Friday, August 31, 2007

Farewell to Summer

Click on the title above to visit NPR for an audio tour of musical farewells to summer. The survey spans Beachboy pop to classical music to modern ballads from Sinatra to Stevie Wonder.

As we enjoy the last weekend of summer, consider the turning of the year. Summer seems to stand for freedom, youth, fun, while the autumn often implies aging, the end of youth and imposition of responsibilities of adulthood.

I have actually always loved the autumn. And working in a law school, the fall is New Years! Have a happy weekend.

The illustration is the cover of Ray Bradbury's new book, Farewell to Summer.

How sophisticated the phishers have become!

Click on the title above to read an excellent article by Hiawatha Bray in the Boston Globe about the theft of e-mail addresses from for "spear phishing." This is targeted e-mails, to the users of, which will look as though they came from Monster. The recipients will be more likely to follow directions in these scam mails, since they used Monster in employment searches. Watch out!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bar Glitch in New York

Apparently there was a glitch during the July New York bar exam--what a nightmare for the candidates! The story follows.

"Son of a Glitch!: Hundreds of NY Bar Exam Takers May Have Had Essay Answers Fouled Up by Software

New York Lawyer
August 30, 2007
Reprints & Permissions

By Joel Stashenko
New York Law Journal

The state Board of Law Examiners and Software Secure Inc., the company the board hired to provide software to take the bar exam, appear to have incomplete essays from about 400 people who sat for July's exam.

The company and the board are both notifying the test takers this week via e-mail that they should e-mail backup data to Software Secure, board Executive Director John J. McAlary said yesterday. Six essay questions were part of the New York phase of the two-day exam.

Mr. McAlary said in an interview that one or more of the essays might be missing for the 400 exam takers. In some cases, it is not clear whether the answers Software Secure has are complete, he said.

"They may have an essay that appears incomplete, and that may be because someone just ran out of time on that part of the exam," he said.

Backup data saved through the software will provide a minute-by-minute accounting of students' work on the timed exam and a clearer picture if essays are complete, according to Mr. McAlary. The backup data would also provide answers that may have appeared to have been overwritten on the software, he said.

Test takers began complaining of problems with the Cambridge, Mass.-based Software Secure program starting on July 24, the first day of the exam. Software Secure later determined that the software malfunctioned on some laptops when students toggled between answer tabs on their screens. The Board of Law Examiners said backups in the software should have saved all the work students did on their laptop, but they will not know for sure until all students' answers are printed out and studied by the board.

It is too early to tell if the software problems will cause a delay in grading the July test, which is scheduled to be completed in mid-November, the board said.

Just under 5,000 - or about half of - July's test takers used a laptop."

Blog for Justice Day -- Jena Six

A group of bloggers have agreed that today is Blog for Justice Day. This is focusing on the Jena Six (see blog post here at OOTJ). The incredible miscarriage of justice, the inequitable sentences given black teenagers in that small town are outrageous, and must be condemned and (we hope!) changed. But I see a larger and very troubling trend. While on the surface, we have all got that equality race relations song down pat, there are definitely troubling harmonics going on down deep.

Racism is a cancer that was written into our country's legal foundations -- through an agreement between the founding fathers to reconcile slavery in order to gain the slave states' acceptance of the union. Slavery was a fact of life in many parts of the world through history. But the Greeks and Romans were upfront about the fact that they took a human being otherwise like themselves and pressed that person into involuntary servitude. They might have been captured in battles, sold for debts. But there was never a comment that the slave was less human than the master -- in fact Romans valued literate Greek slaves as tutors for their children and secretaries for themselves. But in the Christian world, where our Bible proclaims that Christ is the same for slave or freeman, owners felt the need to rationalize their slaveholding by building a fiction that Indians and black African were somehow less human than white Europeans and Americans. How bitterly ironic that the roots of racism against people of color are in their ancestors' slavery.

Anybody with eyes to see and ears to hear knows that racism is a continuing problem in the US. For a number of years, it was "out of style" to say racist things or make jokes based on race or ethnicity. But there seems to be a backlash going on against "political correctness." This framing of the issue seems to be code speak for let's share blatantly all the secret biases and racism we all know we share. I know it does not go away if we stop people being blatant about it -- but it does create a real pressure that it's not acceptable behavior. A large plurality of people will be swayed and changed by either hearing racist statements allowed as acceptable behavior or condemned as rude, out-of-bounds bad behavior. It's hard for white people to full understand the damage caused by allowing racism to go unchallenged. Here is a nice quote from the (white) columnist:

At its core, racism is a judgment imposed on people based not on their merits as individuals but on their membership in a racial group. That's why many black people cringe when another black person is cast in a bad light. They understand that for some, one person's failure will become evidence of the group's failings.

I think it's hard for white people to place ourselves in that position. You can draw analogies — a postal worker might cringe when a story breaks about some mail sorter out in California "going postal" on co-workers with a shotgun — but racial identity cuts deeper than mere occupation.

Link to editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. Author Jay Bookman muses on the secretive nature of continuing racism.

Link to Dinesh D'Souza's analysis of types of racism and bigotry.

Link to Human Rights Watch notes on racism in the U.S.

Follow the link in the title to the central organizer for Blog for Justice Day. And follow the links I give here in the text. But consider this: until you can truly walk in the shoes of another, it may be impossible to imagine the effects of racism and bigotry in the world. If you have friends of color, ask them about their experiences of racism. Ask them what Jena means to them.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On the Anniversary of Katrina: Voices from New Orleans

From Amy Hale-Janeke, at the %th Circuit in New Orleans:

Thanks to all of you who have sent encouraging words to us here on Katrina's anniversary. There are a lot of memorials going on around the city despite pouring rain. Throughout the area there is bell-ringing, wreath-laying, secular and religious services.

It is raining heavily outside right now. During lunch, I dashed across the street to a local eatery. As I stood in line, I heard one lady say, "See? Even the sky is crying today." I thought about that statement as I ate my sandwich. There is cause for crying- the very-preventable breaking of the levies, the tragedy and suffering at the Superdome, the loss of lives, houses, businesses and even whole neighborhoods. Some things can come back (and are) and some things aren't. Some people are coming back and some never will.

