Category Archives: Book Review

Librarians review books in the Brooklyn Law Library collection.

She is.. She is.. NO, NO, NO, NOTORIOUS (R.B.G.)

Photo Credit: Angie Gottschalk, Ithaca Journal

Thirty years ago, before a sparse audience scattered throughout a cavernous auditorium at Cornell University, a petite woman argued passionately about the meaning of the U.S. Constitution. As her fellow symposium panelists — Cornell professors of law, government, and history — debated the technicalities of the document, she pushed for broader questions to be asked on issues that the Constitution is silent on, including “affirmative rights” and “cultural and social guarantees.”  ‘’ ‘Our Constitution is defective in that respect’ she said. ‘Why should the U.S. Constitution be a model for the world? Who needs freedom of speech when you have an empty belly?’ ” (Yaukey, Ithaca Journal, September 19, 1987, p. 4A)  

Much has changed in the intervening years. That appellate judge and pioneering women’s rights advocate who couldn’t draw a decent-sized crowd at her own alma mater, is now a pop culture icon.  Journalists breathlessly report on her fashion sensibilities (fishnet gloves anyone?) or when she is spotted carrying a tote bag with her own face on it.  Kids dress up as her for Halloween and adore her coloring book.

One thing hasn’t changed though: Ruth Bader Ginsburg still has plenty to say about the Constitution.

A lot has also been said and written about Justice Ginsburg, who holds an honorary degree from BLS.  The following are some relevant titles in the BLS Library collection to consider putting on your summer reading list:

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik (2015). [Call number: KF8745.G56 C37 2015]  The elevation of RBG to her current status as a cultural icon can be traced to the Notorious R.B.G. Tumblr created by Shana Knizhnik, one of the book’s co-authors, in 2013. This title is a colorful and entertaining look at Ginsburg’s life and career.  We get plenty of juicy nuggets about her Brooklyn childhood and nickname (Kiki), her favorite bathroom at Cornell where she could get schoolwork done (in the architecture school), the time she couldn’t check a citation as a Harvard Law Review member (the volume was located in a men-only library reading room), and how her mentor Prof. Gerald Gunther had to “blackmail” federal judge Edmund Palmieri so she could secure a clerkship (Justice Frankfurter flatly said no; Judge Learned Hand refused to hire women as he was “potty-mouthed” and did not want to watch his language around women.)   Notorious RBG remains accessible even when it starts covering the denser legal material from Ginsburg’s time as a law professor, at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, and her judicial tenure.  Excerpts from the brief she authored in Reed v. Reed (1971), her majority opinion in the VMI gender discrimination case, United States v. Virginia (1996), and the dissent she read from the bench in the equal pay case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007) (that helped spur passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009) are all meticulously annotated so as to be readily understood by the layperson. RBG’s loving marriage to Marty Ginsburg shines through: the last note he wrote to her before he died from cancer, reproduced in the original, is especially touching.  Even if you don’t want to read all the material, skimming through the many photographs and illustrations in the volume can be a joy.

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams (2016)  [Call number: KF373.G565 G56 2016]  My Own Words is a collection of Ginsburg’s writings and speeches which are given context by short introductory essays by her co-authors.  Especially interesting are the early documents: a school newspaper editorial from June 1946 that champions the new United Nations Charter; “One People”, a 1946 article for the East Midwood Jewish Center Bulletin (religious school graduation issue) discussing post-war unity; and a 1953 letter to the editor published in the Cornell Daily Sun titled “Wiretapping: Cure worse than Disease?” We get some insight into Ginsburg’s love for opera, friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, and why her given name Joan never stuck.  Her family and marriage get some attention: husband Marty was a true partner, did all the cooking, and was the biggest champion of his wife — decades after the fact, he remained annoyed at Harvard Law School for not allowing RBG to be awarded a Harvard degree after completing her third year at Columbia.  Yet My Own Words feels incomplete: despite the many speeches, law review articles, briefs, and judicial opinions contained in the volume, Ginsburg’s personality and character remain elusive.  This is a function of the limited scope of the project: RBG’s co-authors Mary Hartnett and Wendy Williams are her official biographers, and one gets the sense that more personally revealing anecdotes and materials are being held back for the main publication that will follow.

