Friday, June 28, 2013

Free Apps for US Legal Publications

Law Technology News (LTN) magazine and website reports that ALM, the leading provider of specialized business news and information focused on the legal sector, has launched 14 smartphone apps for use on Apple Inc.'s iPhones, iPods, and iPads. The apps provide content from the company's national and regional web and print publications, and support iOS 6.1 and above. The available publications are:

The American Lawyer
Corporate Counsel
Law Technology News
The National Law Journal
Connecticut Law Tribune
Daily Business Review
Daily Report Online
Delaware Business Court Insider
Delaware Law Weekly
New Jersey Law Journal
New York Law Journal
Texas Lawyer
The Legal Intelligencer
The Recorder

An ALM press release stated: The apps offer a superior and faster reading experience than what is possible through a smartphone or tablet Web browser. They also provide offline reading capability so users can view news stories and other articles even when they are not connected to the Web. . . The apps are being sponsored by leading financial and legal institutions who are providing end-users free complimentary access to the content during the launch sponsorship.

Content that might otherwise be behind a paywall is now available thanks to the sponsor. In fact, if you look at the NYLJ front page using the iPhone’s Safari browser, several of these stories are locked. If you look at the same stories using the app, they are unlocked. Brooklyn Law School students can now regularly follow any of these ALM publications.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Prison Law Libraries

With New York State’s recent adoption of a rule on Inmate Access to Legal Reference Materials, the article Ineffective Assistance of Library: The Failings and the Future of Prison Law Libraries, 101 Geo. L.J. 1171, is timely reading. See Westlaw or LexisNexis for digital access or check the Brooklyn Law School Library Circulation Desk for the print version.

The abstract reads in part:

The prison law library has long been a potent symbol of the inmate's right to access the courts. But it has never been a practical tool for providing that access. This contradiction lies at the core of the law library doctrine. It takes little imagination to see the problem with requiring untrained inmates, many of them illiterate or non-English speakers, to navigate the world of postconviction relief and civil rights litigation with nothing more than the help of a few library books. Yet law libraries are ubiquitous in American prisons. Now, in light of a technological revolution in legal research methods, prison libraries face an existential crisis that requires prison officials, courts, scholars, and inmates to reconsider the very purpose of the prison law library. .  . This Article uses original historical research to show how prison law libraries arose, not as a means of accessing the courts, but rather as a means of controlling inmates' behavior. . . This historical account helps explain a prison law library system that never really made sense in terms of providing access to the courts.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Unpaid Intern Lawsuits

Unpaid internships suffered a setback this month when US District Court Judge William H. Pauley III ruled in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures that the defendant violated minimum wage and overtime laws when it failed to pay interns who worked on the movie Black Swan. The lead plaintiff is a Georgetown University law school student. The decision, the first to adopt this argument, rigorously applied the Department of Labor six-part test where internships in the for-profit private sector are viewed as employment relationships for which the federal minimum wage and overtime rules will apply, unless the intern is truly receiving training. The six criteria are:

(1) The internship is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment;
(2) The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
(3) The intern is not replacing employees and works under close supervision;
(4) The sponsor of the intern does not derive immediate benefit from intern's activities and at times, its operations may actually be impeded;
(5) The intern is not entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship;
(6) The sponsor and the intern understand the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

While not every factor weighed strongly in favor of finding the plaintiffs entitled to pay, Judge William H. Pauley III concluded that the plaintiffs “were classified improperly as unpaid interns and are ‘employees’ covered by the FLSA,” and that “[t]he benefits they may have received—such as knowledge of how a production or accounting office functions or references for future jobs—are the results of simply having worked as any other employee works, not of internships designed to be uniquely educational to the interns and of little utility to the employer.”

For more on the decision, see the Bloomberg BNA article Judge Rules Fox Searchlight Interns Are FLSA Employees, Certifies Class Action which concludes by noting that “In the past few years, unpaid interns of for-profit, private sector employers have brought several wage and hour suits in New York courts. The district court's ruling here is the first to find that such interns are employees under the FLSA.” The article cites to another case from the Southern District of New York, Wang v. The Hearst Corporation, where Judge Harold Baer ruled differently in denying partial summary judgment on the employee issue and finding various factual disputes concerning DOL's unpaid intern criteria.

