Episode 092: Interview with Prof. Susan Herman

Episode 092: Interview with Prof. Susan Herman.mp3

A New York Law Journal article Law Students Speak Out Against Grand Jury Decisions reports that law students and faculty across the state are speaking out against the recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers involved in the deaths of unarmed black men in New York and Missouri. The events come in the wake of last week’s announcement that New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo would not face charges in the chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island which followed last month’s decision by a St. Louis County grand jury not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in the August killing of teenager Michael Brown.

Students from New York University School of Law, New York Law School, Columbia Law School, Fordham University School of Law, City University of New York School of Law and Brooklyn Law School have taken to the streets in between studying for finals, which began this week. Last week, Columbia Law demanded postponements of final exams for any student experiencing trauma over the grand jury decisions and recent national conversations on race. Today, in the court yard in front of the school, about two dozen BLS law students who are in the midst of final exam staged a four and half minute die-in. BLS Law Professors Susan Herman and Beryl Jones-Woodin are hosting a number of faculty members in a Town Hall (“After Ferguson? After Garner? After __?”) at 12:45 on Wednesday, January 28, after classes resume, to discuss the legal and policy issues presented by the recent events in Ferguson, Staten Island, and many other locations. Professor Herman speaks about the upcoming event in the podcast at the link at the top of this post.

Grand JuryThe BLS Library has a number of titles in its collection on the subject of grand juries including Grand Jury 2.0: Modern Perspectives on the Grand Jury by Roger A. Fairfax (Call # KF9642 .G73 2011). The book brings together essays written by leading legal scholars and jurists to re-examine the role of the American grand jury, one of the oldest protections known to the American constitutional order and challenges the American legal culture to re-imagine the grand jury and proposes ways to adapt the grand jury’s proud heritage to the needs and realities of modern criminal justice. The book’s synthesis of criminal law and procedure theory and analysis along with concrete policy proposals makes it required reading for any scholar, student, jurist or lawyer interested in the past, present, or future of the American grand jury.

Records Management and Retention

RecordsStudents at Brooklyn Law School are focused on their upcoming exams. Soon enough they will be in the legal work force and will need to exercise best practices in records management. The BLS Library has in its most recent New Books List a useful resource on that very topic: The Lawyer’s Guide to Records Management and Retention by George C. Cunningham (Call # KF320.R42 C86 2014). Although most lawyers know how important timely access to the right information is to their work, many have little knowledge in filing systems, databases and other information management tools. This book is designed to help lawyers develop an effective strategy for coping with the daily barrage of email, data and documents.

The second edition of this ABA Book Publishing guide is a comprehensive 442 page resource that helps lawyers create and maintain an effective and well-organized records management and retention system at their firms, including administration and storage of client files and administrative records in all types of media. It shows how to reduce costs, access information quickly and accurately, and use staff and technology resources more economically and efficiently. Special sections address issues facing new lawyers, solo practitioners, and small firms. The accompanying CD-ROM features useful checklists, forms, guidelines, and more such as how to:

  • Understand the practical and ethical reasons for adopting a workable strategy for records information management and information governance;
  • Gain an understanding of the records and information management tools currently available;
  • Devise solutions and strategies to manage a law office’s records without taking up too much time;
  • Group paper documents and e-mail in order easily to locate them later;
  • Determine what you must keep, what you should keep, and for how long you should keep them;
  • Find the best software and electronic records management tools; and
  • Develop strategies that will please both technophobes and technophiles.

When is an online post a threat?

This week the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Elonis v. United States. The issue before the high court is what level of intent does the prosecution have to show in order to convict someone of threatening another person under 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). Must the prosecution demonstrate that the defendant intended to cause fear? Or must the prosecution show that a reasonable person would regard the statement as threatening?   The case involves Facebook posts a husband made to his wife, who recently left him. His posts detailed ways to kill her. To access the case’s Supreme Court docket, transcript, and the amicus briefs, read the SCOTUS blog posting.

To learn more about free speech and/or how it intersects with criminal law, consult the library resources highlighted below.

Quiet Please!

quietIt’s that time of the year. The Library is full of students all studying for their exams. We are asking for your cooperation in keeping the library a quiet space for everyone to study.

We have already received some complaints about loud talking and laughing coming from closed door study rooms. Please remember to keep your voices down when you are studying in groups in any of the numerous study rooms throughout the library.  Even though the door may be closed, your voices travel.

Thanks and good luck to all on your upcoming exams!