Brief for Appellant, Reed v. Reed

The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Scott Dodson (ed.) (2015)  [Call number: KF8745.G56 L4499 2015]  This volume is a collection of 16 essays from legal luminaries that include Herma Hill Kay, Nina Totenberg, Lani Guinier, Tom Goldstein, and many more.  Linda Kerber’s essay “Before Frontiero there was Reed” vividly traces the history of Reed v. Reed, the first case in which the Supreme Court held that arbitrary discrimination based on gender violated the Equal Protection clause. As Kerber writes, Ginsburg added the names of Pauli Murray and Dorothy Kenyon to her Reed brief; even though neither had written a word, RBG “understood more clearly than anyone of her time the debt that the women of her generation [ ] owed to those of preceding generations.” Many of the essays focus on doctrine — criminal procedure, jurisdiction, federalism — but the closing essays speak to her temperament and approach to life and the law. The closing essay “Fire and Ice: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Least Likely Firebrand” by Dahlia Lithwick is especially revealing. Lithwick describes how Ginsburg’s judicial voice grew exponentially after Justice O’Connor retired and RBG was left the only woman on the court.  Faced with the male Justices’ insensitivities during oral argument in Safford Unified School District v. Redding (2009), a case in which school officials strip searched a teenaged female student, RBG took the unprecedented step of granting an interview while the decision was still pending. In the interview, Ginsburg told Joan Biskupic of USA Today (who was also Justice O’Connor’s biographer) that her colleagues “have never been a 13-year-old girl” and that more women were needed on the court. The student prevailed 8-1 in her claim against the school district.  And perhaps it was no coincidence that just 3 weeks after the USA Today interview was published, President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg went to the Supreme Court and changed the world by Linda Hirshman (2015).  [Call number: KF8744 .H57 2015]  Sisters in Law traces the background of two ostensibly very different women, one a Goldwater Girl, the other a card-carrying member of the ACLU, who ended up as pioneers on the Supreme Court.  Justice O’Connor was known to be a centrist, a “justice-as-legislator” who believed in “playing defense” to protect hard-earned gains and who adhered to incrementalism. In contrast, Ginsburg with her litigation and advocacy background was used to “playing offense.” Nevertheless, once RBG reached the court, she quickly determined that of all the relationships she needed to develop, the most important was the one with O’Connor.  Justice O’Connor, who had over the years been fed many of RBG’s clerks, reciprocated.  Contrary to tradition, RBG’s first assigned majority opinion for the court was not a unanimous decision but rather a complex ERISA case on which the Justices had split 6-3.  After Ginsburg had successfully navigated her way through this first challenge, O’Connor, who had dissented, sent her a note that read: “This is your first opinion for the Court, it is a fine one, I look forward to many more.”  Hirshman also includes an anecdote about how RBG, as the first Jewish justice in a generation, helped change court practices. Upon joining the court, Ginsburg sent a letter to Chief Justice Rehnquist, siding with Orthodox Jewish lawyers who objected to the year on their certificates of admission being worded as “The Year of Our Lord.”  She encountered resistance from an unnamed colleague (the author suspects Rehnquist or Blackmun) “Why are you making a fuss about this? It was good enough for Brandeis, it was good enough for Cardozo and Frankfurter.” RBG’s response? “It’s not good enough for Ginsburg.”  The Court ultimately acquiesced.  There is plenty in this book to chew on about both the differences and shared experiences of the first two female Supreme Court Justices, and how they have changed the dynamic of the Court forever.

 

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.

