Category Archives: SARA Catalog

Conspiracy: the Gawker Case

Brooklyn Law School Library’s New Books List for June 1, 2018 is now out with 38 print titles and 41 E-book titles. One book attracted the attention of this writer. Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue tells the story of an astonishing modern media conspiracy. In an age when people compete to be contrarian, it is rare to encounter an astounding proposition. That is what makes Ryan Holiday’s “Conspiracy” such a delight. It takes real nerve, during an investigation into possible collusion to swing the 2016 presidential election, to argue that we might be better off “if more people took up plotting.” Unfortunately for Holiday, and for readers who enjoy a good provocation, his book focuses on a case that demonstrates why transparency beats conspiracy in the long run.

“Conspiracy” chronicles the legal battle between Terry Bollea, or Hulk Hogan, and Gawker Media, the swashbuckling Manhattan publishing group founded by Nick Denton. In 2012, A.J. Daulerio, then editor of the company’s flagship site, published excerpts of a sex tape, recorded in 2006 without Bollea’s consent or knowledge, that showed Bollea in bed with Heather Clem, who was then married to Bollea’s best friend: the radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge. The story was wacky, but it got truly weird. In 2007, Gawker Media acquired a powerful enemy when one of its writers outed PayPal founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel as gay. Gawker’s Denton, who like Thiel is gay, believed that Thiel’s refusal to be open about being gay was proof that Thiel was “paranoid.” To Thiel, the story was a violation, one that made him into an object of curiosity, in a way he found incomprehensible.

Thiel, as Holiday writes, “venerated privacy, in creating space for weirdos and the politically incorrect to do what they do. Because he believed that’s where progress came from.” What Gawker saw as transparency, Thiel saw as a threat to Silicon Valley. He was so angry at Gawker that he began to refer to it as “the Manhattan Based Terrorist Organization.”

But it took him four years to strike back. In 2011, a Mr. A, whose role is first described in “Conspiracy” but who remains a shadowy figure throughout the book, persuaded Thiel to devote $10 million and five years to a shell company aimed at finding and backing potential lawsuits against Gawker. Among their beneficiaries: Terry Bollea. In 2016, a Florida jury awarded Bollea damages so punishing that Denton had to sell the company. On the surface, it seemed that Thiel’s conspiracy had checkmated Gawker Media.

Holiday, an author and corporate adviser, had unusual access to Thiel and Denton. It is one of the many ironies of this story, and of “Conspiracy,” that talking makes Thiel more sympathetic and comprehensible than plotting ever did. But by the end of the book, it’s clear that, despite Holiday’s argument, Thiel’s conspiracy failed: Thiel killed Gawker, but in doing so undermined his dream of making the Internet a more decent place and securing a more private life for himself. By contrast, Gawker was destroyed not because its leaders failed to conspire, but because they did not pursue the transparency they claimed to believe in.

By the time Thiel did identify himself as Gawker Media’s nemesis after the verdict in Bollea v. Gawker, the narrative of the trial was well on its way to being set. Thiel discovered that it is difficult to come forward and insist that you are the hero of the story when you have already won the sort of surprising and dismaying victory that makes the public inclined to believe that you are the villain. “Cunning and resources might win the war,” Holiday writes toward the end of “Conspiracy,” “but it’s the stories and myths afterwards that will determine who deserved to win it.” The flaw in Thiel’s thinking, and in “Conspiracy,” is in failing to recognize that the stories and the myths that emerge after an event often are the substance of the victory.

Fastcase: Another Tool in the Legal Research Toolbox

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.

Taxing the Church

The Brooklyn Law School Library New Books List for May 1, 2018 has 23 print titles and 54 E-book titles. There are so many topics covered in the list but the pending case of Gaylor v. Mnuchin which involves permitting housing allowances given by denominations to clergy to be exempt from taxation makes one book on the list highly topical.

The book is Taxing the Church: Religion, Exemptions, Entanglement, and the Constitution by Edward A. Zelinsky, Professor of Law at Cardozo School of Law. It explores the taxation and exemption of churches and other religious institutions. This exploration reveals that churches and other religious institutions are treated diversely by the federal and state tax systems. Sectarian institutions pay more tax than many believe. In important respects, the states differ among themselves in their respective approaches to the taxation of sectarian entities. Either taxing or exempting churches and other sectarian entities entangles church and state. The taxes to which churches are more frequently subject – federal Social Security and Medicare taxes, sales taxes, real estate conveyance taxes – fall on the less entangling end of the spectrum. The taxes from which religious institutions are exempt – general income taxes, value-based property taxes, unemployment taxes – are typically taxes with the greatest potential for church-state enforcement entanglement. It is unpersuasive to reflexively denounce the tax exemption of religious actors and institutions as a subsidy.

