Thursday, September 29, 2011

Legal Research for the New Millennials

Among the several articles included in the newly posted Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series, part of the SSRN Legal Scholarship Network, is Think [And Practice] Like a Lawyer: Legal Research for the New Millennials. The authors are Prof. Aliza B. Kaplan, Lewis & Clark Law School (and former Brooklyn Law School Associate Professor of Legal Skills) and Access Services/Reference Librarian and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law Kathleen N. Darvil, Brooklyn Law School. The abstract of the article reads:
It is time to heed the calls for legal education reform. In our changing economy, new attorneys need to be properly trained in law school to be competent at providing effective legal services for their employers and clients. Law schools must remain open to and interested in legal reform; they must partner with practitioners to incorporate more practical skills into the law school curriculum. Updating how we teach legal research by making it accord more with how attorneys actually conduct and use legal research in practice will help accomplish this and will also more actively engage our Millennial students. There is no question that making some timely changes to legal research instruction would better prepare new attorneys to be competent practicing lawyers and would be a win-win for students, law schools and employers.
The full article appears in Vol. 8, 2011 of Legal Communication & Rhetoric, the Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Electoral College Reform

Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution established the Electoral College as the formal body which elects the President of the United States. The result of a compromise designed to win the votes of the states in the South, it has long been the target of criticism. The 12th Amendment effective in 1804 remains the only successful effort at altering the Electoral College. Since then, approximately 595 resolutions have been introduced proposing Electoral College reform. There have been more proposed constitutional amendments regarding Electoral College reform than on any other subject. See the CRS Report The Electoral College: An Overview and Analysis of Reform Proposals. In the current Congress, Rep Jackson, Jesse L., Jr. has proposed an amendment, H. J. Res. 36, to abolish the Electoral College and provide for the direct election of the President and Vice President by the popular vote.

Recent news stories show efforts by both Republicans and Democrats to alter how we elect the President and Vice President. Republican leaders in Pennsylvania and Nebraska are considering plans to change how their states allocate Electoral College votes. Both moves could have a significant impact on the 2012 Presidential election. Pennsylvania’s plan would replace the state’s current winner take all system with one that allocates electoral votes by Congressional district. Nebraska Republicans want to go in the opposite direction and replace the state’s current proportional allocation of electoral votes with a winner take all system. Democrats have introduced in the New York State Senate and Assembly bills(S.4208 and A.00489) which would add New York as a signatory to the Nationwide Popular Vote, an effort to do away with the Electoral College.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has a number of books on the topic. Brian L. Fife’s recent book Reforming the Electoral Process in America: Toward More Democracy in the 21st Century explores the history and current status of electoral reform in the United States and addresses electoral law in the states and federalism. There is discussion of the constitutional purpose of the Electoral College and the problematic role of money in presidential and congressional elections in the US. He proposes his own slate of reform initiatives, including national same-day voter registration, reconsideration of felons' voting rights, regional primaries, and the abolition of the Electoral College.

Another book, Electoral College Reform: Challenges and Possibilities by Gary Bugh, addresses the fact that the US has not updated the Electoral College system since ratification of the Twelfth Amendment, despite public opinion polls showing a majority of Americans are in favor of changing or outright abolishing it. The book brings together examining all aspects of this crucial debate, including the reasons for reform, the issues surrounding a constitutional amendment, the effect of the Electoral College on political campaigns and the possibilities for extra-constitutional avenues to change. .

Taming the Electoral College by Robert W. Bennett, a former Visiting Professor of Law at BLS, has these chapters: A critical short history of the electoral college -- Evaluating the electoral college: the nationwide popular vote alternative -- Contingent procedure for selection of the President by the House of Representatives -- Miscellaneous pitfalls in the electoral college process -- Popular election of the President without a constitutional amendment.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Securites Class Actions and Standing

After six years of litigation in the securities class action case of In re Smith Barney Transfer Agent Litigation, Judge William H. Pauley III of the Southern District of New York in the an Order dismissed the Lead Plaintiff based on the fact that it had never purchased any of the Smith Barney funds at issue. Stating that one of the foundational grounds for a motion testing the pleadings is lack of standing, the judge cited “epic failures” by the lawyers on both sides of the case, and called the effect of the error “seismic” causing the litigation to take on “Sisyphean dimensions.”

“After six years of litigation, including extensive motion practice, an appeal to the Second Circuit, remand, more motion practice, and discovery, lead counsel learned that the lead plaintiff never purchased any of the securities at issue in this action,” Pauley wrote in today’s decision. “Lead counsel’s failure to confirm the most basic fact -- that its client purchased the securities at issue in this action -- has resulted in a considerable waste of time and resources,” Pauley said. Criticizing the lawyers for all of the parties in the case for failing to exercise due diligence, Pauley wrote “In retrospect, it was something so obvious that every lawyer in the case should have recognized the problem and reacted immediately. But no one did.”

