Author Archives: Harold O'Grady

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.

Policing the Black Man

PolicingThe Brooklyn Law School Library’s August New Books List (24 print titles and 12 eBook titles) has among its titles an interesting one, Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment, (Call No. HV9950 .P64 2017). Edited by Angela J. Davis, professor of law at American University’s Washington College of Law, an expert in criminal law and procedure with a specific focus on prosecutorial power and racism in the criminal justice system, it is 352 pages. The book explores the many ways the criminal justice system impacts the lives of African American boys and men at every stage of the criminal process, from arrest through sentencing.  Essays range from an explication of the historical roots of racism in the criminal justice system to an examination of modern-day police killings of unarmed black men. The contributors discuss and explain racial profiling, the power and discretion of police and prosecutors, the role of implicit bias, the racial impact of police and prosecutorial decisions, the disproportionate imprisonment of black men, the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, and the Supreme Court’s failure to provide meaningful remedies for the injustices in the criminal justice system. This book is an enlightening must-read for anyone interested in the critical issues of race and justice in America.

The collection of eleven essays is from a variety of scholars and writers. Providing useful context, the editor points out that black males have never fared well when confronted by police and prosecutors across the U.S. For a couple of centuries, in fact, black men could rarely convince white authorities of the breadth and depth of the injustices. In recent decades, new technology, including smartphones and body cameras, combined with the sounding board of social media have removed doubt about the credibility of many victims. In the introduction, Davis invokes the names of numerous dead black males, placing special emphasis on the killing of Trayvon Martin five years ago by George Zimmerman. While soliciting the essays, Davis offered an expanded definition of the word “policing,” showing how much of the foundation of policing black males rests on racial profiling by law enforcement. In her powerful essay, law professor Renée McDonald Hutchins explains what the law does and does not say about racial profiling, how police agency policies are drafted in light of the law, and how the on-the-street practices of racial profiling sometimes violate both the letter and spirit of laws and policies. While many of the essays focus on the police, Davis focuses on her specialty, prosecutors, and how their untrammeled authority is a major part of the problems within the criminal justice system. While the essays lean toward narrating the problems rather than proposing comprehensive solutions, the final essay links multigenerational poverty of black males with violence and an absurd level of incarceration. Other contributors include Bryan Stevenson. His chapter, A Presumption of Guilt: The Legacy of America’s History of Racial Injustice, tells of an experience in Atlanta when a white police officer pulled a gun on him and threatened to “blow my head off.” He says “What threatened to kill me on the streets of Atlanta when I was a young attorney wasn’t just a misguided police officer with a gun, it was the force of America’s history of racial injustice and the presumption of guilt it created.”

Sexual Orientation and Title VII

There has been considerable commentary on the Justice Department’s filing of an amicus brief saying that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not cover employment “discrimination based on sexual orientation.” The DOJ filed the brief in the case of Donald Zarda, who filed suit against his former employer Altitude Express in a case that questions whether sexual orientation is included in Title VII’s protections. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Zarda was a skydiving instructor who said he was fired after disclosing his sexual orientation to a customer. He died in a skydiving accident before the case went to trial, and executors of his estate have continued the lawsuit on his behalf. The DOJ’s brief states “the sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination. It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts”. It concludes “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination because of sexual orientation.”

