Category Archives: New York

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.

Notice and Comment Stalls Undoing Regulations

Courts have cited the Administrative Procedure Act, Pub. L. 79–404 enacted on June 11, 1946, in blocking the Trump administration’s attempts to end policies from the Obama era. These include actions to undermine the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (New York v. Trump), a delay in a regulation requiring oil and gas companies to reduce methane leaks (Sierra Club v. Zinke), and postponement of a rule that would give low-income families more access to housing in wealthier neighborhoods (Open Communities Alliance v. Carson). In each instance, Trump policy changes have hit the same stumbling block: Courts say the administration has not followed the proper steps in enacting them, citing a 1940s-era law that’s become a key weapon in the legal battle over the president’s agenda. Under that law, the Administrative Procedure Act, federal agencies are required to provide a reasoned justification for their policy decisions and offer the public an opportunity to weigh in when they are creating new regulations, making notable changes to existing rules, or scrapping them altogether. In other words, rescission of the former policies require that the government provide notice and comment, otherwise there would be a violation of Section 553 of the APA.

Congress passed the Administrative Procedure Act in 1946 amid the rise of communism and fascism in Europe, hoping to place checks on the vast bureaucracy created by the New Deal and “avoid dictatorship and central planning,” as one legal expert explained. Under the law, federal agencies must provide a reasoned analysis for making policy changes to avoid “arbitrary and capricious” rule-making. The Administrative Procedure Act requires that agencies go through a process known as “notice and comment” before issuing, amending or repealing “substantive rules.” As part of that process, the agency must publish proposed actions in the Federal Register and then give the public at least 30 days to submit feedback. When it finalizes its proposal, the agency must respond to issues raised by the public comments and must explain why it settled upon the course of action that it chose. The explanation must show why the agency’s action is reasonable and not “arbitrary” or “capricious.”

Brooklyn Law School students may want to review Informal Rulemaking, a CALI lesson (password required), which examines the procedural steps that an administrative agency must follow in order to create a valid “informal” rule. This lesson is intended for students who have studied these issues in class and wish to further refine their knowledge.

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).

New York as Sanctuary City

SanctuaryEarlier this year, the NYC Council passed legislation, Introduction 1568-2017, a bill to prohibit City agencies from partnering with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to enforce federal immigration laws. The bill would prohibit the use of City resources, property, and information obtained on behalf of the City in furtherance of federal immigration enforcement. It would also require any requests for assistance by federal immigration enforcement agencies to be documented and later compiled into an anonymized report sent quarterly to the Council. It passed by a vote of 41-4 so now city employees are banned from spending any time on duty or using city property to assist in enforcing immigration laws. The move makes legally binding a policy the city has already followed of bowing out of assisting the feds in finding undocumented immigrants for deportation. Another bill, Introduction 1558-2017 bars the Department of Probation from handing over undocumented immigrants in response to requests from the feds. It expands rules that previously applied to the NYPD and city jails, which say officials cannot honor detainers from the feds unless the person they seek has been convicted of any of 170 serious crimes. “We will not waste city resources to help immigration authorities destroy our families,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

The defiant step followed President Trump’s threat to strip sanctuary cities of federal funds, saying they were letting potentially dangerous illegal immigrants go free instead of helping the feds. Earlier, the Justice Department gave New York and three other cities a “last chance” warning that the feds believe they are violating laws requiring cooperation, saying it would nix a $4.3 million grant without proof of compliance. The city has only reinforced its policy. “We’re taking a serious stance and saying that New York is a sanctuary city. We are not going to held federal authorities find immigrants in this city that are no threat to the resident of New York City,” said Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn), one of the sponsors.

Meanwhile the attempts of the Trump administration to crack down on sanctuary cities has met new obstacles as US District Court Judge William Orrick issued a permanent injunction blocking an executive order seeking to strip so-called sanctuary cities of federal funding. The ruling is a major setback to the administration’s attempts to clamp down on cities, counties and states that seek to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation by federal authorities. The ruling is the latest instance in which a federal judge has stood in the way of the president’s effort to implement his policies on immigration, joining rulings that have blocked different portions of the travel ban. Monday’s ruling, which followed lawsuits from two California counties, nullifies the January executive order on the matter, barring the administration from setting new conditions on spending approved by Congress. In the judge’s words “The Executive Order threatens to deny sanctuary jurisdictions all federal grants, hundreds of millions of dollars on which the Counties rely. The threat is unconstitutionally coercive.”

