Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Zoning Symposium on Land Use

Brooklyn Law School Professor Gregg Macey and former BLS Professor Christopher Serkin (now at Vanderbilt Law School) recently posted Symposium Introduction: Post-Zoning: Alternative Forms of Public Land Use Controls on SSRN.   The full text of the introduction appears at 78 Brooklyn Law Review 305 (2013). The abstract reads:

Brooklyn Law School’s 2012 David G. Trager "Public Policy Symposium, Post-Zoning: Alternative Forms of Public Land Use Controls", called for a critical new appraisal of modern land use regulation. In this Introduction, we describe the topic and introduce the outstanding papers produced for the Issue. Over the years, zoning has widened its reach and flexibility through innovations such as overlay districts and planned unit developments. But these regulatory tweaks continue to take the separation of incompatible uses of land as their point of departure. In this Introduction, we sketch zoning’s origins and suggest why its traditional goals may no longer be tenable. New challenges, from finer-grained externalities within communities to sea-level rise, demand that zoning respond to change at both broader and narrower scales. The impressive set of papers collected in the Symposium address, in varied and creative ways, zoning’s ability to adapt to new pressures on land use from the sublocal to the global. Included in this volume are papers by Vicki Been, Alejandro Camacho, Richard Epstein, Lee Fennell, William Fischel, Nicole Garnett, Rachel Godsil, Gerald Korngold, John Nolon, and Stewart Sterk.

Monday, July 29, 2013

History of the Voting Rights Act

The Brooklyn Law School Library has several items in its collection related to the Voting Rights Act. The latest is Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy by Gary May (Call #KF4893.M39 2013). This fast-paced history of the VRA offers a dramatic, timely account of the struggle that finally won African Americans the ballot—although, as May shows, the fight for voting rights is by no means over.

When the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870 granted African Americans the right to vote, it seemed as if a new era of political equality was at hand. Before long, however, white segregationists across the South counterattacked, driving their black countrymen from the polls through a combination of sheer terror and insidious devices such as complex literacy tests and expensive poll taxes. Most African Americans would remain voiceless for nearly a century more, citizens in name only until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act secured their access to the ballot.

The author describes how black voters overcame centuries of bigotry to secure and preserve one of their most important rights as American citizens. The struggle that culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act was long and torturous, and only succeeded because of the courageous work of local freedom fighters and national civil rights leaders—as well as, ironically, the opposition of Southern segregationists and law enforcement officials, who won public sympathy for the voting rights movement by brutally attacking peaceful demonstrators.

Many argue that the 2008 election of President Barack Obama rendered the act obsolete, and there have been renewed efforts to curb voting rights and deny minorities the act’s hard-won protections. The Supreme Court's recent decision in Shelby County v. Holder declared the protections in Section 4 of the VRA unconstitutional. Recent actions by the Department of Justice make clear that Section 2 and other sections of the VRA remain in play as methods to promote the goal of increasing voting rights. See the Jurist article for more on this issue.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Casetext: Open Access to Legal Texts

An interesting new case law research tool that Brooklyn Law Students can use to gain a better understanding of case law research is Casetext. It is a free, searchable legal database that readers can annotate. The beta version just opened to the public, and the site is building a community of annotators so that lawyers reading a case see related legal documents, articles, and commentary alongside the text.

The database currently contains the bulk of federal cases (all Supreme Court, circuit courts from 1 Federal Reporter 2d, and district courts from 1980); it also has Delaware cases in the Atlantic Reporter from 30 Atlantic Reporter. Co-founders Jacob Heller (former president of the Stanford Law Review) and Joanna Huey (former president of the Harvard Law Review) decided to build Casetext for their own research.

This site is building a community of annotators so that lawyers reading a case can see related legal documents, articles, and commentary alongside the text. Instead of selling access to documents, the site will support itself by offering additional tools that enhance search and save time. It will benefit from user feedback as well as their annotations.
See the instructional video below for more on how to use the database:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Alumni Named Rising Legal Stars

Recent Brooklyn Law School graduates have won praise from the legal community for their accomplishments. Earlier this year, Jeffrey Schulman, Class of 2000, a partner at Dickstein Shapiro LLP, was selected by the New York Law Journal as a Rising Star of 2013 for his work representing corporate and commercial policyholders. Four more alumni have been recognized for distinguished service and leadership.

Michael Asaro, Class of 1998, was named to Law360’s 2013 list of Rising Stars Under 40 in the Securities Bar. Asaro is a partner in the New York office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, focusing on U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigations, white-collar criminal defense, corporate internal investigations, and commercial litigation. As a former federal prosecutor and enforcement attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission, he used his decade of experience as a government lawyer to help hedge-fund industry giants navigate high-stakes litigation. He has also been recognized as a leading lawyer by Chambers USA, New York Super Lawyers, and BNA’s Securities Regulation & Law Report. J

Joshua Bernstein, Class of 2001, is a partner at Pryor Cashman LLP and a member of the firm’s Real Estate Litigation and Hospitality Litigation Groups. Bernstein was also recognized by Law360 as a 2013 Rising Star in the Real Estate category. Several of Bernstein’s most high-profile cases have secured multimillion-dollar judgments for developers fighting against global hoteliers, including Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Mandarin Oriental Hotel & Residence. Described by Pryor Cashman as “an unstoppable force in the courtroom,” he advises clients in disputes ranging from the acquisition and development of real property to the operation and management of hotels. Bernstein has also written two articles on hospitality litigation for the New York Law Journal.

