Author Archives: Harold O'Grady

Lynching in America

Earlier this month, Oprah Winfrey reported on 60 Minutes on the Alabama memorial dedicated to thousands of African-American men, women and children lynched over a 70-year period following the Civil War. The project is being led by criminal defense attorney Bryan Stevenson who wants to shed light on a dark period in our past that most people would rather forget. These hangings were not isolated murders committed only by men in white hoods in the middle of the night. Often, they were public crimes, witnessed by thousands of people. Stevenson believes to heal racial divisions we must educate Americans of every color and creed. See the episode here.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, opening to the public on April 26, 2018, will become the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, those terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence. Read the report, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, which documents more than 4400 lynchings of black people in the United States between 1877 and 1950.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection a related title, The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer (Call No. HV6465.A2 L43 2016). It is the powerful story of a brutal race-based killing in 1981 and the dramatic two trials during which the United Klans of America, the largest and most dangerous Klan organization in America, was exposed for the evil it represented. Leamer tells a gripping story of figures such as legendary civil rights lawyer Morris Dees, Alabama governor George Wallace, and Klan Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton and describes the Klan’s lingering effect on race relations in America today.

The story begins in March 1981, when Henry Hays and James Knowles, members of Klavern 900 of the UKA, picked up nineteen-year-old Michael Donald on the streets of Mobile, Alabama. They were seeking to retaliate after a largely black jury failed to convict a black man accused of murdering a white policeman. Hays and Knowles beat Donald, cut his throat, and left his body hanging from a tree branch in a racially mixed residential neighborhood. Arrested, charged, and convicted, Hays was sentenced to death, the first time in more than half a century that the state of Alabama had given that penalty to a white man for killing a black man.

Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, saw the case as an opportunity to file a lawsuit against the UKA. His colleagues told him that his lawsuit was impossible to win. Nevertheless, on behalf of Michael’s grieving mother, Mrs. Beulah Donald, Dees filed a first-of-its-kind civil suit and charged the Klan organization and its leaders with conspiracy. He proceeded to put the Klan leaders on trial, which produced some of the most audacious testimony of any civil rights trial as well as a stunning and precedent-setting verdict. Dees destroyed the UKA and created a weapon that the SPLC used time and again against other racist organizations. The Lynching is a suspenseful true story that takes us into the heart of darkness, but finally shows that Michael Donald and other civil rights martyrs did not die in vain.

Working-Class Shareholder

The Brooklyn Law School Library New Books List for April 1, 2018 has 42 print titles and 30 e-book titles. Among them is one e-title The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder: Labor’s Last Best Weapon by David Webber, a rare good-news story for American workers. Combining legal rigor with inspiring narratives of labor victory, Webber shows how workers can wield their own capital to reclaim their strength. When the CEO of the supermarket chain Safeway cut wages and benefits, starting a five-month strike by 59,000 unionized workers, he was confident he would win. But where traditional labor action failed, a novel approach was more successful. With the aid of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, a $300 billion pension fund, workers led a shareholder revolt that unseated three of CEO’s boardroom allies. In the book, the author uses cases such as Safeway’s to shine a light on labor’s most potent remaining weapon: its multitrillion-dollar pension funds. Outmaneuvered at the bargaining table and under constant assault in Washington, state houses, and the courts, worker organizations are beginning to exercise muscle through markets. Shareholder activism has been used to divest from anti-labor companies, gun makers, and tobacco; diversify corporate boards; support Occupy Wall Street; force global warming onto the corporate agenda; create jobs; and challenge outlandish CEO pay. Webber argues that workers have found in labor’s capital a potent strategy against their exploiters. He explains the tactic’s surmountable difficulties even as he cautions that corporate interests are already working to deny labor’s access to this powerful and underused tool.

This book could be the modern bible of the movement to harness labor’s capital for working-class interests. It is a riveting and thoughtful book that is not only a fast and fun read, but contributes wonderfully to a new and ongoing conversation about inequality, dark money, and populism in the electorate. On Wednesday, April 18 at 4pm, Brooklyn Law School will host a Book Talk with David Webber, Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law to discuss the book. It is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Business Law and Regulation.

