Category Archives: Judiciary

Supreme Court Website Gets A Makeover


This past Monday, the Supreme Court Website displayed a new and improved look.

According to their press release, the reorganized menu and new, horizontal format make navigating the site easier and more efficient. Some of the most frequently requested information will now be available directly on the site’s homepage, including the transcripts and audio for the most recent oral arguments, and information for planning a visit to the Court. Website users will notice enhanced images and graphics, improved search features and updated access on mobile devices.

The Supreme Court Website, , was launched on April 17, 2000, to make Court information available via the Internet to the Bar, the public, and the news media.

Thurgood Marshall and Legal History

Thurgood MarshallThe BLS Library recently added to its collection Thurgood Marshall: Race, Rights, and the Struggle for a More Perfect Union by Charles L. Zelden (Call #KF8745.M34 Z45 2013). This 232 page biography, accompanied by primary sources that present Marshall in his own words, will help students learn what Marshall did (and did not do) during his life, why those actions were important, and what effects his efforts had on the larger course of American history. The book has content as follows: Introduction: The Struggle for a More Perfect Union; Chapter 1 – The Education of Thurgood Marshall; Chapter 2 – “Thurgood’s Coming”; Chapter 3 – Social Engineer Lawyer; Chapter 4 – Going for the “Whole Hog”; Chapter 5 – All Deliberate Speed Means S-L-O-W; Chapter 6 – “I AM the Establishment”; Chapter 7 – Not Only the Robe Was Black; Chapter 8 – How Do You Feel About Writing Dissents?; Postscript: Thurgood Marshall, Activist Judge; and an Appendix of Documents.

Today, August 30, 2014 marks the anniversary of the confirmation by the Senate in 1967 of Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) as a Supreme Court justice. As the Court’s 96th justice and its first African American justice serving from 1967 to 1991, he was one of the most influential legal actors of his time. Before being appointed to the Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson, Marshall was a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Federal Judge (1961-1965), and Solicitor General of the United States (1965-1966). He won twenty-nine of thirty-two cases before the Supreme Court including the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. Marshall spent his career fighting racial segregation and legal inequality, and his time on the court establishing a record for supporting the “voiceless American.”

Marshall was an outspoken liberal on a court dominated by conservatives. In his twenty-four year tenure, he voted to uphold gender and racial affirmative action policies in every case in which they were challenged. He dissented in every case in which the Supreme Court failed to overturn a death sentence and opposed all efforts to narrow or burden the right of women to obtain abortions. No justice has been more forceful in opposing government regulation of speech or private sexual conduct. Nor has any justice been more egalitarian in terms of advancing a view of the Constitution that imposes positive duties on government to provide important benefits to people such as education, legal services, and access to courts regardless of their ability to pay for them. The legacy of change that he left behind continues to affect American society today.

Recent Ruling: 5th Circuit Upholds UT at Austin’s Admissions Policy

5thCircuitYesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, applying strict scrutiny, upheld the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions policies. The court held that “to deny UT Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience in contradiction to the plain teachings of Bakke and Grutter.” Fisher v. Univ. of Tex. at Austin, No. 09-50822, slip op. at 40 (5th Cir. July 15, 2014).   If you would like to explore the law surrounding affirmative action, the library owns many titles that discuss this issue. Some of the more recent titles are listed below.

Randall Kennedy, For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (2013).

The chapters in this title include: affirmative action in the history of American race relations; the affirmative action policy debate: the key arguments pro and con; the color-blind challenge to affirmative action; the Supreme Court and affirmative action: the case of higher education; and reflections on the future of the affirmative action controversy.

Jody Feder, Cong. Research Serv., R43205, Banning the Use of Racial Preferences in Higher Education: A Legal Analysis of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (2013).

This report reviews the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, which the Supreme Court will review the upcoming term. Unlike earlier rulings in which the Court considered whether it is constitutional for a state to use racial preferences in higher education, the new case raises the question of whether it is constitutional for a state to ban such preferences in higher education.

Jennifer Pierce, Racing for Innocence: Whiteness, Gender, and the Backlash against Affirmative Action (2012).

The chapters in this title include: innocence and injury: the politics of cultural memory in print news media; filming racial progress: the transformation of white male innocence; racing for innocence: stories of disavowal and exclusion; stand by your man: women lawyers and affirmative actions; small talk: a short story; and commentary: ambivalent racism.

David Hamilton Golland, Constructing Affirmative Action: the Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity (2011).

The author examines federal efforts to diversify the construction trades from the 1950s-1970s, offering insights into the origins of affirmative action related policy. This work analyses how community activism pushed the federal government to address issues of racial exclusion and marginalization in the construction industry in key American cities.

Six Major Cases in Less Than a Week

That is what the Supreme Court Justices need to rule on before the  current term ends on June 30th.

Just this week, the high court ruled on the following cases –

These cases dealt with legal issues such as bank fraud, green gas emissions, and securities fraud.