The question is, of course, not that simple and has been the subject of commentary for some time. See, for example, Sex and Sexual Orientation: Title VII after Macy v. Holder by Cody Perkins, 65 Administrative Law Review 427 (Spring 2013). This article examines the EEOC’s treatment of sexual orientation as somewhat convoluted. While there is binding precedent from the Commission that “Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination based on sex does not include sexual preference or sexual orientation”, it cites two decisions issued through the Office of Federal Operations indicating that discrimination based on sexual orientation is discrimination based on sex for Title VII purposes under a Hopkins sex stereotyping theory. See Veretto v. Donahoe, where the Office of Federal Operations found that discrimination against a man for marrying another man was a valid sex stereotyping claim, because it was discrimination based on the stereotype that “marrying a woman is an essential part of being a man,” and Castello v. Donahoe, where the Office of Federal Operations found that discrimination against a woman for being attracted to other women was a valid sex stereotyping claim under Title VII, because it was discrimination based on the stereotype that women should only be attracted to and have relationships with men. These decisions, while not binding on federal agencies, indicate that the EEOC intends to allow claims based on sexual orientation under a sex stereotyping theory under Title VII. While there may be no binding precedent from the EEOC stating that sexual orientation is covered under Tide VII, there is binding precedent regarding transgender people. In Macy v. Holder, the plaintiff, a police detective from Phoenix who was still presenting as a man had applied for and been given assurances that she would be hired for a position with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). After going through steps in the hiring process and being told repeatedly that she would be hired, Ms. Macy disclosed to ATF that she was in the process of transitioning from male to female and was informed that the position she had applied for was no longer available due to budget constraints. Upon further investigation, Ms. Macy learned that the position had in fact been offered to someone else and filed a formal Equal Employment Opportunity complaint with ATF, alleging discrimination in hiring based on sex. When the agency failed to identify her claim as sex discrimination, instead creating a separate claim of “discrimination based on gender identity,” Ms. Macy appealed her case to the EEOC. In a reversal of its previous position, the full Commission held that “discrimination based on gender identity, change of sex, and/or transgender status” is discrimination “because of sex” under Title VII. In making this determination, the EEOC utilized two important theories: a traditional “sex stereotyping” theory and a new “per se because of sex” theory, both based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Hopkins.

hivelyMore recently, In April 2017, the en banc Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overruled its own precedent and became the first Circuit to hold that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation can constitute unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. See Hively v. Ivy Tech. Cmty. College of Indiana, II, 853 F.3d 339, 351 (7th Cir. 2017) (overruling Hively v. Ivy Tech. Cmty. College of Indiana, I 830 F.3d 698, 709 (7th Cir. July 28, 2016).). All other Circuits that have addressed the issue have held sexual orientation is not protected under Title VII. The EEOC previously adopted the Controversiesposition in 2015 now taken by the Seventh Circuit. The Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts have held that Title VII protects employees who are discriminated against because they do not conform to the stereotype for their gender and this often may overlap with sexual orientation. For more on the subject, see Brooklyn Law School Library’s copy of Controversies in Equal Protection Cases in America: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation (Controversies in American Constitutional Law) by Anne Richardson Oakes (Call No. KF4755 .C664 2015).

Tips for Bar Exam Stress

An interesting article, The Lawyer, the Addict, in last weekend’s New York Times was written by the ex-wife of a lawyer who died of an overdose. In investigating her husband’s drug use and death, the author found a legal profession with high rates of substance abuse. The article contained good news for law students showing that before they start law school, law students are healthier than the general population, both physically and mentally. Andy Benjamin, a psychologist and lawyer who teaches law and psychology at the University of Washington, says that “They drink less than other young people, use less substances, have less depression and are less hostile.” In addition, he said, law students generally start school with their sense of self and their values intact.

But, in his research, he said, he has found that the formal structure of law school starts to change that. Unfortunately, there is a culture of drinking in the profession that starts in law school. Addicted law students become addicted lawyers. Depressed law students turn into depressed lawyers, unless you get help. Rather than hew to their internal self, students begin to focus on external values, he said, like status, comparative worth and competition. This is where stress over taking the bar exam comes into play.

bar examBy now, students taking bar exams have done the hard work studying. Now it is time to perform. At this point, it is going to be difficult to memorize much more, so now is the time to focus on practice tests and the art of taking the test, the actual process, and your pace. Spend your time wisely – not cramming in more random facts you probably won’t recall anyway. Don’t forget to breathe! Take the time to meditate, so you can clear your head which will allow your thoughts to become better organized. This will serve you well in the week leading up to the bar exam. Start each morning meditating, allowing your brain to be calmed and soothed. Not only will this help in the week before the bar, studies show that people who meditate make better complex decisions. Just what you need to answer the complex bar exam questions!  So, when you take the exam, and you read that question that seems to be a trusts and estates question, or wait, is it a dissolution question? Stop, breathe, and think!  Allow yourself just a minute to breathe in deep, clear your mind, and breathe out. Re-read the question, and do what you are well trained to do at this point – apply the law! Do this anytime you hit a panic-point during the exam.