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection A Practitioner's Guide to Class Actions by Marcy Hogan Greer (Call #KF8896 .P735 2010), an ABA publication that is a comprehensive guide providing practitioners with an understanding of the intricacies of a class action lawsuit. It also has a state-by-state analysis of the ways in which the class action rules differ from the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Episode 070 – Conversation with Elliott Siebers, Class of 2012

Episode 070 – Conversation with Elliott Siebers, Class of 2012.mp3

Brooklyn Law School Student Bar Association President Elliott Siebers, Class of 2012, talks about his experience before coming to BLS and his internship with an intellectual property law firm in China this past summer. He also talks about his role as President of the SBA, the umbrella organization for all student organizations at the Law School. As SBA President, Elliott and his fellow SBA officers have worked with several departments within the Law School, including the BLS Library and the bookstore, to help better serve the student body. The SBA has also worked with the search committee to have student input into the ongoing search for a new Law School Dean.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month takes place each year September 15 to October 15. This year the U.S. Census has collected information about Hispanics in the United States on its webpage.
  • The Hispanic population of the United States as of April 1, 2010 is 50.5 million, making people of Hispanic origin the nation's largest ethnic or race minority. Hispanics constituted 16.3 percent of the nation's total population. In addition, there are 3.7 million residents of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. The increase in the Hispanic population between April 1, 2000, and April 1, 2010 was 43%, making Hispanics the fastest-growing minority group.
  • The projected Hispanic population of the United States on July 1, 2050 is 132.8 million which willl constitute 30 percent of the nation's population by that date.
  • The number of Hispanics counted during the 2000 Census was 35.3 million. The nation's Hispanic population during the 1990 Census was 22.4 million.
  • There are number of 16 states with at least a half-million Hispanic residents 25 states in which Hispanics were the largest minority group. Thes states includ both New York and New Jersey.
  • The increase in the Hispanic population in South Carolina between April 1, 2000, and April 1, 2010 was 148%, the highest of any state.
  • The Hispanic population of Los Angeles County, CA, in 2010 was 4.7 million, the highest of any county.
  • The proportion of the population of Webb County, Texas, that was Hispanic as of 2010 was 96%, the highest proportion of any county.
  • The median income of Hispanic households in 2009 was $38,039.
  • The poverty rate among Hispanics in 2009 was 25.3%, up from 23.2 percent in 2008.
  • The percentage of Hispanics who lacked health insurance in 2009 was 32.4%, up from 30.7 percent in 2008.
  • The number of Hispanics or Latinos 18 and older who are veterans of the U.S. armed forces is 1.1 million.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Brooklyn Book Festival

The Brooklyn Book Festival will celebrate its 6th anniversary on September 18, 2011. The festival celebrates authors and their work by presenting challenging, provocative and thoughtful programming in the areas of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Organized by the Brooklyn Literary Council and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's office, it has a reputation as the premier, free literary festival in New York City. The 2011 festival takes place next door to Brooklyn Law School at historic Brooklyn Borough Hall, outdoors on its beautiful plaza, and at St. Frances College and the Brooklyn Historical Society. Multiple outdoor stages and indoor venues will feature adult and children's programming, panel discussions, and spoken word performances.

More information is available here. In preparation for the Book Festival, Brooklyn Public Library is hosting a librarians-only talk and reception with Marilyn Johnson on Saturday, September 17 at 4 pm. Marilyn Johnson who wrote This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save us All! will discuss current issues in librarianship, such as digitization, eBooks, and the constant threat of budget cuts. The lecture will be at the Dweck Center for Contemporary Culture at Central Library, Central Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Episode 069 – Conversation with Prof. Susan Herman

Episode 069 – Conversation with Prof. Susan Herman.mp3

This conversation features Brooklyn Law School Professor of Law Susan Herman discussing her most recent book Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy, published by Oxford University Press. Prof. Herman discusses Chapter One of the book "The Webmaster and the Football Player" which tells the stories of ordinary people caught in the government's surveillance dragnet. A decade after 9/11, it is far from clear that the government's hastily adopted antiterrorist tactics--such as the Patriot Act--are keeping us safe, but it is increasingly clear that these emergency measures in fact have the potential to ravage our lives--and have already done just that to countless Americans. Prof. Herman will be part of a Panel Discussion: Ten Years of 9/11 scheduled for Thursday, September 15, 2011 in which she will discuss her book. Other panelists are BLS Professor Derek Bambauer who will speak on the Internet, BLS Professor Maryellen Fullerton who will address immigration, and BLS Professor Nelson Tebbe who will discuss the free exercise of religion.

Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 Library Resources

To mark the ten year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Brooklyn Law School Associate Librarian Linda Holmes has displayed a number of books from the BLS Library collection in the first floor library display case including Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission by Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton (Call #HV6432.7 .K43 2006).

