Category Archives: Alumni

Dedication of the Phyllis & Bernard Nash ’66 Reading Room

The BLS alumna sat down on one of the brightly-colored, soft and comfortable couches in the newly-christened Nash Reading Room. “We didn’t have anything like this in the library, back when I was in law school!”

Over the years, many alumni have had experiences similar to those described by Bernie Nash (BLS ‘66) in his remarks at the dedication of the Nash Reading Room on June 26, 2018. When he started out at BLS, the library was a “medieval” place with long tables and hard chairs, where students kept their heads down in their devotion to quiet study. Yet he soon learned that these austere physical trappings belied the value of the library and librarians. During Nash’s tenure as a student, BLS Librarian Lucie Jurow (BLS ‘30) became his mentor. She not only taught him how to do legal research, a skill that served him well in law school and in practice, but also helped him out when he ran into some issues with the law school administration. Nash’s appreciation of Jurow’s mentorship, and of the value of the law school library, stuck with him throughout his long and successful career.  Hence it was fitting that the newly-renovated third floor collaboration room, which has quickly become the most popular space in the library, be dedicated as the Phyllis & Bernard Nash ‘66 Reading Room in honor of the Nashs’ generosity in giving back to BLS.

After the official ribbon-cutting ceremony had been conducted by Phyllis Nash, Bernie Nash, Dean Nick Allard, and Library Director Janet Sinder, the guests spilled into the reading room. Some guests chatted with those who were using the space: students taking summer classes as well as recent graduates studying for the July bar exam. Others settled on the inviting couches and fractal lounge chairs. They sipped champagne and didn’t seem like they wanted to leave.

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!!

Extra, Extra Read All About It: The Justinian Now Available Online

Brooklyn Law School recently digitized and made accessible its collection of Brooklyn Law School’s student run newspaper, The Justinian.  The digitized collection is available on Brooklyn Law School’s digital repository, BrooklynWorks .  The BLS student-run periodical program began in 1918 as The Barrister. It was published monthly until 1922. Almost a decade later, in 1931, the periodical’s title changed to The Justinian. Publication continued until 1998. The Justinian was not produced from May 1945 to September 1954. After 1998, it was referred to as Brooklyn Law School News, which ran from 2002 to 2006.

The Brooklyn Law School Library Archives provides digitized versions of this printed collection from April 1932 to October 2006. The content has complete OCR text recognition for all 238 issues. The periodicals were published monthly. For most April issues, there is a special for April Fool’s Day. For 88 years, these news-sources have been accurate portrayals of political, social, economic, and local topics that have interested Brooklyn Law School students and engaged them in active involvement and debate.

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.

Chinatown Financial Way of Life on Trial

abacusIf you want a tale of a bank charged with falsifying loan-application documents by inflating borrower assets, incomes, and job titles, and “fraudulent mortgages” being sold to Fannie Mae, the federally backed mortgage company, see the documentary Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. It is a 2016 American documentary by Steve James that centers on Abacus Federal Savings Bank, a family-owned community bank situated in Manhattan’s Chinatown. It was deemed “small enough to jail” rather than “too big to fail” and became the only financial institution to face criminal charges following the subprime mortgage crisis when District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced a 184-count indictment against the bank and 19 of its current and former employees accusing them of conspiracy, grand larceny, falsifying business records, and residential mortgage fraud.  Ten Abacus employees accepted plea deals in exchange for testifying against the bank, and Ken Yu became the star witness. The film debuted at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival winning first runner-up for the People’s Choice Award in the documentary category.

The principal behind Abacus is Thomas Sung (Brooklyn Law School, Class of 1964). Born in Shanghai, he emigrated at age 16 to New York in 1952. His family was processed through Ellis Island and detained for three months before they could settle in New York. That left Sung determined to learn the law and help other immigrants. After earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Florida in agricultural economics, he worked as an analyst for several New York companies while attending Brooklyn Law School at night. He began practicing law in 1964 and worked pro bono for the Chinese community. Sung founded Abacus in 1984 to serve the immigrant population, which had grown in New York. “We take people from illegal immigrant status, to legal status, to prosperous business people and homeowners,” said Sung.