Let My People Dance

After years of efforts to repeal New York City’s outdated Cabaret Law, the City Council is on the verge of repeal. The New York Times reports today that After 91 Years, New York Will Let Its People Boogie. The “no dancing” law is set to be struck down with a new bill tomorrow according to a report. Councilman Rafael Espinal told the newspaper that he has the 26 votes needed to pass a repeal through City Council, as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s approval. In 1926, while liquor was bootlegged and Jazz was shaking things up in Harlem, New York City instituted the Cabaret Law that required establishments serving food or drink to obtain a separate license before permitting any dancing or live music on their premises. This law successfully sought to police and restrict the interracial mixing happening in dance clubs uptown. Almost 100 years later, though times and racial attitudes have changed, the Cabaret Law is not only still in effect and enforced, but contemporary zoning regulations effectively make dancing illegal in large parts of the city.

Drafted by Brooklyn Council Member Rafael Espinal (D-37), first elected to the New York State Assembly at the age of 26 and currently in his first term as a council member, the bill will address a pernicious, racially motivated law that has followed “fringe” musical scenes in the city for nearly a century.

gigsThe Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection Gigs: Jazz and the Cabaret Laws in New York City (Call No. PN2277.N5 C51 2005) by Paul Chevigny, an attorney and former civil rights activist, who recounts his efforts to repeal New York’s Cabaret Law. The book is also available as an e-book. Gigs provides a fascinating account of a unique victory for musicians against repressive entertainment licensing laws. It provides a much-needed study of the social, political, cultural and legal conditions surrounding a change in law and public attitudes toward vernacular music in New York City.

Labor Day Holiday

imageWith  labor union membership under 12% of the US workforce from a high of 33.2% in 1955, most Americans still appreciate a day off to barbecue, a marked contrast from storming the barricades as occurred during 19th century Labor Days. In the US, Labor Day takes place on the first Monday in September by law. See 5 U.S. Code § 6103. Outside the US, Labor Day falls on May 1. The two separate Labor Days cause some confusion. Labor Day and May Day have in common the celebration of laborers from an era when labor was more grueling than what we think of today. The first Labor Day occurred in NYC’s Union Square on September 5, 1882, when 10,000 union workers marched in a parade honoring American workers, who at the time had none of the labor laws we now take for granted. Labor Day sentiment spread across America when, in 1887 Oregon, followed by a number of other states, adopted Labor Day as a holiday.

The adoption of the holiday did not remedy the labor situation in Industrial Revolution-era America. In 1894 the railroad system was nearly halted by a strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company, a company that mistreated its workers. In reaction to the strike, President Grover Cleveland mobilized federal troops which escalated the violence resulting in several deaths. President Cleveland, in an effort to appease an angry public, passed a bill making Labor Day a national holiday. Labor Day continues as a reminder of the struggle of the labor workforce.

Outside the US, laborers are honored on May Day also known as International Workers’ Day. This holiday was instituted worldwide in response to the Haymarket Riot of 1886, a peaceful protest gone awry with another violent altercation against the Chicago workforce by the police. Although the events leading to the creation of May Day took place in America, the US never adopted it as a legal holiday. It was embraced in the Soviet-bloc. With the fall of communism, the holiday is now removed from its violent origins, much like Labor Day in America, now little remembered for the labor required for this holiday.

Consider the debates that animated Chicago’s inaugural Labor Day celebration in 1885:

On Sunday, September 6th, organized labor’s most radical wing led a preemptive march of more than 5,000 persons in an anarchist and socialist-led demonstration, which included representatives from different unions carrying banners with messages such as: “The greatest crime today is poverty!”; “Capital represents stolen labor”; and “Every government is a conspiracy of the rich against the people.” The city’s rank-and-file had decided to boycott the festivities on the grounds that the red flag, radicalism’s most potent symbol, had been expressly banned. The dispute was symptomatic of larger differences within labor’s camp. The anarchist Sam Fielden emphasized these in his remarks, declaring, “There is going to be a parade tomorrow. Those fellows want to reconcile labor and capital. They want to reconcile you to your starving shanties.” The Chicago Daily Tribune decried the radical demonstration in an article entitled “Cutthroats of Society,” which began, “With the smell of gin and beer, with blood-red flags and redder noses, and with banners inscribed with revolutionary mottoes, the anarchists inaugurated their grand parade and picnic.”

