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2018 Commencement Speakers at NY Area Law Schools

Graduation season is here and Brooklyn Law School holds its 117th Commencement Ceremony today at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House. The commencement speaker was Hon. Dora L. Irizarry, Chief United States District Judge, Eastern District of New York. Appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004, Dora L. Irizarry is the first Hispanic District Judge to serve in the Eastern District of New York. On April 23, 2016, she became the first Hispanic Chief Judge of the Eastern District of New York, and the first Hispanic woman Chief Judge within the Second Circuit. Born in Puerto Rico, and raised in the South Bronx, she attended public schools, and graduated cum laude with honors and distinction in the major of Political Sociology from Yale University in 1976. In 1979, she graduated from Columbia Law School, where she was a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow, and joined the Bronx District Attorney’s Office Appeals Bureau. Assigned to the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office, she investigated and prosecuted some of the City’s largest complex narcotics cases. She also served in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, and as a special prosecutor in the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Commencement speakers at other area law schools this year are:

New York

  • Albany Law School – Hon.  Michael J. Garcia, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals
  • Buffalo Law School – Terrence M. Connors of Connors LLP
  • Cardozo School of Law — Hon. Patricia Millett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • Columbia Law School — Jeh Johnson, Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
  • CUNY School of Law — Paul Butler, former prosecutor and law professor of Georgetown University
  • Fordham University School of Law —Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
  • Hofstra School of Law — Ronan Farrow, Pulitzer Prize investigative journalist
  • New York Law School — Hon. Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court
  • New York University School of Law — Bryan Stevenson, NYU Law Professor and Equal Justice Initiative Executive Director
  • Pace University School of Law — Eric Gonzalez, Kings County District Attorney
  • St. John’s University School of Law — Hon. Preet Bharara, Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Syracuse University College of Law — Hon. Preet Bharara, Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Touro Law Center — Hon. Joseph Crowley, U.S. Representative, 14th District of New York
New Jersey
  • Rutgers University School of Law at Newark — Hon. Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey Attorney General
  • Seton Hall Law School — Hon. Jovita Carranza, U.S. Treasurer

Stuck in the Muck? Use BLS’s Research Guides to Succeed in Your Summer Internships

This Summer many of you will be challenged to research and write on unfamiliar legal issues. You want to impress your supervisors, but you do not know where to begin or how to best approach the problem.  The Brooklyn Law School Library’s research guides are a good place to start.  The resources in the guides are curated by librarians to specifically support the subject surveyed.   Listed below are a few guides that can help you tackle your assignments.  For the complete list of the 49 research guides, go to the url: guides.brooklaw.edu.

Also, do not forget to reach out to BLS librarians for additional help.  You can email us at askthelibrary@brooklaw.edu, call us at 718-780-7567, text us at 718-734-2432, or chat with us using a widget on the Library’s home page.  We are here all summer.

New York State Legislative History Research: This guide is intended to help researchers locate print and online sources for New York State Legislative History Research.

New York Civil Litigation Research Guide: This guide’s purpose is to aid practitioners and law students in researching New York civil practice.  The guide identifies key civil practice resources, and provides search tips and strategies.

New York Criminal Procedure Research Guide: This research guide is intended to provide users with links to a variety of resources on New York State and Federal Criminal Procedure.  These sources cover a wide range of topics.

Federal Legislative History Research Guide: This research guide is intended to help researchers locate print and online sources for Federal Legislative History.

Form Books: In print and online: This is a guide to form books in print and online in the BLS Library collection. Legal forms are templates that attorneys use in drafting documents specific to the needs of their clients or are forms required to be used by a court or governmental agency.  Forms are found online in various databases, and in print in collections of form books.

Intellectual Property Law Primer: This guide will help you research Intellectual Property law which includes Patents, Trademarks and Copyright.  It will focus on materials available in the Brooklyn Law School library, including books, journals, and databases, in print and electronic format.  Access to some of these materials may require your BLS user name and password, as well as Lexis or Westlaw ID and passwords.

