Mass Incarceration and Prison Reform

war on crimeIn the past few years, there has been increased discussion of the growth in America’s prison population to more than 2 million Americans incarcerated, many of them drug offenders, for periods that seem far too long. Since the publication in 2010 of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, there has been more scholarship on the topic of mass incarceration. In a title added last year to the Brooklyn Law School Library collection, From the War on Poverty to the War On Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America by Elizabeth Hinton (Call No. HV9950 .H56 2016), the topic get detailed attention.

The author, an Assistant Professor at Harvard University and urban historian, argues that mass incarceration is not just a conservative backlash to the civil rights movement but an initiative of both of the major political parties. In the book, Hinton traces mass incarceration, often based on assumptions about the cultural inferiority African-Americans, back to the 1960s, from the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson to that of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The Democrats passed the The Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Offenses Control Act of 1961 which portrayed black youth as being in need of repair rather than justice. At the same time when President Johnson’s War on Poverty sought to foster equality and economic opportunity, his administration advanced initiatives rooted in widely shared assumptions about African Americans’ role in urban disorder.  Johnson called for a War on Crime in 1965 when he created the Office of Law Enforcement Assistance, which significantly increased federal involvement in militarizing local police. From the late 1960s starting with Richard Nixon’s law and order campaign to the 1980s administration of Ronald Reagan, crime control and incarceration dominated national responses to poverty and inequality as initiatives that were the full realization of the punitive transformation of urban policy implemented by both parties.

Locked inA search of the BLS Library OneSearch platform will lead readers to a recent review of Hinton’s book in the February 2017 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (Vol. 107 Issue 2) under the title Reckoning with the Rise of the Carceral State by David H. Cloud. For more on the topic, the BLS Library has ordered for its collection a new title, Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform by John F. Pfaff, Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. The book describes a fractured criminal justice system, where many counties do not pay for the people they send to state prisons, and white suburbs set law and order agendas for more-heavily minority cities.

Seminar Paper Workshop

Last week Prof. Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil ran their semi-annual workshop on how to research and write a seminar paper.  Topics covered Image result for image writing a paperincluded sources for selecting your topic, sources for researching your topic, and how to effectively organize and write your paper.  If you were unable to attend the workshop, you can access an online research guide which contains a recording of the workshop, links to and descriptions of all the research sources discussed, and the writing and research presentations.  The online guide is available at guides.brooklaw.edu/seminarpaper.  From the guide’s landing page, you will be able to access a recording of the presentation, Professor Fajans’ slideshow on how to write your seminar paper, and Kathy Darvil’s online presentation on how to research your seminar paper.  If you should need further help selecting or researching your topic, please stop by the reference desk for assistance.

Happy Presidents’ Day!

The Library will be open on Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 20, 2017, a law school holiday, from 9:00am to 10:00pm.

Presidents’ Day, a federal holiday, was originally established to honor George Washington, the first president of the United States whose birthday was February 22nd.  The day has come to also honor Abraham Lincoln whose birthday was February 12th.

It has become a day to honor all U.S. presidents as well.  Listed below are some of the books in the Library’s collection on our first and sixteenth presidents.

George Washington:

Flexner, James, Washington, the Indispensable Man.

Freeman, Douglas Southall, George Washington, a Biography.

McDonald, Forrest, The Presidency of George Washington.

Nordham, George W., George Washington and the Law.

Abraham Lincoln:

Dirck, Brian, Lincoln the Lawyer.

Hubbard, Charles, Lincoln, the Law, and Presidential Leadership.

Matthews, Elizabeth, Lincoln as a Lawyer: an Annotated Bibliography.

McGinty, Brian, Lincoln’s Greatest Case: The River, the Bridge and the Making of America.

Thomas, Benjamin, Abraham Lincoln:  a Biography.

U.S. Presidents as Lawyers:

Gross, Norman, America’s Lawyer-Presidents: From Law Office to Oval Office.