The BLS Library recently added to its collection Habeas Corpus in America: The Politics of Individual Rights by Justin J. Wert (Call #KF9011 .W47 2011). Americans view habeas corpus as the cornerstone of our legal system, allowing an arrested person to challenge the legality of his detention. This book reexamines this right to show that it is as much a tool of politics as it is one of law. Chapter 1, Habeas Corpus and History, begins: “In the years since September 11, 2001, the writ of habeas corpus once again emerged from legal obscurity, and, as during periods of war and crisis before, it occupied center stage in an unfortunately all too familiar battle over the constitutional limits of governmental power and individual rights during war.” Tracing the history of the writ from the early days of the republic to the recent US Supreme Court cases of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush, the author shows the evolution of the writ during the antebellum period, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the ongoing war on terrorism. With new scrutiny of habeas corpus prompted by the Guantánamo detainees, this book is essential understanding how law and politics intersect after 9/11.

See also a new addition to the William S. Hein & Co. Legal Research Guide Series recently added to the BLS Library collection, Habeas Corpus: A Legal Research Guide by Nathan Andrew Preuss (Call # KF241.C75 P74 2011).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

CALI for 1Ls

The Brooklyn Law School Library recently held a series of orientation sessions to feature library resources. Among them was the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Research (CALI) which creates CALI Lessons, more than 850 tutorials written by law professors and librarians on a wide range of legal subjects. The lessons help law student learn about a new area of law, review for upcoming exams, and practice their legal writing or research skills. The lessons take from as little as 10 minutes to several hours to complete depending on the complexity of the topic. BLS students have unlimited access to CALI tutorials and podcasts. They now work on mobile devices like iPads and iPhones. BLS student can register for a free CALI password at the above link to access newly released features. The BLS Law School authorization code is needed to access CALI tutorials on primary and secondary legal resources.

Firs year law students may want to try a few CALI Lessons to recall the basics of the law even if it is high school level civics, or to be able to avoid grammar and punctuation problems, or to recognize what plagiarism is and know how to avoid it. See these CALI lessons for example:
Where Does Law Come From? (Civics review)
Punctuation and Grammar Basics for Law Students (part 2/advanced available)
Plagiarism – Keeping Out of Trouble
During their first semester, 1Ls will learn about briefing cases and preparing for law school classes. To get a head start, a tour of these CALI lessons will help:
How to Brief a Case
Learning Legal Analysis – IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion)
Preparing for your First Semester in Law School (podcast)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Labor Day 2011

Organized labor has had a series of setbacks since the midterm elections of 2010. In Wisconsin, legislation rolled back public employee collective-bargaining rights. Ohio passed a similar measure, although it faces a public referendum in November. The summer saw high unemployment, attacks on public employee unions and federal policymakers focused on austerity not job creation.

This summer the NLRB made a series of pro-union decisions. In July, it ruled in Mas-Tech, Inc. and Joseph Guest and Direct TV, Inc. and Joseph Guest (Westlaw password required), Cases 12-CA-24979 and 12-CA-25055, that the employer violated the NLRA when it terminated employees who appeared on a television newscast wearing their uniforms and made disparaging statements about MasTec. The board ruled that employers committed unfair labor practices when they (1) fired nonunionized employees who appeared on a television newscast in their work uniforms and made disparaging comments about their employer; (2) disciplined an employee for using the company's email system to solicit employees for union activity at work; and (3) fired employees for discussing terms and conditions of their employment through social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The NLRB also denied a motion to dismiss unfair labor practice charges against Boeing, in
The Boeing Company and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751, Affiliated With the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (Westlaw password required), Case 19-CA-32431, accused of retaliating against workers in its Washington state plant by adding a second jetliner assembly line to its nonunion South Carolina facility.

In rule making news, the NLRB just published a final rule requiring employers to post notices informing their employees of their rights as employees under the NLRA.

In advance of Labor Day 2011, the 2nd annual CUNY-sponsored study of unionization trends in New York City and State, The State of the Unions 2011, reports on the strength of organized labor in New York showing unionization rates among immigrants and by industry in the City and State. NYC has higher union density (23% of the workforce in 2010-11) than any ther major US city, and New York State (with24%) ranks first among the 50 states. Over the past decade, erosion of union membership has been far more limited in NY than nationally. Key findings include:

Private-sector unionism in New York is twice the national average.
Unionized employees in NY are older, better paid, and more educated than their non-union counterparts in NY and the US.
A majority of New York City’s union members are female, reflecting high union density in the education and health care fields, which employ women in higher numbers than men.
NYC differs from the nation in that non-college educated, blue-collar workers are highly unionized in industries like construction, telecommunications, building services, hotels, urban transit, and home health care.
Women, African Americans, and workers born in Puerto Rico are overrepresented in the highly unionized public sector, and thus have higher unionization rates than other groups.
For more, see the Brooklyn Law School Library catalog record for the 2010 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research entitled The Unions of the States.