LexisNexis 200

On the English side of the pond, LexisNexis’ 200 year anniversary seems to have coincided with AI hitting the very top of the hype curve, blockchain finding its way into the everyday Lexicon and increasing numbers of leading law firms opening their own tech accelerator hubs. These opportunities for lawyers, law firms, in-house teams, learning establishments and law students give us reason to think that we are experiencing the most significant innovations ever seen by lawyers.

One technology easily forgotten because of its pervasiveness was an innovation that dominated LexisNexis (previously Butterworths) during the first 160 years of our history but had already been available for 350 years before Henry Butterworth opened his bookstore in 1818. Johannes Guttenberg’s printing press was a major first step on a journey of democratizing information and transmitting it with ease and speed.

While the printing press had been developed in the mid-1400s, it was not until 1481 or 1482 when the first English law book was printed: Sir Thomas de Littleton’s Treatise on Tenures, which was written in French.  Perhaps even more importantly, the first legislation was printed in 1483. Before then, the dissemination of legal information and ideas – including publishing law reports and instructional guides for solicitors and justices of the peace – was limited to a scribe’s accuracy and speed and therefore tended to be limited to those few in the Inns of Court who had access to manuscript copies.

The pre-printing press, “manuscript culture”, methods of recording and sharing information in notebooks or commonplace books and the direct conversations between lawyers made it challenging for those practising or upholding law to be sure that they were up-to-date with current legislation and practice. However the same methods also proved to be an ideal protectionist tool allowing (or perhaps even engineering) a major knowledge gap between those who had access to the law and those who didn’t. A lawyer’s value would regularly lie with just knowing what the law was, rather than how to apply the law. Of course this is no longer how a lawyer creates value and such a scenario seriously offends our current concepts of the Rule of Law since people cannot be truly equal if it is impossible for the majority to even know what the law is.

in any event, LexixNexis has created a short video as a tribute to the legal profession and how it has helped transform society over the past 200 years.

Hat tip:  James Wilkinson, Head of Content Automation at LexisNexis UK.

Conspiracy: the Gawker Case

Brooklyn Law School Library’s New Books List for June 1, 2018 is now out with 38 print titles and 41 E-book titles. One book attracted the attention of this writer. Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue tells the story of an astonishing modern media conspiracy. In an age when people compete to be contrarian, it is rare to encounter an astounding proposition. That is what makes Ryan Holiday’s “Conspiracy” such a delight. It takes real nerve, during an investigation into possible collusion to swing the 2016 presidential election, to argue that we might be better off “if more people took up plotting.” Unfortunately for Holiday, and for readers who enjoy a good provocation, his book focuses on a case that demonstrates why transparency beats conspiracy in the long run.

“Conspiracy” chronicles the legal battle between Terry Bollea, or Hulk Hogan, and Gawker Media, the swashbuckling Manhattan publishing group founded by Nick Denton. In 2012, A.J. Daulerio, then editor of the company’s flagship site, published excerpts of a sex tape, recorded in 2006 without Bollea’s consent or knowledge, that showed Bollea in bed with Heather Clem, who was then married to Bollea’s best friend: the radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge. The story was wacky, but it got truly weird. In 2007, Gawker Media acquired a powerful enemy when one of its writers outed PayPal founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel as gay. Gawker’s Denton, who like Thiel is gay, believed that Thiel’s refusal to be open about being gay was proof that Thiel was “paranoid.” To Thiel, the story was a violation, one that made him into an object of curiosity, in a way he found incomprehensible.

Thiel, as Holiday writes, “venerated privacy, in creating space for weirdos and the politically incorrect to do what they do. Because he believed that’s where progress came from.” What Gawker saw as transparency, Thiel saw as a threat to Silicon Valley. He was so angry at Gawker that he began to refer to it as “the Manhattan Based Terrorist Organization.”