New Book List: Working Class Whites

Brooklyn Law School Library’s April 2017 New Book List is now available at this link. There are 65 new entries, 45 print titles and 20 eBook titles. The subject areas cover a broad range of topics including both law, history and social aspects of American life, e.g., Women lawyers — United States – Biography; Law clerks — United States; Criminal procedure (International law); Extradition; Solitary confinement — United States; Trial practice — United States; Drone aircraft — Law and legislation — United States; Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) – History; Law teachers — United States; Law reviews — Competitions — United States; Commercial crimes; Global Financial Crisis, 2008-2009; Police shootings — United States; Self-defense (Law) — Social aspects — United States. Among the titles related to law and legal education are the following:

White TrashThe BLS Library collection includes titles related to social aspects of American life. One such title from the New Book List that stands out is White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg (Call No. HN90.S6 I84 2016). The author, an American historian and Professor of History at Louisiana State University, tells a rarely recounted story about a race, namely so-called “white trash”, a derogatory American English racial slur referring to poor white people, especially in the rural southern United States. The 460-page book has twelve chapters divided into three parts: Part I – To Begin the World Anew; Part II – Degeneration of the American Breed; and Part III – The White Trash Makeover.  The chapters in Part I include Taking out the Trash: Waste People in the New World; Benjamin Franklin’s American Breed: The Demographics of Mediocrity; Thomas Jefferson’s Rubbish: A Curious topography of Class; and Andrew Jackson’s Cracker Country: The Squatter as Common Man. Later chapters include Pedigree and Poor White Trash: Bad Blood, Half-Breeds and Clay-Eaters;  Cowards, Poltroons, and Mudsills: Civil War as Class Warfare; Thoroughbreds and Scalawags: Bloodlines and Bastard Stock in the Age of Eugenics; Forgotten Men and Poor Folk: Downward Mobility and the Great Depression; The Cult of the Country Boy: Elvis Presley, Andy Griffith, and LBJ’s Great Society; Redneck Roots: Deliverance, Billy Beer, and Tammy Faye; Outing Rednecks: Slumming, Slick Willie, and Sarah Palin; and lastly, America’s Strange Breed: The Long Legacy of White Trash.

HillbillyThe BLS Library has ordered for its collection a related title, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (Call No. HD8073.V37 A3 2016) by J. D. Vance, a graduate of Yale Law School who grew up in the Rust Belt and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. Vance offers a look at the struggles of America’s white working class and tells his own story of upward mobility with a discussion about the loss of the American dream for a large segment of the country. The books by Isenberg and Vance are reviewed in Fanfares for the Common Man by Phil Christman, Volume 19, Issue 1 of The Hedgehog Review. 19.1 (Spring 2017 available via OneSearch to the BLS community.

Deconstruction of the Administrative State?

The new administration in Washington vows to reduce federal regulations and Steve Bannon, the chief White House strategist, argues for a “deconstruction of the administrative state” and the possible dismantling of the New Deal. The argument for this retrenchment of regulatory law is that regulations are unnecessary and costly, detrimental to business and a hindrance to the growth of jobs in the economy. Recently C-SPAN aired the 1982 PBS documentary The Regulators: Our Invisible Government which focused on regulation of air pollution in the national parks. Although dated, the film has current relevance as a teaching tool for law students and others interested in regulatory law as it details the process of turning general language in a 1977 amendment to the Clean Air Act into specific regulations. The 50 minute video tells the behind-the-scenes negotiations and debates between Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulators and environmental and industry interests. See video (also available at this link) below.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection two books with very differing views of the administrative state. The latest, Law’s Abnegation: From Law’s Empire to the Administrative State by Adrian Vermeule (available in print at Call No. KF5425.V47 2016 and electronically via ProQuest Ebook Central), is a theoretically informed and lawyerly interpretation of the law of the modern administrative state. The author demonstrates how legal doctrine really works by using cases familiar to most administrative lawyers. Law’s Abnegation can be read with and compared to Is Administrative Law Unlawful? by Philip Hamburger (Call No. K3400.H253 2014). The two books represent extreme views on the status of administrative law in America. Hamburger answers the title question of his book with a strong affirmative. Vermeule, who reviewed Hamburger’s book in his terse one-word title, No, 93 Texas Law Review 1547 (2015), follows up and expands on his views in his book.