CRS Reports to Be Public

All non-confidential reports of the Congressional Research Service must be made publicly available online through a Government Publishing Office website within 90 to 270 days under the 2018 omnibus appropriations act that was passed by Congress and signed by the President last week. Buried in the 2,232-page fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill is a much-debated provision to require the Library of Congress to post all the lawmaker-requested reports on a central website.

AVAILABILITY OF CRS REPORTS THROUGH LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WEBSITE.
(1) WEBSITE.— (A) ESTABLISHMENT AND MAINTENANCE.—The Librarian of Congress, in consultation with the CRS Director, shall establish and maintain a public website containing CRS Reports and an index of all CRS Reports contained on the website, in accordance with this subsection.
(B) FORMAT.—On the Website, CRS Reports shall be searchable, sortable, and downloadable, including downloadable in bulk.
(C) FREE ACCESS.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Librarian of Congress may not charge a fee for access to the Website.
(2) UPDATES; DISCLAIMER.—The Librarian of Congress, in consultation with the CRS Director, shall ensure that the Website—(A) is updated contemporaneously, automatically, and electronically to include each new or updated CRS Report released on or after the effective date of this section; (B) shows the status of each CRS Report as new, updated, or archived; … Any CRS Report may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without permission from CRS. However, as a CRS Report may include copyrighted images or material from a third party, you may need to obtain the permission of the copyright holder if you wish to copy or otherwise use copyrighted material.’’

The move is the culmination of more than two decades of efforts to encourage, cajole or coerce Congress into making the reports broadly available to the public. Finally, Congress will make the non-confidential reports available to every American for free. See Long-Proprietary Congressional Research Reports Will Now Be Made Public by Charles S. Clark, March 23, 2018.

Amelia D. Lewis: Woman Behind In re Gault

The US Congress, by Public Law 100-9, designated the month of March 1987, as “Women’s History Month”. This law requested the President to issue a proclamation calling on the American people to observe this month with appropriate activities. President Reagan then issued Presidential Proclamation 5619 proclaiming March 1987 as “Women’s History Month”. Since then, Presidential Proclamations have declared March as Women’s History Month.

Brooklyn Law School celebrates Women’s History Month by recognizing Amelia Dietrich Lewis, Class of 1924, as “one of the most tenacious lawyers the state of Arizona has ever seen.” She was a graduate of St. Lawrence University School of Law (now Brooklyn Law School). She exhibited her moxie early in her career, even before she was sworn in as an attorney. Although Lewis was scheduled to take the bar exam on June 24, 1924, she learned that the New York Bar prohibited candidates under the age of 21. In Lewis’s case, she was to turn 21 the very next day, on June 25. Facing this technicality, she filed suit against the Bar, arguing she would be 21 on the 24th because her birthday was actually the first day of her 22nd year.” She was successful in her suit and took the exam as planned on the 24th and passed. After practicing law in New York for 33 years, in 1957 following the death of her husband, she moved to Arizona. She took the bar examination in that state with just one other woman, Sandra Day O’Conner. There, she worked as a prosecutor for six years and then maintained a thriving solo practice, concentrating in elder law in Sun City. She was well into her eighties when she retired.

Lewis is best known for her involvement in the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case, In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967), which brought due process to juvenile courts across the nation. Her client, Gerald Gault, had been sentenced without legal counsel to an Arizona reformatory. He allegedly made an obscene phone call to a neighbor, was arrested by local police, and tried in a proceeding that did not require his accuser’s testimony. He was sentenced to six years in a juvenile “boot camp” for an offense that would have cost an adult only two months. Lewis assumed the role of co-counsel after Gault’s appeals at the lower level were exhausted. She was drawn to the case because she had raised three healthy sons and “wanted to give something back.” Ultimately, the defense of the boy prevailed, with the Court holding that he was entitled to the same constitutional safeguards as adults: a trial by jury, the right to legal counsel, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to remain silent. Justice Fortas in his 8-1 majority opinion wrote: “Neither the 14th Amendment nor the Bill of Rights is for adults only. Under the Constitution, the condition of being a boy does not justify a kangaroo court.”