Monday, September 7th, saw another parade by the mainstream Trade and Labor Assembly. They, too, carried banners with more moderate tones: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”; “We do not ask for charity, but simple justice”; and “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for recreation.” The Trade and Labor Assembly’s march received more favorable reviews from middle-class voices and was even outright celebrated by some. But respectable opinion could turn as rapidly on the trade unions as it did on the anarchists. Just two months before Labor Day, the police had violently subdued a streetcar workers’ strike. In the process they won the admiration of many middle-class Chicagoans, including one minister who used his pulpit to urge the authorities to maintain order, even if it required them “to mow down the crowds with artillery.”

These glimpses of the tensions in earlier Labor Day celebrations show major differences between the late 19th century Gilded Age and current times. Today, we see disparities between rich and poor nearing historic proportions, yet Americans do not debate the morality of capitalism that consumed those who lived through industrialization’s peak decades. The Gilded Age is a world removed from our own and yet one that on Labor Day is worth revisiting. Users of the Brooklyn Law school Library can get a sense of that period by reviewing the book in the BLS collection New York Labor Heritage: a Selected Bibliography of New York City Labor History by Robert Wechsler, Call No. Z7164.L1 W38.

National Park Service 100th Anniversary

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Organic Act which Congress passed to create in the Department of the Interior the National Park Service. The aim of the law was “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

NPSWhen the law was enacted, there were already 35 national monuments and parks including Yosemite National Park established in 1864 and Yellowstone National Park established in 1872. Today, the National Park Service has 140 national monuments and parks, 128 historical parks or sites, 25 battlefields or military sites, 19 preserves, 18 recreation areas, 10 seashores, four parkways, four lakeshores, and two reserves. The biggest park is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska established in 1980 containing 13.2 million acres. It is the same size as Yosemite, Yellowstone and the country of Switzerland combined. The smallest site is the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Philadelphia established in 1972 sitting on 0.02 acres. The highest point in the system is Denali (or Mount McKinley) at 20,320 feet. The lowest accessible point is Death Valley National Park, at 282 feet below sea level. The newest National Monument is Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine which President Barack Obama designated this week for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. See NPR web page In Maine, Land From Burt’s Bees Co-Founder Is Declared A National Monument discussing the controversial designation of the woods as protected territory especially from locals concerned about federal oversight of lands that used to be central to the regional economy.

With an annual budget of $2.6 billion, the National Park Service has about 20,000 direct employees and supports 240,000 local jobs generating $27 billion for the U.S. economy. More than 307 million people visited Park Service locations in 2015 compared to 1920 when NPS sites were visited by 1 million people. Brooklyn does not have a national park but this week Brooklyn Bridge Park hosted a National Park Service celebrating the100th anniversary of its founding. Nearby sites such as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are both part of the NPS. Other NPS locations in New York City include the African Burial Ground National Monument, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site and Castle Clinton National Monument.

Brooklyn Law School Library users can explore OneSearch to find a large set of articles about the history of the National Park Service such as the National Parks: America’s BEST Idea? from Parks & Recreation Aug 2016, Vol. 51 Issue 8, page 44.

Judicial Review and Alexander Hamilton

Independence Day 2016 marks the 240th anniversary of the Second Continental Congress’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This milestone in US history is observed by Americans, young and old, as a national holiday on the same calendar date each year. If July 4 is a Saturday, it is observed on Friday, July 3. If July 4 is a Sunday, it is observed on Monday, July 5. This year government offices and schools are closed on Monday, July 4. See 5 U.S. Code § 6103. The library at Brooklyn Law School has reduced hours on Monday and will be open from 9am to 5pm so law students can study for the bar exam scheduled at the end of July.

RutgersIn Constitutional Law courses law students at BLS and throughout the country learn that the decision by Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) is arguably the most important case in American law. It was the first U.S. Supreme Court case to apply the principle of “judicial review”, the power of federal courts to void acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution. However, a newly acquired title in the BLS Library collection, Rutgers v. Waddington: Alexander Hamilton, the End of the War for Independence, and the Origins of Judicial Review by historian Peter Charles Hoffer (Call No. KF228.R877 H64 2016) makes clear that Marbury was not the first court in the new American Republic that considered the argument that a legislative enactment in conflict with a state or federal constitutional provision is void. One of the first decisions to address the question was Rutgers v. Waddington, decided in the Mayor’s Court in the City of New York on August 7, 1786. The case is important to American constitutional law because defendants’ primary attorney who argued for an expansive notion of judicial power was Alexander Hamilton, who advocated for the principal of judicial review in Federalist Paper No. 78.

