%), 35-44 year olds (down 8%) and 45- 54 year olds (down 12%). The group where usage actually gained was among 55-64 year olds (up 22%) and among those age 65 and older (up 28%), most likely because of continued Internet adoption by these age groups.

But even older users are using social media more. Last year's Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project report (at this link) shows that use of social platforms has grown among those aged 50-64. Mary Madden author of the report explains “Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users. Email is still the primary way that older users maintain contact with friends, families and colleagues, but many older users now rely on social network platforms to help manage their daily communications.”

The 2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review study shows that the decline in email use carries all the way from ages 12-54 largely as a result of the fact that in 2010, Facebook surpassed each of the top three largest web platforms for share of time spent, capturing the #1 ranking in August as shown in this chart.

Law students in the future are less likely to check their email and more likely to user text messages or tweets. Social media is increasingly a vital part of our futures. Texting and social media are much faster than traditional email which is quickly becoming outdated.

The Brooklyn Law School Library's collection includes Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier by Carolyn Elefant and Nicole Black (Call #KF320.A9 E44 2010) which says that lawyers who dismiss social media do so at their peril and shows lawyers how to use a practical approach to social media. Written by two lawyers, this book is designed for novice and advanced users.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Online Encyclopaedia of Laws

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection 20 separate parts of Kluwer Law International's International Encyclopaedia of Laws. The IEL series provides detailed coverage of major areas of foreign law. Each part has expert commentary on a particular country's law relating to that subject. Continually updated, each IEL set includes different countries. The list of "Published Monographs" indicates which countries are in each IEL set. The International Encyclopaedia of Laws is a great starting point for comparative law research. The Law Library collection of the series is in electronic format (accessible to the current BLS community either on campus or via remote access restricted with use of proxy instructions) for these titles:

A detailed description of the print version for these products is on the publisher's website along with a more fully descriptive 53 page PDF brochure from the publisher which shows the depth of covergage of IEL and the countries covered for each topic.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Teaching Legal Truths with Fiction

The Brooklyn Law School Library New Book List for February 1, 2011 includes Andrew Popper's novel Rediscovering Lone Pine, (Call #PS3616.0658.R43 2009). It is the story of three childhood friends and their persistence in solving the mystery of a fourth friend who went missing in the woods when they were young. The setting of the book is very much like the author's own childhood in upstate New York. Told in first person narrative by Grant Harper, the story relates how, in 1959 at age 10, he sets out to find a hidden fort in the woods with his friend Jason, who disappears in the woods haunting Grant into his adulthood.
The book tracks these childhood friends through their teenage years, law school and into their first years in practice. The story includes accounts of starting a law practice, handling a competency hearing in a murder trial and explores legal issues through the art of storytelling. The story line, although implausible, has themes that can help law students learn the development of case theory and understand aspects of lawyer confidentiality.

Popper, a law professor at the American University Washington College of Law for 30 years, began writing fiction later in life. The art of writing fiction has honed his abilities to train his law students to write in a simple and compelling way. "Nothing has helped me more as a teacher than fiction writing," he says. "Rediscovering Lone Pine" is the first work of fiction published by West and it includes a discussion guide of legal and ethical issues, such as how representing close friends and family members affects an attorney's professional judgment, and whether it is justifiable to take the law into your own hands when a family member's well-being is at stake. The author has used the guide in the classroom for learning case theory and to help lead law students to better legal thinking. “So much of that class is asking a student, ’Tell me what this case is about.’ That’s the standard question in legal education,” Popper said. “And by getting my students to work within manageable fiction, ‘Tell me what that story was about’ and they can get there pretty easily after a while. ‘Now tell me what this case is about.’ Because it’s the same thing. It’s the same exercise. It’s not magically something different. It’s exactly the same thing.”

On West's website, Popper said "I think it is the challenge of every lawyer, in fact everyone involved in the legal system, to figure out how one goes about telling an effective story. I set out to make Rediscovering Lone Pine relevant to law students and create an interesting story that gave me a lot of opportunities to develop themes related to the law and the legal system." A conversation with Popper about the book is available here.