Lewis was recognized by the Arizona Republic as one of the legal greats of that state. In 1988, she received the first Amicus Award of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, which honored her for pioneering the vital role of women in the legal profession. Upon her death in 1994, the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court commented: “She made history for the law in many ways. Her life and career epitomized the practice of law as it should be.”

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection The Constitutional Rights of Children: In re Gault and Juvenile Justice by David S. Tanenhaus (Call No. KF228.G377 T36 2017). This new edition includes expanded coverage of the Roberts Court’s juvenile justice decisions including Miller v. Alabama (in which the Court held that mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders) and explains how disregard for children’s constitutional rights led to the “Kids for Cash” scandal in Pennsylvania. Widely celebrated as the most important children’s rights case of the twentieth century, Gault affirmed that children have the same rights as adults and formally incorporated the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process protections into the administration of the nation’s juvenile courts.

Notice and Comment Stalls Undoing Regulations

Courts have cited the Administrative Procedure Act, Pub. L. 79–404 enacted on June 11, 1946, in blocking the Trump administration’s attempts to end policies from the Obama era. These include actions to undermine the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (New York v. Trump), a delay in a regulation requiring oil and gas companies to reduce methane leaks (Sierra Club v. Zinke), and postponement of a rule that would give low-income families more access to housing in wealthier neighborhoods (Open Communities Alliance v. Carson). In each instance, Trump policy changes have hit the same stumbling block: Courts say the administration has not followed the proper steps in enacting them, citing a 1940s-era law that’s become a key weapon in the legal battle over the president’s agenda. Under that law, the Administrative Procedure Act, federal agencies are required to provide a reasoned justification for their policy decisions and offer the public an opportunity to weigh in when they are creating new regulations, making notable changes to existing rules, or scrapping them altogether. In other words, rescission of the former policies require that the government provide notice and comment, otherwise there would be a violation of Section 553 of the APA.

Congress passed the Administrative Procedure Act in 1946 amid the rise of communism and fascism in Europe, hoping to place checks on the vast bureaucracy created by the New Deal and “avoid dictatorship and central planning,” as one legal expert explained. Under the law, federal agencies must provide a reasoned analysis for making policy changes to avoid “arbitrary and capricious” rule-making. The Administrative Procedure Act requires that agencies go through a process known as “notice and comment” before issuing, amending or repealing “substantive rules.” As part of that process, the agency must publish proposed actions in the Federal Register and then give the public at least 30 days to submit feedback. When it finalizes its proposal, the agency must respond to issues raised by the public comments and must explain why it settled upon the course of action that it chose. The explanation must show why the agency’s action is reasonable and not “arbitrary” or “capricious.”

Brooklyn Law School students may want to review Informal Rulemaking, a CALI lesson (password required), which examines the procedural steps that an administrative agency must follow in order to create a valid “informal” rule. This lesson is intended for students who have studied these issues in class and wish to further refine their knowledge.

You Are Being Watched

The Brooklyn Law School Library New Books List for March 1, 2018 is out with 40 print titles and 17 e-book titles. One of the titles is the 151-page volume Being Watched: Legal Challenges to Government Surveillance by Jeffrey L. Vagle, Lecturer in Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The nine chapters (You Are Being Watched; A History of Government Surveillance; Getting through the Courthouse Door; The Doctrine of Article III Standing; Before the Supreme Court; Government Surveillance and the Law; The Legacy of Laird v. Tatum; Technology, National Security, and Surveillance; and The Future of Citizen Challenges to Government Surveillance) tell a riveting history of the Supreme Court decision that set the legal precedent for citizen challenges to government surveillance, particularly the case of Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1 (1972). There the Supreme Court considered the question of who could sue the government over a surveillance program, holding in a 5-4 decision that chilling effects arising “merely from the individual’s knowledge” of likely government surveillance did not constitute adequate injury to meet Article III standing requirements. The book also discusses a more recent case where the ACLU challenged the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act over surveillance of American citizens and residents. That Supreme Court case, Clapper v. Amnesty International USA (2013), was one where the Court held that the District Court for the Southern District of New York was correct ruling that the plaintiffs had no standing to bring their case before any federal court.