But there is also cause for hope! The hope comes from individuals who make up our nation. Individuals who donate time, money, and sometimes just give someone a hug when despair overwhelms them. In fact, as I drove into work this morning, I listened to an NPR story about who is really doing the rebuilding. Mainly, it's Habitat for Humanity. In fact, the story said Habitat has built more homes than anyone else, including the gov't. They are building something like 57 a month. The story is here:

There was also a long story in last Sunday's paper about the New Orleans Public Library and its determination to rebuild and how individuals and non-profits are helping out. Check it out at:

For those of you who wrote to ask what you can do to continue to help, consider making a donation today to either:
the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library
Habitat for Humanity New Orleans Area Chapter

And now....back to your regularly scheduled programming....

Amy Hale-Janeke, JD MLS
Head of Reference Services
5th Circuit Court of Appeals Library
New Orleans Headquarters
600 Camp Street, Room 106
New Orleans, LA 70130

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Jena Six: Race Relations in Louisiana

Click on the title to this post. You will link to the online student newspaper at Howard University. The story is about racially motivated attacks involving high school students in Jena, Louisiana. What is even more troubling is the involvement of the local DA, judge and all-white jury in unjust treatment of the involved teens, according to their race. From the May, 2007 BBC World report:

It all began at Jena High School last summer when a black student, Kenneth Purvis, asked the school's principal whether he was permitted to sit under the shade of the school courtyard tree, a place traditionally reserved for white students only. He was told he could sit where he liked.

The following morning, when the students arrived at school, they found three nooses dangling from the tree.

Most whites in Jena dismissed it as a tasteless prank, but the minority black community identified the gesture as something far more vicious.

"It meant the KKK, it meant 'niggers we're going to kill you, we're gonna hang you 'til you die'," said Caseptla Bailey, one of the black community leaders.

Old racial fault lines in Jena began to fracture the town. It was made worse when - despite the school head recommending the noose-hangers be expelled - the board overruled him and the three white student perpetrators merely received a slap on the wrist. (snip)
The Washington Post reported on Aug. 3, 2007:
A few weeks after the nooses were discovered in September, an arsonist torched a wing of Jena High School. Race fights roiled the town for days, culminating in a schoolyard brawl that led the LaSalle Parish district attorney to charge six black teenagers with attempted murder for beating up a white teenager who suffered no life-threatening injuries.

Mychal Bell, the first of the six to be tried, is scheduled to be sentenced in September. He was convicted in July by an all-white jury on reduced charges of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit it. Like his co-defendants -- Robert Bailey, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Theodore Shaw and Jesse Beard -- Bell had no prior criminal record.

He faces up to 22 years in prison, and civil rights advocates say the reduced charges were still excessive and did not fit the crime. "Can they really do this to me?" Bell asked recently, sitting in his jail cell looking frightened and numb.

The white teenager who was beaten, Justin Barker, 17, was knocked out but walked out of a hospital after two hours of treatment for a concussion and an eye that was swollen shut. He attended a ring ceremony later that night.

District Attorney Reed Walters said in December that his decision to prosecute the black teenagers to the full extent of the law had nothing to do with race. He would not comment further on the case while it is pending
The Jena Six are six black high school students facing "prosecution to the full extent of the law." Read the full Post article, linked below for a troubling list of over-zealous prosecution of black youths across the country. Are we developing a separate system of justice for blacks and another for whites? There is a petition to the Department of Justice here

and a fund to support the defense of the Jena Six

You can read more at other sites, in case you'd like verification of the story:

Democracy Now, a daily radio and TV news show with video clips.

Whileseated, a blog with excellent links and photos, video segments here, too.

Editorial from the Seattle Post Intelligencer.


Washington Post

To illustrate why the nooses that began this mess were seen differently by blacks and whites in Jena, I include a photo of a lynching from 1930, Marion, Indiana, at - 100 photos that changed the world.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Steven Pinker on Dangerous Ideas

Click on the title to this post to read an essay by Steven Pinker in the Chicago Sun Times, "In Defense of Dangerous Ideas." While Steven Pinker lists a bunch of heretical statements that can certainly raise your blood pressure, his central thesis is that we should not be afraid to contemplate dangerous ideas, and that parameters of dangerous ideas change over time. Here is a snippet:

What makes an idea "dangerous"? One factor is an imaginable train of events in which acceptance of the idea could lead to an outcome recognized as harmful. In religious societies, the fear is that if people ever stopped believing in the literal truth of the Bible they would also stop
believing in the authority of its moral commandments. That is, if today people dismiss the part about God creating the Earth in six days, tomorrow they'll dismiss the part about "Thou shalt not kill." In progressive circles, the fear is that if people ever were to acknowledge any differences between races, sexes or individuals, they would feel justified in discrimination or oppression. Other dangerous ideas set off fears that people will neglect or abuse their children, become indifferent to the environment, devalue human life, accept violence and prematurely resign themselves to social problems that could be solved with sufficient commitment and optimism.

All these outcomes, needless to say, would be deplorable. But none of them actually follows from the supposedly dangerous idea. Even if it turns out, for instance, that groups of people are different in their averages, the overlap is certainly so great that it would be irrational and unfair to discriminate against individuals on that basis. Likewise, even if it turns out that parents don't have the power to shape their children's personalities, it would be wrong on grounds of simple human decency to abuse or neglect one's children. And if currently popular ideas about how to improve the environment are shown to be ineffective, it only highlights the need to know what would be effective. Another contributor to the perception of dangerousness is the intellectual blinkers that humans tend to don when they split into factions. people have a nasty habit of clustering in coalitions, professing certain beliefs as badges of their commitment to the coalition and treating rival coalitions as intellectually unfit and morally depraved. (snip)

