Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holidays Today and 100 Years Ago

For the upcoming Holiday Season, the BLS Library Blog will be away until the New Year. Brooklyn Law School and the BLS Library will close on Saturday, December 22 and will reopen on Wednesday, January 2.

BLS Library users looking for inspirational reading for the holidays will enjoy the short 84 page book Memory of a Large Christmas by Lillian Smith (1897-1966). Written fifty years ago in 1962, the book recounts Christmases of fifty years earlier in the South which Smith recalls as being certainly big with lots of people who ate lots of food in a house with lots of room. From the preface of Thanksgiving through the hog-killing, gift-buying, stocking-hanging and finally the main event, the small volume is packed with illustrations and a few recipes. Smith‘s recollection of Christmas as a child at the turn of the last century transports the reader to a kinder and gentler time where the anticipation of hog killing is a wondrous and dreaded occasion. In addition to being a writer, Smith became a vocal social critic of the Southern United States. A white woman who openly embraced controversial positions on matters of race and gender equality, she was a southern liberal unafraid to criticize segregation and work toward the dismantling of Jim Crow laws, at a time when such actions almost guaranteed social ostracism.

Best wishes for the Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New Books List

The Cataloging Department at the Brooklyn Law School Library has put out its latest New Books List. It has 69 items including Legal Analysis: 100 Exercises for Mastery, Practice for Every Law Student by Cassandra L. Hill and Katherine T. Vukadin (Call #KF240 .H533 2012). Aside from helping preparation for first year exams, it teaches how to issue spot and to formulate answers to get the maximum points in the most efficient way. There are 100 paced exercises to sharpen students' legal analysis skills. The book will appeal to Professors who will find a bank of 100 legal analysis exercises at the ready, whenever students' analysis skills need attention or refinement; assignments that contain thoughtful sample answers and helpful annotations; learning objectives and outcomes for each chapter; Sample annotated answers for 50 of the exercises that their students can use to assess their own performance; and online resources for ready access to authority.

Students will receive tools to develop a keen understanding of rule-based and analogical reasoning; self-assessment opportunities to ensure progress in analysis; writing assignments with self-contained feedback; and online resources for easy access to exercise cases, statutes, and regulations and helpful tips on improving legal analysis and writing skills.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Human Rights Day 2012

December 10 is the day for the annual observance of Human Rights Day which the UN General Assembly designated to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR, adopted in 1948, lays out the basic human rights that every person is entitled to receive, regardless of race or gender or any other distinction. It was drafted as “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations” and was the first universal statement that all human beings have certain inherent rights that are inalienable. Consisting of a preamble and thirty articles covering such human rights as freedom of expression, assembly, movement, and religion, it sets out the basic principle of equality and non-discrimination in terms of the enjoyment of human rights, and affirms that everyone shall be free from slavery, torture, and arbitrary arrest or detention. Article 1 describes the philosophy on which the UDHR is based. It reads:
• All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
In 1950, the UN established Human Rights Day and asked member states to celebrate however they choose. The 2012 theme for Human Rights Day is “on the rights of all people — women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized — to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making.”

For a history of the UDHR, see the Brooklyn Law Library copy of A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Mary Ann Glendon (Call #K3238.31948 .G58 2001) which tells how in 1947, after a devastating war and mass displacement, the idea of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights seemed impossible yet necessary. With the coming of the Cold War, the American delegation to the UN, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, began writing what would become the world's first statement of human rights. The book traces the evolution of the document which was ratified on December 10, 1948, after six drafts and much debate by the UN General Assembly. It also presents a portrait of a woman driven to public service while still grieving for her late husband. The book concludes with a legal analysis of the declaration and a lengthy discussion of its applicability today, when many non-Western nations claim that the concept of "universal" human rights precepts precludes an acceptance of cultural differences.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pronouncing US Supreme Court Cases

Some US Supreme Court cases like Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), are easy to pronounce but others are more difficult. What are the correct pronunciations for Baas v. Tingey, 4 U.S. 37 (1800), Compagnie Générale Transatlantique v. Elting, 298 U.S. 217 (1936), Kawaauhau v. Geiger, 523 U.S. 57 (1998), Schuylkill Trust Co. v. Pennsylvania, 302 U.S. 506 (1938), and Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. ___ (2010)? To deal with this challenge, Yale Law School created earlier this year the Pronouncing Dictionary of the Supreme Court of the United States, a resource on how to pronounce foreign and other difficult party names from hundreds of Supreme Court cases. For each case, the dictionary has an Americanized pronunciation based on the Garner Pronunciation Guide from Black’s Law Dictionary as well as a pronunciation using the International Phonetic Alphabet. Audio of each pronunciation is provided as well. Although incomplete, it is a useful tool for those seeking accuracy and authenticity in pronunciation. Explaining the project, a team of Yale Law School students wrote an article published in the summer 2012 issue of the Green Bag. They are considering creating a second database on how to pronounce Justices’ names, a few of which – Roger B. Taney, for example – are counterintuitive. The correct pronunciation is TAW-nee. Those who prefer the spoken word can listen to a three minute NPR audio story (with transcript) about the project.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Law, Medicine, and Early American Libel