But it took him four years to strike back. In 2011, a Mr. A, whose role is first described in “Conspiracy” but who remains a shadowy figure throughout the book, persuaded Thiel to devote $10 million and five years to a shell company aimed at finding and backing potential lawsuits against Gawker. Among their beneficiaries: Terry Bollea. In 2016, a Florida jury awarded Bollea damages so punishing that Denton had to sell the company. On the surface, it seemed that Thiel’s conspiracy had checkmated Gawker Media.

Holiday, an author and corporate adviser, had unusual access to Thiel and Denton. It is one of the many ironies of this story, and of “Conspiracy,” that talking makes Thiel more sympathetic and comprehensible than plotting ever did. But by the end of the book, it’s clear that, despite Holiday’s argument, Thiel’s conspiracy failed: Thiel killed Gawker, but in doing so undermined his dream of making the Internet a more decent place and securing a more private life for himself. By contrast, Gawker was destroyed not because its leaders failed to conspire, but because they did not pursue the transparency they claimed to believe in.

By the time Thiel did identify himself as Gawker Media’s nemesis after the verdict in Bollea v. Gawker, the narrative of the trial was well on its way to being set. Thiel discovered that it is difficult to come forward and insist that you are the hero of the story when you have already won the sort of surprising and dismaying victory that makes the public inclined to believe that you are the villain. “Cunning and resources might win the war,” Holiday writes toward the end of “Conspiracy,” “but it’s the stories and myths afterwards that will determine who deserved to win it.” The flaw in Thiel’s thinking, and in “Conspiracy,” is in failing to recognize that the stories and the myths that emerge after an event often are the substance of the victory.

RBG

Her fans refer to her as the “Notorious R.B.G.” a reference to the legendary rapper “The Notorious B.I.G.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg jokes in an interview that they have a lot in common. They both come from Brooklyn. Through Ginsburg’s history you can track the women’s movement in the United States:  her fight for legal equality (for women and men), her position on an increasingly conservative court. It gives access to Ginsburg, who is interviewed, along with her children, her granddaughter, and her friends.

Starting with various right-wing figures calling Ginsburg “witch,” “very wicked,” “zombie,” the documentary takes us on a tour through Ginsburg’s life: her 1993 confirmation hearing for the Senate Judiciary Committee, recent interviews at Harvard Law School or the Virginia Military Institute, all of which help fill in the blanks of her lengthy career, as a lawyer working on women’s rights issues to her eventual nomination to the highest court in the land. There is information of personal details: her love of opera, her friendship with Antonin Scalia, the diverse collars she wears to court, her lengthy marriage to Martin D. Ginsburg. Once we reach the present day, the memes take over, showing how Ginsburg has captured the hearts of a younger generation. Seeing a class full of high school students as they listen to Ginsburg’s during a visit to their class is especially endearing.

Her husband, “Marty,” was by all accounts a well-liked and gregarious man, and not threatened by his wife’s ambitions. Gloria Steinem refers to her as a “superhero,” but Ginsburg did not spend the 1970s walking in protest marches. Instead, she went about trying to establish legal precedent for gender equality. She did so in a couple of groundbreaking cases, like Frontiero v. Richardson, her first case before the Supreme Court. “RBG” profiles those early cases, where Ginsburg took the opportunity in her arguments not only to plead for her client, but also to teach the existing Supreme Court justices that inequality is real, and why it was wrong to treat women as second-class citizens. In one of her arguments, she quoted 19th century abolitionist and attorney Sarah Grimké,: “I ask no favors for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet from off our necks.” The Supreme Court listened. Ginsburg won 5 out of 6 of her cases.

We get to hear a brief sequence dealing with her controversial 2016 comments about then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump, a serious break with the tradition of Supreme Court Justices maintaining poker faces, regardless of who is in power. One of the regular interview subjects is Senator Orrin Hatch, who may disagree with her politics but also admires her, expressing no doubt that she belongs on the Supreme Court. In the film, his is a measured presence, exuding an acceptance of disagreement and the need for compromise. His comments come from an earlier, more civilized world. Ginsburg is now queen of the dissenting opinion, but unfortunately the filmmakers stay far, far away from any “dissenting opinions” themselves.