Another class action, Bickerton v. Rose, which a former intern filed in New York Supreme Court last year, alleged that she regularly worked at least 25 hours per week without pay as an intern for The Charlie Rose show. The case ended when Rose and his production company agreed to pay up to $250,000 as a settlement without admitting any wrongdoing.

Friday, June 21, 2013

New Books List

Among the 71 titles in Brooklyn Law School Library latest New Books List is a must read for today’s law students. Richard Susskind’s newest volume on the legal profession, Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future (Call #K120 .S87 2013), predicts major changes coming in the world of law with the emergence of virtual courts, Internet-based global legal businesses, online document production, commoditized service, legal process outsourcing, and web-based simulated practice.
Susskind, author of an earlier book also in the BLS Library collection, The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services (Call # K87 .S865 2010), foresees the liberalization of legal markets, with new jobs for lawyers and new employers. The book is a definitive guide to this future for aspiring lawyers, and for all who want to modernize the legal and justice system. It offers practical guidance for those who intend to build careers and businesses in law and identifies the key drivers of change, such as the economic downturn, considering how these will shape the legal marketplace. The book sketches out the new legal landscape as Susskind envisions it, highlighting the changing role of law firms and in-house lawyers and the coming of virtual hearings and online dispute resolution. He also suggests solutions to major concerns within the legal profession, such as diminishing public funding, and explores alternative roles for future lawyers in a world increasingly dominated by IT.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Episode 087 – Conversation with Mark Walsh, Class of 2015

Episode 087 – Conversation with Mark Walsh, Class of 2015.mp3

In this podcast, Mark Walsh, Class of 2015 and newly-elected Brooklyn Law School Student Bar Association President, talks about his previous year with the SBA and the upcoming year as SBA President. Mark discusses his plans for next year for the SBA to work with the administration and other departments within the Law School, particularly the Information Technology Department, to better serve the student body. He also looks forward to working with BLS Library Director Janet Sinder.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CALI Conference 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

Copyright and the Public Domain on Trial

A recent article in the New York Law Journal reports on a class action complaint, Good Morning To You Productions Corp. v. Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., filed in the Southern District of New York where ownership of the well-known song "Happy Birthday to You" is under dispute. The plaintiff company, which is producing a documentary about the song that dates back to before 1893, is seeking a declaration that the tune is in the public domain and not subject to copyright protection. During production, the plaintiff company learned that the defendant claimed exclusive copyright ownership of the song. The defendant charged a license fee of $1,500 to use the song which the plaintiff paid. The defendant is alleged to have threatened legal action against the plaintiff seeking penalties of $150,000 under the Copyright Act if it used the song without permission.
This prompted the lawsuit which argues that the defendant "either has silenced those wishing to record or perform 'Happy Birthday to You' or has extracted millions of dollars in unlawful licensing fees from those unwilling or unable to challenge its ownership claims." In addition to seeking a declaration that the song is in the public domain, the complaint asks for the return of the $1,500 licennse fee that it paid plus millions of dollars collected over the years for what it calls "the world's most popular song."
The past year has seen other complaints looking to declare famous works as being in the public domain.  See Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd about the stories of Sherlock Holmes filed in the Northern District of Illinois and Cabell v. Zorro Productions, Inc. about the stories of Zorro filed in the Western District of Washington. For more on the subject of public domain and copyright law, see the Brooklyn Law School Library copy of The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More by Stephen Fishman. The guide explains the law and identifies problems and gray areas. It also covers trademark and patent law as they might conflict with copyright.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

112th BLS Commencement at Lincoln Center

Brooklyn Law School held its 112th Commencement Ceremony on Friday, June 7 at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. With more than 450 law students receiving either a Juris Doctor or a LL.M degree, the Class of 2013 was one of the school’s largest graduating classes before enrollment began declining after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Joseph Binder, Class Valedictorian and one of five students graduating summa cum laude, made reference to ongoing doubt about the future of the profession in his comments but also noted that his fellow students, from all different backgrounds, shared a common commitment to growth, change, and community and could use the values and skills that they developed and apply them to whatever challenges lie ahead. Other summa cum laude graduates were Joshua Gerber, Kate Olivieri, David Passes, and Noam Weiss. The complete list of students graduating with honors is accessible here. A list of Commencement Prizes and Awards for the Class of 2013 is available here.

