Category Archives: E-Resource

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.

Trump, Cicero and the Power of Rhetoric

The rhetoric which Donald Trump practices works partly because Trump is employing many of the same rhetorical strategies used by one of the greatest orators in history: Cicero. Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) was born on January 3, 106 BC in the hill town of Arpinum, about 60 miles southeast of Rome. He won his share of elections and moved up the ranks of the Roman republic until he became consul, the highest office in the land, at a younger age than anyone ever had without coming from a politically connected family. He was the Kennedy or the Obama of first-century-B.C. Rome. He was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist. But he sounded a lot like Trump when it came to rhetoric. And he knew how to use it.

ciceroWhen Cicero was attacking the corrupt governor Gaius Verres (see Brooklyn Law School Library’s 2011 e-book Cicero, Against Verres, 2.1.53-86), he used the rhetorical device of preterition, an unfamiliar word whose concept has become familiar this year. Preterition is when a speaker says he will not mention something, usually something unsavory. By naming the thing he will not mention, of course he has already planted the idea in his listeners’ minds. “Nothing shall be said of his drunken nocturnal revels; no mention shall be made of his pimps and dicers,” Cicero said about Verres. The list went on. Cicero rounded it out by saying, “The rest of his life has been such that I can well afford to put up with the loss of not mentioning those enormities.” If listeners didn’t know before about Verres’ liking for alcohol and prostitutes, they did now.

Then there Cicero’s tactic of asking the audience a leading question – stirring up their enthusiasm as participants, and suggesting an answer that he cannot state himself. That sort of question is formally called anachinosis. Defending his friend Rabirius, who had a role in the death of a populist political figure, Cicero laid out the chaotic situation and asked, “What would you do in such a crisis? …. While the consuls were summoning you to uphold the safety and liberty of your country, which authority, which invitation, which party would you prefer to follow, whose command would you select to obey?” Cicero led his listeners to believe that, amid the tumult that led to the death, any one of them might well have acted just like Rabirius.

Then there is ecphonesis which we see in the exclamation at the end of Trump’s tweets. “O tempora! O mores!” (“The times! The customs!”) Cicero wrote in one of his most famous expressions, evocatively proclaiming his distress about society in just a few punctuated words. Trump deploys ecphonesis effectively and memorably when he ends his tweets, “Sad!”

ciceroFor more, see Brooklyn Law School Library’s 2002 e-book Brill’s Companion to Cicero: Oratory and Rhetoric intended as a companion to the study of Cicero’s oratory and rhetoric for both students and experts in the field: for the neophyte, it provides a starting point; for the veteran Ciceronian scholar, a place for renewing the dialogue about issues concerning Ciceronian oratory and rhetoric; for all, a site of engagement at various levels with Ciceronian scholarship and bibliography. The book is arranged chronologically and covers most aspects of Cicero’s oratory and rhetoric.

Kosher Christmas

kosherBrooklyn Law School Library’s e-book collection has a great title for this time of year:  A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to Be Jewish by Joshua Eli Plaut. The book combines history, Jewish studies and sociology beginning with urban-bourgeois Jewish émigrés from German-speaking countries who decorated trees, exchanged presents and sang carols in “a family festival devoid of religious meaning.” The author describes how modern Jews elevated the once-minor holiday of Hanukkah, which this year ends tonight, to its big-time status as Christmas’s partner. With chapters on intermarriage, holiday cards designed for blended couples, and Jewish composers of Christmas songs, the author explains how German-American Jews “ate customary Christmas foods, particularly sweets like stollen, lebkuchen and pfefferkuc (although they prepared the treats with butter instead of lard).” He explains that “Jews flock to Chinese restaurants on Christmas not only because they are open while other restaurants are closed but also because Jews regard eating Chinese food as a special occasion.” Read why Jews, before or after their Chinese Christmas dinners, hit the movies. In the first decade of the 20th century, we learn, 42 nickelodeons were in the Lower East Side of New York with 10 more uptown in what was branded Jewish Harlem.

Plaut reports on the tradition of Jewish volunteering, the Christmas mitzvah — something to do when the rest of the world has the day off. Jews feed the hungry, fill in for Christians at work, donate toys, play Santa. These are activities that allow “Jews the opportunity to participate in Christmas, but in a way that does not detract from their Jewish identity; in fact, their volunteerism reinforces their Jewishness.”