Another interesting title in the latest Brooklyn Law School Library New Book List is Law and Medicine in Revolutionary America: Dissecting the Rush v. Cobbett Trial, 1799by Linda Myrsiades (Call #KF228.R85 M97 2012). The book focuses on the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia, which resulted in the death of 4,044 people, and the ensuing libel trial of Rush v Cobbett that pitted medicine against the press, republicanism against federalism, and privacy against the public welfare. The case was between two critical figures in late eighteenth-century America, the new nation’s most prestigious physician-patriot, Benjamin Rush, and its most popular journalist, William Cobbett, editor of Porcupine’s Gazette.

Rush, an advocate of bleeding patients, would sometimes apply the treatment to a hundred patients in a single day. Evidence showed that bloodletting coincided with higher death rates. In 1797, Englishman William Cobbett stated that Rush had "contributed to the depopulation of the earth" in the wake of the yellow fever epidemics in 1794 and 1797. Rush then sued Cobbett in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for libel for criticizing him. Cobbett, being an Englishman, had little chance of defending himself in the newly independent United States and lost the case when, on December 14, 1799, the jury ordered him to pay $5,000 compensation to Rush, at the time the largest award ever paid out in Pennsylvania.

The book brings together many primary sources including trial records, press coverage, and personal correspondence, dissecting the libel trial and contributimg to the study of medicine, law, and the humanities. Using a rare surviving transcript, the author examines the trial's six litigating counsel whose narratives of events and roles provide a unique view of how the revolutionary generation saw itself and the legacy it wished to leave for future generations. On the one hand, the trial featured assaults against medical bleeding and its premier practitioner in the yellow fever epidemics; on the other, it castigated the licentiousness of the press in the nation’s then-capital city. The history shows the itigiousness of the new nation as well as the threat of sedition characterizing the development of political parties and the partisan press in the newly independent America nation. Chapters in the book include: Benjamin Rush and the culture of medicine -- Malpractice law and Benjamin Rush -- William Cobbett and the scurrilous press -- Libel law and William Cobbett -- The trial concluded.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dual Degree LL.M. with MSLIS

Brooklyn Law School has joined with Pratt Institute to offer a new dual degree program in Law Librarianship and Information Law where students will earn an MSLIS (Master of Science in Librarianship and Information Science) with an LL.M. in Information Law and Society. Students seeking admission to the program must have completed a J.D. degree at an ABA-accredited law school, and must apply to and be accepted by both Pratt Institute and Brooklyn Law School. To learn more about the application process, please visit. For further information, visit the BLS Website for its description of the Joint Degree: Library and Information Science - JD/MSLIS and the Pratt Website titled MSLIS / JD and MSLIS/ LL.M. Brooklyn Law School.

Intersted applicants can contact either Director of the Brooklyn Law School Library & Associate Professor of Law Janet Sinder by phone at (718) 780-7975 or by email at or Pratt Institute School of Information & Library Science Assistant to the Dean for Academic Programs Quinn Lai by phone at (212) 647-7682 or by email at

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Marijuana Legalization

Election Day 2012 saw voter initiatives in several states on marijuana legalization. Colorado and Washington became the first US states to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use on Tuesday in defiance of federal law, setting the stage for a showdown with the federal government. Medical marijuana measures were on the ballot in three other states. In Massachusetts, supporters issued a statement declaring victory for what they described as "the safest medical marijuana law in the country." Seventeen other states, plus the District of Columbia, already have medical marijuana laws on their books. In Arkansas, a measure that would have made it the first state in the South to legalize marijuana for medical purposes appeared was defeated. In Oregon, a measure to remove criminal penalties for personal possession and cultivation of recreational cannabis was also defeated.

A newly released Quinnipiac University poll shows that American voters favor the legalization of marijuana, 51% to 44%, with a substantial gender and age gap. The poll states that men support legalization 59% to 36%, but women are opposed 52% to 44%. The racial split is barely noticeable on this question with 50% of white voters and 57% of black voters backing legalization. Those who are 18 to 29 years old support legalization 67% to 29% while voters over age 65 are opposed 56% to 35% and those who 30 to 44 years old like the idea 58% to 39%, while voters 45 to 64 years old are divided 48% to 47%.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has on order a book by retired police officer Howard Rahtz, Drugs, Crime and Violence: From Trafficking to Treatment, which examines the history of drug abuse and provides a unique perspective on the drug war. It covers all aspects of the “war on drugs” to help readers become well-informed and capable of developing an educated reasonable conclusion. Chapters include Drugs, Crime and Violence -- The Illegal Drug Market -- Learning From the Past -- Policy Options -- An International Perspective -- Drug Abuse-The Damage Done -- Addiction: The Driving Force behind the Illegal Market -- Marijuana-The Cartel's Cash Cow -- From Trafficking to Treatment -- The Costs of Policy Paralysis -- A New Direction.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Law Students by Gender