New ideas, nuanced ideas, hybrid ideas -- and sometimes dangerous ideas -- often have trouble getting a hearing against these group-bonding convictions. The conviction that honest opinions can be dangerous may even arise from a feature of human nature. Philip Tetlock and Alan Fiske have argued that certain human relationships are constituted on a basis of unshakeable convictions. We love our children and parents, are faithful to our spouses, stand by our friends, contribute to our communities, and are loyal to our coalitions not because we continually question and evaluate the merits of these commitments but because we feel them in our bones. A person who spends too much time pondering whether logic and fact really justify a commitment to one of these relationships is seen as just not "getting it." Decent people don't carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of selling their children or selling out their friends or their spouses or their colleagues or their country. They reject these possibilities outright; they "don't go there." So the taboo on questioning sacred values make sense in the context of personal relationships. It makes far less sense in the context of discovering how the world works or running a country.
Explore all relevant ideas
Should we treat some ideas as dangerous? Let's exclude outright lies, deceptive propaganda, incendiary conspiracy theories from malevolent crackpots and technological recipes for wanton destruction. Consider only ideas about the truth of empirical claims or the effectiveness of policies that, if they turned out to be true, would require a significant rethinking of our moral sensibilities. And consider ideas that, if they turn out to be false, could lead to harm if people believed them to be true. In either case, we don't know whether they are true or false a priori , so only by examining and debating them can we find out. Finally, let's assume that we're not talking about burning people at the stake or cutting out their tongues but about discouraging their research and giving their ideas as little publicity as possible.
Wow! Even that last statement is a controversial one in library circles. My first published article (Librarians and the New Censorship, 7 Public Library Quarterly 23, Spring/Summer 1986. Reprinted in Alternative Library Literature, 1988 (feminist theory of pornography as civil rights violation)) considered the possibility that librarians might have a moral obligation to not collect certain types of material that damage disadvantaged groups -- rather than purchase materials on both sides of issues. That was enough to seem incendiary in public library circles, apparently.

It's easy to come up with "dangerous ideas" that have lost their punch with time: slavery, women's inability to work or play sports, the sun at the center of the solar system. I suppose other ideas that seem dangerous now are easy to come up with, too --Pinker's essay lists a bunch. As Pinker indicates, test may be whether the ideas lead to political action or to wrong or unethical action if carried to an extreme. I do like the idea of trying to separate the controversial but testable root from the dangerous fruit. I suppose the foundation of this blog as a debate over the speed and completeness of moving libraries from print to digital is a good example of dangerous ideas that should be explored, but might also lead to dangerous actions if misunderstood or carried to extremes.Pinker's essay also considers the dangerousness of dangerous ideas:
We know that the world is full of malevolent and callous people who will use any pretext to justify their bigotry or destructiveness. We must expect that they will seize on the broaching of a topic that seems in sympathy with their beliefs as a vindication of their agenda. Not only can the imprimatur of scientific debate add legitimacy to toxic ideas, but the mere act of making an idea common knowledge can change its effects. Individuals, for instance, may harbor a private opinion on differences between genders or among ethnic groups but keep it to themselves because of its opprobrium. But once the opinion is aired in public, they may be emboldened to act on their prejudice -- not just because it has been publicly ratified but because they must anticipate that everyone else will act on the information. Some people, for example, might discriminate against the members of an ethnic group despite having no pejorative opinion about them, in the expectation that their customers or colleagues will have such opinions and that defying them would be costly. And then there are the effects of these debates on the confidence of the members of the stigmatized groups themselves.

Of course, academics can warn against these abuses, but the qualifications and nitpicking they do for a living may not catch up with the simpler formulations that run on swifter legs. Even if they did, their qualifications might be lost on the masses.
Pinker ends his excellent and thought-provoking essay with a call to universities to do a better job of encouraging debate on dangerous ideas and to fight against political suppression of inconvenient facts (as with the climate debate). Librarians are at the center of the struggle to test truth and protect it from suppression. We need to think hard about Pinker's dangerous ideas.

Adios, Alberto

Controversial Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned. Click on the title to read on CNN online.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

So what party do you throw?

When your lawyer loses his license?

A disbar mitzvah.

Sorry I couldn't resist. Tip of the hat to Cox & Rathvon, Boston Globe Sunday Crossword.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Virtual worlds modeling social theories

Click on the title to this post to read a Boston Globe article about scientists studying two plagues in two separate virtual worlds. Creators of The World of Warcraft intentionally created a virus to infect players who got to a high level to reduce their ability to beat a major character. But the players carried the disease around the World of Warcraft and unintentionally modeled a plague, called Corrupted Blood. In another world, Whyville, players were recruited for an experiment. In both cases, scientists learned from watching the avatars' responses. Now a social scientist at Indiana U. is planning to launch a virtual world with the purpose of modeling social science and political science theories.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Faculty/Student Romances

In the Aug. 17, 2007 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, p. A8, A10, Robin Wilson interviews Prof. Paul Abramson about his new book from MIT Press Romance and the Ivory Tower . Prof.Abramson asserts in his book that the Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects a (presumably) penumbral right to romance between faculty and students. That amendment is a handy one,

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Our university began working last year to re-write and create a university-wide policy on sexual harassment which includes banning relationships between faculty and any current student. This is a subject about which I actually feel pretty strongly. When I was a law student, way, way back in time and far, far away, there were persistent rumors that certain of my female colleagues improved their grades through liaisons with certain faculty members. I really could care less if they wanted to do such a thing, EXCEPT, that these rumors damaged the entire community in several ways.

First, there was the damage to the students' perception of fairness and anonymity in grading. Students worried that their professors set them on a curve that was warped by these grade inflationary affairs, and they worried that the faculty could breach the security of the exam number system. And even if the professor never has the lover-student in class, there is a perception that faculty colleagues could be pressured to offer better grades. These are not good things for law students to believe. It's very corrosive to the school's atmosphere.

Second, there was the damage to the women about whom these rumors swirled. If they were not, in fact, having affairs with their professors, how unfair to be branded! And if they were having an affair, any grade they received was automatically tainted in the minds of their colleagues. I don't know if these rumors followed the women when they went looking for jobs, but if so, how damaging! Both their grades and their reputations would have been shredded, not just in law school, but also in the job market and the surprisingly small world of law practice.

And lastly, all the professors were somehow tarred by the rumors. If Prof. X could be "bought" with a quickie, who could say that Prof. Y was not similarly bribe able? I think the issue of faculty/student romance should focus on the destructive effects it has on the community, let alone the potential for damage to the individuals.

And there is certainly a strong argument for banning it on the grounds of potential for sexual harassment. Whenever there is a power differential between one lover and the other, there is such potential for pressure. The fear to break up with or even to turn down, a professor who moves on a student would make it very hard on the "junior partner" in the affair. A student would have to worry about retaliation if they wanted to refuse a professor's advance or break off the affair. A student even
rumored to be having an affair with a faculty member is also isolated from student colleagues. Perceived to have an unfair advantage, to be cheating and possibly to have low morals or poor ethics, the student lover is going to be hated by all the other students. If you really love the individual, take care of their interests by waiting until after graduation!

