Author Archives: Eric Yap

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!!

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)

Study Room Reservations and Library Hours for Reading/Exam Period

During the Spring 2018 reading and exam period which starts April 27, 2018 (Friday), you must make a reservation to use a library study room. All of the study rooms will be locked; please go to the first floor circulation desk when your reservation time begins to charge out the key to the room. The link for study room reservations can be found 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 three days ahead.
  • Study room reservations may be made in 30-minute time slots; the time slots must be contiguous.
  • Students may book up to 8 contiguous time slots per day for a total of 4 hours per user per day.

Library Hours for the Reading/Exam Period 

April 27, 2018 (Fri.) – May 10, 2018 (Thurs): 8:00 AM to 2:00 AM

(Circulation Desk closes at 12 midnight on these dates.)

May 11, 2018 (Friday): 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM 

Good luck on your exams!

 

Snow Day Reading: Riot Days

In “Riot Days”, her short memoir of the events leading to her incarceration and subsequent release 18 months later,  Maria Alyokhina gives us a glimpse of the Russian justice and penal systems. But it is a glimpse, and nothing more.

Alyokhina is a member of the band Pussy Riot, perhaps still best known for their “punk prayer”  protest in 2012, at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. After eluding authorities for a while, Alyokhina and two fellow Pussy Rioters were arrested.  Most of “Riot Days” is about what ensued: detention, trial, conviction, and imprisonment in prisons in Berezniki near the Ural Mountains, and in Nizhny Novgorod.

Upon arrest, the author and her bandmates were charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”, with prosecutors seeking a 3 year prison term for each of the accused. In the chapter titled “Russian Trial”, Alyokhina describes a trial which is by turns tedious and absurd: a long line of accusers claiming shock and moral injury, confused witnesses, an accuser who wasn’t present at the church and only “saw the video”, a vomiting dog.  Not to mention a sometimes distracted judge:

“The secretary stops recording the proceedings. The judge bows her head and starts doodling.

‘Your Honour, please stop doodling!’ the lawyer shouts.

‘Don’t look at my desk!’ the judge shouts back.”

After she was convicted and sentenced to 2 years in prison, Alyokhina would continue to fight the system from within.  Often her protests would fall flat, and she spent months in solitary confinement. Yet a surprising number of times, and in part due to her celebrity, her efforts bore fruit. Notably, on occasions when she was able to tell the authorities what specific law they were violating, she managed to get the guards to rein in their abuses such as stealing from the salaries owed to the prisoners.  

Included in “Riot Days” are some evocative vignettes, as Alyokhina navigates the Russian justice and penal systems.  The guards who get upset when the prisoner who gives manicures to everyone in prison, guards and prisoners alike, is about to be released (“Who will do our nails?”) Having nothing to read in prison other than a box full of romance novels.  Igor, the chief of criminal investigations, who boasts about dieting and riding 10 miles on his bicycle. The author making sushi rolls for her fellow prisoners, none of whom has tasted sushi before.  

With widespread disenfranchisement of those who have been convicted in this country, one of the author’s stories involving voting was quite striking.  Alyokhina was a detained prisoner accused of political crimes, and on hunger strike, when this happened:

“In the middle of all this, the clatter of an iron key in the lock of the iron door, and someone roars “You want to vote?”

Despite being weakened by her hunger strike, the author jumped out of her cell. In an elegantly decorated room adorned with a large portrait of Putin, she got to vote in the Russian presidential elections.

“Riot Days” is fragmented, a bit messy, and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you are looking for a more comprehensive account of events surrounding the Pussy Riot case, there are other sources you can turn to.  Still, the book does an excellent job capturing the mood of those turbulent events. Despite the hardships she suffered, the author manages to ring a note of optimism: even if the system is stacked against you, knowing your rights and fighting for them can take you a long way.  As Alyokhina tells herself, in the midst of one of her many battles with prison authorities, “I have to understand the law.”

