Category Archives: Brooklyn Law School

2018 Commencement Speakers at NY Area Law Schools

Graduation season is here and Brooklyn Law School holds its 117th Commencement Ceremony today at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House. The commencement speaker was Hon. Dora L. Irizarry, Chief United States District Judge, Eastern District of New York. Appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004, Dora L. Irizarry is the first Hispanic District Judge to serve in the Eastern District of New York. On April 23, 2016, she became the first Hispanic Chief Judge of the Eastern District of New York, and the first Hispanic woman Chief Judge within the Second Circuit. Born in Puerto Rico, and raised in the South Bronx, she attended public schools, and graduated cum laude with honors and distinction in the major of Political Sociology from Yale University in 1976. In 1979, she graduated from Columbia Law School, where she was a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow, and joined the Bronx District Attorney’s Office Appeals Bureau. Assigned to the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office, she investigated and prosecuted some of the City’s largest complex narcotics cases. She also served in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, and as a special prosecutor in the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Commencement speakers at other area law schools this year are:

New York

  • Albany Law School – Hon.  Michael J. Garcia, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals
  • Buffalo Law School – Terrence M. Connors of Connors LLP
  • Cardozo School of Law — Hon. Patricia Millett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • Columbia Law School — Jeh Johnson, Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
  • CUNY School of Law — Paul Butler, former prosecutor and law professor of Georgetown University
  • Fordham University School of Law —Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
  • Hofstra School of Law — Ronan Farrow, Pulitzer Prize investigative journalist
  • New York Law School — Hon. Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court
  • New York University School of Law — Bryan Stevenson, NYU Law Professor and Equal Justice Initiative Executive Director
  • Pace University School of Law — Eric Gonzalez, Kings County District Attorney
  • St. John’s University School of Law — Hon. Preet Bharara, Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Syracuse University College of Law — Hon. Preet Bharara, Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Touro Law Center — Hon. Joseph Crowley, U.S. Representative, 14th District of New York
New Jersey
  • Rutgers University School of Law at Newark — Hon. Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey Attorney General
  • Seton Hall Law School — Hon. Jovita Carranza, U.S. Treasurer

Springtime comes to BLS

Tulips in front of the law school

Officially, the first day of spring fell on March 20 this year. This was news to those of us living in New York City. According to Accuweather, the high temperature in downtown Brooklyn on that day was a whopping 37° F (time perhaps for a pop quiz on de jure versus de facto?).

Enjoying coffee in the BLS Courtyard

 

 

 

It has taken a while, but spring has finally arrived in Brooklyn. Though we are in the midst of our exam period, BLS students are taking advantage of the good weather. Many of them can be seen out in the courtyard, discussing the intricacies of the UCC (the code, not the coffee) or regulatory takings and the Penn Central test.  Students may be grappling with the fruit of the poisonous tree, but at least they can enjoy the blooming flowers and greenery all around the law school. 

Downtown Brooklyn – Columbus Park

(Photographs courtesy of Jean Davis)

Study Room Reservations and Library Hours for Reading/Exam Period

During the Spring 2018 reading and exam period which starts April 27, 2018 (Friday), you must make a reservation to use a library study room. All of the study rooms will be locked; please go to the first floor circulation desk when your reservation time begins to charge out the key to the room. The link for study room reservations can be found on the library homepage under Related Links.

Study Room Policies

  • Study rooms are for the use of groups of two or more students.
  • Study rooms may be reserved for the current day and three days ahead.
  • Study room reservations may be made in 30-minute time slots; the time slots must be contiguous.
  • Students may book up to 8 contiguous time slots per day for a total of 4 hours per user per day.

Library Hours for the Reading/Exam Period 

April 27, 2018 (Fri.) – May 10, 2018 (Thurs): 8:00 AM to 2:00 AM

(Circulation Desk closes at 12 midnight on these dates.)

May 11, 2018 (Friday): 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM 

Good luck on your exams!

 

BLS Library Special Collections: Rare Books & Archives

The BLS Library has a rare book collection located on the second floor, second mezzanine and third floor levels.  While the books on all three floors are in locked cabinets, students may go to the first floor circulation desk and ask for assistance in retrieving these books.  The rare books may not be charged out, but they may be used in the library for as long as needed.  All rare books are cataloged and available through the SARA online catalog.

