Category Archives: Uncategorized

Valentine’s Day Quiz

Can you name the U.S. Supreme Court Justice?

1.  It must have brought a Flood of emotions: his clerks wrote him a card on Valentine’s Day, 1985, that read “Respondents are red, petitioners are blue. We’re very lucky to have a Justice like you.”

2.  “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.”  It’s no mystery that this passage comes from the closing paragraph of the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), authored by this Justice.

3. Rush Limbaugh’s wedding to the “Jacksonville Jaguar” Marta Fitzgerald, was held at this Justice’s home in 1994.  As the officiant, the Justice may have been required to ask a question or two.  Alas, the couple ending up splitting a decade later.

4. Toxic love triangle: Carol Anne Bond was excited when her closest friend announced she was pregnant. Excitement turned to rage when Bond learned that her husband was the child’s father. Bond went to the former BFF’s home at least 24 times in order to spread toxic chemicals on surfaces her nemesis would touch; she was prosecuted under federal law for her actions. In ruling that the Chemical Weapons Convention did not apply, this Justice explained why he was not upholding the mandate in this case: “The global need to prevent chemical warfare does not require the Federal Government to reach into the kitchen cupboard.”  Bond v. United States (2014).

5. This notorious Justice penned the majority opinion in Sole v. Wyner (2007).  The case involved a rebuffed attempt by Wyner to assemble nude individuals into a peace sign on a Florida beach, on Valentine’s Day, 2003.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Mindfulness and Meditation for the Legal Professional

Now that we are in the reading period at BLS (aka Hell Week at some institutions) and exams are just around the corner, stress levels are running high. Throughout the library, anxious faces are buried in casebooks and class notes, an ample caffeine supply on hand to fuel the late night cram sessions. Sadly, the stress doesn’t end upon graduation. Being a lawyer requires you to deal with conflict, unreasonable client demands, tight deadlines, and long hours. These can be especially unforgiving for someone newly entering the profession, and can lead to unhealthy habits — there’s a reason why some state bar associations require members to take continuing legal education classes on substance abuse.

So what is a stressed out law student or lawyer to do?

The answer, according to Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford, is mindfulness and meditation. In their book, The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-week Guide to Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation (2016) [Call number: KF298.C47 2016], lawyers Cho and Gifford have crafted a meditation program targeted to fellow members of the legal profession.  The program is aimed at those new to meditation and includes a variety of exercise and practices, covering such topics as mindfulness, compassion towards others and self, mantra repetition, heartfulness, and gratitude. By following this initial eight week program, readers hopefully will see a change, for the better, in their habits and perspectives. They would be able to build on these changes and continue their meditation practices going forward, including developing meditation styles that best suit their own needs.

Law students and attorneys will relate to the many examples drawn from the authors’ experiences from law practice, and how they personally benefited from meditation. For example, in the chapter on mindfulness, Cho and Gifford discuss mindful client interviews, and the importance of setting boundaries with clients. They broach topics such as working with difficult opposing counsel, and the challenges of “toxic mentoring.”

Cho and Gifford don’t sugarcoat the fact that it may not be easy for lawyers to start or to stick with a meditation practice. Our perspectives on our lives and profession get ossified and habits are hard to break. The authors’ approach provides a road map to get started with meditation and mindfulness, with plenty of room for the individual to adapt what best works for him- or herself. In addition to the guidance provided in The Anxious Lawyer, Jeena Cho’s podcasts cover related topics and are worth checking out.

For members of the BLS community who wish to engage in meditation, BLS Library has a Contemplation Room, Room 105M on the first floor mezzanine. This space is provided for students, staff and faculty to engage in contemplation, meditation, or quiet spiritual awareness. If you have any questions about the Contemplation Room, stop by the reference desk and we would be happy to help.

That was then, this is now

That was then, this is now: The transformation of BLS Library’s 3rd Floor in pictures.

Inside the old 3rd Floor Reading Room

Spring 2017, students voted on the chairs for the new reading room

Summer 2017, gutted and about to be renovated.

Fall 2017, getting things into place

Now new signage has been installed. Striking graphics and inspirational quotes adorn the walls.  The third floor space has been completely transformed in a few months.  

We hope you enjoy using the third floor Collaboration/Reading Room!

 

 

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.

Book Festival in My Backyard

After a hellish mid-week commute that trapped me underground for nearly an hour, what could possibly lure me back to Brooklyn on a Sunday?  BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL!

My literary life partner, Ken, accompanied me.  He is hard at work on his new novel, tentatively titled Love Like Rain, which foretells of an apocalyptic world where a handful of survivors fight for the last source of water.  (Intrigued?  Draft first chapter available here.)