Riot Days, by Maria Alyokhina (Call No. ML420.A57 A3 2017)

Valentine’s Day Quiz

Can you name the U.S. Supreme Court Justice?

1.  It must have brought a Flood of emotions: his clerks wrote him a card on Valentine’s Day, 1985, that read “Respondents are red, petitioners are blue. We’re very lucky to have a Justice like you.”

2.  “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.”  It’s no mystery that this passage comes from the closing paragraph of the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), authored by this Justice.

3. Rush Limbaugh’s wedding to the “Jacksonville Jaguar” Marta Fitzgerald, was held at this Justice’s home in 1994.  As the officiant, the Justice may have been required to ask a question or two.  Alas, the couple ending up splitting a decade later.

4. Toxic love triangle: Carol Anne Bond was excited when her closest friend announced she was pregnant. Excitement turned to rage when Bond learned that her husband was the child’s father. Bond went to the former BFF’s home at least 24 times in order to spread toxic chemicals on surfaces her nemesis would touch; she was prosecuted under federal law for her actions. In ruling that the Chemical Weapons Convention did not apply, this Justice explained why he was not upholding the mandate in this case: “The global need to prevent chemical warfare does not require the Federal Government to reach into the kitchen cupboard.”  Bond v. United States (2014).

5. This notorious Justice penned the majority opinion in Sole v. Wyner (2007).  The case involved a rebuffed attempt by Wyner to assemble nude individuals into a peace sign on a Florida beach, on Valentine’s Day, 2003.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Mindfulness and Meditation for the Legal Professional

Now that we are in the reading period at BLS (aka Hell Week at some institutions) and exams are just around the corner, stress levels are running high. Throughout the library, anxious faces are buried in casebooks and class notes, an ample caffeine supply on hand to fuel the late night cram sessions. Sadly, the stress doesn’t end upon graduation. Being a lawyer requires you to deal with conflict, unreasonable client demands, tight deadlines, and long hours. These can be especially unforgiving for someone newly entering the profession, and can lead to unhealthy habits — there’s a reason why some state bar associations require members to take continuing legal education classes on substance abuse.

So what is a stressed out law student or lawyer to do?

The answer, according to Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford, is mindfulness and meditation. In their book, The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-week Guide to Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation (2016) [Call number: KF298.C47 2016], lawyers Cho and Gifford have crafted a meditation program targeted to fellow members of the legal profession.  The program is aimed at those new to meditation and includes a variety of exercise and practices, covering such topics as mindfulness, compassion towards others and self, mantra repetition, heartfulness, and gratitude. By following this initial eight week program, readers hopefully will see a change, for the better, in their habits and perspectives. They would be able to build on these changes and continue their meditation practices going forward, including developing meditation styles that best suit their own needs.

Law students and attorneys will relate to the many examples drawn from the authors’ experiences from law practice, and how they personally benefited from meditation. For example, in the chapter on mindfulness, Cho and Gifford discuss mindful client interviews, and the importance of setting boundaries with clients. They broach topics such as working with difficult opposing counsel, and the challenges of “toxic mentoring.”

Cho and Gifford don’t sugarcoat the fact that it may not be easy for lawyers to start or to stick with a meditation practice. Our perspectives on our lives and profession get ossified and habits are hard to break. The authors’ approach provides a road map to get started with meditation and mindfulness, with plenty of room for the individual to adapt what best works for him- or herself. In addition to the guidance provided in The Anxious Lawyer, Jeena Cho’s podcasts cover related topics and are worth checking out.

For members of the BLS community who wish to engage in meditation, BLS Library has a Contemplation Room, Room 105M on the first floor mezzanine. This space is provided for students, staff and faculty to engage in contemplation, meditation, or quiet spiritual awareness. If you have any questions about the Contemplation Room, stop by the reference desk and we would be happy to help.