The introduction to “A Kosher Christmas” says: “We encounter in the following chapters a multitude of distinctive strategies that portray how Jews survive and thrive in American society and how they transform Christmastime into a holiday season belonging to all Americans. The concluding chapter “Menorahs Next to Madonnas” tells the story from 1993 when Myrna Holzman, a retired public-school teacher in New York and an avid stamp collector, started a crusade to convince the U.S. Postal Service to produce a Hanukkah stamp. Her Hanukkah stamp campaign finally resulted in the U.S. Postal Service’s release of a Hanukkah stamp in 1996. The postal service invited her to the launching ceremony for the new Hanukkah stamp, the first stamp to be a joint-issue between the United States and Israel. To Myrna’s surprise, the symbol chosen to represent Hanukkah was a modern rendition of the menorah, consisting of playful, colorful shapes, The choice was ironic because the post office committee had previously rejected the menorah as a religious symbol. In 2004, the postal service released another Hanukkah stamp, this time featuring a dreidel, as Myrna had originally suggested. At 173 pages plus notes, this book is recommended for readers interested in an academic study of American Jewish cultural traditions and the “December Dilemma” of Christmas v. Chanukah as the inevitable duel that confronts many American Jews each December.

Congressional Legislative Research

With paper deadlines fast approaching, many of you may need to identify relevant Congressional documents for your paper.  Often legislative history research is cumbersome and time consuming.  The Brooklyn Law School Library licenses two useful databases to ease this process: Legislative Insight and Proquest Congressional.

Legislative Insight streamlines the research process by digitizing the majority of full text publications associated with an enacted statute’s legislative history.  These documents include all versions of enacted and related bills, Congressional Record excerpts, and committee hearings, reports, and documents.  Legislative Insight also contains other relevant material such as committee prints, CRS reports, and Presidential signing statements.

Unlike Legislative Insight, Proquest Congressional carries documents pertaining to both enacted legislation as well as the bills that do not become law.  This includes the text of bills, transcripts of unpublished and published hearings, Congressional reports, the Congressional Record, Congressional Research Service reports, voting records, etc.  The indexing of some of the material goes back to the signing of the Constitution.   A useful feature of Proquest Congressional is the Congressional Profiles which provide the historical context of each Congressional term, including an overview of party divisions and leadership, economic conditions, conflicts, major laws, Landmark Supreme Court cases and major event

To access Legislative Insight or Proquest Congressional from off-campus, you first need to implement the proxy instructions.

Constitution at 230 Years Old

The US Constitution was adopted 230 years ago, on September 17, 1787. Its words are as vital today as when the founders agrees that the Constitution would be sent to the Confederation Congress to start the ratification process with the states. It words are invoked daily in controversies over free speech, gun rights, religious expression, the separation of powers, states’ rights, due process of law and the exercise of individual liberties.

Yet, as we mark Constitution Day in accordance with 36 U.S.C. § 106 (2012) (this year, the day is observed on Monday, September 18th), Americans have an uncertain understanding of what the document says, per a recent poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey finds that:

  • More than half of Americans (53 percent) incorrectly think it is accurate to say that immigrants who are here illegally do not have any rights under the U.S. Constitution;
  • More than a third of those surveyed (37 percent) can’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment;
  • Only a quarter of Americans (26 percent) can name all three branches of government.

immigrant

rights

branches

Why should this matter? it is difficult to safeguard constitutional rights without understanding what they are. The continued vitality of our democracy is dependent upon an informed citizenry. Understanding the history of the Constitution and its amendments will assist all of us in more fully appreciating these rights and responsibilities as they have evolved over time. Moreover, such understanding will ensure that these rights will continue to be exercised, valued, and cherished by future generations.

The founders wanted to make certain that the federal government was limited in powers  to those specifically enumerated in the constitution. How have we moved from these very clear and quite limited roles of the government? We see Presidents “passing laws” in a de facto fashion and refusing to enforce laws duly passed by Congress although sworn to do so. The Supreme Court has ruled on healthcare, education, abortion, and marriage. These powers are not enumerated the Constitution and are arguably reserved for the states. Why are we not concerned? The Founders, on this day, 230 years ago, signed a document making certain that our freedoms would not be taken away, but they did not anticipate that they might be given away. Happy Constitution Day. Celebrate it and protect it.

libertyFor more on the topic, see the Brooklyn Law School Library’s copy of The Blessings of Liberty: A Concise History of the Constitution of the United States by Michael Les Benedict (Call No. KF4541 .B443 2017). The text provides students with a history of American constitutional development in the context of political, economic, and social change. The author stresses the role that the American people have played over time in defining the powers of government and the rights of individuals and minorities. He covers important trends and events in US constitutional history, encompassing key Supreme Court and lower-court cases. The third edition is updated to include the election of 2000, the Tea Party and the rise of popular constitutionalism, and the rise of judicial supremacy as seen in cases such as Citizens United, the Affordable Care Act, and gay marriage.