The book is a fascinating and disturbing story of jurisprudence related to the issue of standing in citizen challenges to government surveillance in the United States. It examines the facts of surveillance cases and the reasoning of the courts who heard them, and considers whether the obstacle of standing to surveillance challenges in U.S. courts can ever be overcome. The author examines the history of military domestic surveillance, tensions between the three branches of government, the powers of the presidency in times of war, and the power of individual citizens in the ongoing quest for the elusive freedom-organization balance. It is essential reading for every American citizen. It explains all the legalities and the methods government uses to surveil citizens.

BLS Professor on Israel Supreme Court

Brooklyn Law School’s Professor Alex Stein gained appointment to the Israeli Supreme Court. Stein, a foremost expert on torts, medical malpractice, evidence, and general legal theory, was appointed along with Israeli District Court Judge Ofer Grosskopf to fill two open Supreme Court positions that were vacated by retiring justices. Stein’s nomination was unanimously approved by the Judicial Appointments Committee. There are 15 justices on the Israeli Supreme Court.

“Professor Stein is one of the world’s brilliant legal minds,” said Nick Allard, President and Dean of Brooklyn Law School. “In the short time he has been with us, he has made an enormous positive impact on the Brooklyn Law School community—as a teacher, a scholar, and a wonderfully energetic and engaged colleague and friend. We could not be prouder of his well-deserved appointment to the Israeli Supreme Court, where we know he will make important and lasting contributions as a jurist—as he has as a law professor and practicing lawyer.”

Born and raised in the former Soviet Union, Stein immigrated with his parents to Israel, where he finished high school, served in the military, and studied law. Following his marriage, he has lived in the United States for the last 14 years and joined the Law School faculty in 2016. While in the United States, he continued his involvement in the Israeli legal academy and practice. Stein has been recognized as one of the most highly cited scholars in the field of Evidence. His books include An Analytical Approach to Evidence: Text, Cases and Problems, (Call Number KF8935 .A83 2016). The book is a problem-based Evidence casebook that presents the Federal Rules of Evidence in context, illuminates the rules, and provides a fully updated and systematic account of the law. Lively discussion and interesting problems (rather than numerous appellate case excerpts) engage students in understanding the principles, policies, and debates that surround evidence law. He received his law degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his Ph.D. from the University of London.

Presidents Day

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971 declares that Washington’s Birthday falls on the third Monday in February in the United States. It is, of course, named for George Washington, the first president of the United States. The holiday originally started as a day to celebrate the birthday of George Washington whose birthday is February 22. As part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971, the holiday was moved to the third Monday in February. Presidents’ Day is now thought of as a holiday saluting all Presidents, not just George Washington. Public Law 90-363 designated the third Monday in February as Washington’s Birthday. Many states choose to call this day Presidents’ Day instead of Washington’s Birthday. Some states also celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday as well. Other Presidents born in February include William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan.

Some facts about Presidents’ Day are:

1. Washington’s birthday was how the holiday began, following his death in 1799, and was celebrated each year on February 22. It was then celebrated widely in 1832 on the centennial of his birth and in 1848 when construction first started on the Washington Monument. Other presidents with birthdays in February include Abraham Lincoln on February 12.  The holiday became recognized as a day to honor multiple past presidents. Alabama celebrates Washington’s birthday and Thomas Jefferson’s birthday on Presidents’ Day, even though Jefferson was born in April.

2. It has different names in certain states. In Virginia, which is Washington’s home state, they call it George Washington’s Day. In Alabama, it is called Washington and Jefferson Day. There is no official agreement on the placement of the apostrophe in “Presidents’ Day,” so you might see it written as “Presidents’ Day,” “President’s Day,” or just “Presidents Day.”

3. It was almost changed back to individual birthdays in the 2000s. Because the origins of Presidents’ Day started to become lost, honored more presidents than just Washington, disregarded Lincoln, and morphed into a commercialized cluster of chaos, an attempt to restore Washington’s and Lincoln’s individual birthdays as holidays was made in the 2000s. It failed. However, the federal government still recognizes Presidents’ Day as a celebration of Washington and is listed as such on official calendars.

