The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a non-partisan agency within the Library of Congress that provides confidential and authoritative analysis on policy issues for Members of Congress and their staff. The CRS has a staff of about 600 employees including policy analysts, economists, scientists, lawyers, and librarians. Following the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, CRS reports have been made publicly available. Currently, the official public website provides access to the in-depth “R-series” reports though the full inventory is not slated for full migration to the website until spring 2019, and there is no specified timeline for access to the agency’s shorter written products (Insight, In Focus, Legal Sidebar, etc.). Some publications in the R-series, as well as in the other CRS product series, can also be found on non-official sites including Every CRS Report, and the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) CRS Portal.
As the government shutdown continues to drag on, CRS reports can provide valuable analysis and insight. Some relevant reports include:
Past Government Shutdowns: Key Resources (updated January 2019). The report provides an “annotated list of historical documents and other resources related to several past government shutdowns. Sources for these documents and resources include the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Government Accountability Office (GAO), House and Senate Committees, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Executive Office of the President.”
Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effect (updated December 2018) This in-depth report covers “causes of shutdowns, including the legal framework under which they may occur; processes related to how agencies may plan for the contingency of a shutdown; effects of shutdowns, focusing especially on federal personnel and government operations; and issues related to shutdowns that may be of interest to Congress.” In case you were wondering, because of their responsibilities under the Constitution and a permanent appropriation covering congressional pay, “Members of Congress are not subject to furlough.”
Federal Funding Gaps: A Brief Overview (updated March 2018) Provides an overview and analysis of federal funding gaps, which is not synonymous with a government shutdown. “The interval during the fiscal year when appropriations for a particular project or activity are not enacted into law, either in the form of a regular appropriations act or a continuing resolution (CR), is referred to as a funding gap. Although funding gaps may occur at the start of the fiscal year, they may also occur any time a CR expires and another CR (or the regular appropriations bill) is not enacted immediately thereafter. Multiple funding gaps may occur within a fiscal year.”
Fastcase, along with Bloomberg Law, Lexis and Westlaw, is another electronic tool in the legal research toolbox. Fastcase is a legal research service that began in 2008, and gives users access to primary legal authority covering cases, statutes and regulations for most state and federal jurisdictions, as well as court rules and bar association publications.
A benefit of Fastcase is that access to law review articles is provided through the library’s subscription to Hein Online.
Brooklyn Law School students may access Fastcase from the SARA catalog.
The library recently added to its collection the book Fastcase: The Definitive Guide by Brian Huddleston, call number: KF 242 .A1 H833 2018. This book has twelve chapters covering everything you need to know about Fastcase.
Members of the New York State Bar Association have free access to the Fastcase New York Library. For further information see: Fastcase bar associations.
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.
All non-confidential reports of the Congressional Research Service must be made publicly available online through a Government Publishing Office website within 90 to 270 days under the 2018 omnibus appropriations act that was passed by Congress and signed by the President last week. Buried in the 2,232-page fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill is a much-debated provision to require the Library of Congress to post all the lawmaker-requested reports on a central website.
AVAILABILITY OF CRS REPORTS THROUGH LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WEBSITE.
(1) WEBSITE.— (A) ESTABLISHMENT AND MAINTENANCE.—The Librarian of Congress, in consultation with the CRS Director, shall establish and maintain a public website containing CRS Reports and an index of all CRS Reports contained on the website, in accordance with this subsection.
(B) FORMAT.—On the Website, CRS Reports shall be searchable, sortable, and downloadable, including downloadable in bulk.
(C) FREE ACCESS.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Librarian of Congress may not charge a fee for access to the Website.
(2) UPDATES; DISCLAIMER.—The Librarian of Congress, in consultation with the CRS Director, shall ensure that the Website—(A) is updated contemporaneously, automatically, and electronically to include each new or updated CRS Report released on or after the effective date of this section; (B) shows the status of each CRS Report as new, updated, or archived; … Any CRS Report may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without permission from CRS. However, as a CRS Report may include copyrighted images or material from a third party, you may need to obtain the permission of the copyright holder if you wish to copy or otherwise use copyrighted material.’’
The move is the culmination of more than two decades of efforts to encourage, cajole or coerce Congress into making the reports broadly available to the public. Finally, Congress will make the non-confidential reports available to every American for free. See Long-Proprietary Congressional Research Reports Will Now Be Made Public by Charles S. Clark, March 23, 2018.
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.
A BLS Library Blog post titled VARA and a Whitewashed Graffiti Mecca discussed a federal law suit brought by a group of plaintiff artists, under the Visual Artist Rights Act of 1990, against a defendant real estate developer in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The NY Times now reports Graffiti Artists Awarded $6.7 Million for Destroyed 5Pointz Murals. Judge Frederic Block made the award on Monday to 21 graffiti artists whose works were destroyed in 2013 at the 5Pointz complex in Long Island City, Queens. Eric Baum, a lawyer for the artists, hailed the judgment, calling it “a victory not only for the artists in this case, but for artists all around the country.” Although 5Pointz no longer physically exists, the jury trial determined that the 5Pointz artists were entitled to legal redress for the work’s destruction. Significantly, this lawsuit was the first of its kind; never had a court examined whether the work of an “exterior aerosol artist,” as the trial judge wrote in a November 20, 2013, opinion, “is worthy of any protection under the law.” Congress enacted VARA in 1990 to afford visual artists two so-called “moral rights” under then-existing copyright law: the rights of attribution and integrity.