Ken and I joined a large crowd in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall Plaza to hear Dr. Brittney Cooper, Daisy Hernández and Mychal Denzal Smith discuss “Intersectionality and Activism.”  Mr. Smith asked the audience: “After the Women’s March [on Washington], what will be the political program that we follow?”  Ms. Cooper explained how she is actively involved in the Black Lives Matter movement—she used humor and passion as tools to encourage the audience to act.  (Ms. Cooper’s newest book, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, will be available in February 2018.)

As I scanned the Brooklyn Book Festival program, I was proud that my employer, Brooklyn Law School, was a host site for free panels on topics ranging from big data to immigration to young adult fiction.  These Sunday afternoon programs were packed!  BLS President and Dean Nicholas Allard moderated the panel discussion: “Culture, Politics and the Supreme Court.”  You can view the recording of this discussion (and many others) through C-SPAN’s 2017 Brooklyn Book Festival Book TV.

The Festival’s Literary Marketplace showcased friendly authors and their recent works.  At Brooklyn Law School’s booth, I greeted authors/professors William Araiza (standing on the far right in the photo below) and Heidi K. Brown (standing next to Professor Araiza in the photo below).

BLS at Brooklyn Book Festival

Professor Araiza’s most recent book is: Animus: A Short Introduction to Bias in the Law (2017)He notes in the introduction: “Animus matters more than ever today. At a very practical level, animus has become one of the Supreme Court’s favorite tools when considering claims that a plaintiff’s equality rights have been violated.”  I encourage you to read this book to discover what the constitutional law concept of “animus” means today.  Professor Brown’s thoughtful new book is: The Introverted Lawyer: A Seven-Step Journey Toward Authentically Empowered Advocacy (2017).  Earlier in her career, Professor Brown had to address her own fear of public speaking while litigating.  Her work to conquer this fear inspired her book.  Come hear her book talk about The Introverted Lawyer on the evening of October 3, 2017.  Other notable featured titles by BLS faculty were: Dana Brakman Reiser & Steven A. Dean, Social Enterprise Law (2017); Christopher Beauchamp, Invented by Law: Alexander Graham Bell and the Patent That Changed America (2015); K. Sabeel Rahman, Democracy Against Domination (2016); and Nelson Tebbe, Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age (2017).

At “Refugee Reportage,” journalists Deborah Campbell and Lauren Wolfe explained the great value of a skilled “fixer” (= interpreter + guide + excellent source of contacts) to a foreign correspondent.  They noted that a good fixer, working with foreign journalists, places her or his life at risk.  When Ms. Campbell read from A Disappearance in Damascus, I, like, the audience, was spellbound.  What had happened to brave Ahlam, the Iraqi refugee in Damascus who provided so much help to Ms. Campbell in 2007?  I am eager to read this beautifully written book to find out.

Finally, I met volunteers from NYC Books Through Bars, which sends free, donated paperback books to people who are incarcerated in the U.S.  This group’s website describes how (and when) to donate books, as well as how to donate funds or packing supplies.

Conclusion: Well worth the trip, and I’ll be back next year!

Supreme Court 2017 October Term

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!  The list of cases the U.S. Supreme Court will hear in its 2017 October Term 2017 is now posted on SCOTUSblog.  SCOTUSblog is a great resource if you are researching any aspect of the Supreme Court or the opinions it issues.  The blog analyzes each merits case pending before the Court and posts breaking news of Court decisions. In fact, SCOTUSblog often posts Court decisions before the high court puts them on its own website. During session, links to audio clips of oral arguments are posted on SCOTUSblog as they become available. When you visit the blog, make sure to check out the other resources freely available there, such as “plain english” analysis of cases, videos, live blogging of oral arguments, and more.

Sexual Orientation and Title VII

There has been considerable commentary on the Justice Department’s filing of an amicus brief saying that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not cover employment “discrimination based on sexual orientation.” The DOJ filed the brief in the case of Donald Zarda, who filed suit against his former employer Altitude Express in a case that questions whether sexual orientation is included in Title VII’s protections. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Zarda was a skydiving instructor who said he was fired after disclosing his sexual orientation to a customer. He died in a skydiving accident before the case went to trial, and executors of his estate have continued the lawsuit on his behalf. The DOJ’s brief states “the sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination. It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts”. It concludes “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination because of sexual orientation.”