So, I hope we can move forward with a strong and clear rule that no faculty should ever have a romantic relationship with a current student. The issue is ticklish and must be carefully presented to the faculty. Many of my colleagues have married former students. I don't know any details because all this was before my time. But I think we need to present this as a matter of times changing and the school has to change with it. Without pointing any fingers at past relationships, I hope we can move forward with a clear rule about an important issue.

So, Prof. Abramson, I think the answer to your argument is that, while there may be individual rights to associate and love whom you please, there are strong reasons for the University or school to make a rule in the interest of the community. Let them pick up a relationship after graduation.

See Prof. Abramson's blog entry here, and Chronicle blog entry here. Find the book at Amazon here.

A little Friday Lightness

A friend shared this joke with me, and I was able to locate it online at

Microsoft vs. GM

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 1000 mi/gal."

Recently General Motors addressed this comment by releasing the statement, "Yes, but would you want your car to crash twice a day?"


1. Every time they repainted the lines on the road you would have to buy a new car.

2. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason, and you would just accept this, restart and drive on.

3. Occasionally, executing a maneuver would cause your car to stop and fail and you would have to re-install the engine. For some strange reason, you would accept this too.

4. You could only have one person in the car at a time, unless you bought "Car95" or "CarNT". But, then you would have to buy more seats.

5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast, twice as easy to drive, but would only run on five percent of the roads.

6. The Macintosh car owners would get expensive Microsoft upgrades to their cars, which would make their cars run much slower.

7. The oil, gas and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single "general car default" warning light.

8. New seats would force everyone to have the same size butt.

9. The airbag system would say, "Are you sure?" before going off.

Judge fight in Las Vegas

I couldn't stop reading the article linked in the title above, about 2 judges in Las Vegas suing each other (and a whole passel of other suits against one of them). wow!

Lawyer Outsourcing

It's here, already, according to the ABA Journal. Click on the title above to read about firms outsourcing routine work to India, or middle parts of the U.S. with lower costs of living and therefore lower attorney fees.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sacco and Vanzetti

Today is the eightieth anniversary of the execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. The New York Times has published Andrea Camilleri's essay on the way that this execution, like the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, has lingered in our consciousness. Camilleri posits that this may be because "as with the Kennedy brothers, we still have difficulty accepting the reasons, or lack thereof, for their deaths." Last year, a new documentary film directed by Peter Miller was released. We added it to our Law in Film collection, and I can report that it is a compelling portrayal of the infamous trial and the prejudice against immigrants that was rampant at that time. It is hard to imagine now, when Italian-Americans have ascended to the highest echelons of American public life, that there was a time when prejudice against them was widespread and profound.

The memory of the execution is even more acute in Italy, where every year on this day, at least one Italian newspaper runs an article on the case. In Italy, there has been a play written about the case, a 1971 film, an RAI television production, and an Internet site with an active discussion list.

For those who want more information about the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, a good resource is the Famous Trials website, a project of Professor Douglas O. Linder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. The homepage of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial links to Professor Linder's account of the case, biographies of the major players, the trial transcript, a summary of the evidence, statements at sentencing, the court decisions, Sacco and Vanzetti's letters from prison, images, FBI files, and a bibliography.

New ABA Pres says he'll work to teach Rule of Law: Can he teach Bush?

The Washington Post has an article on a manual the Bush administration developed in 2002 on controlling crowds and negating dissenters posted here. The ACLU got this manual by subpoena in the case I mentioned a few days ago where the couple wearing anti-Bush T-shirts were escorted away from a presidential speech. Here is the ACLU release about their work on the case.

New ABA President William H. Neukom issued what he calls the World Justice Project here. He plans to export the idea of the Rule of Law to other countries. I'm afraid he needs to do a lot of spade work here, first! President Neukom defines the Rule of Law:

I. A system of self-government in which all persons, including the government, are accountable under the law;

II. A system based on fair, publicized, broadly understood and stable laws;

III. A robust and accessible process in which rights and responsibilities based in law are enforced impartially, and

IV. Diverse, competent, independent and ethical lawyers and judges.
I believe in his project's aims with all my heart. I just wish our administration did! Lotsa luck, Mr. Neukom! You've got to clean our own house first! Oops! They forgot the First Amendment.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What brought you to law librarianship?

I'm always fascinated by how different people came to this little niche profession. Did you become a librarian first and a law librarian second? Or did you enter law first, and then add librarianship?

I think it probably matters which you came to first, if only because it shows an initial attraction to one or the other sides of our two-headed profession.

There is librarianship, which is so oriented to helping people, and valuing information as a tool to power and equality. I loved the story Marie posted, for instance, about the Queens public library being so busy. When you read the original NY Times article, you see that besides catering to a hugely diverse, multi-lingual patron base, the library is offering an antidote to Know-Nothing anti-immigrant bias, with a Teach Them Something class, intro to citizenship and ESL aid. That is so librarian! Librarianship has nearly always displayed this social activism through books and information access.

Then, there are those of us who came through the door of Law first, to reach the intersection of Law and Librarianship. I will shamefacedly admit that I entered law school partly because I didn't know what else to do with myself, and it sounded so professional (but much shorter and less messy than medicine or dentistry!). But I became more and more drawn to the ideals of justice and equity in law. Imagine, then, my joy, at finding such a marvelous expression of justice and fairness, equality and social activism in a more nurturing role -- Law Librarianship!

There are all those other perks that make the profession so nice: dress down, lower stress (at least most days), flexible hours, constant learning, and real collaboration with fascinating colleagues around the world. But I think what really lured me here in the first place was the social activism, working for justice in some low key venue. And it's so pink!

Why is the US military covering up PFC LaVena Johnson's death?

Click on the title to this post to link to a web page about PFC LaVena Johnson, late of the St. Louis area. You may also want to link herre for handy contact info for various Senators and Representatives on the Armed Services Committees in Congress. And here is a YouTube presentation of a news report from St. Louis news channel 4 about the mystery. The young woman appears to have been sexually molested, and then murdered to keep her from speaking out -- and now the military will not investigate.