The 2013 Commencement Speaker, Kenneth Feinberg, the lead attorney who oversaw settlement payouts after disasters including the attacks of 9/11, the Virginia Tech shootings, and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings, reminded the graduates that they are all members of a noble profession and that the “public interest” lies at the heart of it. He cited the Law School’s nationally acclaimed Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program as an example of law students working in the public interest. Advising the graduates not to be afraid to avoid the safe path, the easy road, the comfortable option, Feinberg urged them to take chances, reinforced by the knowledge that they are entitled and expected to do so because of the diplomas that they earned. He said “I use my law degree every day to strike out in new directions, to pursue the unfamiliar road. Today, your law degree affords you the same opportunity, to ignore fear of failure, to be bold, to be pioneers and innovators in using the law to better our nation and the world.”
In closing, Feinberg quoted Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ remarks in 1886 to undergraduate law students at Harvard:
To those who believe with me that not the least godlike of man’s activities is the large survey of causes, that to know is not less than to feel, I say – and I say no longer with any doubt – that a man or woman may live greatly in the law as well as elsewhere; that there as well as elsewhere he may wreak himself upon life, may drink the bitter cup of heroism, may wear his heart out after the unattainable. 
The full text of Holmes lecture is at this link available through the BLS Library subscription to HeinOnline.

Friday, June 7, 2013


A recent New York Law Journal article, Overcriminalization of Non-Violent Conduct: Time for Real Reform by attorneys Robert J. Anello and Richard F. Albert, examines the proliferation of federal criminal laws and the resulting increase in the federal prison population, approximately 40% above capacity, costing taxpayers almost $7 billion a year, almost 30% of the Justice Department's budget. The article cites Without Intent: How Congress Is Eroding the Criminal Intent Requirement in Federal Law, which is available in the SARA, the Brooklyn Law School catalog. With Congress adding an average of 500 new crimes to the books in each of the past three decades and the addition of  tens of thousands of regulations with criminal penalties, many without traditional mens rea or criminal intent, critics contend that these newly created crimes violate fundamental principles of fair notice, and subjects individuals to criminal punishment for conduct that they do not know is illegal.
The article points to a number of proposed remedies including legislative reform and judicial reform. See the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 and United States v. Goyal, 629 F.3d 912 (9th Cir. 2010) where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a corporate CFO's fraud conviction finding that no reasonable jury could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

For more on the subject, see the BLS Library copy of Overcriminalization: The Limits of the Criminal Law (Call #KF9223 .H87 2008) by Douglas Husak who argues that the U.S suffers from too much criminal law and too much punishment. The author notes that most Anglo-American legal philosophers have neglected the topic and argues that many of the resources to reduce the size and scope of the criminal law can be derived from within the criminal law itself, even though these resources have not been used explicitly for this purpose.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Eminent Domain, Just and Unjust Compensation

Brooklyn Law School Assistant Professor of Law Brian Lee has posted Just Undercompensation: The Idiosyncratic Premium in Eminent Domain on SSRN. The full text of the article appears at 113 Columbia Law Review 593 (2013). The abstract reads:
When the government exercises its power of eminent domain to take private property, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that the property's owners receive "just compensation," which the Supreme Court has defined as equal to the property’s fair market value. Today, a well-established consensus exists on three basic propositions about this fair market value standard. First, the standard systematically undercompensates owners of taken property, because market prices do not reflect owners' personal valuations of particular pieces of property. Second, this undercompensation is unfair to those owners. And third, an appropriate way to rectify this problem is to add fixed-percentage bonuses to the amount of compensation paid. Several states have recently enacted laws requiring such bonuses, and prominent academics have endorsed their adoption. This Article, however, argues that all three of these widely accepted propositions are false. First, examining the economics of market-price formation reveals that fair market value includes compensation for more subjective value than previously recognized. Second, much of what market value leaves uncompensated should not, in fairness, receive compensation. Third, although justice may require paying compensation above fair market value in certain situations, this Article argues that the solution favored by academics and recent state legislation is itself unjust, undermining the civic and moral equality of rich and poor property owners by relatively overcompensating the rich while undercompensating the poor for losses which have equal value to rich and poor alike. The Article concludes by showing how an alternative approach can avoid these fairness problems.