The Wall Street Journal article, Women Notch Progress - Females Now Constitute One-Third of Nation's Ranks of Doctors and Lawyers, reports that “"Women account for a third of the nation's lawyers and doctors, a major shift from a generation ago when those professions were occupied almost exclusively by men, new Census figures show. Women's share of jobs in the legal and medical fields climbed during the past decade even as their share of the overall workforce stalled at slightly less than half. Women held 33.4% of legal jobs—including lawyers, judges, magistrates and other judicial workers—in 2010, up from 29.2% in 2000. The share of female physicians and surgeons increased to 32.4% from 26.8% during that time. In 1970, women were 9.7% of the nation's doctors and just 4.9% of its lawyers, according to Census data." At Brooklyn Law School, the percentage of women law students is even greater as the 1,376 law students consist of 757 male students (55%) and 619 female students (45%).

An ABA article shows that statistics at BLS are consistent with law schools nationally but women's enrollment at law schools has been steadily declining since 2002, when women constituted about 49% of law students. ABA statistics show that women made up about 47 percent of all first-year law students for 2009 to 2010, and 45.9 percent of all law school graduates. The all-time high was in 1993, when women's enrollment bumped just above 50 percent. Figures for employment of new attorneys show the same downward trend as women make up 47 percent of first- and second-year associates, down from 48 percent in prior years. The 2011 Report of the Sixth Annual National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms by the National Association of Women Lawyers surveying the nation’s 200 largest law firms states that: “It may not be a huge change, but it suggests that the pipeline may be shrinking.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Internet Research

Brooklyn Law School Library has added to its collection The Cybersleuth's Guide to the Internet: Conducting Effective Free Investigative & Legal Research on the Web by Carole A. Levitt and Mark E. Rosch (Call # KF242.A1 L48 2012), a 520 page book that shows how to be a cyber-detective and unearth information that was once only available to professional researchers from expensive, fee-based sources for free on the Internet on the Web. The book includes numerous examples based on real world research scenarios. This book can help investigators find information fast and free. For the beginning searcher, the book covers many overlooked features of Web browsers, the "mechanics" of navigating the Internet, and basic research strategies and tools. For "power searchers," the book covers advanced search strategies and tip and tricks for getting the most out of many of the sites.

Content includes: Introduction to the internet and web browsers -- Reliability and admissibility of information from the internet -- How to search the web: search engines and directories -- Other favorite search engines and meta-search sites -- Finding older versions of web pages that have been deleted or revised -- Free investigative research resources: to locate and background people -- Finding experts and verifying their credentials -- Locating and backgrounding attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals -- Pay investigative research databases -- Using the internet for substantive legal research -- Free online case law databases -- Free "member benefit to lawyers" online legal research databases: case law and more -- Cite checking cases -- Internet sites for governmental resources -- Dockets -- Finding legal web sites that are topic-, jurisdiction-, or format-specific -- How to cite resources on the internet.

Monday, December 3, 2012

History and Future of the Passport

The Brooklyn Law School Library latest New Books List contains The Passport in America: The History of a Document by Craig Robertson (Call #KF4794 .R63 2010). The 340 page book is the first history of the US passport and offers an account of how the passport came to the most reliable document to answer the question: who are you? Historically, the passport originated as an official letter of introduction addressed to foreign governments on behalf of American travelers. Prior to World War I, passports were not required to cross American borders, and while some people struggled to understand how a passport could accurately identify a person, others took advantage of this new document to advance claims for citizenship. From the strategic use of passport applications by freed slaves and a campaign to allow married women to get passports in their maiden names, to the "passport nuisance" of the 1920s and the contested addition of photographs and other identification technologies on the passport, the book sheds  light on issues of individual and national identity in modern US history.

Interestingly, since 9/11, the difficulties in travel have not lessened the desire for travel as US Department of State statistics show that passport applications have almost doubled from 2001 when there were just over 7 million passports to almost 14 million this year. While the cost of a passport application is a relative bargain at  $135, the US Department of State last year attempted to make the process more difficult with its proposal for a new Biographical Questionnaire for passport applicants. The proposed new Form DS-5513 asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and a variety of other information.  The proposed form states that “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.” For more on the proposal, see the post at the Consumer Traveler blog. The US Passport Book and Passport Card for adults are valid for ten years. Passports for minors under age 16 are valid for five years. The US Passport is not just used for travel anymore. It serves as proof of citizenship and identity for important purposes such as work authorization and eligibility for many Federal benefits.