Thanks to Grace Mills for alerting OOTJ to this story, so similar to the cover-up of football Cardinal Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire. Since LaVena was not a celebrity soldier, and was, in fact, a woman of color, I suppose a great deal more pressure will be required to bring justice in this case. She died in 2005, and her family was notified that she was a suicide, despite injuries to her body consistent with a struggle, and the fact that somebody tried to burn her corpse. Also, her parents and commanding officer agree that she was not depressed and was, in fact, happy close to the day of her death. Her debit card also disappeared at the time of her death. Hmmm, I guess this sort of thing seems open and shut to the military.

Slate on the Dems' buyer's remorse over the Wiretap bill they authorized

The Slate magazine article linked in the title to this post has handy links to articles from the New York Times, The Washington Post, and more. But the article is a nice description of why I'm pissed at the Democrats. They have the least popular President in history, and nice juicy scandals over Republicans breaching civil liberties left and right, and they still don't have the cojones to stand up and refuse to sign a bill giving away more of my civil rights. What jerks.

CNN story on the Real ID Act and problems looming

Click on the title to this post to read a CNN story about the Real ID Act, with helpful links to in-depth stories related. The act is set to go into effect in 2008, and will require states to issue a standardized type of ID, which will be required for citizens to fly, to visit federal buildings and even national parks. If you state does not issue you a compliant ID by 2008 (states can request an extension of time to 2013), you will have to use a passport to enter any of these federally controlled spaces. And with the long delays getting passports right now, you had better apply now, if you don't have one!

ACLU forcing FISA court to reveal orders

Click on the title to this post to go to an ACLU press release about the court order they got requiring the FISC to reveal orders by August 31. See the order and more primary materials here at the ACLU web page on spying. FISA is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and FISC is the court established to oversee the actions -- rather than having the FBI or CIA go to a regular judge for a warrant.

Monday, August 20, 2007

WikiScanner checks who's editing Wikipedia

Click on the title to this post to read a Washington Post article about Virgil Griffith, creator of WikiScanner, a program to identify the IP addresses of editors to Wikipedia articles. I was originally alerted to this story by a LawLib post, referring to the Sydney Morning Herald story about WikiScanner. You can access WikiScanner directly at Interesting to see who's editing and what they are saying. Most editing seems to be minor correction and enlarging articles in a responsible way, but political figures, corporate competitors and news organizations can't seem to resist the temptation to make themselves look better or poke competitors in the eye. A carnival of human nature!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Oops! We forgot about the First Amendment!

Follow the link in the title to read about a Texas couple who were led away in handcuffs and jailed after they wore anti-Bush t-shirts to a rally at Austin where the prez spoke. They just settled a lawsuit against the feds for $80,000. Good ol' ACLU.

Kudos to Queens

Anyone who thinks that libraries aren't relevant in the Internet age should read this article about the Queens (New York) Public Library. Members of the public are waiting in line for the library to open when the staff arrives in the morning!

Working Mother mag rates law firms as employers

Click on the title to this post to reach an ABA magazine article about Working Mother magazine ranking the top 50 law firms as woman-friendly workplaces. Here is a direct link to the full article in Working Mother. They list the firms in alpha order. Gotta see if your firm's there -- well, if you work for a large firm. They don't go to the boutique and small firm world. I'm not sure it's a hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism. I looked at Mintz, Levin, from here in Boston, and find this entry:

Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo
Boston, MA

Corporate, health sciences, intellectual property and litigation services

Partners Equity 71 Nonequity 135

Percentage of female partners
Equity 11% Nonequity 21%
followed by a little quote from the firm and their logo. Take a look at their explanation of their "methodology:"
The Best Law Firms for Women application, based on the Working Mother 100 Best Companies application, was developed with Flex-Time Lawyers LLC, a national consulting firm that advises attorneys and legal employers on work/life balance and retaining and promoting women. It included questions about issues important to the retention and promotion of female lawyers. We selected the 50 winning firms based on their responses to this extensive application.

What's Measured A law firm's workforce profile, benefits and compensation, parental leave, child care, flexibility and retention/advancement of women.

This Year's Winners These law firms have the best practices of retaining and promoting women lawyers, based on 2006 data. NetX Inc., a Columbus, NJ-based independent survey research company, tabulated scores and assisted with validating the applications for completeness.

Making the List All applicants were given feedback on how they scored compared to other applicants.

The names of the firms not selected for the list have been kept confidential.
Did you understand that the firms listed apply? Well, at least it's some way of measuring law firms' promotion of women. There are comments on the page explaining their methodology, and at least one reader says they should have surveyed the women lawyers for a better picture. Yeah, I'd say that would be more helpful to people trying to decide where to apply... Or if they want to be a practicing lawyer at all, or find out what would life be like as a woman lawyer.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The House of the Law

When I was a young woman
I moved into the house of the Law.
I dwelt there as a
Stranger living in a strange land.
Harsh it was,
All rectangles with ruler-straight
Lines. Clinically sterile it seemed.
Under glaring lights of Reason,
I divorced emotion,
Amputated my senses.

Now, I have made for myself
A small mouse’s nest
Beneath a cornice
In the grand house of the Law.
Comfortably curving
Walls that hold
The trembling soul
Like a bird held
In a gentle hand.

Dear OOTJ readers, this poem tries to explain the emotional landscape I found practicing law and now being a law librarian. There were certainly things I enjoyed about practice. But I did feel like a stranger in a strange land. Looking back at law school, I see a large part of the education for me was trying to learn to divorce my emotions, and become a more purely rational creature (rather like Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek series, I suppose). I do not mean to imply that this is the experience of all lawyers or law students, but I do wonder if others felt the same pressure to fit a mold left from earlier centuries when law was a purely masculine enterprise.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Supreme Court Coloring & Activity Book

Click on the title to this post to reach the ABA (!) site offering this collectible gem! Something to match your Supreme Court bobble heads from the Green Bag link! Crayons included (they don't specify the quality, though).

Parsing Hypocrisy, by Steven Landsburg from Slate

Click on the title to this post to read an entertaining and thought-provoking analysis of hypocrisy at Slate Magazine. Learn to distinguish cold-hearted self-interest from true hypocrisy, the economists' way!

China using ID cards to track people

C/net reports:

Starting this month in a port neighborhood and then spreading across Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens.