4. Even though it is a federal holiday, each state is free to call it what they choose and how to celebrate.

5. Brooklyn Law School is closed on Presidents’ Day. The Library is open from 9am to 10pm. See the library e-book For Fear of an Elective King: George Washington and the Presidential Title Controversy of 1789 by Kathleen Bartoloni-Tuazon where the author argues that the resolution of the controversy in favor of the modest title of “President” established the importance of recognition of the people’s views by the president and led to leadership that demonstrated the presidency’s power by not flaunting it.

 

Millions Awarded to Graffiti Artists

5pointzA BLS Library Blog post titled VARA and a Whitewashed Graffiti Mecca discussed a federal law suit brought by a group of plaintiff artists, under the Visual Artist Rights Act of 1990, against a defendant real estate developer in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The NY Times now reports Graffiti Artists Awarded $6.7 Million for Destroyed 5Pointz Murals. Judge Frederic Block made the award on Monday to 21 graffiti artists whose works were destroyed in 2013 at the 5Pointz complex in Long Island City, Queens. Eric Baum, a lawyer for the artists, hailed the judgment, calling it “a victory not only for the artists in this case, but for artists all around the country.” Although 5Pointz no longer physically exists, the jury trial determined that the 5Pointz artists were entitled to legal redress for the work’s destruction. Significantly, this lawsuit was the first of its kind; never had a court examined whether the work of an “exterior aerosol artist,” as the trial judge wrote in a November 20, 2013, opinion, “is worthy of any protection under the law.” Congress enacted VARA in 1990 to afford visual artists two so-called “moral rights” under then-existing copyright law: the rights of attribution and integrity.

Brooklyn Law School Library’s One Search gives access to Graffiti and the Visual Artists Rights Act by Amy Wang, 11 Washington Journal of Law Technology & Arts 141 (2015) which has in-depth discussion of claims under VARA, examining case law in Cohen v. G&M Realty L.P., 988 F. Supp. 2d 212 (E.D.N.Y. 2013).

No Paris Agreement, No EU Trade

Officials at the European Union (EU) have declared that, if the US does indeed withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2020, there will be no future trade deals between the two blocs. In June 2017, the US President announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The move can only take effect in 2020, according to the rules of the agreement. He has also backed away from policies designed to deliver on US commitments to the accord. France’s Foreign Minister, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, told the French Parliament that “one of our main demands is that any country who signs a trade agreement with [the] EU should implement the Paris agreement on the ground. No Paris agreement, no trade agreement,” he added. “The US knows what to expect.” The use of the word “implementation” suggests that the trading partners need to have not just signed, but ratified the Paris agreement. That means that it would not only the US that is excluded, but 23 other countries including Russia. The US is clearly the target of this proposal.

ParisFor more on the Paris Climate Agreement, see Brooklyn Law School Library’s e-book The Paris Agreement on Climate Change: Analysis and Commentary edited by Daniel Klein et als. Signed in December 2015, the agreement came into force on November 4, 2016, a whole four years before the original intended date of 2020. The e-book combines a comprehensive legal appraisal and critique of the new Agreement with a practical and structured commentary to all its Articles. Part I discusses the general context for the Paris Agreement, detailing the scientific, political, and social drivers behind it, providing an overview of the preexisting regime, and tracking the history of the negotiations. It examines the evolution of key concepts such as common but differentiated responsibilities, and analyses the legal form of the Agreement and the nature of its provisions. Part II comprises individual chapters on each Article of the Agreement, with detailed commentary of the provisions which highlights central aspects from the negotiating history and the legal nature of the obligations. It describes the institutional arrangements and considerations for national implementation, providing practical advice and prospects for future development. Part III reflects on the Paris Agreement as a whole: its strengths and weaknesses, its potential for further development, and its relationship with other areas of public international law and governance. The book is an invaluable resource for academics and practitioners, policy makers, and actors in the private sector and civil society, as they negotiate the implementation of the Agreement in domestic law and policy.