The Chickenshit Club

chickenshitThe Brooklyn Law School Library has placed an order for The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives (Call No. KF9351.E37 2017) by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Jesse Eisinger. The book is a blistering account of corporate greed and impunity, and the reckless, often anemic response from the Department of Justice. The book asks why no bankers were put in prison after the financial crisis of 2008 and why CEOs seem to commit wrongdoing with impunity. The problem goes beyond banks deemed “Too Big to Fail” to almost every large corporation in America—to pharmaceutical companies and auto manufacturers and beyond. Eisinger starts his account with a story that gives the book its title. In the early 2000s, James Comey was the U.S. Attorney in charge of the most important local branch of the Department of Justice, the Southern District of New York, whose jurisdiction covers Wall Street. At Comey’s first meeting with the prosecutors on his team, he asked who among them had never lost a case. Many proudly raised their hands. “My friends and I have a name for you guys,” he said. “You are members of what we like to call the Chickenshit Club.” Comey was challenging them to be aggressive, to risk losing. A character-driven narrative, the book tells the story from inside the Department of Justice. The complex and richly reported story spans the last decade and a half of prosecutorial fiascos, corporate lobbying, trial losses, and culture shifts that have stripped the government of the will and ability to prosecute top corporate executives.

The book begins in the 1970s, when the government pioneered the notion that top corporate executives, not just seedy crooks, could commit heinous crimes and go to prison. The book travels to trading desks on Wall Street, to corporate boardrooms and the offices of prosecutors and F.B.I agents. These revealing looks provide context for the evolution of the Justice Department’s approach to pursuing corporate criminals through the early aughts and into the Justice Department of today. Exposing one of the most important scandals of our time, The Chickenshit Club provides a clear, detailed explanation as to how our Justice Department has come to avoid, bungle, and mismanage the fight to bring these alleged criminals to justice.

A more extensive book review by Thomas Fox can be found at JD Supra at this link. Fox also conducted an interview of Jesse Eisinger and Paul Pelletier, a key source for the book, at this link.

On Thursday, November 2, 2017, Cardozo School of Law will host a free event where the author will discuss his book. It will be held from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm in the Third-Floor Lounge at 55 5th Avenue, New York, NY. Register at this link if you want to attend.

Constitution at 230 Years Old

The US Constitution was adopted 230 years ago, on September 17, 1787. Its words are as vital today as when the founders agrees that the Constitution would be sent to the Confederation Congress to start the ratification process with the states. It words are invoked daily in controversies over free speech, gun rights, religious expression, the separation of powers, states’ rights, due process of law and the exercise of individual liberties.

Yet, as we mark Constitution Day in accordance with 36 U.S.C. § 106 (2012) (this year, the day is observed on Monday, September 18th), Americans have an uncertain understanding of what the document says, per a recent poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey finds that:

  • More than half of Americans (53 percent) incorrectly think it is accurate to say that immigrants who are here illegally do not have any rights under the U.S. Constitution;
  • More than a third of those surveyed (37 percent) can’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment;
  • Only a quarter of Americans (26 percent) can name all three branches of government.

immigrant

rights

branches

Why should this matter? it is difficult to safeguard constitutional rights without understanding what they are. The continued vitality of our democracy is dependent upon an informed citizenry. Understanding the history of the Constitution and its amendments will assist all of us in more fully appreciating these rights and responsibilities as they have evolved over time. Moreover, such understanding will ensure that these rights will continue to be exercised, valued, and cherished by future generations.

The founders wanted to make certain that the federal government was limited in powers  to those specifically enumerated in the constitution. How have we moved from these very clear and quite limited roles of the government? We see Presidents “passing laws” in a de facto fashion and refusing to enforce laws duly passed by Congress although sworn to do so. The Supreme Court has ruled on healthcare, education, abortion, and marriage. These powers are not enumerated the Constitution and are arguably reserved for the states. Why are we not concerned? The Founders, on this day, 230 years ago, signed a document making certain that our freedoms would not be taken away, but they did not anticipate that they might be given away. Happy Constitution Day. Celebrate it and protect it.

libertyFor more on the topic, see the Brooklyn Law School Library’s copy of The Blessings of Liberty: A Concise History of the Constitution of the United States by Michael Les Benedict (Call No. KF4541 .B443 2017). The text provides students with a history of American constitutional development in the context of political, economic, and social change. The author stresses the role that the American people have played over time in defining the powers of government and the rights of individuals and minorities. He covers important trends and events in US constitutional history, encompassing key Supreme Court and lower-court cases. The third edition is updated to include the election of 2000, the Tea Party and the rise of popular constitutionalism, and the rise of judicial supremacy as seen in cases such as Citizens United, the Affordable Care Act, and gay marriage.