Law and the English Language

Lawyer'sLast year, the Brooklyn Law Library added to its collection The Lawyer’s Guide to Writing Well (3d ed.) by Tom Goldstein and Jethro K. Lieberman (Call No. KF250. G65 2016). This critically acclaimed book “should be in the office of every lawyer” says William Safire of the New York Times. In its 286 pages, the authors demystify legal writing, outline the causes and consequences of poor writing, and prescribe easy-to-apply remedies to improve it. Reflecting changes in law practice over the past decade, this revised edition includes new sections around communicating digitally, getting to the point, and writing persuasively. It also provides an editing checklist, editing exercises with a suggested revision key, usage notes that address common errors, and reference works to further aid your writing. This guide is an invaluable tool for practicing lawyers and law students.

Chapters are: Why Lawyers Write Poorly — Does bad writing really matter? — Don’t make it like it was — The Practice of Writing — Ten steps to writing it down — Of dawdlers and scrawlers, pacers and plungers: getting started and overcoming blocks — The technology of getting it down: from quill pens to computers — Lawyers as publishers: words are your product — Getting to the Point — Writing persuasively for your audience: tell your audience the point — Writing the lead — Revising for Clarity and Luster — Form, structure, and organization — Wrong words, long sentences, and other mister meaners — Revising your prose — Making your writing memorable.

AnimalBooks and essays about the art of writing well go back a long time. In 1947, English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic George Orwell (born Eric Arthur Blair 1903 – 1950) and author of Animal Farm: A Fairy Story and Nineteen Eighty-Four, his most famous works, wrote an essay titled Politics and the English Language. Although the essay addresses the decline of language in political and economic contexts, Orwell, in the closing paragraphs, offers rules that cover effective legal writing as well. They are:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Emoluments Clause: Constitution’s Least Litigated

EmolumentsArticle I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution (known as the Emoluments Clause) reads:

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

University of St. Thomas School of Law Associate Professor of Law Robert J. Delahunty’s essay on the Heritage Guide to The Constitution is worth reading for an understanding of this obscure provision   Article VI of the Articles of Confederation was the source of the Constitution’s prohibition on federal titles of nobility and the so-called Emoluments Clause. The clause sought to shield the republican character of the United States against corrupting foreign influences.

The prohibition on federal titles of nobility—reinforced by the corresponding prohibition on state titles of nobility in Article I, Section 10, and more generally by the republican Guarantee Clause in Article IV, Section 4—was designed to underpin the republican character of the American government. In the ample sense James Madison gave the term in The Federalist No. 39, a republic was “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during good behavior.”

Republicanism so understood was the ground of the constitutional edifice. The prohibition on titles of nobility buttressed the structure by precluding the possibility of an aristocracy, whether hereditary or personal, whose members would inevitably assert a right to occupy the leading positions in the state.

Further, the prohibition on titles complemented the prohibition in Article III, Section 3, on the “Corruption of Blood” worked by “Attainder[s] of Treason” (i.e., the prohibition on creating a disability in the posterity of an attained person upon claiming an inheritance as his heir, or as heir to his ancestor). Together these prohibitions ruled out the creation of certain caste-specific legal privileges or disabilities arising solely from the accident of birth.

In addition to upholding republicanism in a political sense, the prohibition on titles also pointed to a durable American social ideal. This is the ideal of equality; it is what David Ramsey, the eighteenth-century historian of the American Revolution, called the “life and soul” of republicanism. The particular conception of equality denied a place in American life for hereditary distinctions of caste—slavery being the most glaring exception. At the same time, however, it also allowed free play for the “diversity in the faculties of men,” the protection of which, as Madison insisted in The Federalist No. 10, was “the first object of government.” The republican system established by the Founders, in other words, envisaged a society in which distinctions flowed from the unequal uses that its members made of equal opportunities: a society led by a natural aristocracy based on talent, virtue, and accomplishment, not by an hereditary aristocracy based on birth. “Capacity, Spirit and Zeal in the Cause,” as John Adams said, would “supply the Place of Fortune, Family, and every other Consideration, which used to have Weight with Mankind.” Or as the Jeffersonian St. George Tucker put it in 1803: “A Franklin, or a Washington, need not the pageantry of honours, the glare of titles, nor the pre-eminence of station to distinguish them….Equality of rights…precludes not that distinction which superiority of virtue introduces among the citizens of a republic.”