Data on the chip will include not just the citizen's name and address but also work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and landlord's phone number. Even personal reproductive history will be included, for enforcement of China's controversial "one child" policy. Plans are being studied to add credit histories, subway travel payments and small purchases charged to the card.
Evidently all large cities in PRC will be moving forward with similar people-tracking. A permanent ID card will be required for residency, for government benefits. Shenzen the pilot city is near Hong Kong. Evidently, the policy is becoming more acceptable to the Chinese populace as their fears of terrorism are rising. MMM-HM, sounds like the way our own government has manipulated the public through fear to accept all sorts of government intrusiveness. The story, linked in the title to this post, also discusses the use of security cameras, in China, but also mentions those in NYC and London.

I have never had much sympathy for the die-hard advocates of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. But I feel myself drifting further into the government-mistrusting, wacko fringe with every news story!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Aging Eyes

I certainly sympathized with the New York Times article by Katie Hafner on the fading vision of the baby boomer generation. By the time we turn forty, our eyes no longer take in as much light as they did before, and the lens loses its flexibility. These two changes lead to blurred vision. By the time we turn fifty, many of us are turning to reading glasses for help deciphering menus, labels on medicine bottles, maps, schedules, etc. There is now a growing market for reading glasses, with an especially great demand for the chic variety (not the kind you find in CVS!) to coordinate with your other designer gear.

The bane of many boomers' existence is cell phones, which, according to Professor Paul Nini of Ohio State University, a student of typefaces, are designed for people in their teens or twenties. "On most mobile phones, the text on the screen is not merely small; it is set against a busy background with a dull contrast." This is not a problem for the young, but can be a real impediment to the rest of the population.

Katie Hafner's articles are always well researched. This one is no exception. She quotes Professor Charles Bigelow of the Rochester Institute of Technology, whose specialty is typography. Professor Bigelow states that "small print is not a new problem." "'The shapes of the letters in fonts such as Times Roman all derive from a set of complaints lodged by 14th-century scholars who wanted to read late in life...It is reasonable to say the failing vision of the great Renaissance writers Petrarch and Boccaccio, and their followers, are what led to the shapes of our modern typefaces.'" Professor Bigelow has also observed that cheaper clothing, usually bought by younger customers, usually has labels with tiny type, whereas more expensive clothing, usually bought by more mature, and, presumably, more affluent customers, tends to have labels with larger type.

Large-print books are also changing to meet the demands of the baby boomers. Instead of the format to which we are accustomed, large-print books are starting to resemble regular books. They now have opaque ultrathin pages, making them less bulky, and a lot of the stigma attached to reading large-print books is disappearing as the book becomes more attractive as an object.

Thanks to Alice Pidgeon, Head of Technical Services at Pace Law Library, for pointing out this article to me. Alice's son is a student at Rochester Institute of Technology.

A Victory for Open-Source Software

The New York Times reports a decision in SCO v. Novell. Judge Dale A. Kimball ruled on August 10 that Novell is the "rightful owner of the copyrights covering the Unix operating system." According to Judge Kimball, Novell could make SCO abandon its claims against the I.B.M. Corporation. SCO had claimed that "I.B.M. had violated a contract by copying code from the Unix operating system to Linux, an open-source operating system that is distributed free and that I.B.M. uses on some of its computers." According to the Times, the decision "could remove the cloud over open-source software like Linux, an operating system loosely modeled on the proprietary Unix. The unresolved ownership has been seen as a limiting factor in the willingness of computing managers for businesses large and small to adopt open-source software, which can be adapted freely by software developers and can be legally shared or modified by end users." Even before the decision came down, I.B.M. and Novell had announced plans to "join forces to capture a larger piece of the growing open source application server market," according to a press release issued on August 7.

Note: When you click on the link to the Utah Federal District Court, be patient. It takes awhile to load.

Read Claire Germain's new article

The title for this post will take you to the SSRN abstract page for Claire Germain's article, Legal Infromatoin management in a Global and digital Age: Revolution and tradition. She presents an overview of the public policy issues posed by digitizing libraries, and discusses current developments such as social networking, Web 2.0, and the effects of globalization. She discusses projects, preservations efforts and problems, and the issue of authentication. This last issue is one she pushed AALL to work on while serving as president of the association, and resulted in an excellent report mentioned during earlier posts on OOTJ (link). Important work, Claire!

Xooxle Answers - Entrepreneurial Internet Search Service

Take a look at Xooxle Answers, which seems to be an individual's spin-off from Google Answers, which closed up shop in Dec., 2006. David Sarokin, one of the major responders at GA has started an internet answer business, Xooxle Answers. I am interested in watching the progress here.

In the meantime, David has posted two potentially helpful pages:

1. Online fulltext book resources, with nice notes explaining and evaluating each, at Books link.

2. Sarokin's Top Ten favorite online resources link. Some will surprise you, many will be familiar, some might make you worry. One thing I was happy to see what his plug for local public libraries' online resources. Yay!

Consumer Reports on Viruses, Malware and the Unsuspecting Masses

Follow the link above for an excellent, in-depth report by the well-regarded Consumer Reports folks. They include ratings on available software for home use security (both ratings require membership, but you can join cheaply for one month, or get a subscription for online use for monthly payments), reports on the free software, and investigative reporting on the State of the Net in 2007. Here is an introductory snippet.

Despite stepped-up law enforcement and better security software, those threats remain potent, according to the 2007 Consumer Reports State of the Net survey. Findings from our fourth annual national survey of online threats, conducted this spring by the Consumer Reports National Research Center based on 2,030 online households, include the following:

* Your chances of becoming a cybervictim are about 1 in 4--slightly less than last year because a few problems appear to be easing, though significant threats remain.

* Consumers are still falling prey to phishing scams, in which bogus e-mails and Web sites ask them to disclose information about their financial accounts. The number who submitted personal information in such identity theft scams remained constant since last year, at about 8 percent of respondents. In the past two years, we estimate, a million consumers have lost billions of dollars to such scams.

* Thirty-eight percent of respondents reported a computer-virus infection in the past two years, and 34 percent reported a spyware infection in the past six months. Based on projections from our survey, virus infections prompted 1.8 million households to replace their PCs in the past two years and spyware infections 850,000 in the past six months. Very few Mac users reported either infection type.

* Defenses are still down. Seventeen percent of respondents didn't have antivirus software installed. Thirty-three percent didn't use software to block or remove spyware, which would help to stop identity theft. Most households had installed a firewall, which keeps out hackers. But based on our survey, we project that 3.7 million U.S. households with broadband still lack a firewall.