zenOn the day before the exam, relax. It is not the time to hit the other bar. Relax and do something enjoyable. Check out from the Brooklyn Law Library collection the e-book titled The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam by Chad Noreuil, the best supplemental bar exam mindset book written. See a movie, eat a good meal, and understand that a few more hours of study are not going to change much. You are as ready as you are right here, right now. And finally, if you don’t pass the exam, remember that it is not the end of your world. Lots have taken, lots have not passed, and lots have re-taken. They have become amazing lawyers and judges and had fantastic careers. Your test score will not matter forever. The great news is that you can take it again. If the stress is overwhelming and you feel you are at the end of your rope, call the Lawyer Assistance Program in your state. They are trained to meet with you and will try to help you through the rough patch. If more professional help is needed, they will guide you. If during your exam preparation you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, take a minute (HALT) and think about whether you are also experiencing hunger, anger, loneliness, or tiredness. If so, you have permission to attend to your self-care and try to remediate the negative feelings. Taking a break, accepting your feelings and needs, and attending to self-care will likely make you more productive overall.

July New Books List and Impeachment

Brooklyn Law School Library’s New Books List for July 1, 2017 has 59 print titles and 30 eBook titles. Many of the titles deal with racial discrimination in the criminal justice administration and elsewhere, for example, He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty by S Jonathan Bass (Call No. E185.93. A3 B37 2017); Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics by Marie Gottschalk (Call No. HV9471. G667 2016); Homicide Justified: The Legality of Killing Slaves in the United States and the Atlantic World by Andrew T. Fede (E-Book); Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts (Call No. HV6533.L8 M37 2017); and Unequal: How America’s Courts Undermine Discrimination Law by Sandra F. Sperino and Suja A. Thomas (Call No. KF4755 .S965 2017).

ImpeachmentMore controversial is The Case for Impeachment by Allan J. Lichtman (Call No. KF5076.T78 L53 2017). Lichtman made headlines when he predicted that Donald J. Trump would defeat the heavily favored Democrat, Hillary Clinton, to win the presidential election. His latest book lays out the reasons Congress could remove Trump from the Oval Office: his ties to Russia before and after the election, the complicated financial conflicts of interest at home and abroad, and his abuse of executive authority. The book offers a fascinating look at presidential impeachments throughout American history, including the often-overlooked story of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, details about Richard Nixon’s resignation, and Bill Clinton’s hearings. Lichtman shows how Trump exhibits many of the flaws (and more) that have doomed past presidents. As the Nixon Administration dismissed the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as “character assassination” and “a vicious abuse of the journalistic process,” Trump has attacked the “dishonest media,” claiming, “the press should be ashamed of themselves.” Historians, legal scholars, and politicians alike agree: we are in politically uncharted waters—the durability of our institutions is being undermined and the public’s confidence in them is eroding, threatening American democracy itself. Most citizens—politics aside—want to know where the country is headed. Lichtman argues, with clarity and power, that for Donald Trump’s presidency, smoke has become fire.

Teaching Legal Technology in Law School

techBrooklyn Law School, during the Summer 2017 semester, has taken a first step with its Externship Seminar – Tech Tools For Law Practice, in teaching technology to law students. As more and more states take note of ABA Standard RPC 1.1 Comment [8] and add state level rules which require that lawyers have basic technology competency, more law schools are responding and adding technology courses to their course offerings.

A session at CALI Con 2017, Teaching Law Practice Tech to Law Students – State of the Art, discussed three major themes aimed at teaching a new technology course. Michael Robak offered a walkthrough of the approval process for proposing a new technology course and provided tips for getting faculty and administrative officials onboard. A recent comment, Winning the Battle to Teach Legal Technology and Innovation at Law Schools by Christy Burke, states that many law schools are not yet convinced that this kind of practical non-theoretical education is their responsibility. However, she notes several examples, such as Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab, Vanderbilt Law School’s Technology in Legal Practice and Oklahoma University Law’s Digital Initiative, that offer a counterweight to that resistance.

Nichelle “Nikki” Perry discussed methods and options for choosing course content. Knowing where and how your students will practice can make a difference in class coverage. Stacey Rowland gave an overview of a recently taught course at the University of North Carolina discussing technology for new lawyers. This course covered topics such as Advanced Legal Research through Ravel and Bloomberg Law Litigation Analytics, using Word Styles as a foundation for document automation, asking students to construct a mock law firm website, litigation support services as well as hands on experience with CLIO and kCura’s Relativity.