Memorial Day 2018

Memorial Day festivities are now 150 years old. At the end of the Civil War, Americans faced a formidable challenge: how to memorialize 625,000 dead soldiers, Northern and Southern. As Walt Whitman mused, it was “the dead, the dead, the dead — our dead — or South or North, ours all” that preoccupied the country. After all, if the same number of Americans per capita had died in Vietnam as died in the Civil War, four million names would be on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, instead of 58,000.

In the North, Memorial Day emerged in 1868 when the Grand Army of the Republic called on communities to conduct grave-decorating ceremonies. On May 30, funereal events attracted thousands of people at hundreds of cemeteries in countless towns, cities and mere crossroads. By the 1870s, one could not live in an American town, North or South, and be unaware of the spring ritual. The practice of decorating graves which gave rise to an alternative name, Decoration Day did not start with the 1868 events, nor was it an exclusively Northern practice. In 1866 the Ladies’ Memorial Association of Columbus, Ga., chose April 26, the anniversary of Gen. Joseph Johnston’s final surrender to Gen. William T. Sherman, to commemorate fallen Confederate soldiers. Later, both May 10, the anniversary of Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s death, and June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, were designated Confederate Memorial Day in different states.

Memorial Days were initially occasions of sacred bereavement, and from the war’s end to the early 20th century they helped forge national reconciliation around soldierly sacrifice, regardless of cause. In North and South, orators and participants frequently called Memorial Day an “American All Saints Day,” likening it to the European Catholic tradition of whole towns marching to churchyards to honor dead loved ones.

The ritual quickly became the tool of partisan memory, at least through the violent Reconstruction years. In the South, Memorial Day was a means of confronting the Confederacy’s defeat without repudiating its cause. Some Southern orators stressed Christian notions of noble sacrifice. Others, however, used the ritual for Confederate vindication and renewed assertions of white supremacy. Blacks had a place in this Confederate narrative, but only as time-warped loyal slaves who were supposed to remain frozen in the past. Yankee Memorial Day orations often righteously claimed the high ground of blood sacrifice to save the Union and destroy slavery.

But for the earliest and most remarkable Memorial Day, we must return to where the war began. By the spring of 1865, after a long siege and prolonged bombardment, the beautiful port city of Charleston, S.C., lay in ruin and occupied by Union troops. Among the first soldiers to enter and march up Meeting Street singing liberation songs was the 21st United States Colored Infantry; their commander accepted the city’s official surrender.

Whites had largely abandoned the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly former slaves, had remained, and they conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war. The largest of these took place on May 1, 1865. During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand. After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

The symbolic power of this Low Country planter aristocracy’s bastion was not lost on the freedpeople, who then, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged a parade of 10,000 on the track. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.” The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children’s choir sang “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.

After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill. Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite. The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders’ republic. They were themselves the true patriots.

Hat tip: David W. Blight, NY Times

 

 

2018 Graduation: Photos from the Library and Beyond

Students at Brooklyn Law School spend a lot of time in the library.  It was perhaps fitting that even as their law school journey drew to a close at graduation on May 18, the BLS Class of 2018 couldn’t quite escape the library.   

At the commencement ceremony, class speaker Maria Ortiz reminded graduates of the quote from “A League of Their Own” that every BLS student has passed countless times given its prominent display in the library stairwell: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it… The hard is what makes it great.”  When the happy graduates returned to BLS after the ceremony, many headed to the library’s third floor Nash Reading Room with family and friends to celebrate over food and drink.  The Nash Reading Room only opened last fall (official dedication to come soon!), and it was wonderful to see it transformed into a place of joyous celebration. Build it and they will come.