* Wireless users face additional risks, our survey showed. Half of those who used their home computer with a wireless router didn't take basic precautions such as enabling encryption. Among those who used connections at public hotspots, which are at greater risk than home connections, 63 percent possibly exposed themselves to hackers or identity theft by logging on to password-protected accounts.

* Many youngsters are at risk. Among respondents with minors online, 13 percent of their children who were registered at the giant networking site were younger than 14, the minimum age the site officially allows. We also found that many parents haven't prepared their children for online risks.

In short, in a world where online criminals have become quite sophisticated, consumers must become more wary of online threats. Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, believes that government and industry must step up their efforts to protect the public from online threats, including identity theft, though there's a lot consumers can do to avoid becoming cybervictims. For advice on how to protect yourself and Ratings of security software, see Best security software.
And just to cheer you up this Monday, this note from the larger report on spam:
Almost four years after the passage of the federal Can-Spam Act, which gave law enforcers new anti spam tools to use against cyber thieves, its effectiveness is still in question. While bringing some accountability to commercial e-mail and giving officials legal tools, it legitimized some spam and pre-empted strong state laws.

Since 2004, the Federal Trade Commission has brought 26 cases against spammers using the act, according to Lois Greisman, associate director in the FTC's division of marketing practices. Courts awarded close to $13 million in those cases. Two criminal spam cases were prominent in 2007. This spring, Robert Soloway, a Seattle-based Internet marketer, was indicted for allegedly sending tens of millions of pieces of e-mail, much of it promoting bulk e-mail services, over four years. He pleaded not guilty. Earlier this year, Jeffrey Goodin, a phisher from Azusa, Calif., became the first spammer to be criminally convicted under Can-Spam. His sentence: almost six years.
Sic 'em! Be sure to visit and read their recommendations for safer web browsing -- from folks who test without accepting ad revenue, and have no stake in the outcome. Good stuff!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Second Life intersects with Real Law

Click on the title of this post to read an article from the Boston Globe about an IP law suit over an avatar in Second Life stealing code for sexual acts from another avatar who ran a business selling the code to others.

(Kevin) Alderman, 46, filed a civil lawsuit last month in US District Court in Tampa, alleging an avatar named "Volkov Catteneo" broke the program's copy protection and sold unauthorized copies. Alderman, who runs his business from home in a Tampa suburb, allows users to transfer his products, but prohibits copying.

"We confronted him about it, and his basic response was, 'What are you going to do? Sue me?' " Alderman said. "I guess the mentality is that because you're an avatar . . . that you are untouchable. The purpose of this suit is not only to protect our income and our product, but also to show, yes, you can be prosecuted and brought to justice."

Catherine Smith, director of marketing for "Second Life" creator Linden Lab, said she knew of no other real-world legal fight between two avatars.
Linden Lab itself has been sued, by customers for seizure of property, according to the article. It will be interesting to watch how choice of law, jurisdiction and comity work in law suits that could involve citizens of different countries. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 10, 2007

First Day of Law School's almost here!

Click the title above for a posting from the OOTJ last year with advice and links for new law students. Get ready for a wild ride, my 1-L friends! It's exciting, challenging and all new! Check out the links there, too!

Scheme Liability -- look out!

I'm afraid the link in the title above requires you to have a NY Times Select subscription. You can read the story in print on the front page of the Business Day section of today's New York Times. The title is "Is Fraud OK If You Help Just a Little?" by Floyd Norris. The article discusses a case coming up through the federal courts, and due before the Supreme Court next fall.

This case involves Motorola, Scientific-Atlanta and Charter Communications, a cable television operator (In re Charter Communications, Inc., Securities Litigation, 443 F.3d 987, Fed. Sec. L. Rep. P 93,743 (8th Cir.(Mo.) Apr 11, 2006) (NO. 05-1974) and later Stoneridge Investment Partners, LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta, Inc., C.A.8, filed 2005, and with a slew of briefs dating up through June and July, 2007, with a writ for cert to Supreme Court July 7, 2007, granted at Stoneridge Inv. Partners, LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta, Inc., 127 S.Ct. 1873, 167 L.Ed.2d 363, 75 USLW 3034, 75 USLW 3508, 75 USLW 3511 (U.S. Mar 26, 2007) (NO. 06-43)

Motorola and Scientific-Atlanta allegedly colluded with Charter Comm to buy cable boxes from the first two at high prices, allowing Charter Comm to show the excess as profit on their books. Investors sued, and are asking to include Motorola and Scientific-Atlanta in "scheme liability" Here is a link to an accessible and excellent article in March, 2007 of International Business Times, "Court Considers 'Scheme Liability' Case," By Christopher S. Rugabe.

Wall Street and law firms around the country are closely watching the case, which won't be argued until the court's next term beginning in October. Federal appeals courts so far have split on whether such "secondary actors" can be held liable.

"This is probably the most important legal issue for the securities industry in a generation," said Robert Giuffra, an attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell who has defended corporations in securities cases.

Last week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a class-action lawsuit brought by former Enron shareholders against several investment banks, including Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. and Credit Suisse Group, over their alleged role in Enron's collapse [In re Enron Corp. Securities Slip Copy, 2006 WL 4381143, (S.D.Tex.,2006).June 05, 2006 (Approx. 109 pages)]. The Houston-based oil services firm went bankrupt in 2001 after a widespread accounting scandal was uncovered. Several executives pleaded guilty or were convicted of fraud, and investors and former employees lost millions in the debacle.

The 5th Circuit found that the banks may have knowingly "aided and abetted" Enron's fraud, but under a 1994 Supreme Court ruling, companies are generally protected from shareholder lawsuits even if they aid and abet fraud. However, the Securities and Exchange Commission can pursue civil actions in such cases.

The case the justices agreed to hear stems from an episode of alleged securities fraud by cable television provider Charter Communications Inc. in 2000. A Charter investor, StoneRidge Investment Partners LLC, sued Motorola Inc. and Scientific-Atlanta Inc., which is now owned by Cisco Systems Inc. StoneRidge alleged that the companies participated in sham transactions with Charter.
The NY Times column brings in another massive corporate fraud case with potentially long tentacles. The Refco company evidently was working a big fraud on buyers and investors, hiding massive debt. When a new hire tumbled to the deception, everything fell apart, bankruptcy ensued and stock prices dropped like a rock, hurting new investors of this company that had been acquired and then taken public.

