Category Archives: Alumni

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.

Watergate Revisited

The 43rd anniversary of the January 30, 1973 convictions of former Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord Jr. for conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in connection with the break-in at the Watergate hotel brings to mind the turbulent years leading to the only presidential resignation in US history. The conviction was later upheld in United States v. Liddy, 509 F. 2d 428 (D.C.Cir. 1974).

The BLS Library has an extensive collection of material related to the Watergate scandal. One item was written by a noted alumnus of Brooklyn Law School, the late Leonard Garment (Class of 1949) who later became a member of the BLS Board of Trustees and an Adjunct Professor of Law. Garment (1924 – 2013) was an attorney who served Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford in various positions from 1969 to 1976, including Counselor to the President, acting Special Counsel to Nixon for the last two years of his presidency, and U.S. Ambassador to the Third Committee at the United Nations. Born in Brooklyn, he graduated Brooklyn Law School and joined the law firm of Mudge, Stern, Baldwin, and Todd (later called Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander). There, Garment met Nixon and then worked on his 1968 presidential campaign, later becoming part of Nixon’s White House staff as special consultant to the president. He advised the president and worked on various special projects, particularly on civil and human rights, Indian affairs, and the arts.

His 418 page Garmentbook Crazy Rhythm: From Brooklyn and Jazz to Nixon’s White House, Watergate, and Beyond (Call No. E856 .G38 1997) is a fascinating autobiography of a Washington/Wall Street insider who thrived despite hard blows dealt him on more than one occasion. Garment tells how he left home early to pursue a career as a clarinet/saxophone player in jazz bands. After serving in WW II, he earned his law degree and soon became a close friend of the former vice president. An important member of the Nixon team, Garment became an all-purpose troubleshooter for the president. The tough-talking administration’s informal envoy to both US Jewry and Israel, Garment (who describes his ex-boss as operationally progressive but rhetorically retrogressive on social issues) also worked on civil-rights programs. He was untainted by Watergate, but his comments on the scandal are marked with perception and compassion. He eventually returned to New York City to serve as Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s special assistant for human rights during his stint as US ambassador to the UN, and then resumed the practice of law. The book is an engaging recollection of a free-spirited advocate who learned from his experiences close to the seats of power.

Episode 096 – Conversation with Prof. Anita Bernstein

Episode 096 – Conversation with Prof. Anita Bernstein.mp3

In this podcast, Brooklyn Law School Professor Anita Bernstein and Loren Pani, BLS Class of 2015, her research assistant, discuss her series of articles on legal malpractice written for the Outside Counsel column of the New York Law Journal. Professor Bernstein reports on a data set of legal malpractice decisions issued during the last five years by the appellate courts of New York. To date four columns have been published:  Nine Easy Ways to Breach Your Duty to a Real Estate Client, which appeared in the August 11, 2015 edition of the NYLJ; Avoidable and Actionable Errors by New York Personal Injury Lawyers, September 17, 2015; Matrimonial Malpractice Before, During and After a Client’s Divorce, October 30, 2015; and  Judiciary Law §487 Claims For Attorney Misconduct, November 24, 2015. The fifth entry in the series, “Legal Malpractice Liability for Criminal Defense: Rare, Yet Possible”, is slated for publication on December 30. Prof. Bernstein and Loren credit BLS Reference Librarian Kathleen Darvil for her assistance in compiling the data set.

Brooklyn Law at CALIcon 2015

imageOn Thursday, June 18 at CALIcon 2015 held at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, one of the opening sessions was called Incorporating Technology, Business Development and Marketing in the Law School Curriculum. The session by Brooklyn Law School Reference Librarian Harold O’Grady and Brooklyn Law School Technology Educator Lloyd Carew-Reid examined how law schools are now incorporating technology, business development and marketing in the law school curriculum. Using Google Hangouts, Harold and Lloyd were joined by Brooklyn Law School Professor Jonathan Askin and MIT’s Danza Greenwood to discuss their ABA-MIT Online Legal Appathon which took place at the ABA Tech Show 2015 in April.

Three BLS students participated remotely in the session: Alex Goldman, Class of 2014, Patrick Mock, Class of 2017 and Paula Collins, Class of 2017. Alex discussed his project on Technical Standards for Warrant Canaries. Patrick and Paula talked about their awards at the second annual Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE) Innovators Competition held in April 2015. Patrick won 1st Prize for his proposal, Buoy, which addresses the problem of student loan debt by incorporating a crowdfunding model into a student loan service. Paula won 3rd prize for her FLIC (Film Legal Information Center) app, which would deliver a virtual law practice, direct client services, and business/entrepreneurial services to a community of Indie film artists in Brooklyn and surrounding areas.

A video of the hour-long session is available on YouTube at this link.

Valentine’s Day: Titles from the BLS Library on Love & the Law

imagesNOSVKOX2Valentine’s Day, celebrated this year on Saturday, February 14th, is considered a day of romance to celebrate love and spending time with that special someone.  Hearts, candy, flowers, and dinner dates are all symbols and activities of this special day.  Valentine’s Day can even lead to proposals, engagements and marriages, which hopefully will lead to long and happy lives for the lucky couples.

Below are titles from the BLS Library about marriage, same-sex marriage, marital agreements, etc., including one entitled Should You Marry a Lawyer? and an article from BLS Law Notes about “Lawyers in Love: Alumni Who Met at BLS and Married.”

Marriage:

Cott, Nancy, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (2000)

Lind, Goran, Common Law Marriage: A Legal Institution for Cohabitation (2008)

Maillard, Kevin, Loving v. Virginia in a Post-Racial World: Rethinking Race, Sex and Marriage (2012)

Same-Sex Marriage:

Klarman, Michael, From the Closet to the Altar (2012)

Mello, Michael, Legalizing Gay Marriage (2004)

Moats, David, Civil Wars: A Battle for Gay Marriage (2004)

Pierceson, Jason, Same-Sex Marriage in the United States (2013)

Pinello, Daniel, America’s Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (2006)

Premarital Agreements:

Dublin, Arlene, Prenups for Lovers: A Romantic Guide to Prenuptial Agreements (1993)

Hertz, Frederick, Counseling Unmarried Couples (2014)

Ravdin, Linda, Premarital Agreements: Drafting and Negotiation (2011)

Winer, Edward, Premarital and Marital Contracts (1993)

Divorce:

Abraham, Jed, From Courtship to Courtroom (1999)

Gold-Bikin, Lynne, The Divorce Trial Manual (2003)

Herman, Gregg, The Joy of Settlement (1997)

Turner, Brett, Attacking and Defending Marital Agreements (2012)

Marriage and the Lawyer:

Travis, Fiona, Should You Marry a Lawyer? (2004)

BLS Law Notes, Mergers & Acquisitions: Lawyers in Love: Alumni Who Met at BLS and Married, by Angela Strong (Spring 2010)

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!