We look forward to continue seeing familiar faces over the summer as many newly-minted alums will be using the library for their bar exam studies.  Here are some photos from the graduation festivities in the library and beyond. (Thanks to Jean Davis for taking most of these photos!)

Congratulations and all the best to the Brooklyn Law School Class of 2018!!

2018 Commencement Speakers at NY Area Law Schools

Graduation season is here and Brooklyn Law School holds its 117th Commencement Ceremony today at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House. The commencement speaker was Hon. Dora L. Irizarry, Chief United States District Judge, Eastern District of New York. Appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004, Dora L. Irizarry is the first Hispanic District Judge to serve in the Eastern District of New York. On April 23, 2016, she became the first Hispanic Chief Judge of the Eastern District of New York, and the first Hispanic woman Chief Judge within the Second Circuit. Born in Puerto Rico, and raised in the South Bronx, she attended public schools, and graduated cum laude with honors and distinction in the major of Political Sociology from Yale University in 1976. In 1979, she graduated from Columbia Law School, where she was a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow, and joined the Bronx District Attorney’s Office Appeals Bureau. Assigned to the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office, she investigated and prosecuted some of the City’s largest complex narcotics cases. She also served in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, and as a special prosecutor in the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Commencement speakers at other area law schools this year are:

New York

  • Albany Law School – Hon.  Michael J. Garcia, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals
  • Buffalo Law School – Terrence M. Connors of Connors LLP
  • Cardozo School of Law — Hon. Patricia Millett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • Columbia Law School — Jeh Johnson, Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
  • CUNY School of Law — Paul Butler, former prosecutor and law professor of Georgetown University
  • Fordham University School of Law —Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
  • Hofstra School of Law — Ronan Farrow, Pulitzer Prize investigative journalist
  • New York Law School — Hon. Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court
  • New York University School of Law — Bryan Stevenson, NYU Law Professor and Equal Justice Initiative Executive Director
  • Pace University School of Law — Eric Gonzalez, Kings County District Attorney
  • St. John’s University School of Law — Hon. Preet Bharara, Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Syracuse University College of Law — Hon. Preet Bharara, Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Touro Law Center — Hon. Joseph Crowley, U.S. Representative, 14th District of New York
New Jersey
  • Rutgers University School of Law at Newark — Hon. Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey Attorney General
  • Seton Hall Law School — Hon. Jovita Carranza, U.S. Treasurer

Stuck in the Muck? Use BLS’s Research Guides to Succeed in Your Summer Internships

This Summer many of you will be challenged to research and write on unfamiliar legal issues. You want to impress your supervisors, but you do not know where to begin or how to best approach the problem.  The Brooklyn Law School Library’s research guides are a good place to start.  The resources in the guides are curated by librarians to specifically support the subject surveyed.   Listed below are a few guides that can help you tackle your assignments.  For the complete list of the 49 research guides, go to the url: guides.brooklaw.edu.

Also, do not forget to reach out to BLS librarians for additional help.  You can email us at askthelibrary@brooklaw.edu, call us at 718-780-7567, text us at 718-734-2432, or chat with us using a widget on the Library’s home page.  We are here all summer.

New York State Legislative History Research: This guide is intended to help researchers locate print and online sources for New York State Legislative History Research.

New York Civil Litigation Research Guide: This guide’s purpose is to aid practitioners and law students in researching New York civil practice.  The guide identifies key civil practice resources, and provides search tips and strategies.

New York Criminal Procedure Research Guide: This research guide is intended to provide users with links to a variety of resources on New York State and Federal Criminal Procedure.  These sources cover a wide range of topics.

Federal Legislative History Research Guide: This research guide is intended to help researchers locate print and online sources for Federal Legislative History.

Form Books: In print and online: This is a guide to form books in print and online in the BLS Library collection. Legal forms are templates that attorneys use in drafting documents specific to the needs of their clients or are forms required to be used by a court or governmental agency.  Forms are found online in various databases, and in print in collections of form books.