Mass Incarceration and Prison Reform

war on crimeIn the past few years, there has been increased discussion of the growth in America’s prison population to more than 2 million Americans incarcerated, many of them drug offenders, for periods that seem far too long. Since the publication in 2010 of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, there has been more scholarship on the topic of mass incarceration. In a title added last year to the Brooklyn Law School Library collection, From the War on Poverty to the War On Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America by Elizabeth Hinton (Call No. HV9950 .H56 2016), the topic get detailed attention.

The author, an Assistant Professor at Harvard University and urban historian, argues that mass incarceration is not just a conservative backlash to the civil rights movement but an initiative of both of the major political parties. In the book, Hinton traces mass incarceration, often based on assumptions about the cultural inferiority African-Americans, back to the 1960s, from the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson to that of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The Democrats passed the The Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Offenses Control Act of 1961 which portrayed black youth as being in need of repair rather than justice. At the same time when President Johnson’s War on Poverty sought to foster equality and economic opportunity, his administration advanced initiatives rooted in widely shared assumptions about African Americans’ role in urban disorder.  Johnson called for a War on Crime in 1965 when he created the Office of Law Enforcement Assistance, which significantly increased federal involvement in militarizing local police. From the late 1960s starting with Richard Nixon’s law and order campaign to the 1980s administration of Ronald Reagan, crime control and incarceration dominated national responses to poverty and inequality as initiatives that were the full realization of the punitive transformation of urban policy implemented by both parties.

Locked inA search of the BLS Library OneSearch platform will lead readers to a recent review of Hinton’s book in the February 2017 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (Vol. 107 Issue 2) under the title Reckoning with the Rise of the Carceral State by David H. Cloud. For more on the topic, the BLS Library has ordered for its collection a new title, Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform by John F. Pfaff, Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. The book describes a fractured criminal justice system, where many counties do not pay for the people they send to state prisons, and white suburbs set law and order agendas for more-heavily minority cities.

Law and the English Language

Lawyer'sLast year, the Brooklyn Law Library added to its collection The Lawyer’s Guide to Writing Well (3d ed.) by Tom Goldstein and Jethro K. Lieberman (Call No. KF250. G65 2016). This critically acclaimed book “should be in the office of every lawyer” says William Safire of the New York Times. In its 286 pages, the authors demystify legal writing, outline the causes and consequences of poor writing, and prescribe easy-to-apply remedies to improve it. Reflecting changes in law practice over the past decade, this revised edition includes new sections around communicating digitally, getting to the point, and writing persuasively. It also provides an editing checklist, editing exercises with a suggested revision key, usage notes that address common errors, and reference works to further aid your writing. This guide is an invaluable tool for practicing lawyers and law students.

Chapters are: Why Lawyers Write Poorly — Does bad writing really matter? — Don’t make it like it was — The Practice of Writing — Ten steps to writing it down — Of dawdlers and scrawlers, pacers and plungers: getting started and overcoming blocks — The technology of getting it down: from quill pens to computers — Lawyers as publishers: words are your product — Getting to the Point — Writing persuasively for your audience: tell your audience the point — Writing the lead — Revising for Clarity and Luster — Form, structure, and organization — Wrong words, long sentences, and other mister meaners — Revising your prose — Making your writing memorable.

AnimalBooks and essays about the art of writing well go back a long time. In 1947, English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic George Orwell (born Eric Arthur Blair 1903 – 1950) and author of Animal Farm: A Fairy Story and Nineteen Eighty-Four, his most famous works, wrote an essay titled Politics and the English Language. Although the essay addresses the decline of language in political and economic contexts, Orwell, in the closing paragraphs, offers rules that cover effective legal writing as well. They are:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

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.