In Brooklyn Law School’s Tech Tools for Law Practice seminar, the first assignment was to have the students complete a Legal Technology Assessment to determine how fluent they were with the basic technology tools of their trade: Word, Excel, and PDF. The website Procertas helped us to answer the question of what are the tech skills we should be teaching law students to better prepare them for working in the “real world?” See Tech Comes Naturally to ‘Digital Native’ Millennials? That’s A Myth by Darth Vaughn and Casey Flaherty which relates that testing of hundreds of law school students resulted in scores as low as 33 percent when asked to complete some simple Word tasks such as:

  • Accept/Turn-off track changes
  • Cut & Paste
  • Replace text
  • Format font and paragraph
  • Fix footers
  • Insert hyperlink
  • Apply/Modify style
  • Insert/Update cross-references
  • Insert page break
  • Insert non-breaking space
  • Clean document properties
  • Create comparison document (i.e., a redline)

Hopefully, as more law schools incorporate teaching law technology into the curriculum, those scores will improve.

New Book List: Baseball and the Law

Brooklyn Law School Library’s New Books List for June contains 31 print titles and 11 eBook titles and ranges in subject matter from Abortion — Law and legislation;  Sexual minorities — Legal status, laws, — United States; Sex discrimination against women — Law and legislation — United States – History; Genocide – History; Capital punishment – History; and Detention of persons — Cuba — Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.

baseballThe title that caught the attention of this reader was Baseball Meets the Law: A Chronology of Decisions, Statutes and Other Legal Events by Edmund P. Edmonds, Notre Dame Law School and Frank G. Houdek, Southern Illinois University School of Law (Call No. KF3989.2. E36 2017). It is a book that strives to cite the entire field of baseball’s intersection with law with nearly 400 individual accounts that, taken together, give a clear picture of the profound effect that law has had on baseball. The chapters include Baseball Origins and Club Teams, 1791-1865 — Professionalization and the Rise of Leagues, 1866-1902 — The National Commission Era, 1903-1920 — Landis in Charge, 1921-1944 — Owners on Top, 1945-1965 — MLBPA and the Rise of the Players, 1966-1995 — Selig, Steroids and Baseball Prosperity. Sweeping in scope, this book leaves no stone unturned about court cases and other legal aspects associated with the national pastime. The authors have taken great pains to produce a magisterially inclusive volume that features a chronological text and a huge bibliography. The book, with its list of cases and statutes , is one that every fan or researcher needs on the shelf to answer any legal question pertaining to baseball.

The book begins by recalling that in 1791, a Pittsfield, Massachusetts, ordinance prohibited ball playing near the town’s meeting house. Ball games on Sundays were barred by a Pennsylvania statute in 1794. It goes on to the story that in 2015, a federal court held that baseball’s exemption from antitrust laws applied to franchise relocations. Another court overturned the conviction of Barry Bonds for obstruction of justice. A third denied a request by rooftop entrepreneurs to enjoin the construction of a massive video screen at Wrigley Field. This exhaustive chronology traces the effects the law has had on the national pastime, both pro and con, on and off the field, from the use of copyright to protect not only equipment but also “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”. An original recording, featuring Edward Meeker and the Edison Orchestra was among the sound recordings selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in its National Recording Registry in 2010. See Baseball’s Greatest Hits: The Music of Our National Game for more on the song including “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and Suffrage and Love Triangle on the Baseball Diamond.

Johnny We Hardly Knew You. JFK’s 100th Birthday

Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, was John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday. We remember him as the man who was the first Irish-Catholic president, as a man with the sharp wit and a beautiful family, as a man with perfect class, so missing in Washington today. He was the man most responsible for putting Americans on the moon. He was the first president in the 20th century to stand up for civil rights, essentially giving his life to have those bills passed, exactly as he wrote them, by President Johnson in the years following his death. He was the man who faced nuclear Armageddon during the Cuban Missile Crisis and who signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, making the world a safer place. He worked at his office and managed to inspire young people.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President. You made a difference.