The rare books on the second mezzanine are a gift of the estate of Judge Nathan R. Sobel, 1906 -1997, and the collection is named in his honor.  Judge Sobel was a graduate of Brooklyn Law School, class of 1927, and a Justice of the New York Supreme Court for over twenty years; for nine years he served as Brooklyn Surrogate.

The books cover a wide variety of topics on all floors:  treatises, yearbooks, statutes, reporters, histories, biographies, etc.  To give you a sampling:

Room 107M on the first mezzanine contains the Brooklyn Law School archives.  This collection contains a wealth of information about the law school.  While the room is kept locked, for access to it, please go to the first floor reference desk.  Some of the titles that are located in the archives are:

  • Bulletins:  While the school no longer published a print bulletin or catalog, the archives contains the bulletins published from 1903 to 2006.
  • Class pictures:  Pictures of the graduating classes from 1901 – 1969; however, there is not a class picture for every year during this period.
  • Commencement programs:  Programs for the graduation exercises from 1903 to date.
  • The Justinian & BLS News:  The Justinian was the school newspaper, written by students for the BLS community, published from 1938 to 1998.  After an interval of four years, the student newspaper was re-named BLS News and published from 2002 – 2006.
  • Photo Profiles:  Print copies of pictures of the BLS entering classes from 1984 – 2001.
  • Yearbooks:  The BLS Yearbooks from 1982 – 2012.  (An earlier yearbook, called The Chancellor, was published in the following years:  1930, 1932 – 1935, 1948 and 1954.)

For a comprehensive listing of the material in the archives, see the BLS LibGuide: Brooklyn Law School Archives Collection.

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.

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.

 

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.

Library Hours for Winter Break & Winter Session

The Library will be closed Saturday, December 23rd, 2017 through Monday, January 1st, 2018 for Winter Break.

Winter Session hours are:

Tuesday, January 2 – Saturday, January 6:  9:00am – 10:00pm

Sunday, January 7:  10:00am – 10:00pm

Monday, January 8 – Saturday, January 13:  9:00am – 10:00pm

Sunday, January 14:  10:00am – 10:00pm

Monday, January 15:  9:00am – 10:00pm (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)

 

Mindfulness and Meditation for the Legal Professional

Now that we are in the reading period at BLS (aka Hell Week at some institutions) and exams are just around the corner, stress levels are running high. Throughout the library, anxious faces are buried in casebooks and class notes, an ample caffeine supply on hand to fuel the late night cram sessions. Sadly, the stress doesn’t end upon graduation. Being a lawyer requires you to deal with conflict, unreasonable client demands, tight deadlines, and long hours. These can be especially unforgiving for someone newly entering the profession, and can lead to unhealthy habits — there’s a reason why some state bar associations require members to take continuing legal education classes on substance abuse.

So what is a stressed out law student or lawyer to do?

The answer, according to Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford, is mindfulness and meditation. In their book, The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-week Guide to Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation (2016) [Call number: KF298.C47 2016], lawyers Cho and Gifford have crafted a meditation program targeted to fellow members of the legal profession.  The program is aimed at those new to meditation and includes a variety of exercise and practices, covering such topics as mindfulness, compassion towards others and self, mantra repetition, heartfulness, and gratitude. By following this initial eight week program, readers hopefully will see a change, for the better, in their habits and perspectives. They would be able to build on these changes and continue their meditation practices going forward, including developing meditation styles that best suit their own needs.

Law students and attorneys will relate to the many examples drawn from the authors’ experiences from law practice, and how they personally benefited from meditation. For example, in the chapter on mindfulness, Cho and Gifford discuss mindful client interviews, and the importance of setting boundaries with clients. They broach topics such as working with difficult opposing counsel, and the challenges of “toxic mentoring.”

Cho and Gifford don’t sugarcoat the fact that it may not be easy for lawyers to start or to stick with a meditation practice. Our perspectives on our lives and profession get ossified and habits are hard to break. The authors’ approach provides a road map to get started with meditation and mindfulness, with plenty of room for the individual to adapt what best works for him- or herself. In addition to the guidance provided in The Anxious Lawyer, Jeena Cho’s podcasts cover related topics and are worth checking out.

For members of the BLS community who wish to engage in meditation, BLS Library has a Contemplation Room, Room 105M on the first floor mezzanine. This space is provided for students, staff and faculty to engage in contemplation, meditation, or quiet spiritual awareness. If you have any questions about the Contemplation Room, stop by the reference desk and we would be happy to help.