For many years, religious denominations in the United States have been largely exempt from paying taxes. However, some cracks are beginning to show in that armor. Principal among them is a suit awaiting a hearing by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Gaylor v. Mnuchin, in which the Freedom From Religion Foundation is challenging the constitutionality of a 1954 law, the so-called “parsonage allowance” under 26 U.S.C. § 107(2) that permits “ministers of the gospel” to receive cash housing allowances tax free, a potential violation of the Establishment Clause. The case is on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals For The Seventh Circuit seeking to reverse the district court’s opinion and affirm the constitutionality of the minister’s housing allowance under 26 U.S.C. § 107(2).

Lynching in America

Earlier this month, Oprah Winfrey reported on 60 Minutes on the Alabama memorial dedicated to thousands of African-American men, women and children lynched over a 70-year period following the Civil War. The project is being led by criminal defense attorney Bryan Stevenson who wants to shed light on a dark period in our past that most people would rather forget. These hangings were not isolated murders committed only by men in white hoods in the middle of the night. Often, they were public crimes, witnessed by thousands of people. Stevenson believes to heal racial divisions we must educate Americans of every color and creed. See the episode here.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, opening to the public on April 26, 2018, will become the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, those terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence. Read the report, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, which documents more than 4400 lynchings of black people in the United States between 1877 and 1950.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection a related title, The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer (Call No. HV6465.A2 L43 2016). It is the powerful story of a brutal race-based killing in 1981 and the dramatic two trials during which the United Klans of America, the largest and most dangerous Klan organization in America, was exposed for the evil it represented. Leamer tells a gripping story of figures such as legendary civil rights lawyer Morris Dees, Alabama governor George Wallace, and Klan Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton and describes the Klan’s lingering effect on race relations in America today.

The story begins in March 1981, when Henry Hays and James Knowles, members of Klavern 900 of the UKA, picked up nineteen-year-old Michael Donald on the streets of Mobile, Alabama. They were seeking to retaliate after a largely black jury failed to convict a black man accused of murdering a white policeman. Hays and Knowles beat Donald, cut his throat, and left his body hanging from a tree branch in a racially mixed residential neighborhood. Arrested, charged, and convicted, Hays was sentenced to death, the first time in more than half a century that the state of Alabama had given that penalty to a white man for killing a black man.

Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, saw the case as an opportunity to file a lawsuit against the UKA. His colleagues told him that his lawsuit was impossible to win. Nevertheless, on behalf of Michael’s grieving mother, Mrs. Beulah Donald, Dees filed a first-of-its-kind civil suit and charged the Klan organization and its leaders with conspiracy. He proceeded to put the Klan leaders on trial, which produced some of the most audacious testimony of any civil rights trial as well as a stunning and precedent-setting verdict. Dees destroyed the UKA and created a weapon that the SPLC used time and again against other racist organizations. The Lynching is a suspenseful true story that takes us into the heart of darkness, but finally shows that Michael Donald and other civil rights martyrs did not die in vain.

Understanding the Attorney-Client Privilege

The raid of President Trump’s personal attorney’s law office raises questions of how the F.B.I and federal prosecutors will safeguard documents that fall under the attorney-client privilege.  If you want to learn about the privilege, the library has several recently published sources to help you understand this central component of the attorney-client relationship.

Vincent Walkowiak & Oscar Rey Rodriguez, The Attorney-Client Privilege in Civil Litigation (6th ed. 2015).

This edition provides updated and expanded treatment of the attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine. New topics include application of the revised federal rules and case law governing waiver of privilege, the pitfalls of privilege preservation and waiver in bankruptcy proceedings and international contexts, and the intersection of privilege and attorney/client-hired media consultants.

David Lender, Privilege Issues in the Age of Electronic Discovery (BNA 2011).

Also available on Bloomberg Law.

This BNA portfolio explains how the nature and scope of the attorney-client privilege and work-product protection have been impacted by technology, generally, and electronic discovery in particular.

The portfolio begins with an introduction to the relevant privileges and protections, each of which developed prior to the computer age. The portfolio then describes in detail the far-reaching implications of technology on these fundamental tenets of the legal profession. Included in this discussion is an examination of privilege as it relates to the reasonable expectation of privacy and related ethical issues, waiver, privilege logs, the crime-fraud exception, experts, litigation hold notices, and litigation support databases.

Paul R. Rice, Attorney-Client Privilege in the United States (2011).

This two-volume treatise, available on Westlaw, provides essential information for advising clients on protecting the confidentiality of their internal communications. This database provides instant access to: the history, theory, and purpose of the privilege, a comprehensive examination of court interpretations, the procedures for asserting, establishing, resolving, and appealing privilege matters.

Jessica Kunz, Attorney-Client Privilege & Work Product Doctrine: Corporate Applications (BNA 2009).

This online treatise is organized into three parts. Part One, Introduction, traces the historical development of the attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine and explains in detail their purposes, availability to corporations, scope of protection, and relation to each other. Part Two, Attorney-Client Privilege, covers a myriad of topics, including client identity, waiver of privilege, exceptions to the privilege, choice of law, shareholder suits and special committees, among many others. Part Three, Work-Product Doctrine, covers such topics as scope, waiver issues, and exceptions to the doctrine, among many others.

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.

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.