A recent article, The Myth of John F. Kennedy In Film and Television by Gregory Frame in 49 Film & History Issue 6, page 21 (Winter 2016) tells how President John F. Kennedy continues to cast an enormous shadow on U.S. politics, despite the relatively short duration of his tenure. His impact on American culture, history, and society is far from settled, with liberals wondering, for example, whether Kennedy would have withdrawn from Vietnam and would have sustained the cause of Civil Rights and with conservatives wondering how his personal character would have played out politically and whether his gun-shy approach to the military would have subverted American hegemony.

For a fascinating look at the legacy of President Kennedy, read the article by accessing it through the Brooklyn Law School Library’s OneSearch platform at this link. As the author concludes: “Holding on to the myth of Kennedy is like holding on to the myth of American exceptionalism, the eternally young nation, springing into the future with masculine vigor and promise and purpose. How much more desperate does a nation become for that myth after a financial crisis (2008) and extended wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), with little manifest appeal from its president (G.W. Bush) either to the intelligence of bookish academics or to the conscience of an international community? . . . . What yearning for the myth of JFK will emerge under Donald Trump? Or has reality television displaced myth as the paradigm for civic intelligence? Historians suggest that the presidency of John F. Kennedy might have been mediocre but that he nonetheless grasped the changing nature of politics in an image-dominated age; that he deserves credit for the skill with which he developed such an enduring image in the first place. And perhaps he does, for that image presides over the most powerful force in American culture: film and television.”

CambridgeAlso in OneSearch is a review by Iwan Morgan of The Cambridge Companion to John F. Kennedy by Andrew Hoberek available at this link. In the review, the author notes that “Modernity is the theme of many essays ranging from . . . exploration of Kennedy’s unprecedented and still unmatched capacity to project himself on television as the epitome of cool when alive to the significance of the Camelot legacy.” Kennedy’s modernity was more symbol than substance. His brief tenure has become an infinitely renewable resource of hope for anyone invested in the promise of the United States.

May New Book List: Fact and Fiction

The Brooklyn Law School Library May 1, 2017, New Book List is now online and has 52 print titles and 31 eBook titles. The subject areas consist of law, history and even fiction.   Subjects are Executive orders — United States – Corporate governance — United States; Judicial power — United States; Solo law practice — United States; War crime trials — History — 20th century; Sexual rights — United States — History; Scalia, Antonin; Trial practice — United States. Like law school libraries throughout the country, the BLS Library has scholarly material subjects for legal researchers in its collection and on the New Book List.

Consider these new acquisitions:

Calling the Shots: The President, Executive Orders, and Public Policy (Call No. KF5053. G58 2017) by Daniel P. Gitterman, Professor of Public Policy at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. This 288-page book explains how modern presidents have used the power as purchaser to require federal contractors to pay a minimum wage and to prohibit contracting with federal contractors that knowingly employ unauthorized alien workers. This book is very timely as that author believes that the current administration will likely use a mix of executive orders and memorandums. Unlike executive orders, memorandums aren’t thoroughly recorded by the government. He says that “Memorandums go below the radar much more and are harder for, I think, the news media and the public to track”

Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism (Call No. HD2744. G73 2015) by Jeff Gramm, Adjunct Associate Professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia Business School. In 291 pages, the book gives a rich history of shareholder activism that has been described as “a grand story” and an “illuminating read” by the Wall Street Journal, “a revelation” by the Financial Times, and “an excellent read” by Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times. Last month, the author presented a Book Talk sponsored by the Center for the Study of Business Law & Regulation at Brooklyn Law School. For details, see this link.

The Unexpected Scalia: A Conservative Justice’s Liberal Opinions (Call No. KF8745.S33 D67 2017) by David M. Dorsen, a Washington lawyer with Sedgwick, LLP. In 377 pages, the book by a close friend of Scalia describes the subject as a leader in opposing abortion, the right to die, affirmative action, and mandated equality for gays and lesbians, and was for virtually untrammeled gun rights, political expenditures, and the imposition of the death penalty. However, he usually followed where his doctrine would take him, leading him to write many liberal opinions.