Whether the government was giving a pass to big banks and picking on a small one, perhaps with a tinge of racism in its motives, is a question. Vance called the accusations of cultural bias “entirely misplaced and entirely wrong” adding “I felt that our handling of the bank was consistent with how we would have handled the bank if we were investigating a bank that serviced a South American community or the Indian community.” The movie shows its affection for the Sung family, which was equipped professionally, if not financially, for an expensive legal battle. Three daughters were trained as lawyers, including Jill Sung, the bank’s chief executive, Vera Sung, a director of the bank, who worked for the Brooklyn DA’s office for two-and-a-half years, and Chantarelle Sung, who worked in the Manhattan DA’s office for seven years leaving when Vance took over and started prosecuting her family’s bank. The NY Times criticized the filing as a dubious mortgage fraud case against Abacus, which was tatally exonerated at trial. Local newspapers put the news of the bank’s acquittal on their front pages. There was criticism from Bennett L. Gershman, a former prosecutor at the Manhattan D.A.’s office now a professor at Pace Law School, who said “This case just involved a terrible example of poor judgment by the prosecutor.” He characterized it as a “David and Goliath situation,” echoing a widespread view that it was convenient to make an example of a small bank like Abacus.

Revenge Porn: Taking Trolls to Court

An article in a recent issue of The New Yorker features Brooklyn Law School alum Carrie Goldberg, Class of 2007, as a leader in the crusade against non-consensual pornography, also called “revenge porn.” A founder of the Brooklyn firm C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, she is at the forefront of a movement to use both new and existing laws to penalize individuals who share compromising photos and videos of others without their consent. From her practice not far from the Law School, Goldberg assists clients like Norma, whose story of harassment by a former partner who shared explicit photos of her on the internet is chronicled in the article. Author Margaret Talbot calls Goldberg “a new kind of privacy champion,” detailing Goldberg’s many accomplishments in this new field, from successful prosecutions of revenge porn perpetrators to a major role in an activist campaign to get social media platforms and search engines to ban revenge porn. The article notes Goldberg’s recent hire of a fellow Brooklyn Law School graduate, Lindsay Lieberman, Class of 2011. Earlier this year, Goldberg spoke at the White House to members of the Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault about sexual assault in k-12 with the crew at SurvJustice, a national not-for-profit organization that increases the prospect of justice for survivors by holding both perpetrators and enablers of sexual violence accountable.

hate crimesThe Brooklyn Law School Library collection included Hate Crimes in Cyberspace by Danielle Keats Citron (Call No. HV6773.15.C92 C57 2014). The book covers the subject of trolling or aggressive, foul-mouthed posts designed to elicit angry responses in a site’s comments. The author exposes the startling extent of personal cyber-attacks and proposes practical, lawful ways to prevent and punish online harassment. Persistent online attacks disproportionately target women and frequently include detailed fantasies of rape as well as reputation-ruining lies and sexually explicit photographs. And if dealing with a single attacker’s “revenge porn” were not enough, harassing posts that make their way onto social media sites often feed on one another, turning lone instigators into cyber-mobs. The book rejects the view of the Internet as an anarchic Wild West, where those who venture online must be thick-skinned enough to endure all manner of verbal assault in the name of free speech protection, no matter how distasteful or abusive. Cyber-harassment is a matter of civil rights law, Citron contends, and legal precedents as well as social norms of decency and civility must be leveraged to stop it.

Video of Conversation with Rudikoff and Zamfotis

This is an update of the September 23, 2016 post Episode 098 – Conversation BLS Alumni Greg Zamfotis and John Rudikoff. The update adds a video of the conversation to the audio linked in the earlier post. Additionally, John Mackin, Public Relations Manager at Brooklyn Law School, wrote a summary of the conversation which is available by clicking this link.

Episode 098 – Conversation BLS Alumni Greg Zamfotis and John Rudikoff

Episode 098 – Conversation with BLS Alumni Greg Zamfotis and John Rudikoff.mp3

This conversation with Brooklyn Law School alumni Gregory Zamfotis, Class of 2007, and John Rudikoff, Class of 2006 and CEO and managing director of the Brooklyn Law School Center for Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE), discusses how law students can broaden their career prospects by incorporating into their thinking a willingness to take risks and develop, organize and manage a business venture in their professional life.