Amelia D. Lewis: Woman Behind In re Gault

The US Congress, by Public Law 100-9, designated the month of March 1987, as “Women’s History Month”. This law requested the President to issue a proclamation calling on the American people to observe this month with appropriate activities. President Reagan then issued Presidential Proclamation 5619 proclaiming March 1987 as “Women’s History Month”. Since then, Presidential Proclamations have declared March as Women’s History Month.

Brooklyn Law School celebrates Women’s History Month by recognizing Amelia Dietrich Lewis, Class of 1924, as “one of the most tenacious lawyers the state of Arizona has ever seen.” She was a graduate of St. Lawrence University School of Law (now Brooklyn Law School). She exhibited her moxie early in her career, even before she was sworn in as an attorney. Although Lewis was scheduled to take the bar exam on June 24, 1924, she learned that the New York Bar prohibited candidates under the age of 21. In Lewis’s case, she was to turn 21 the very next day, on June 25. Facing this technicality, she filed suit against the Bar, arguing she would be 21 on the 24th because her birthday was actually the first day of her 22nd year.” She was successful in her suit and took the exam as planned on the 24th and passed. After practicing law in New York for 33 years, in 1957 following the death of her husband, she moved to Arizona. She took the bar examination in that state with just one other woman, Sandra Day O’Conner. There, she worked as a prosecutor for six years and then maintained a thriving solo practice, concentrating in elder law in Sun City. She was well into her eighties when she retired.

Lewis is best known for her involvement in the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case, In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967), which brought due process to juvenile courts across the nation. Her client, Gerald Gault, had been sentenced without legal counsel to an Arizona reformatory. He allegedly made an obscene phone call to a neighbor, was arrested by local police, and tried in a proceeding that did not require his accuser’s testimony. He was sentenced to six years in a juvenile “boot camp” for an offense that would have cost an adult only two months. Lewis assumed the role of co-counsel after Gault’s appeals at the lower level were exhausted. She was drawn to the case because she had raised three healthy sons and “wanted to give something back.” Ultimately, the defense of the boy prevailed, with the Court holding that he was entitled to the same constitutional safeguards as adults: a trial by jury, the right to legal counsel, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to remain silent. Justice Fortas in his 8-1 majority opinion wrote: “Neither the 14th Amendment nor the Bill of Rights is for adults only. Under the Constitution, the condition of being a boy does not justify a kangaroo court.”

Lewis was recognized by the Arizona Republic as one of the legal greats of that state. In 1988, she received the first Amicus Award of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, which honored her for pioneering the vital role of women in the legal profession. Upon her death in 1994, the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court commented: “She made history for the law in many ways. Her life and career epitomized the practice of law as it should be.”

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection The Constitutional Rights of Children: In re Gault and Juvenile Justice by David S. Tanenhaus (Call No. KF228.G377 T36 2017). This new edition includes expanded coverage of the Roberts Court’s juvenile justice decisions including Miller v. Alabama (in which the Court held that mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders) and explains how disregard for children’s constitutional rights led to the “Kids for Cash” scandal in Pennsylvania. Widely celebrated as the most important children’s rights case of the twentieth century, Gault affirmed that children have the same rights as adults and formally incorporated the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process protections into the administration of the nation’s juvenile courts.

You Are Being Watched

The Brooklyn Law School Library New Books List for March 1, 2018 is out with 40 print titles and 17 e-book titles. One of the titles is the 151-page volume Being Watched: Legal Challenges to Government Surveillance by Jeffrey L. Vagle, Lecturer in Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The nine chapters (You Are Being Watched; A History of Government Surveillance; Getting through the Courthouse Door; The Doctrine of Article III Standing; Before the Supreme Court; Government Surveillance and the Law; The Legacy of Laird v. Tatum; Technology, National Security, and Surveillance; and The Future of Citizen Challenges to Government Surveillance) tell a riveting history of the Supreme Court decision that set the legal precedent for citizen challenges to government surveillance, particularly the case of Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1 (1972). There the Supreme Court considered the question of who could sue the government over a surveillance program, holding in a 5-4 decision that chilling effects arising “merely from the individual’s knowledge” of likely government surveillance did not constitute adequate injury to meet Article III standing requirements. The book also discusses a more recent case where the ACLU challenged the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act over surveillance of American citizens and residents. That Supreme Court case, Clapper v. Amnesty International USA (2013), was one where the Court held that the District Court for the Southern District of New York was correct ruling that the plaintiffs had no standing to bring their case before any federal court.

The book is a fascinating and disturbing story of jurisprudence related to the issue of standing in citizen challenges to government surveillance in the United States. It examines the facts of surveillance cases and the reasoning of the courts who heard them, and considers whether the obstacle of standing to surveillance challenges in U.S. courts can ever be overcome. The author examines the history of military domestic surveillance, tensions between the three branches of government, the powers of the presidency in times of war, and the power of individual citizens in the ongoing quest for the elusive freedom-organization balance. It is essential reading for every American citizen. It explains all the legalities and the methods government uses to surveil citizens.

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.