Intellectual Property Law Primer: This guide will help you research Intellectual Property law which includes Patents, Trademarks and Copyright.  It will focus on materials available in the Brooklyn Law School library, including books, journals, and databases, in print and electronic format.  Access to some of these materials may require your BLS user name and password, as well as Lexis or Westlaw ID and passwords.

Fastcase: Another Tool in the Legal Research Toolbox

Fastcase, along with Bloomberg Law, Lexis and Westlaw, is another electronic tool in the legal research toolbox.  Fastcase is a legal research service that began in 2008, and gives users access to primary legal authority covering cases, statutes and regulations for most state and federal jurisdictions, as well as court rules and bar association publications.

A benefit of Fastcase is that access to law review articles is provided through the library’s subscription to Hein Online.

Brooklyn Law School students may access Fastcase from the SARA catalog.

The library recently added to its collection the book Fastcase: The Definitive Guide by Brian Huddleston, call number:  KF 242 .A1 H833 2018.  This book has twelve chapters covering everything you need to know about Fastcase.

Members of the New York State Bar Association have free access to the Fastcase New York Library.  For further information see:  Fastcase bar associations.

Taxing the Church

The Brooklyn Law School Library New Books List for May 1, 2018 has 23 print titles and 54 E-book titles. There are so many topics covered in the list but the pending case of Gaylor v. Mnuchin which involves permitting housing allowances given by denominations to clergy to be exempt from taxation makes one book on the list highly topical.

The book is Taxing the Church: Religion, Exemptions, Entanglement, and the Constitution by Edward A. Zelinsky, Professor of Law at Cardozo School of Law. It explores the taxation and exemption of churches and other religious institutions. This exploration reveals that churches and other religious institutions are treated diversely by the federal and state tax systems. Sectarian institutions pay more tax than many believe. In important respects, the states differ among themselves in their respective approaches to the taxation of sectarian entities. Either taxing or exempting churches and other sectarian entities entangles church and state. The taxes to which churches are more frequently subject – federal Social Security and Medicare taxes, sales taxes, real estate conveyance taxes – fall on the less entangling end of the spectrum. The taxes from which religious institutions are exempt – general income taxes, value-based property taxes, unemployment taxes – are typically taxes with the greatest potential for church-state enforcement entanglement. It is unpersuasive to reflexively denounce the tax exemption of religious actors and institutions as a subsidy.

For many years, religious denominations in the United States have been largely exempt from paying taxes. However, some cracks are beginning to show in that armor. Principal among them is a suit awaiting a hearing by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Gaylor v. Mnuchin, in which the Freedom From Religion Foundation is challenging the constitutionality of a 1954 law, the so-called “parsonage allowance” under 26 U.S.C. § 107(2) that permits “ministers of the gospel” to receive cash housing allowances tax free, a potential violation of the Establishment Clause. The case is on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals For The Seventh Circuit seeking to reverse the district court’s opinion and affirm the constitutionality of the minister’s housing allowance under 26 U.S.C. § 107(2).

Springtime comes to BLS

Tulips in front of the law school

Officially, the first day of spring fell on March 20 this year. This was news to those of us living in New York City. According to Accuweather, the high temperature in downtown Brooklyn on that day was a whopping 37° F (time perhaps for a pop quiz on de jure versus de facto?).

Enjoying coffee in the BLS Courtyard

 

 

 

It has taken a while, but spring has finally arrived in Brooklyn. Though we are in the midst of our exam period, BLS students are taking advantage of the good weather. Many of them can be seen out in the courtyard, discussing the intricacies of the UCC (the code, not the coffee) or regulatory takings and the Penn Central test.  Students may be grappling with the fruit of the poisonous tree, but at least they can enjoy the blooming flowers and greenery all around the law school. 

Downtown Brooklyn – Columbus Park

(Photographs courtesy of Jean Davis)