The question is, of course, not that simple and has been the subject of commentary for some time. See, for example, Sex and Sexual Orientation: Title VII after Macy v. Holder by Cody Perkins, 65 Administrative Law Review 427 (Spring 2013). This article examines the EEOC’s treatment of sexual orientation as somewhat convoluted. While there is binding precedent from the Commission that “Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination based on sex does not include sexual preference or sexual orientation”, it cites two decisions issued through the Office of Federal Operations indicating that discrimination based on sexual orientation is discrimination based on sex for Title VII purposes under a Hopkins sex stereotyping theory. See Veretto v. Donahoe, where the Office of Federal Operations found that discrimination against a man for marrying another man was a valid sex stereotyping claim, because it was discrimination based on the stereotype that “marrying a woman is an essential part of being a man,” and Castello v. Donahoe, where the Office of Federal Operations found that discrimination against a woman for being attracted to other women was a valid sex stereotyping claim under Title VII, because it was discrimination based on the stereotype that women should only be attracted to and have relationships with men. These decisions, while not binding on federal agencies, indicate that the EEOC intends to allow claims based on sexual orientation under a sex stereotyping theory under Title VII. While there may be no binding precedent from the EEOC stating that sexual orientation is covered under Tide VII, there is binding precedent regarding transgender people. In Macy v. Holder, the plaintiff, a police detective from Phoenix who was still presenting as a man had applied for and been given assurances that she would be hired for a position with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). After going through steps in the hiring process and being told repeatedly that she would be hired, Ms. Macy disclosed to ATF that she was in the process of transitioning from male to female and was informed that the position she had applied for was no longer available due to budget constraints. Upon further investigation, Ms. Macy learned that the position had in fact been offered to someone else and filed a formal Equal Employment Opportunity complaint with ATF, alleging discrimination in hiring based on sex. When the agency failed to identify her claim as sex discrimination, instead creating a separate claim of “discrimination based on gender identity,” Ms. Macy appealed her case to the EEOC. In a reversal of its previous position, the full Commission held that “discrimination based on gender identity, change of sex, and/or transgender status” is discrimination “because of sex” under Title VII. In making this determination, the EEOC utilized two important theories: a traditional “sex stereotyping” theory and a new “per se because of sex” theory, both based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Hopkins.

hivelyMore recently, In April 2017, the en banc Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overruled its own precedent and became the first Circuit to hold that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation can constitute unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. See Hively v. Ivy Tech. Cmty. College of Indiana, II, 853 F.3d 339, 351 (7th Cir. 2017) (overruling Hively v. Ivy Tech. Cmty. College of Indiana, I 830 F.3d 698, 709 (7th Cir. July 28, 2016).). All other Circuits that have addressed the issue have held sexual orientation is not protected under Title VII. The EEOC previously adopted the Controversiesposition in 2015 now taken by the Seventh Circuit. The Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts have held that Title VII protects employees who are discriminated against because they do not conform to the stereotype for their gender and this often may overlap with sexual orientation. For more on the subject, see Brooklyn Law School Library’s copy of Controversies in Equal Protection Cases in America: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation (Controversies in American Constitutional Law) by Anne Richardson Oakes (Call No. KF4755 .C664 2015).

Researching Legislative History?

Whether you are tracing a statute’s history for your summer internship or for a paper you are writing, you will want to use a new tool the library recently acquired, Proquest’s Legislative Insight.  Often researching legislative histories can be cumbersome and time consuming.   Legislative Insight promises to streamline the process by digitizing and by publishing online the majority of full text publications associated with a legislative history.  These documents include all versions of enacted and related bills, Congressional Record excerpts, and committee hearings, reports, and documents.  Legislative Insight also includes other related material such as committee prints, CRS reports and Presidential signing statements. Furthermore, Legislative Insight offers a research citation page that not only links to the full text of the associated primary source publications, but allows the user to do a Search Within from that very page that searches the full text of all the associated publications with one-click.

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

Seduction of a “Con” Virgin: BookCon 2017

Thousands of excited (often young) readers and accessible authors…literary cosplay…fans gathering to share their love of a series or genre—that’s BookCon, held at New York’s Javits Center this past weekend.

BookCon is many things.  For one long line of enthusiastic fans, it is a chance to meet Nicola Yoon, author of the YA fav Everything, Everything (precis: “girl in the plastic bubble” meets her Mr. Darcy).  For my husband Ken Davis, new author of Lifesavers (precis: lawyer caught in tragedy finds redemption through love), it is an opportunity to attend an IngramSpark showcase to help indie authors learn to effectively market their books.  For me, it is a chance to discover some compelling titles about social issues in America.

At my first stop on the show floor, Workman Publishing was featuring Why We March, an evocative pictorial history of the January 21st Women’s March in Washington.

One of my favorite images in the book above is the girl from Austin, Texas proudly displaying her hand-colored poster proclaiming: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-Damental RIGHTS.  I bought this book when the exhibitors explained that the royalties from my purchase would be donated to Planned Parenthood.

Next I had the great pleasure of meeting Rosemary Vestal of the University of Nebraska Press.  She brought to my attention the gem I’m currently reading: It’s My Country Too: Women’s Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan.