Officials at the European Union (EU) have declared that, if the US does indeed withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2020, there will be no future trade deals between the two blocs. In June 2017, the US President announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The move can only take effect in 2020, according to the rules of the agreement. He has also backed away from policies designed to deliver on US commitments to the accord. France’s Foreign Minister, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, told the French Parliament that “one of our main demands is that any country who signs a trade agreement with [the] EU should implement the Paris agreement on the ground. No Paris agreement, no trade agreement,” he added. “The US knows what to expect.” The use of the word “implementation” suggests that the trading partners need to have not just signed, but ratified the Paris agreement. That means that it would not only the US that is excluded, but 23 other countries including Russia. The US is clearly the target of this proposal.
For more on the Paris Climate Agreement, see Brooklyn Law School Library’s e-book The Paris Agreement on Climate Change: Analysis and Commentary edited by Daniel Klein et als. Signed in December 2015, the agreement came into force on November 4, 2016, a whole four years before the original intended date of 2020. The e-book combines a comprehensive legal appraisal and critique of the new Agreement with a practical and structured commentary to all its Articles. Part I discusses the general context for the Paris Agreement, detailing the scientific, political, and social drivers behind it, providing an overview of the preexisting regime, and tracking the history of the negotiations. It examines the evolution of key concepts such as common but differentiated responsibilities, and analyses the legal form of the Agreement and the nature of its provisions. Part II comprises individual chapters on each Article of the Agreement, with detailed commentary of the provisions which highlights central aspects from the negotiating history and the legal nature of the obligations. It describes the institutional arrangements and considerations for national implementation, providing practical advice and prospects for future development. Part III reflects on the Paris Agreement as a whole: its strengths and weaknesses, its potential for further development, and its relationship with other areas of public international law and governance. The book is an invaluable resource for academics and practitioners, policy makers, and actors in the private sector and civil society, as they negotiate the implementation of the Agreement in domestic law and policy.
Among the February 1, 2017 New Books List at Brooklyn Law School Library, which has 76 print titles and 55 e-book titles, is Can Delaware be Dethroned? Evaluating Delaware’s Dominance of Corporate Law (edited by, among others, UCLA Law Professors Stephen Bainbridge and James Park, formerly of Brooklyn Law School). At 266 pages, this book is aimed at corporate lawyers, academics, regulators, and judges. The practitioners and academics who have contributed essays to this volume provide sophisticated analyses of what makes Delaware the leading source of corporate law and describe the challenges that Delaware faces from other states and the federal government. Bainbridge states that Delaware law is neither pro-management nor pro-shareholder yet manages to retain its dominant position largely because of its Courts, particularly its Court of Chancery, devoted largely to corporate law cases. Businesses thrive best in an environment of predictability and certainty.
Delaware is the state of incorporation for almost two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies, as well as more than half of all companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and other major stock exchanges. In recent years, however, some observers have suggested that Delaware’s competitive position is eroding. Other states have long tried to chip away at Delaware’s position, and recent Delaware legal developments may have strengthened the case for incorporating outside Delaware. The federal government increasingly is preempting corporate governance law. The contributors to this volume are leading academics and practitioners with decades of experience in Delaware corporate law. They bring together perspectives that collectively provide the reader with a broad understanding of how Delaware achieved its dominant position and the threats it faces.
Interestingly, an article titled Should Your Company Incorporate in Delaware? Not So Fast by Alan M. Dershowitz, raises a huge question for Delaware’s supremacy as America’s capital of incorporation. The case involves a ruling in Shawe v. Elting where the Chancery Court ordered the forced sale of a privately-held, thriving corporation over the strenuous objections of shareholders who own half of the company. The court ruled that Shawe and Elting were “hopelessly deadlocked” despite the company’s impressive record of achieving 97 consecutive quarters of profitable growth. The facts of the case show unprecedented evidence of a lengthy and seriously dysfunctional relationship making for interesting reading and showing that corporate law can be far from dull.
The right of same-sex couples to marry triggered decades of intense conflict before the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in the 2015 decision Obergefell v. Hodges. Some of the most divisive contests shaping the quest for marriage equality occurred within the ranks of LGBTQ advocates. In the Brooklyn Law School Library copy of the encyclopedia-like 441-page book Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America (Harvard University Press, April 2017), author Nathaniel Frank, internationally recognized authority on LGBTQ equality and public policy, tells the dramatic story of how an idea that once seemed unfathomable became a legal and moral right in just half a century.
Awakening begins in the 1950s, when millions of gays and lesbians were afraid to come out, let alone fight for equality. Across the social upheavals of the next two decades, a gay rights movement emerged with the rising awareness of the equal dignity of same-sex love. A corps of lawyers soon began to focus on legal recognition for same-sex couples, if not yet on marriage itself. It was only after being pushed by a small set of committed lawyers and grassroots activists that established movement groups created a successful strategy to win marriage in the courts. Marriage equality proponents then had to win over members of their own LGBTQ community who declined to make marriage a priority, while seeking to rein in others who charged ahead heedless of their carefully laid plans. All the while, they had to fight against virulent anti-gay opponents and capture the American center by spreading the simple message that love is love, ultimately propelling the LGBTQ community immeasurably closer to justice.