Angela L. Baglanzis, Class of 2002, an associate in the Philadelphia office of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP, was selected as a 2013 Pennsylvania Rising Star in bankruptcy law. Featured in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazines, Rising Stars are chosen by their peers and through the independent research of Thomson Reuters. In her practice, Baglanzis serves businesses in need of restructuring, reorganization, and liquidation. Her clients represent a variety of industries, including retail, bars and restaurants, construction, and real estate. Complementing her focus on bankruptcy and real estate, Baglanzis is a volunteer lawyer for the Homeless Advocacy Center, helping the homeless community find housing and employment.

Cassandra M. Porter, Class of 2004, is counsel to Lowenstein Sandler LLP in the firm’s Bankruptcy, Financial Reorganization & Creditor’s Rights Group. Her practice focuses exclusively on bankruptcy, restructuring, debtor-creditor law, and bankruptcy litigation. Porter’s successful representation of major clients such as U.S. Eagle Corp and its affiliates, Meridian Behavioral Health LLC, and RoomStore, Inc., led to her inclusion on the New Jersey Super Lawyers 2013 list of Rising Stars. She is also the secretary and member of the board of directors of The Financial Clinic, a leading nonprofit dedicated to helping the working poor build financial security.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Beauty of Citizens United

Professor Joel Gora recently posted on SSRN his latest article Free Speech, Fair Elections, and Campaign Finance Laws: Can They Co-Exist?. The full text of the article appears at 56 Howard Law Journal 763 and is available here. The abstract reads:

A prominent politician once observed that, "You can either have free speech or fair elections, but you can’t have both." In the view of this article, that has it precisely backwards. In fact, you cannot have one without the other. The election of 2012 tested that thesis because it was the most expensive federal election in history and it contained what many claimed was a great deal of negative campaign speech and rhetoric. This paper argues that, under the First Amendment, election speech is supposed to be "uninhibited, robust and wide-open" and unrestrained in both quantity and content. Accordingly, the increase in campaign spending and activity by candidates, parties, non-profits organizations, labor unions, corporations and so-called "super pacs" is a good thing for free speech principles and democracy, not a bad thing, and efforts to impose greater limitations on campaign funding should be opposed. The same is also true for the supposed increase in the "negative" nature of the content of much campaign speech. There too a proper view of the First Amendment would applaud and encourage such robust debate about core issues of governance. The article concludes by advocating a number of reforms which will make our electoral speech even more vigorous than it is now.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Municipal Bankruptcy

The City of Detroit's filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, and the breaking news that Michigan Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina has issued an Order directing Governor Rick Snyder to withdraw the petition because the filing violated the state’s constitution, raises serious issues for financially stressed local governments. For more on this development, see the NY Times article.The potential for the Detroit bankruptcy as a test case for municipalities restructuring retirement benefits in bankruptcy court is significant.  

On the subject of municipal bankruptcy, the Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection When States Go Broke: The Origins, Context, and Solutions for the American States in Fiscal Crisis by Peter Conti-Brown and David Skeel (Call #KF1535.S73 W48 2012). Chapter 3 is entitled Public Pension Pressures in the United States. The book collects insights and analysis from leading academics and practitioners that discuss the ongoing fiscal crisis among the American states. No one disagrees with the idea that the states face enormous political and fiscal challenges. There is, however, little consensus on how to fix the perennial problems associated with these challenges. The book fills an important gap in the dialogue by offering an academic analysis of the many issues broached by these debates. Leading scholars in bankruptcy, constitutional law, labor law, history, political science, and economics have individually contributed their assessments of the origins, context, and potential solutions for the states in crisis. It presents readers - academics, policy makers, and concerned citizens alike - with the resources to begin and continue that important, solution-oriented conversation., the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history,

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Company Investigator

Brooklyn Law School students now have a new tool they can use to conduct due diligence on M&A targets, to advise clients regarding competition, and to evaluate potential buyers to ensure financial solidity. In a recent press release, Thomson Reuters announced the launch of Company Investigator, a comprehensive resource for information on private and public companies. Users can find information on companies to assist with business development, litigation, due diligence and a host of other applications.

Company Investigator accesses more than 30 million company profiles — of which 20 million are hard-to-find private companies — including general corporate information, subsidiary data, legal disputes, secretary of state filings, regulatory filings, and material agreements. Users can search by company name or other terms to locate a search subject.