Book Festival in My Backyard

After a hellish mid-week commute that trapped me underground for nearly an hour, what could possibly lure me back to Brooklyn on a Sunday?  BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL!

My literary life partner, Ken, accompanied me.  He is hard at work on his new novel, tentatively titled Love Like Rain, which foretells of an apocalyptic world where a handful of survivors fight for the last source of water.  (Intrigued?  Draft first chapter available here.)

Ken and I joined a large crowd in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall Plaza to hear Dr. Brittney Cooper, Daisy Hernández and Mychal Denzal Smith discuss “Intersectionality and Activism.”  Mr. Smith asked the audience: “After the Women’s March [on Washington], what will be the political program that we follow?”  Ms. Cooper explained how she is actively involved in the Black Lives Matter movement—she used humor and passion as tools to encourage the audience to act.  (Ms. Cooper’s newest book, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, will be available in February 2018.)

As I scanned the Brooklyn Book Festival program, I was proud that my employer, Brooklyn Law School, was a host site for free panels on topics ranging from big data to immigration to young adult fiction.  These Sunday afternoon programs were packed!  BLS President and Dean Nicholas Allard moderated the panel discussion: “Culture, Politics and the Supreme Court.”  You can view the recording of this discussion (and many others) through C-SPAN’s 2017 Brooklyn Book Festival Book TV.

The Festival’s Literary Marketplace showcased friendly authors and their recent works.  At Brooklyn Law School’s booth, I greeted authors/professors William Araiza (standing on the far right in the photo below) and Heidi K. Brown (standing next to Professor Araiza in the photo below).

BLS at Brooklyn Book Festival

Professor Araiza’s most recent book is: Animus: A Short Introduction to Bias in the Law (2017)He notes in the introduction: “Animus matters more than ever today. At a very practical level, animus has become one of the Supreme Court’s favorite tools when considering claims that a plaintiff’s equality rights have been violated.”  I encourage you to read this book to discover what the constitutional law concept of “animus” means today.  Professor Brown’s thoughtful new book is: The Introverted Lawyer: A Seven-Step Journey Toward Authentically Empowered Advocacy (2017).  Earlier in her career, Professor Brown had to address her own fear of public speaking while litigating.  Her work to conquer this fear inspired her book.  Come hear her book talk about The Introverted Lawyer on the evening of October 3, 2017.  Other notable featured titles by BLS faculty were: Dana Brakman Reiser & Steven A. Dean, Social Enterprise Law (2017); Christopher Beauchamp, Invented by Law: Alexander Graham Bell and the Patent That Changed America (2015); K. Sabeel Rahman, Democracy Against Domination (2016); and Nelson Tebbe, Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age (2017).

At “Refugee Reportage,” journalists Deborah Campbell and Lauren Wolfe explained the great value of a skilled “fixer” (= interpreter + guide + excellent source of contacts) to a foreign correspondent.  They noted that a good fixer, working with foreign journalists, places her or his life at risk.  When Ms. Campbell read from A Disappearance in Damascus, I, like, the audience, was spellbound.  What had happened to brave Ahlam, the Iraqi refugee in Damascus who provided so much help to Ms. Campbell in 2007?  I am eager to read this beautifully written book to find out.

Finally, I met volunteers from NYC Books Through Bars, which sends free, donated paperback books to people who are incarcerated in the U.S.  This group’s website describes how (and when) to donate books, as well as how to donate funds or packing supplies.

Conclusion: Well worth the trip, and I’ll be back next year!

Stressed about your seminar paper? Attend the Seminar Paper Workshop this Thursday

This Thursday Prof. Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil are holding their semi-annual workshop on how to research and write a seminar paper in Room 502.  The workshop is from 4-5:30 PM. Topics covered include sources for selecting your topic, sources for researching your topic, and strategies for effectively organizing and writing your paper.  If you are 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 main page, you can access the 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.

Beyond “Thinking Like a Lawyer”

Beyond Legal ReasoningThe Brooklyn Law School Library New Books List for September is out with 32 print titles and 9 eBook titles. One of the items is Beyond Legal Reasoning: A Critique of Pure Lawyering (Call No. K212 .L57 2017) by Professor Jeffrey Lipshaw of Suffolk University Law School. In the book, the author addresses the concept of learning to “think like a lawyer,” one of the corners of legal education in the US and beyond. In his book, Professor Lipshaw provides a critique of the traditional views of “thinking like a lawyer” or “pure lawyering,” aimed at lawyers, law professors, and students who want to understand lawyering beyond the traditional warrior metaphor. Drawing examples from the intersection of real world law and business issues, the book argues the “pure lawyering” of traditional legal education is agnostic to either truth or moral value of outcomes. It offers a critique of pure lawyering’s potential both for illusions of certainty and cynical instrumentalism, and the consequences of both when lawyers are called on as dealmakers, policymakers, and counsellors.