Similarly, the Framers intended the Emoluments Clause to protect the republican character of American political institutions. “One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.” The Federalist No. 22 (Alexander Hamilton). The delegates at the Constitutional Convention specifically designed the clause as an antidote to potentially corrupting foreign practices of a kind that the Framers had observed during the period of the Confederation. Louis XVI had the custom of presenting expensive gifts to departing ministers who had signed treaties with France, including American diplomats. In 1780, the King gave Arthur Lee a portrait of the King set in diamonds above a gold snuff box; and in 1785, he gave Benjamin Franklin a similar miniature portrait, also set in diamonds. Likewise, the King of Spain presented John Jay (during negotiations with Spain) with the gift of a horse. All these gifts were reported to Congress, which in each case accorded permission to the recipients to accept them. Wary, however, of the possibility that such gestures might unduly influence American officials in their dealings with foreign states, the Framers institutionalized the practice of requiring the consent of Congress before one could accept “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from…[a] foreign State.”

Like several other provisions of the Constitution, the Emoluments Clause also embodies the memory of the epochal constitutional struggles in seventeenth-century Britain between the forces of Parliament and the Stuart dynasty. St. George Tucker’s explanation of the clause noted that “in the reign of Charles the [S]econd of England, that prince, and almost all his officers of state were either actual pensioners of the court of France, or supposed to be under its influence, directly, or indirectly, from that cause. The reign of that monarch has been, accordingly, proverbially disgraceful to his memory.” As these remarks imply, the clause was directed not merely at American diplomats serving abroad, but more generally at officials throughout the federal government.

The Emoluments Clause has apparently never been litigated, but it has been interpreted and enforced through a long series of opinions of the Attorneys General and by less-frequent opinions of the Comptrollers General. Congress has also exercised its power of “Consent” under the clause by enacting the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, which authorizes federal employees to accept foreign governmental benefits of various kinds in specific circumstances.

Another fascinating read on the Emoluments Clause is the December 2016 Brookings Institute study titled The Emoluments Clause: Its Text, Meaning, and Application to Donald J. Trump co-authored by Norman L. Eisen, Richard Painter, and Laurence H. Tribe.

Update: World Share Interlibrary Loan Prime

The Library is implementing a new system to manage interlibrary loans called World Share Interlibrary Loan Prime.  The system will streamline interlibrary loan service. Interlibrary loan (ILL) is the service that gives you access to the resources of other libraries. You can use ILL to borrow books, and to obtain PDFs of articles and book chapters that the library does not own. The new system contains functionality that will speed the fulfillment of interlibrary loan requests.  Patrons will use their BLS username and password to sign on and make requests. The system will go live on January 23, 2017.

Current ILLiad Users:

There is a new user interface for creating and managing requests.  You will notice a few difference from ILLiad, the previous system.  The new service displays all of your requests on a single page, links to articles, and details about the status of your request and item due dates.  You can also submit new requests from this interface.  The emails and notifications that you receive will look a little different as well.  For those who have outstanding requests in ILLiad, those requests will transfer over to the new system.

We hope that these changes enhance your library experience and streamline how you manage your requests! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Interlibrary Loan Team at ill@brooklaw.edu.

Library Hours – Winter Break and Beyond

The Library will be CLOSED from Saturday, December 24th, through Monday, January 2nd.

Winter Session begins on Monday, January 2nd and ends on Friday, January 13th.