Springtime comes to BLS

Tulips in front of the law school

Officially, the first day of spring fell on March 20 this year. This was news to those of us living in New York City. According to Accuweather, the high temperature in downtown Brooklyn on that day was a whopping 37° F (time perhaps for a pop quiz on de jure versus de facto?).

Enjoying coffee in the BLS Courtyard

 

 

 

It has taken a while, but spring has finally arrived in Brooklyn. Though we are in the midst of our exam period, BLS students are taking advantage of the good weather. Many of them can be seen out in the courtyard, discussing the intricacies of the UCC (the code, not the coffee) or regulatory takings and the Penn Central test.  Students may be grappling with the fruit of the poisonous tree, but at least they can enjoy the blooming flowers and greenery all around the law school. 

Downtown Brooklyn – Columbus Park

(Photographs courtesy of Jean Davis)

Greek May Day Celebrations

May 1st is International Labour Day and in Greece it is called ‘Protomagia’ (literally meaning the first day of May). It is an urban holiday when people traditionally go to the countryside for picnics, to fly kites and to gather wild flowers. On this day there many parades and other festivities throughout the country. It is a national holiday which means that everything is closed, with the exception of cafes and food venues.

The custom of Protomagia has its roots in ancient Greece as a celebration of spring, nature, and flowers. Flower wreaths, typically made from hand picked wild flowers, are hung on the doors of many homes in a way to welcome nature and all things good. Maios (May) the last month of Spring took its name from the Goddess Maja, a goddess who took her name from the ancient word Maia, the nurse and mother. May, according to Greek folklore, has two meanings: The good and the bad, rebirth and death. The custom celebrates the final victory of the summer against winter as the victory of the life against death go back to the ancient years and culminate at the first day of May. This day was also dedicated to the goddess of agriculture Dimitra and her daughter Persephone, who on this day emerges from the under world and comes to earth. Her coming to earth from Hades marks the blooming of nature and the birth of summer.

May 1st is International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day in some places, a celebration of laborers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labor movement, anarchists, socialists, and communists and occurs every year on the 1st of May. The date was chosen as International Workers’ Day by the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair, which occurred in Chicago on 4 May 1886. Being a traditional European spring celebration, May Day is a national public holiday in many countries, but in only some of those countries is it celebrated specifically as “Labour Day” or “International Workers’ Day”. The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the Floralia, festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, held April 27 during the Roman Republic era.

BLS Professor on Israel Supreme Court

Brooklyn Law School’s Professor Alex Stein gained appointment to the Israeli Supreme Court. Stein, a foremost expert on torts, medical malpractice, evidence, and general legal theory, was appointed along with Israeli District Court Judge Ofer Grosskopf to fill two open Supreme Court positions that were vacated by retiring justices. Stein’s nomination was unanimously approved by the Judicial Appointments Committee. There are 15 justices on the Israeli Supreme Court.

“Professor Stein is one of the world’s brilliant legal minds,” said Nick Allard, President and Dean of Brooklyn Law School. “In the short time he has been with us, he has made an enormous positive impact on the Brooklyn Law School community—as a teacher, a scholar, and a wonderfully energetic and engaged colleague and friend. We could not be prouder of his well-deserved appointment to the Israeli Supreme Court, where we know he will make important and lasting contributions as a jurist—as he has as a law professor and practicing lawyer.”

Born and raised in the former Soviet Union, Stein immigrated with his parents to Israel, where he finished high school, served in the military, and studied law. Following his marriage, he has lived in the United States for the last 14 years and joined the Law School faculty in 2016. While in the United States, he continued his involvement in the Israeli legal academy and practice. Stein has been recognized as one of the most highly cited scholars in the field of Evidence. His books include An Analytical Approach to Evidence: Text, Cases and Problems, (Call Number KF8935 .A83 2016). The book is a problem-based Evidence casebook that presents the Federal Rules of Evidence in context, illuminates the rules, and provides a fully updated and systematic account of the law. Lively discussion and interesting problems (rather than numerous appellate case excerpts) engage students in understanding the principles, policies, and debates that surround evidence law. He received his law degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his Ph.D. from the University of London.

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!