Company Investigator is available on WestlawNext and presents information in a manner that makes it easy to analyze corporate “family tree” structures, relationships among corporate entities, and other company-related information, such as recently filed court dockets, bankruptcy filings and more.

Users can easily create customizable reports that assemble all of the relevant business and legal information. Email alerts can be set up to provide notification of new business developments or changes to a business’s status. With its comprehensive data as well as powerful search and information management tools, Company Investigator saves hours of research time and helps effectively manage risk.

“Legal industry professionals depend on relevant, accurate and current company information,” said Steve Obenski, senior director and general manager, Business Law Solutions, Thomson Reuters. “Company Investigator is remarkably easy to use while at the same time incredibly powerful. It makes it fast and easy to understand corporate structures, relationships and other information about business entities. This is a must-have tool that is invaluable for transactional lawyers, litigators and legal researchers alike.”

A podcast on how Company Investigator can help find information on public and private companies is available here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Traditional Irish Laws

Congratulations to Brooklyn Law School alumna Catherine F. Duggan, Class of 1987, who has written The Lost Laws of Ireland: How the Brehon Laws Shaped Early Irish Society. The book, published by Dublin-based Glasnevin Publishing on June 11, 2013, tells how the ancient laws of Celtic Ireland were used from the time before Patrick until the 17th century when they were outlawed and disappeared. Crafted by judges, known as Brehons, the laws were surprisingly modern in their approach to timeless issues and reflect a complex and sophisticated society. This book gives an outline of the main features of the laws and their history, and ultimately focuses on certain themes that are significant to the modern reader, such as equity and fairness, transparent legal process and women's rights. Many of the legal manuscripts have been lost or destroyed and the laws were not translated into English until modern times. As a result, they have mostly remained obscure and unstudied. Only recently have they given up their secrets. The ancient laws provide a window into society in early Ireland where learning was revered, social mobility was expected and fairness and harmony were social goals. Their resilience demonstrates their value and effectiveness. The Brehon legal system came to an end officially in 1605 after enduring for over a thousand years.

Researchers at the BLS Library can learn more about the subject of Celtic Law using SARA to locate Traditional Irish Laws by Mary Dowling Daley and illustrated by Ian McCullough (Call #KDK172 .D25 1998). It is a short book only 79 pages in length with a humorous look into the laws and culture of the ancient Irish. The BLS Library also has the print edition of The Brehon Laws: A Legal Handbook by Laurence Ginnell (Call #KDK145 .G56 1993). Both of these items are located in the BLS Library International Collection. The BLS Library also has the HeinOnline digital version of Brehon Laws: A Legal Handbook (1894).

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Writing Competiton Winner on SSRN

Dominic A. Saglibene, Brooklyn Law School Class of 2014, has posted his note “The U.K. Bribery Act: A Benchmark for Anticorruption Reform in the U.S.” on SSRN.  The note is scheduled for publication next year in Volume 24 of the Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, a journal of the University of Iowa College Of Law. Saglibene won the Trandafir Writing Competition for the note. For more, see the news item at the Brooklyn Law School website. The abstract reads:

This Note will argue that the U.S. should look to the U.K. Bribery Act in amending the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ("FCPA") to criminalize foreign bribery across the board. Part I will introduce the thesis. Part II will explain the relationship between public and private bribery, and outline how some nations have come to recognize that overlooking private bribery undermines anticorruption laws and policies in general. Part III will describe the FCPA and other anti-bribery laws in the U.S., and present the U.K. Act as an improvement on the FCPA. Part IV will then discuss U.S. prosecutions - especially U.S. v. Carson - demonstrating the inadequacy of American law against bribery in the foreign private sector. Part V will conclude.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Independence Day

Brooklyn Law Library’s copy of the book For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence (Call # E221 .T74 2012) by Loyola University Chicago School of Law Professor Alexander Tsesis offers a well-researched narrative of the many surprising ways in which the Declaration of Independence has influenced American politics, law, and society. The drafting of the Bill of Rights, the Reconstruction Amendments, the New Deal, and the Civil Rights movement are all heavily indebted to the Declaration's principles of representative government. The author demonstrates that from the founding on, the Declaration has played a central role in American political and social advocacy, congressional debates, and presidential decisions. He focuses on how successive generations internalized, adapted, and interpreted its meaning, but he also shines a light on the many American failures to live up to the ideals enshrined in the document. Based on extensive research from primary sources such as newspapers, diaries, letters, transcripts of speeches, and congressional records, For Liberty and Equality shows how our founding document shaped America through successive eras and why its influence has always been crucial to the nation and our way of life.
Chapters include: Becoming independent -- The nation's infancy -- Youthful republic -- Compromising for the sake of expansion -- Jacksonian era democracy -- Subordination -- The unraveling bonds of union -- Sectional cataclysm -- Reconstruction -- Racial tensions -- Advancing women's causes -- The changing face of labor -- International impact & domestic advance -- The declaration in a New Deal state -- Independence principles in the civil rights era.