Beware the Bootleg Bluebook

Richard Posner doesn’t like the Bluebook. He has railed against it for years, devoting entire articles in the University of Chicago Law Review (1986) and the Yale Law Journal (2011) to the horrors of what he deems an ever-growing monstrosity. In a December 2016 article for Green Bag, Judge Posner stated that among the reforms he would implement at federal appellate courts, the first thing to do is burn all copies of the Bluebook, in its latest edition 560 pages of rubbish”.

Well, one person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure.  Enter the Bootleg Bluebook.  

Say what? Of all the things to make knockoffs of, why the Bluebook? It isn’t a literary bestseller like Harry Potter and it sure as heck isn’t Louis Vuitton. Even the Kelley Blue Book would seem a likelier candidate for a fake. Then again, with over 35,000 students matriculating at ABA-accredited law schools annually, the built-in demand means that a lot of Bluebooks are sold every year.

Unfortunately some BLS students who bought Bluebooks through third party vendors have been victimized by these fakes.  We’ve heard that students at other law schools have run into this problem too.

Imagine a student at Any Law School, U.S.A., meticulously poring over the Bluebook to make sure everything is cited correctly for their first legal writing assignment. Only to get his or her paper back, marked up to the hilt with corrections in red ink.

“But I cited to page 16 of the Bluebook. Id at 100, no period after Id

“That’s not correct and not what it says in my copy. Let me see your Bluebook.”

Sorry. It’s fake.

I feel for students who are using the Bluebook for the first time only to find out that their trusted source was a bootleg.  Fake news we can handle. But fake Bluebooks?

One of the BLS students was kind enough to lend us their bootleg copy.  It’s basically a case of OCR gone bad.  Periods vanished, text out of sync, commas turned to periods and vice versa, blurry text, off-kilter page numbers, and the most common error: missing spaces. New jersey losing its capitalization and making you think of swag rather than state — while the III for Illinois makes you want to yell “My kingdom for a horse!” Interestingly, the Chinese and Japanese characters seemed to be in good shape, though the bootleggers couldn’t decide what color print to use and kept switching back and forth between black and blue.    

 

 

      

So the Public Service Announcement for today: It’s best to get your Bluebook directly from the publisher or from a trusted retailer, rather than through a third party vendor.

It’s nice to know, though, that the bootleggers got this citation on page 510 right:

Richard A. Posner, The Bluebook Blues, 120 Yale L.J. 850 (2011).

 

 

That was then, this is now

That was then, this is now: The transformation of BLS Library’s 3rd Floor in pictures.

Inside the old 3rd Floor Reading Room

Spring 2017, students voted on the chairs for the new reading room

Summer 2017, gutted and about to be renovated.

Fall 2017, getting things into place

Now new signage has been installed. Striking graphics and inspirational quotes adorn the walls.  The third floor space has been completely transformed in a few months.  

We hope you enjoy using the third floor Collaboration/Reading Room!

 

 

Sixth Annual Research Fair Recap

BLS Library held its 6th Annual Research Fair yesterday, September 28, 2017. Representatives from Bloomberg Law, EBSCO, Lexis Digital Library, Lexis, Westlaw, and Wolters Kluwer were on hand to showcase their databases. Library Director Janet Sinder and Associate Law Librarian Linda Holmes also provided students information about Fastcase and HeinOnline. The turnout was excellent. Students stopped by vendor tables, chatting with vendor and student representatives, They picked up free mugs, tote bags, and pens, while learning about the latest database services and features.

The event also served as an occasion to showcase the library’s new collaboration/reading room on the 3rd Floor. Faculty and staff members came by to check out the space and the Research Fair. Many 1Ls were introduced to the space through the event. 2Ls and 3Ls who were visiting the collaboration room for the 1st time marvelled at how the 3rd Floor had been transformed over the summer.

The Research Fair was a success. Students said that they enjoyed learning about new research resources and would start using them right away. The cookies, candy, and other light refreshments provided by the library helped perk them up after a long week of classes. At the end of the Fair, Janet and Linda conducted the raffle drawing for students who had visited at least five vendors. Congratulations to the six lucky students who won $50 gift cards courtesy of BLS Library and participating vendors!

 

 

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!