Electoral College vs. National Popular Vote

Election Day 2016 is not the first where a candidate for president won the most electoral votes, thus winning the presidency, but failed to win the popular vote. The unique American system provides no direct election of President and Vice-President. Since 1789, Electors chose successful candidates for those seats. The process is directed by the legislature of each state, either by popular vote or some other selection process. On the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December (which occurs this year on December 19, 2016), the electors meet in their respective States to cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States.  Article II, Section 1, clause 2 reads: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress”.

The Electoral College decides how the nation’s Chief Executive is chosen. It dates back to the Federalist Papers. See Federalist 68, The Mode of Electing the President by Alexander Hamilton dated March 14, 1788. The pro-slavery influences of the electoral college surrounded the debate on the mode of electing the president. James Wilson proposed to a direct election by the people, but gained no support and it was decided the president was to be elected by Congress. When the constitution was considered, Gouverneur Morris brought the debate back up and decided he too wanted the people to choose the president. James Madison agreed that election of the people at large is the best way to go about electing the president, but knew that the slave states would not be influential with such a system, and so he backed the electoral college.

Instances in the nation’s history when popular vote totals for president differed from the elector count are:

  • The 1824 election was a four-man race. The top two candidates were Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams who won despite losing both the popular vote and the electoral vote. Andrew Jackson won 151,271 popular votes (41.4%) to Adams’ 113,122 votes (30.9%), roughly 38,000 fewer popular votes than Jackson who also defeated Adams in the electoral vote by 99 to 84. Neither candidate reached the majority 131 electoral votes so the House of Representatives met to select Adams.
  • The highly contentious 1876 election showed Democratic New York governor Samuel Tilden winning the popular vote over Republican Ohio governor Rutherford B. Hayes with 4,284,020 (51%) to Hayes’s 4,036,572 (48%), a margin of less than 250,000.  The electoral vote was Tilden 184 (one short of a majority) and Hayes 165 (20 ballots short). The remaining electoral votes were in dispute over voter fraud, mostly in three Southern states with Reconstruction governments: Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Congress set up a special electoral 15-member commission of congressmen and Supreme Court justices. Two days before inauguration, on an 8-7 party line vote, the commission gave the disputed electoral votes to Hayes, who won by one electoral vote.
  • In 1888, Benjamin Harrison won the presidency with 233 electoral votes to Grover Cleveland’s 168. Harrison lost the popular vote by more than 90,000 votes winning 5,443,892 (47.8%). Cleveland’s vote total was 5,534,488 (48.6%).
  • The 2000 contest between the Republican George W. Bush and the Democrat Al Gore saw the popular vote winner lose because of the electoral vote count. Gore got 50,999,897 (48.4%) compared to Bush who had 50,456,002 votes (47.9%). The election hinged on the close vote in Florida, which prompted a mandatory recount. Litigation reached the US Supreme Court which ruled on December 12, 2000 in the 5–4 decision Bush v. Gore, ending the recounts, effectively awarding Florida’s votes to Bush. Bush won the electoral vote, 271 to 266.
  • The 1800 election had no records of popular votes as electors were chosen by state legislatures. Thomas Jefferson won 73 electoral votes to John Adams who won 69. Jefferson’s margin of victory came from electoral votes created by counting slaves for purposes of representation, which led to a greater number of electors for each state. States that Jefferson carried had fewer voters. If the election were decided by popular votes, Adams would have won.

Calls fElectoralor reform of electoral reform are likely after this election as they were in earlier ones. See in the Brooklyn Law School Library, Electoral College Reform: Challenges and Possibilities by Gary Bugh who says the Electoral College system was last updated by the Twelfth Amendment in 1804, despite public opinion polls showing a majority of Americans are in favor of changing or outright abolishing it. The book has essays examining all aspects of the debate, including the reasons for reform, the issues surrounding a constitutional amendment, the effect of the Electoral College on political campaigns and the possibilities for extra-constitutional avenues to change. The authors consider both the Federalists’ vision of balanced representation and a more democratic and equality-based ideal. The volume explores the potential for changing a system that many contend is long overdue. After the 2000 election, Professor Paul Finkelman’s article The Proslavery Origins of the Electoral College was published at 23 Cardozo Law Review 1145 (2002). Another article worth reading is by S.M. Sheppard titled A Case for the Electoral College and for Its Faithless Elector, published in the 2015 Wisconsin Law Review Online.

