Category Archives: E-Resource

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.

CRS Reports to Be Public

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.

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.

 

Millions Awarded to Graffiti Artists

5pointzA 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.

Brooklyn Law School Library’s One Search gives access to Graffiti and the Visual Artists Rights Act by Amy Wang, 11 Washington Journal of Law Technology & Arts 141 (2015) which has in-depth discussion of claims under VARA, examining case law in Cohen v. G&M Realty L.P., 988 F. Supp. 2d 212 (E.D.N.Y. 2013).

No Paris Agreement, No EU Trade

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.

ParisFor 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.

Delaware’s Dominance in Corporate Law

DelawareAmong 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.

Fight for Marriage Equality

awakeningThe 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.

See the YouTube video about the book.

Thomson Reuters ProView eBooks Now Available

BLS students, faculty, and staff now have access to the Thomson Reuters Proview eBook Reader.  Proview makes traditional books in the Library’s collection available on a desktop through Westlaw, or on a laptop or tablet after downloading the Thomson Reuters ProView app., giving users the flexibility to work wherever they are, whenever they want.

After logging on to Westlaw, follow these steps:

  • Click or tap on “Practice Ready”
  • Scroll to “Law eBook Access”
  • Click on “Access Now”

You will then get an alphabetical listing of the covers of the titles that are available through the BLS Library.  Then go to the title you are interested in; on the left you will see an icon to access the table of contents to aid in your research.  There is also a search icon that allows you to search within the book.  Additional features that make for ease of use are:

  • Create bookmarks, highlight text, and write annotations
  • Create PDFs and share sections of a text or links to specific sections
  • Tap or click on a case, statute or regulation to link to the full text of a document in your Westlaw account
  • Content automatically updates on your browser or via prompts on downloaded content in a digital device

You can also access a ProView eBook from SARA, the library catalog, by entering a title and then clicking on the link to the ProView version.  You may also do a keyword search using the phrase “proview ebook” to obtain a list of all titles available at BLS as a ProView eBook.

Government Shutdowns Past

According to a Congressional Research Service Report entitled Federal Funding Gaps: A Brief Overview by James V. Saturn, there have been 18 funding gaps since fiscal year 1971. Almost all of the funding gaps occurred between fiscal years 1977 and 1995. During this 19-fiscal-year period, 15 funding gaps occurred. Multiple funding gaps occurred during a single fiscal year in four instances: (1) three gaps covering a total of 28 days in fiscal year 1978, (2) two gaps covering a total of four days in fiscal year 1983, (3) two gaps covering a total of three days in fiscal year 1985, and (4) two gaps covering a total of 26 days in fiscal year 1996.

Brooklyn Law School Library has in its electronic collection The Government Shutdown of 2013: Perspective and Analysis by Rosanne C. Lundy. According to the description “When federal agencies and programs lack appropriated funding, they experience a funding gap. Under the Anti-Deficiency Act, they must cease operations, except in certain emergency situations or when law authorizes continued activity. Failure of the President and Congress to reach agreement on interim or full-year funding measures occasionally has caused government shutdowns. Government shutdowns have necessitated furloughs of several hundred thousand federal employees, required cessation or reduction of many government activities, and affected numerous sectors of the economy. This book discusses the causes, processes, and effects of federal government shutdowns; economic activity during the government shutdown and debt limit brinkmanship; impacts and costs of the October 2013 federal government shutdown; a brief overview of federal funding gaps; and operations of the Department of Defense during a lapse in appropriations.”

 

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.