This book offers a way of getting beyond merely how to think like a lawyer. It combines legal theory, philosophy of knowledge, and doctrine with an appreciation of real-life judgment calls that multi-disciplinary lawyers are called upon to make. The book is of interest to scholars of legal education, legal language, and reasoning as well as professors who teach both doctrine and thinking and writing skills to 1Ls and for anyone interested in seeking a perspective on “thinking like a lawyer” beyond the litigation field. Law students considering a career in transactional law are well advised to read it right away. Law students should read the book after the 1L year. Lawyers and academics should read it at any time, and judges right away.

Free access to the book is available here.

BLS Library Databases Research Fair: September 28, 2017

The Sixth Annual Library Databases Research Fair will be held on Thursday, September 28th, 2017.  The Fair will be held in the Library’s new 3rd floor Collaboration/Reading Room from 3:00pm to 6:00pm.

Representatives from the following legal research companies will be here to demonstrate their databases:

  • Bloomberg Law
  • Ebsco
  • Fastcase
  • Lexis Digital
  • Lexis Nexis
    • Westlaw
      • Wolters Kluwer
      • Brochures/Pens/Post-Its provided by Hein Online

There will be handouts, light refreshments, and a raffle drawing for gift cards.

Come and learn how these databases will help you with your legal research.

Save the date:  Thursday, September 28, 2017, 3:00pm – 6:00pm,

3rd floor Library, New Collaboration/Reading Room.

 

Brooklyn Law School Employment

According to The National Jurist, Most Improved Employment Rates reports that Brooklyn Law School showed an increase in employment rates from 2011 to 2016 with an 18.1% improvement, ranking 14 out of the 50 law schools in the report. As the legal market continues to rebound and moves closer to pre-recession levels, law schools big and small are bolstering employer outreach efforts and reconsidering their curricula to strengthen graduate employability. Looking at this year’s employment statistics to find the most improved employment rates, The National Jurist took into consideration all forms of post-graduation employment. The employment rates were weighted, giving the most heft to full-time jobs that require bar passage. Other jobs, such as J.D.-advantage jobs and positions in other professions, received less weight.

To identify the law schools that have improved their employment rates the most, The National Jurist compared adjusted employment rates for the Class of 2011 with rates for the Class of 2016. To determine the adjusted employment rate, The National Jurist assigned differing weights to various employment statuses. Full time, long term jobs that require bar passage are the only positions that were given full weight. See the results in the chart below:

Welcome (Back) and Changes to the Library Over The Summer

The new semester officially began this week for new JD students at Brooklyn Law School. The BLS Library staff would like to wish you a very warm welcome!  We have met many of you at orientation and on the library tours, and look forward to getting to know you. 

Our regular library hours starting August 28, 2017 are:

Monday – Thursday            8am-12am
Friday                                    8am-10pm
Saturday                               9am-10pm
Sunday                                 10am-12am

Stop by the reference desk if you have questions: a reference librarian is usually at the desk Monday-Thursday from 9am-8pm, and Friday-Saturday from 9am-5pm.  Also, don’t forget the research guide for 1Ls that is full of useful resources and tips.

“Lebron” (Jean Davis) conducting training for new BJIL members

Though classes begin next week for returning students, many students are already on campus working on journals, attending trainings, etc. Today, Associate Librarian for International Law, Jean Davis (decked out in a Lebron T-shirt) conducted a training session for new members of the Brooklyn Journal of International Law (BJIL).  The theme of the training: the importance of teamwork.  Besides dispensing insight that ranged from choosing a topic for a student Note to the latest resources for Brexit, “Lebron” also welcomed the newest additions to BJIL’s team with a tasty strawberry shortcake from Mia’s Bakery.  (BLS Lebron is cooler than Cleveland’s.)

It’s all about the Team!

Speaking of teamwork, at the start of the summer, we shared a short video about the changes happening this summer at the library.  Thanks to the efforts of a wonderful team, the work is (almost) complete!  The BLS journals have moved into newly renovated space on the second and second mezzanine floors of the library.  We are also excited about the changes to the third floor, which has been completely transformed over the summer.  

The 3rd Floor taking shape

The new reading room on the third floor is a collaborative space that is not limited to quiet study. Students are welcome to use it to discuss school work, collaborate on projects, or for individual study, as they wish. As with other areas of the library, light snacks and non-alcoholic beverages in covered containers can be consumed. There is a unisex bathroom within the reading room (no one on the library tour that I led caught the Ally McBeal reference; the 90s do seem light years ago) and also separate gender bathrooms right outside.  Four reference librarians have also moved into new offices adjacent to the space.

3rd Floor Reading Room

The third floor reading room can be conveniently accessed from the main law school elevators.  In the near future, we plan to use the space for events, including possibly the upcoming 6th Annual Legal Research Fair on September 28, 2017 (to be confirmed soon – stay tuned!)  