The case was presented on June 29, 1784 with Chief Justice James Duane presiding. The facts showed that Plaintiff Elizabeth Rutgers owned a large brewery and alehouse on the northern side of Maiden Lane near where Gold Street now enters it. The brewery extended from Smith (now William) Street on the west, to Queen (now Pearl) Street, on the east; and from Maiden Lane, on the south, to John Street on the north. It was one of the most notable features in what is now the Financial District.  Plaintiff was forced to abandon the brewery during the British occupation of New York City. Under the Trespass Act of 1783, which permitted patriots to sue loyalists for damages to property in occupied areas of the state, Rutgers demanded rent from Joshua Waddington who had been running the brewery since it was abandoned. Alexander Hamilton, attorney for the defense, argued that the Trespass Act violated the 1783 peace treaty ratified earlier by Congress. Chief Justice Duane delivered a split verdict awarding Rutgers rent only from the time before the British occupation. The case was ultimately settled by the two parties. Importantly the case set a precedent for Congress’s legal authority over the states. In his ruling, Chief Justice James Duane wrote that “no state in this union can alter or abridge, in a single point, the federal articles or the treaty.”

Brooklyn Law School’s Scholarship & Special Collections

brooklynworks

BrooklynWorks is the online repository of Brooklyn Law School, providing open access to scholarship produced by the law school and to other collections of law school materials. The repository is a service of the Brooklyn Law School Library. Current collections focus on faculty scholarship, the law school’s journals and library special collections.

Within the law Journals collection, you can browse or search issues of the Brooklyn Law Review, the Brooklyn Journal of International Law, the Journal of Law & Policy, and the Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Financial, & Commercial Law.  Within the faculty scholarship collection, you can browse or search Brooklyn Law School’s faculty publications going back to 2010.

Within the Special Collections, you can browse the papers of David Trager from the 1986-1989 New York City Charter Revision Commissions.  Included in this historic collection are various drafts of the New York City Charter, meeting minutes and letters to the members of the commission.  The digitized documents were selected from materials he donated to the Brooklyn Law School Archives. To access the entire collection, you can contact the reference desk (refdesk@brooklaw.edu) and make an appointment to visit the archives.

Court Ruling in Touro Synagogue Dispute

This week the NY Times published an intriguing article on the resolution of a four year legal battle over ownership of personal property, silver Torah ornaments called rimonim, used in worship services in the nation’s oldest existing synagogue, Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI.  Judge John J. McConnell, Jr of the US District Court for the District of Rhode Island issued a 106 page opinion in favor of Congregation Jeshuat Israel, worshippers at the 252-year-old Touro Synagogue in Newport who have been battling Shearith Israel in New York City for control of the temple and the right to sell a pair of historic ceremonial ornaments worth millions of dollars. The suite was originally filed in Rhode Island Superior Court, Newport County, in November 2012 and later removed to federal court. Judge McConnell’s opinion begins;

Bricks and mortar of a temple, and silver and gold of religious ornaments, may appear to be at the center of the dispute between the two parties in this case, but such a conclusion would be myopic. The central issue here is the legacy of some of the earliest Jewish settlers in North America, who desired to make Newport a permanent haven for public Jewish worship. Fidelity to their purpose guides the Court in resolving the matters now before it.

torah bellsTouro Synagogue was established in 1763. During and after the Revolutionary War, most of the Newport’s Jewish residents moved away, many of them to New York. By the 1820s, no Jews were left in Newport, and Congregation Shearith Israel became Touro’s trustee. The two congregations began to feud when the Touro congregation tried in 2012 to sell the bells made by a noted 18th-century silversmith, Myer Myers to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for $7.4 million to improve the synagogue’s fiscal health. The New York congregation protested and Congregation Jeshuat Israel filed the lawsuit. Since, the museum withdrew the offer leaving the dispute to be decided by the federal court.

Touro Synagogue has become a national historic site drawing visitors from all over the world every year. Its most famous visitor was the nation’s first president George Washington who in 1790, stopped at Touro. After his visit he sent the congregants a letter saying the government of the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” It is considered an important pledge of the new nation’s commitment to religious liberty. A search of Brooklyn Law School Library’s ProQuest Congressional database, available to members of the BLS community, will lead to 107 H. Con. Res. 62 dated July 17, 2001. The title of the resolution is “Expressing the Sense of Congress That the George Washington Letter to Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, Which Is on Display at the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum in Washington, DC, Is One of the Most Significant Early Statements Buttressing the Nascent American Constitutional Guarantee of Religious Freedom”.