These are the Library Hours for early January:

Tuesday, January 3rd – Saturday, January 7th :     9:00 am – 10:00 pm

Sunday, January 8th –                                              10:00 am – 10:00 pm

Monday, January 9th – Saturday, January 14th –   9:00 am – 10:00 pm

Sunday January 15th –                                             10:00 am – 10:00 pm

Monday, January 16th                                               9:00 am – 10:00 pm  (Martin Luther King Day)

Everyone at the BLS Library wishes you all Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

 

Kindness Chain for the Holidays and Every Day

As the holiday season approaches, law librarians (including this writer), faculty, students and staff at Brooklyn Law School and elsewhere look forward to the end of final exams so they can travel and join family and friends in celebration of the December holidays. From Christmas to  New Year’s Day, from Hannukah to Eid Milad-un-Nabi or the Winter Solstice, many of us will celebrate according to our own tradition. Not all of us will be so fortunate as many people will be working during the holidays to keep the world running while we celebrate the holidays: cab drivers, garage assistants, healthcare workers, carers, police men and women, airline staff, members of the armed forces. All of these people deserve a massive thank you for keeping things going while we sit at home enjoying holiday cooking. So take a minute away from your family and friends and reach out to someone who is working on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. All of us can use a random act of kindness not only during the holidays but every day.

Virtual Reference: We are there, even when we are not

Just because you don’t see a librarian sitting at the reference desk, does not mean we are not there to help. The library has many virtual reference tools to help you with your research. For example, you can always email the library at askthelibrary@brooklaw.edu. You can also look through our extensive FAQ list to see if your question has previously been answered. You can find our FAQs at askthelibrary.brooklaw.edu. You can also browse through our research guides to see if we have created one to address the issue you are researching. You can access a list of the library’s research guides at guides.brooklaw.edu.

If we are not sitting at the reference desk, but you see the chachatwithalibrariant symbol on BLSConnect or the Library’s webpage, click on it to contact a reference librarian for help. You can also text us at 718-734-2432. And of course, often times, we are only a phone call away at 718-780-7567. If a librarian is not available to help at that time, one will get back to you as soon as she is available.  Reference librarians generally answer reference questions, Monday – Thursday from 9 am-8 pm and on Saturday from 12 pm – 5 pm.

Revenge Porn: Taking Trolls to Court

An article in a recent issue of The New Yorker features Brooklyn Law School alum Carrie Goldberg, Class of 2007, as a leader in the crusade against non-consensual pornography, also called “revenge porn.” A founder of the Brooklyn firm C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, she is at the forefront of a movement to use both new and existing laws to penalize individuals who share compromising photos and videos of others without their consent. From her practice not far from the Law School, Goldberg assists clients like Norma, whose story of harassment by a former partner who shared explicit photos of her on the internet is chronicled in the article. Author Margaret Talbot calls Goldberg “a new kind of privacy champion,” detailing Goldberg’s many accomplishments in this new field, from successful prosecutions of revenge porn perpetrators to a major role in an activist campaign to get social media platforms and search engines to ban revenge porn. The article notes Goldberg’s recent hire of a fellow Brooklyn Law School graduate, Lindsay Lieberman, Class of 2011. Earlier this year, Goldberg spoke at the White House to members of the Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault about sexual assault in k-12 with the crew at SurvJustice, a national not-for-profit organization that increases the prospect of justice for survivors by holding both perpetrators and enablers of sexual violence accountable.

hate crimesThe Brooklyn Law School Library collection included Hate Crimes in Cyberspace by Danielle Keats Citron (Call No. HV6773.15.C92 C57 2014). The book covers the subject of trolling or aggressive, foul-mouthed posts designed to elicit angry responses in a site’s comments. The author exposes the startling extent of personal cyber-attacks and proposes practical, lawful ways to prevent and punish online harassment. Persistent online attacks disproportionately target women and frequently include detailed fantasies of rape as well as reputation-ruining lies and sexually explicit photographs. And if dealing with a single attacker’s “revenge porn” were not enough, harassing posts that make their way onto social media sites often feed on one another, turning lone instigators into cyber-mobs. The book rejects the view of the Internet as an anarchic Wild West, where those who venture online must be thick-skinned enough to endure all manner of verbal assault in the name of free speech protection, no matter how distasteful or abusive. Cyber-harassment is a matter of civil rights law, Citron contends, and legal precedents as well as social norms of decency and civility must be leveraged to stop it.