This anthology highlights the courage and sacrifices of women from Deborah Sampson Gannett (who donned a disguise and joined the Continental Army in 1782) to U.S. Army veteran Brooke King (who served as a mechanic, machine gunner and recovery specialist in Iraq beginning in 2006).  Ms. King’s essay on her experiences in Iraq is riveting and haunting.

At the Hachette Books display, Joanna Pinsker piqued my interest in two forthcoming titles: Kennedy and King: The President, the Pastor, and the Battle over Civil Rights (available on June 6, 2017) and Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives (forthcoming in October 2017).  I learned that Unseen will include a photo and story of the courageous and talented Arthur Ashe triumphing in a major tennis championship.

Shout out to the self-described “social justice/rights” author who exhibited on a corner of the “AM” section near the Family Headquarters–I wanted to visit your booth on Sunday afternoon but I had a program conflict.  Please send me a link to your author’s page.  I read indie books too!

I will end my reflections on my first Con by emphasizing the joy of the fans.  I saw it in the face of the teen plucked from the waiting line to receive the last available seat at Margaret Atwood’s panel.  (And if even one audience member who is moved by Hulu’s adaptation then chooses to read The Handmaid’s Tale, great!)  I saw it in the thrilled reaction of a child who lost BOOM! Studios’ drawing for a two-pound gummy bear but gained a copy of the graphic novel: The Not-So-Secret Society.  If you missed BookExpo/BookCon 2017, I hope to see you in my backyard at Brooklyn Book Festival (September 11-17, 2017).

Gerrymandering Resources at Brooklyn Law School Library

On May 22nd, the United States Supreme Court, in Cooper v. Harris, No. 15-1262, struck down two North Carolina congressional districts holding that race played too large a factor in drawing the districts’ borders.  Writing for the 5-3 majority, Justice Kagan said that a plaintiff challenging a voting district must prove that “race (not politics) was the ‘predominant consideration in deciding to place a significant number of voters within or without a particular district.’”  If you are interested in learning more about the constitutionality and history of gerrymandering, the library has several resources that can help. Listed below are a few of the more current sources on the topic.

Nicholas R. Seabrook, Drawing the Lines: Constraints on Partisan Gerrymandering in U.S. Politics (2017)

Radical redistricting plans, such as that pushed through by Texas governor Rick Perry in 2003, are frequently used for partisan purposes. Perry’s plan sent twenty-one Republicans (and only eleven Democrats) to Congress in the 2004 elections. Such heavy-handed tactics strike many as contrary to basic democratic principles. In Drawing the Lines, Nicholas R. Seabrook uses a combination of political science methods and legal studies insights to investigate the effects of redistricting on U.S. House elections. He concludes that partisan gerrymandering poses far less of a threat to democratic accountability than conventional wisdom would suggest.—From the publisher

Anthony McGann, ed., Gerrymandering in America: The House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and the Future of Popular Sovereignty (2016)

This book considers the causes and consequences of partisan gerrymandering in the U.S. House. The Supreme Court’s decision in Vieth v. Jubelirer (2004) made challenging a district plan on ground of partisan gerrymandering practically impossible. Through a rigorous scientific analysis of US House district maps, the authors argue that partisan bias increased dramatically in the 2010 redistricting round after the Vieth decision, both at the national and state level. From a constitutional perspective, unrestrained partisan gerrymandering poses a critical threat to a central pillar of American democracy — popular sovereignty. State legislatures now effectively determine the political composition of the US House. The book answers the Court’s challenge to find a new standard for gerrymandering that is both constitutionally grounded and legally manageable. It argues that the scientifically rigorous partisan symmetry measure is an appropriate legal standard for partisan gerrymandering, as it is a necessary condition of individual equality and can be practically applied.—From the publisher

Tinsley E. Yarbrough, Race and Redistricting: the Shaw-Cromartie Cases (2002)

Race and Redistricting spotlights efforts to “racially engineer” voting districts in an effort to achieve fair representation. By examining one state’s efforts to confront such dilemmas, it helps readers better understand future disputes over race and politics, as well as the ongoing debates over our “color-blind” constitution.—From the publisher

Marsha Jean Tyson Darling, ed., Race, Voting, and Redistricting and the Constitution: Sources and Explorations on the Fifteenth Amendment (2001)

This three-volume work includes chapters containing the text of primary sources, such as the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, the Civil Rights Acts, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and legislative documents pertaining to the passage of those laws.  Chapters also include scholarly commentary on Gerrymandering Hypocrisy: Supreme Court’s Double Standard, Making Sense Out of the Way We Should Vote, and the Case for Proportional Representation.