GregsThe conversation starts with Greg Zamfotis, President and CEO of Gregorys Coffee, a high end coffee shop founded in December 2006. Greg discusses his law school career and his decision to forego the practice of law and open his first shop in New York City, home to some of the world’s most discerning coffee drinkers. The conversation touches on marketing, branding and the highly competitive atmosphere of his business. Greg also talks about how the skills he learned in law school have helped him run his business.

CUBEThe conversation then moves to John Rudikoff who has been director of CUBE since 2015. John discusses CUBE’s mission which focuses on training students to seek a competitive advantage in the job market and on providing essential legal services that startups need to scale up and become sustainable. Referring to a recent article on the WSJ Law Blog, Law School Graduates Finding Fewer Private Practice Jobs, John foresees that this conversation between him and Greg can be an ongoing discussion to help BLS law students enrolled in CUBE who can benefit from the enthusiasm that Greg brings to entrepreneurship.

Summer Access (& Beyond) to Bloomberg, Lexis & Westlaw

The three legal research databases, Bloomberg Law, Lexis Advance and WestlawNext, are available to Brooklyn Law School students this summer.  May 2016 graduates will have access to these databases for six months after graduation.  See the details below:

bloomberglaw65Bloomberg Law:  Provides unlimited and unrestricted access over the summer.  Student accounts will remain active and available all summer.  Graduating students have continued access for six months after graduation.

For questions, contact Maxwell Sivin, Law School Relationship Manager, msivin@bna.com, 646-494-5244.

Lexis AdvanceLexis Advance:  Students will have continuing access all summer for academic, professional, and non-profit research.   All legal and news content will be available.  Your law school ID will remain active all summer.  Summer access begins on the date spring classes end through the beginning of fall classes.

Please check with your summer employer as to their ID guidelines. Some employers may request you use a work ID instead of your student access ID for employer work.

May 2016 graduate have access to Lexis for six months after graduation.

For questions, contact Mary Beth Drain, LexisNexis Account Executive, marybeth.drain@lexisnexis.com, 845-598-3203.

99b7a752.WestlawNext_logoWestlawNext:  Students must extend their passwords for the following academic uses:

  • Summer law school classes & study abroad programs
  • Law Review and Journal, including writing competitions
  • Research assistant
  • Moot Court
  • Unpaid internship/externship

Students with summer employment in law firms, corporations, government agencies and the like should not use their academic password for research and must use their firm issued password.

Students can complete the online summer extension form on the Westlaw homepage at www.lawschool.westlaw.com.  Students will see a banner if they are a 1L or 2L that says “Using Westlaw in the Summertime?”  Then, they should click on the banner and complete the online summer extension form to extend their Westlaw accounts.

Graduates will see an extension form that says “Grads, Want More Westlaw?”  on the Westlaw law school homepage.  Graduates can extend their student accounts by clicking on the banner form and then they will have their access extended through 11/30/16 (for six months after graduation).

For questions, contact Stefanie Efrati, West Academic Account Manager, stefanie.efrati@thomsonreuters.com, 212-548-7432.

50 Years Ago, BLS Alum Helps Overturn Poll Tax

jordanJoseph A. Jordan, was born in Norfolk Virginia and was a Brooklyn Law School graduate.  He was a veteran, paralyzed from the waist down during World War II and confined to a wheelchair.

As an attorney, Jordan and his firm, Jordan, Dawley & Holt, fought civil rights cases across the South during the 1960’s.  One such case made constitutional history,

In November 1963 Jordan filed suit on behalf of Mrs. Evelyn Thomas Butts to have the state’s poll tax declared unconstitutional. The poll tax was a tax levied on individuals as a prerequisite for voting. Although levied on all voters regardless of race, the tax effectively disenfranchised the poor, including many African-Americans. The tax was outlawed nationally in January 1964 by ratification of the 24th amendment, but it only addressed federal elections and remained silent on state and local applicability.

Jordan’s suit was defeated nine times by local and state courts before finally working its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.  In March 1966 the case became part of the landmark decision, Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections.   Only six years out of law school,  Jordan argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that Virginia’s poll tax should be struck down.  The court agreed and ruled it unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Joseph A. Jordan went on to become the first black elected to the Norfolk City Council since 1889. He served three terms on the council, including two years as vice mayor. In 1977, he was appointed to Norfolk’s General District Court and retired in 1986.