The remaining cases will tackle the following legal topics –

Episode 089: Conversation with Prof. Andrew Napolitano

Episode 089: Conversation with Prof. Andrew Napolitano.mp3

This podcast features an interview with Brooklyn Law School Visiting Professor of Law  Andrew Napolitano who teaches courses on Constitutional Interpretation and Individual Rights and First Amendment Law. Professor Napolitano discusses his role in the upcoming Evening with United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia scheduled for Friday, March 21, 2014 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House.

In the conversation, Judge Napolitano discusses the format of the upcoming event where he will question Justice Scalia on issues of human freedom and the U.S. Constitution. Following that will be questions from the audience on a range of topics that Justice Scalia has covered both in his judicial opinions and dissents as well as the books that he has authored. Books in the collection of the BLS Library include:

Constitutional ChaosJudge Napolitano talks about two of his books that are in the BLS Library collection. The earliest is Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws (Call # HV9950 .N34 2004) written after he left the New Jersey Superior Court where he served as a trial judge from 1987 to 1995. The book speaks from his experiences and investigation about how government agencies will often arrest without warrant, spy without legal authority, imprison without charge, and kill without cause.

The other title is The Constitution in Exile: How the Federal Government Has Seized Power by Rewriting the Supreme Law of the Land (Call # KF5050 .N37 2006). The book explains how the federal government has manipulated the Constitution to take power from the states and the people. He closes the interview by discussing The Second Constitutional Convention: How the American People Can Take Back Their Government by Richard E. Labunski (Call #KF4555.L33 2000) which looks at Article V of the U.S. Constitution that authorizes the American people to call for a new constitutional convention.

Private Judges and Secret Rulings

A recent NY Times op-ed Renting Judges for Secret Rulings by Prof. Judith Resnick of Yale Law School raises the question whether wealthy litigants should be able to rent state judges and courthouses to decide cases in private and keep the results secret. While the use of alternate dispute resolution in the form of arbitration and mediation is nothing new dating back to the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925, it is the attempt by the Delaware courts to legitimize in-court secrecy that makes the article and the case that it follows one of interest to the legal community.

The article follows the case of Delaware Coalition for Open Government, Inc. v. Strine, 733 F.3d 510 (3d Cir. 2013) that the US Supreme Court may decide. In 2009, Delaware amended its code to grant the Court of Chancery “the power to arbitrate business disputes” permitting companies to resolve disputes through closed-door arbitration presided over by a sitting judge. The Third Circuit found the amendment unconstitutional, even though such proceedings are not identical to civil trials, and even though arbitration has historically been private, since Delaware’s government-sponsored arbitration differs fundamentally from other arbitration, in that they are in front of judges in courthouses, result in binding orders of Chancery Court, and allow only limited right of appeal. Finding that court proceedings have historically been open to the public and the judiciary as part of a democratic society, the District Court and the Third Circuit sought to ensure accountability and allow the public to maintain faith in Delaware judicial system. The ruling stated that the drawbacks of openness are slight as court rules provide for confidential filing of documents, and there are remedies to protect trade secrets or other proprietary information. Confidentiality is not the sole advantage of Delaware’s arbitration proceeding over regular Chancery Court proceedings.

The case is pending before the US Supreme Court as Strine v. Delaware Coalition For Open Government, Inc., Docket No. 13-869. Briefs are available at SCOTUSblog which states the issue before the Court as:  Whether Press-Enterprise Corp. v. Superior Court of California‘s “experience and logic” test requires invalidation on First Amendment grounds of a Delaware statute authorizing state judges to act as arbitrators in business disputes — when the parties voluntarily select arbitration — because the arbitration proceedings are not open to the public.

The issue is not a new one and was the subject of a 2006 law review article. See Laurie Kratsky Dore, Public Courts Versus Private Justice: It’s Time To Let Some Sun Shine in on Alternative Dispute Resolution, 81 Chicago-Kent Law Review 463 (Spring 2006) available to the Brooklyn Law School community through the BLS Library subscription to HeinOnline.

Recent SCOTUS Opinions

Supreme_Court_Front_DuskThis week the United States Supreme Court issued several important rulings on same-sex marriage, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and affirmative action.  To read about these decisions and their potential impact, visit some of the legal news sites linked below.

BNA United States Law Week
(For off-campus access need to implement the proxy instructions.)

(For off-campus access need to implement the proxy instructions.)
(Ask a reference librarian for log on credentials.)

Annual New York State Judicial Candidate Voter Guide

The 2011 New York State Judicial Candidate Voter Guide is available through the Unified Court System’s website at ( through Election Day, Nov. 8, 2011.

The 2011 non-partisan Judicial Candidate Voter Guide is designed to help you make a more informed decision on Election Day (November 8, 2011).

The  Guide covers elected, trial-level judge positions, other than Town and Village Justices as provided by the state and county boards of election. There is also biographical information about each candidate as provided by the candidate.  Where candidates have participated, the Guide has links to their biographical, educational and professional histories. Candidates also were allowed to provide a short “personal statement” about themselves for the Guide. Finally, there is are descriptions of elective judicial offices throughout New York State.

The Guide lists covers for New York State judicial races; fifty-four of the state’s sixty-two counties have at least one contested judicial races on November 8th.