If you haven’t had the chance yet, come and check out our new third floor space!

NYC Congregation Owns Touro Synagogue

TouroA recent article in the NY Times, New York Congregation Owns Oldest Synagogue in the U.S., 180 Miles Away, Court Rules, reports that a federal appeals court has ruled that Shearith Israel in New York actually owns the Touro Synagogue building in Newport. Shearith Israel, founded in Manhattan in 1654, is the oldest congregation. Touro Synagogue, in Newport, R.I., built in 1763, is the oldest synagogue building. Justice David H. Souter, the retired associate justice of the Supreme Court, wrote the opinion in Congregation Jeshuat Israel v. Congregation Shearith Israel for the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. In it, he overturned a district-court ruling that the congregation that has worshiped for more than 130 years in the Touro Synagogue building, Jeshuat Israel, had control over the building and its objects. Now, what may be the country’s most historic synagogue building is officially owned by a group 180 miles away.

Shearith Israel was founded in the Colonial period by 23 Spanish and Portuguese Jews in what is now Lower Manhattan. Since 1897, the Orthodox congregation has met in a Tiffany-designed neo-Classical building on 70th Street and Central Park West. When Newport’s Jews faced persecution during the American Revolution, they fled the town and the synagogue building, many for New York. Without a congregation in Newport, Shearith Israel took control of the synagogue. Shearith Israel was historically Sephardic, while Jeshuat Israel was mostly Ashkenazi. Justice Souter reversed the trial judge order that sided with Jeshuat Israel. See earlier BLS Library blog post here. The three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals relied on contract law and looked at the 1903 agreement and other contracts as it would in any other civil law case. Justice Souter put it delicately: “These are circumstances in which we think that the First Amendment calls for a more circumscribed consideration of evidence than the trial court’s plenary enquiry into centuries of the parties’ conduct by examining their internal documentation that had been generated without resort to the formalities of the civil law.”

Touro Synagogue holds an important place in the history of the nation’s commitment to religious liberty. In 1790, George Washington visited Touro and sent a letter to the congregation pledging America’s commitment to religious liberty. See the letter from Moses Seixas to President George Washington and the response from President Washington, both well worth the reading. Seixas was a first generation Jewish-American whose parents migrated from Lisbon, Portugal, to Newport. Seixas rose to prominence as warden of Newport’s Touro Synagogue of Congregation Jeshuat Israel.

Law Professors: An Overview from William Blackstone to Barack Obama

As students prepare to resume their legal studies and begin their scholarship for another semester under the tutelage of their BLS professors, I want to recommend a new book that discusses the contributions to the legal profession of a group of selected scholars and professors over three centuries.

The book is: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law by Stephen B. Presser, West Academic Publishing, St. Paul, MN, 2017.

The author says that he hopes this volume will serve as an “introduction to the law for prospective lawyers and beginning students in J.D. and LL.M. programs.”

The book is composed of short biographical essays covering a representative number of legal scholars who have also been law professors.  The work explores the nature of the American legal system, and how American law professors have had a profound effect on American law and life.

While the author covers law professors from William Blackstone to Barack Obama, here are a few of the giants of those that are included:

  • William Blackstone –  It has been written that the groundwork for U.S. jurisprudence can be found in the multi-volume work of Sir William Blackstone, a noted English judge, scholar and politician of the 18th century.  The work, entitled Commentaries on the Laws of England...in four books, provided a systematic analysis of English common law.  These commentaries were based on Blackstone’s lectures at Oxford University.
  • Christopher Columbus Langdell was Dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895 and is often called the “father of American legal education” because it was he who established the case method of instruction where students read and studied appellate court decisions while teaching at Harvard, incorporating it with the Socratic method where students were asked questions about the cases and they were to draw conclusions in order to engage in a dialogue between faculty and students.
  • Joseph Story served on the United States Supreme Court from 1811 to 1845, taught at Harvard Law School while serving on the Court, and wrote a comprehensive treatise on the U.S. Constitution entitled Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States
  • Karl Llewellyn was a distinguished legal scholar, who was called one of the most important legal thinkers of the early twentieth century and whose works have been cited many times. He was a proponent of legal realism who felt that legal opinions should be examined to see how judges were influenced by outside factors.  He wrote a book which served as an introduction to the study of law for first year students entitled:  The Bramble Bush; Some Lectures on Law and Its Study . 
  • John Henry Wigmore was an important legal scholar and professor, who while attending Harvard Law School, helped found the Harvard Law Review.  He taught for many years at Northwestern University Law School and his most important contribution to legal scholarship was his Treatise on the Anglo-American System of Evidence in Trials at Common Law.
  • Barack Obama, law professor at the University of Chicago, United States Senator from Illinois and President of the United States.