Fiction is also on the New Book List. See, for example, The Advocate’s Daughter: A Thriller (Call No. PS3606.R4228 A67 2016) by Anthony J. Franze who tells a story of family, power, loss, and revenge set within the insular world of  Washington, D.C. The story focuses on Sean Serrat, a Supreme Court lawyer on the short list to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. His daughter, Abby, a talented and dedicated law student, goes missing and her lifeless body is found in the library of the Supreme Court. Her boyfriend, Malik Montgomery, a law clerk at the high court, is immediately arrested. The media frenzy leads to allegations that Malik’s arrest was racially motivated, sparking a national controversy. While the Serrat family works through their grief, Sean begins to suspect the authorities arrested the wrong person. Delving into the mysteries of his daughter’s last days, Sean stumbles over secrets within his own family as well as the lies of some of the most powerful people in the country. People will stop at nothing to ensure that Sean never exposes the truth.

 

History and Future of NAFTA

The history of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) began in 1980 when candidate Ronald Reagan proposed a North American common market in his presidential campaign. The first move in creating NAFTA came when President Reagan made good on his campaign pledge and declared a North American common market as a future goal. During the early 1980s, with Mexico remaining aloof, Canada and the US signed a series of agreements that culminated in the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement in 1988. At this crucial juncture, Mexico signaled its willingness to join the negotiations and NAFTA talks began. On August 12, 1992, before the summer GOP convention, President George H.W. Bush initialed the deal. After losing the general election to William J. Clinton, Bush formally signed the treaty on December 17, 1992, saying during his Remarks on Signing the North American Free Trade Agreement “I’ve been privileged as Vice President and President over the past 12 years to be here on quite a few occasions, and I am so thrilled that this, the final one, is to sign the NAFTA agreement.”

As negotiated, the agreement was signed by the US, Canada, and Mexico, aiming to eliminate trade barriers among the three nations. Essentially, NAFTA was an extension of the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States. Several other considerations beyond free trade under the scope of the NAFTA include intellectual property, telecommunications, and environmental protection. The treaty was to take effect on January 1, 1994, but ratification faced obstacles in the US Congress, especially from members of the Democratic Party. At the time of its ratification in Congress, more Republicans than Democrats supported NAFTA. With strong opposition by labor unions, a key ally for President Clinton was then-House Minority Whip (and later House Speaker) Newt Gingrich (R-Ga). Since NAFTA went into effect, bilateral trade between the US and Mexico amounts to more than $500 billion per year. The US is Mexico’s largest trading partner in merchandise (about 80% of its goods exports go to the US) while Mexico is America’s third-largest trading partner (after Canada and China).

NAFTA at 20Readers interested in learning more about NAFTA can review the Brooklyn Law School Library volume NAFTA at 20: The North American Free Trade Agreement’s Achievements and Challenges edited by Michael J. Boskin (Call No. HF1746 .N3326 2014), a Professor of Economics and senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. As chairman of the president’s council of economic advisers from 1989 to 1993, he helped initiate NAFTA. He writes that NAFTA was bold and controversial from the start. When first conceived, it was far from obvious that it would be possible given the circumstances of the times. Drawing from a December 2013 Hoover Institution conference on “NAFTA at 20,” his book brings together distinguished academics who have studied the effects of NAFTA with high-level policy makers to present a comprehensive view of the North American Free Trade Agreement. It looks at the conception, creation, outcomes so far, and the future of NAFTA from the perspective of economists, historians, and the policy makers in the words of those who participated in the negotiations and research. In the context of the fundamental economic and political transformation of North America, they discuss the trade, real wage, and welfare gains that NAFTA has produced for the United States, Mexico, and Canada, along with a review of the major energy markets within and among the three countries. The book has lessons from NAFTA for the future, both for NAFTA itself (if there is one) and for other trade agreements. The author stresses the importance of political leadership and providing information on the benefits of trade liberalization to voters and ill-informed politicians who cater to the fears of free trade opponents.

NAFTAThe BLS Library  has in its collection a related title, an e-book NAFTA and Sustainable Development: History, Experience, and Prospects for Reform (Treaty Implementation for Sustainable Development), edited by Hoi L. Kong and L. Kinvin Wroth. On the twentieth anniversary of NAFTA’s ratification, the book outlines the scope of NAFTA and its impact on environmental issues and paths to reform. Analyzing the impact of the NAFTA on bio-engineered crops in Mexico, marine environmental effects, climate change, and indigenous rights, the book is an important contribution to the global conversation on international trade agreements and sustainable development.