To learn about the Reform the Electoral College movement so the electoral vote reflects the nationwide popular vote for President, see the website of the National Popular Vote.

Is the DMCA Unconstitutionally Overbroad?

takedownSince passage in 1998 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Pub. L. 105-304, media companies like Sony, Disney, Comcast and others have issued DMCA take down notices to remove online content from sites hosted by service providers, primarily YouTube. The DMCA was enacted to help both content creators and hosts by providing a safe harbor provision for hosts who rely on user-generated content and who do not provide content themselves. Since it is impossible for YouTube to police all user-uploaded content themselves, it would be unfair to make YouTube liable for infringing material on their site. Before passage of the DMCA, copyright infringement on a website might result in the website being liable, which could lead to putting platforms like YouTube out of business. The DMCA was codified in Title 17 of the US Code. The safe harbor in 17 USC 512  protects the rights of copyright holders while providing protection for content service providers. If a copyright holder alleges infringement in a video on the site like YouTube, it has to take down that video immediately. There is no appeal process, as YouTube is not in a position to look at the validity of each take down notice because of time constraints. If this process is followed, the law gives safe harbor protection for the content service provider.

With aggressive policing of potential copyright infringement, media companies use automated software that ignores fair use rights often misidentifying music and videos as copyrighted. Another controversial section of the DMCA aims to protect against copyright infringers who employ tools that enable them to circumvent access controls that protect a copyright holder, 17 USC 1201 prohibits the use of tool to “circumvent a technological measure” like those that  descramble a scrambled work, decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner.

Provisions of the DMCA dealing with both take down notices and the “anti-circumvention” rule now face legal challenges that may lead to review by the US Supreme Court. The take down provisions were the subject of a  federal appeals court decision in Lenz v. Universal Music Corp., 801 F. 3d 1126 (9th Cir., 2015). Plaintiff posted on YouTube a home video of her children dancing to Prince’s song “Let’s Go Crazy”. Universal Music Corporation sent YouTube a DMCA take down notice claiming that Lenz’s video violated their copyright in the song. Lenz claimed fair use of the copyrighted material and sued Universal for misrepresentation of a DMCA claim. The district court in Lenz v. Universal Music Corp., 572 F. Supp. 2d 1150 (N.D. Cal., 2008) rejected a motion to dismiss the claim, and held that Universal must consider fair use when filing a take down notice, but noted that to prevail a plaintiff would need to show bad faith by a rights holder. The 9th Circuit affirmed, holding that while fair use arises procedurally as an affirmative defense, copyright holders have a “duty to consider—in good faith and prior to sending a take down notification—whether allegedly infringing material constitutes fair use”. This week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a petition with the Supreme Court, arguing that this standard rendered fair use protections against the DMCA “all but meaningless.”

As for the 17 USC 1201 prohibition on anti-circumvention tools, the EFF filed a complaint in the US District Court for the District of Columbia challenging its constitutionality claiming the section restricts people’s ability to access, use, and even speak out about copyrighted materials. The “Digital Rights Management” provision of the law bans activities that weaken copyright access-control systems, including re-configuring software-enabled devices. This imposes a legal cloud over the rights to tinker with or repair devices, to convert or remix videos, or conduct independent security research to reveal dangerous security flaws in computers. If the complaint succeeds, one of the most controversial technology laws will be struck down. Other countries that have been pressured by the US trade representative to adopt this rule will decide whether they will still enforce it, even after the US has given up on it.

copyrightBrooklyn Law School Library has a large collection of material on copyright including the 3d edition of Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators by Kenneth D. Crews (Call No. KF2995 .C74 2012) with 18 discrete areas of copyright, including specialized and controversial music and sound recording issues. The easy-to-use guide has tools that information professionals need to take control of their rights and responsibilities as copyright owners and users.