Study Room Reservations & Library Hours for Reading/Exam Period

studyroomDuring the reading and exam period, you must make a reservation to use a library study room.  Mandatory study room reservations will begin on Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 8:00am; at that time all study rooms will be locked and you must go to the first floor circulation desk to charge out the key to the room at the time of your reservation.  The link to the study room reservations is on the library homepage under Related Links.

Study Room Policies:

  • Study rooms are for the use of groups of two or more students
  • Study rooms may be reserved for the current day and two days ahead
  • Study rooms may be reserved for periods from 30 minutes up to four hours
  • Students are permitted to reserve a room for no more than four hours per day
  • Reservations violating these policies will be deleted
  • Instructions for making reservations and a list of rooms available are on the study room reservations page

Library Hours for the Reading & Exam Period:

  • Thursday, December 4 – Thursday, December 18:  8:00am – 2:00am
  • Friday, December 19:  8:00am -10:00pm
  • December 4 – 18, the circulation desk closes at Midnight; no books can be checked out after Midnight.


  • Please limit all conversations in the library; remember that your colleagues are studying too.
  • There is no eating in the library; please go to the student lounge or dining hall for snacks and meals.
  • Do not leave valuables unattended.  If you step away from your study table or carrel, take anything of value to you with you.

Good Luck on Your Exams & Happy Holidays!

Brooklyn Ascendant in DC

As supplement to the November 17 post, readers may want to look at the November 24 issue of the New Yorker which has an article called More Brains by Jeffrey Toobin. In it the author  discusses the nomination of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch to run the Department of Justice. The article also mentions the rivalry between the prosecutors of the Eastern District, often seen as a kind of junior varsity with respect to their colleagues in the Southern District, across the East River. U.S. District Judge John Gleeson, a former prosecutor in the Eastern District and a former adjunct professor at BLS, is quoted as saying “I get the Hertz-Avis reputations of the two offices. But I honestly don’t feel any kind of inferiority complex. Maybe there’s some more humanity over here, some different attitudes. Loretta is a modest prosecutor.” Toobin goes on to say “Even before Lynch’s nomination, the Eastern District brand was ascendant in Washington. There is already a considerable Brooklyn mafia (so to speak) in prominent positions in the Justice Department.” He quotes Gleeson as saying, “Everyone knows Brooklyn is cooler now than Manhattan. My law clerks all want to live in Brooklyn, but they can’t afford it. They have to live on the Upper East Side.”


Law Library of Congress and HeinOnline Team Up to Offer Free Access to Historical Federal Primary Law

The Law Library of Congress and Willaim S. Hein & Co., Inc. recently announced that they will partner to to offer free online access to historical U.S. legal materials, including the United States Code, U.S. Reports, Code of Federal Regulations, and the Federal Register.  Legal researchers and the public can access these Hein libraries through the Law Library of Congress legal research portal, Guide to Law Online: U.S. Federal. The following collections of historical primary law are available:

While not as comprehensive nor as easily searched as the BLS Library HeinOnline Subscription Databases, these collections help to make important historical legislative, judicial, and executive branch publications freely available to the public.  Most of these collections are available on the federal government website FDsys, but coverage only goes back to the mid-1990s.  Generally, the free Hein libraries begin with the first edition of the publication in question, and end when free access via FDsys begins.

For assistance with using the Guide to Law Online links or the BLS Library HeinOnline Subscription Databases, ask a Reference Librarian.

Happy 225th Anniversary to “Mother Court”

from Third Branch News Blog

A 225th anniversary ceremony honoring the first-ever federal court session held court2under the U.S. Constitution and Judiciary Act, was held Nov. 4th in the ceremonial courtroom of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The ceremony honored a court session held Nov. 3, 1789, in the Royal Exchange Building in Manhattan.  The session, conducted by Judge James Duane, occurred three months before the U.S. Supreme Court also met in the Royal Exchange, which no longer exists. The 1789 session gives the Southern District of New York claiming rights as the nation’s “Mother Court”—although the first sitting was not momentous, adjourning immediately without hearing any cases.

The Library recently acquired the book, The Mother Court: Tales of Cases That Mattered in America’s Greatest Trial Court. It is the first book to chronicle the history of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the most influential District court in the United States. It gives first-hand insight into the evolution of our justice system where it has been, where it is now and where it is going. It provides an anatomy of what a trial is all about in an American courtroom, featuring the most famous trials of the period in the greatest court in the nation.