2017 AALL Annual Conference: A few thoughts from a first-time attendee

Last week, I attended the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) annual conference, which was held July 15-18 in Austin, Texas. The biggest takeaway for me, as a first time conference attendee, was how legal technology continues to shape the legal profession, and how the role of law librarians must continually evolve to meet technological challenges. 

Susan Nevelow Mart, Univ of Colorado Law School Library, “Understanding the Human Element in Search Algorithms”

Legal technology was the focus of many of the programs at the conference:

Understanding the Human Element in Search Algorithms

Teaching and Implementing Emerging Technologies in Legal Practice 

Case Law as Data: Making It, Sharing It, Using It

The Law Library as Technology Laboratory  and

Deep Dive: How Artificial Intelligence will Transform the Delivery of Legal Services

were just some of the programs addressing the subject.  In the exhibit hall, established and new tech vendors lured attendees to their booths with cute stuffed toy bats and other swag so they could sell you on their products.

Caselaw as Data, Harvard Law School Library Innovation Lab

Legal tech was also a constant subject offsite: vendors might gently push their services over a friendly game of shuffleboard at an evening social event; meanwhile in the Fastcase house, legal tech blogger Bob Ambrogi would be chatting in one room while Itai Gurari demonstrated Judicata’s new features in another.  In a recent blog post about the conference, Ambrogi described how legal information professionals increasingly wear the hat of “legal technologist,” stating that the AALL conference should be considered one of the top legal tech conferences.  

What does this mean for academic law librarians?  For me, attending AALL reinforced issues discussed by my BLS colleague Harold O’Grady in his entry in this blog about the new class, Tech Tools for Law Practice, that he taught this summer. If we are to ensure that our students graduate from law school with technology competency, legal tech classes should be integrated into the curriculum. We can learn from the digital initiatives and legal technology curricula at other law schools, and from our own initial experiences in teaching technology courses designed for law students. BLS Library has some legal tech resources in our collection, such as the ABA Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide, and can continue to build on them. 

While there is much to consider going forward, meeting and learning from the many talented and inspiring legal information professionals at the conference was a great experience.  One highlight: learning about the random limerick generator at Harvard’s Caselaw Access Project, where each line of the limerick is derived from a case — just one small illustration of the potential use of caselaw data.

Janet honored at reception for winning Law Library Journal Article of the Year Award

Finally, I should mention that at the AALL conference, BLS Library Director Janet Sinder received the Law Library Journal Article of the Year Award for her article, The Effects of Demand-Driven Acquisitions on Law Library Collection Development, 108 Law Library Journal 155 (2016). Kudos to Janet!

July New Books List and Impeachment

Brooklyn Law School Library’s New Books List for July 1, 2017 has 59 print titles and 30 eBook titles. Many of the titles deal with racial discrimination in the criminal justice administration and elsewhere, for example, He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty by S Jonathan Bass (Call No. E185.93. A3 B37 2017); Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics by Marie Gottschalk (Call No. HV9471. G667 2016); Homicide Justified: The Legality of Killing Slaves in the United States and the Atlantic World by Andrew T. Fede (E-Book); Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts (Call No. HV6533.L8 M37 2017); and Unequal: How America’s Courts Undermine Discrimination Law by Sandra F. Sperino and Suja A. Thomas (Call No. KF4755 .S965 2017).

ImpeachmentMore controversial is The Case for Impeachment by Allan J. Lichtman (Call No. KF5076.T78 L53 2017). Lichtman made headlines when he predicted that Donald J. Trump would defeat the heavily favored Democrat, Hillary Clinton, to win the presidential election. His latest book lays out the reasons Congress could remove Trump from the Oval Office: his ties to Russia before and after the election, the complicated financial conflicts of interest at home and abroad, and his abuse of executive authority. The book offers a fascinating look at presidential impeachments throughout American history, including the often-overlooked story of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, details about Richard Nixon’s resignation, and Bill Clinton’s hearings. Lichtman shows how Trump exhibits many of the flaws (and more) that have doomed past presidents. As the Nixon Administration dismissed the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as “character assassination” and “a vicious abuse of the journalistic process,” Trump has attacked the “dishonest media,” claiming, “the press should be ashamed of themselves.” Historians, legal scholars, and politicians alike agree: we are in politically uncharted waters—the durability of our institutions is being undermined and the public’s confidence in them is eroding, threatening American democracy itself. Most citizens—politics aside—want to know where the country is headed. Lichtman argues, with clarity and power, that for Donald Trump’s presidency, smoke has become fire.