In the aftermath, angry purchasers are suing everybody in sight, and looking for fraud prosecution. The interesting question become, how involved did a law firm, accountant or bank have to be in order to become liable? The law firm that did "due diligence" work on the purchase has been sued for assuring the purchaser that there was no problem when in fact there were huge problems. They are not suing for malpractice so much as looking for deep pockets in the fraud action to pick up after the bankrupt Refco.

Here is a link to a Boston Globe article from April, 2006 about the Refco case and mentioning the complaint filed against 3 banks and Grant Thornton as auditor for not alerting investors to the Refco fraud. Here is a link to an Aug. 9, 2007 MSNBC story about the initial Refco collapse and a pending class action by investors. Here is a brief article about Thomas H. Lee and partners (private equitry financiers) suing law firm Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw over the law firm’s role in the Refco fraud case. I am having trouble identifying the Refco cases in federal court. If readers can add info, it would be much appreciated!

I am guessing the law and accounting firms that do this sort of work are watching the outcome of these cases with 'bated breath. Scheme liability has a huge potential to implicate minor players in big liabilities! There seems to be a good article on the topic of Scheme Liability at 1571 PLI/Corp 991 , Practising Law Institute's THE EVOLUTION OF “SCHEME” LIABILITY UNDER SECTION 10(b), November, 2006 by Gregory A. Markel and Gregory G. Ballard of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP.

Friday happy news: Dogster and Catster Railroads

Newsgroups Catster and Dogster link up animal lovers across the continent to help move homeless pets from overpopulated areas to parts where spay-neuter programs have reduced the number of homeless cats and dogs. Click on the link to this post to read a nice article from the Boston Globe about a new underground railroad (well, not underground at all) moving unwanted animals from the midwest and south which has too many animals in shelters, to areas with space in shelters and loving homes waiting to adopt a pet. This railroad is moving cats and dogs from shelters where they would otherwise be euthanized, so it's quite an important volunteer group.

Catster 9 Lives Adoption page (source of the kitty picture). See also Dogster site.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Slam the Boards!
Librarians invade the "Answer" sites

Monday, 9/10/07--All Day
Supporting Wiki:
I'd like to invite any and all interested librarians to be a little bold and have a little fun by going to online "Answer" sites, such as:

Yahoo Answers
Amazon's Askville
The WikiPedia Reference Desk
(see a list of others at link )

Once there, let's answer!

I envision a day-long answer fest. Answer as many questions as you feel you can. decide. Just try to do what we do well--provide answers from authoritative resources.

...and then MARKET!

This means making it clear that this question was answered by a librarian/library professional/etc. End each answer with the mention your own library, your VR service, etc. Add the link. Mention that readers should consider their own libraries, too. Promote it to local media. Keep in mind how many people don't even realize that libraries offer reference services. Let's surprise and delight them with our quality.

I'd like hundreds of librarians to do this. Thousands? Why not?

Be'll almost certainly be helping patrons who aren't yours, but I see this as an opportunity to make the reference librarian community more visible. I'd like to see a number of us remain engaged in the answer services, on the chance that the users will have us in the backs of their minds when they have questions they don't want everyone to see. As such, I'm not expecting to see a huge "blip" in our reference/VR stats because of this. But who knows?

The point is to meet some folks where they otherwise wouldn't expect us.

What to do next?

First of all, pass this message along to anyone who might remotely be interested.

Second, this is a very informal "action," so you can just mark the date and start answering, but you may also want to visit the Wiki and put your name up as a participant: link. I'm very lonely there right now!

While you're on the wiki, share. Think of good marketing "tags," signatures, etc. that we can use.

Most of all, visit the various answer sites, see if you need to set up an account. Try answering a few questions. A couple of us have already done this and we've already got a few "Best Answers" under our belts. See the "Exemplary Answers" section of the Wiki. Post one if you've got one!

Then, on September 10, get ready to "Slam the Boards!"

--Bill Pardue

Bill Pardue, MSLIS
Virtual Services Librarian
Arlington Heights Memorial Library;
847-506-2667 /

(Tip of the hat to Tracy Thompson of NELLCO, for passing Bill Pardue's terrific idea along to OOTJ)

More Trouble at Ave Maria

Ave Maria School of Law is in the news again. An article in today's Inside Higher Education questions whether a purge is taking place at the Catholic law school. The dean of the school, Bernard Dobranski, is pushing to dismiss a tenured law professor, Stephen J. Safranek, one of the founding faculty members of Ave Maria. Safranek "has already been suspended and banned from campus without prior approval, while awaiting a final decision on revocation of tenure," despite charges that the majority of faculty feel are "'painfully thin." In an online statement, the faculty (only a few of whom dared to put their names to the statement) said that the dean, far from giving Professor Safranek due process, was acting as "the sole prosecutor, judge, and jury" in the matter. They conclude that Ave Maria no longer has "the most basic elements of academic freedom and tenure." Professor Safranek believes that the "law school's leadership has abandoned not only academic freedom, but Catholic teachings about the dignity of individuals and the importance of treating one another with basic respect." Richard Myers, another founding faculty member, believes that retribution was meted out after the faculty voted no confidence in the dean and opposed the move to Florida; Professor Myers "was removed from his committee chairmanships and...[h]is salary was frozen." He too believes that if faculty members cannot dissent without fear of reprisals, then academic freedom loses its value. Dean Dobranski will not discuss Professor Safranek's case, but has stated that the criticism of him stems from some faculty members' anger about the move of the school to Florida.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bookmobile, schmookmobile! Check out Bibliomulas!

Click the title above for a link to a charming story from the BBC. IN Venezuela, librarians are using mules to deliver books to far-flung patrons.

The idea of loading mules with books and taking them into the mountain villages was started by the University of Momboy, a small institution that prides itself on its community-based initiatives and on doing far more than universities in Venezuela are required to do by law. (snip)

The 23 children at the little school were very excited.

"Bibilomu-u-u-u-las," they shouted as the bags of books were unstrapped. They dived in eagerly, keen to grab the best titles and within minutes were being read to by Christina and Juana, two of the project leaders.

"Spreading the joy of reading is our main aim," Christina Vieras told me.

"But it's more than that. We're helping educate people about other important things like the environment. All the children are planting trees. Anything to improve the quality of life and connect these communities."
According to the story, there are plans to connect these tiny villages wiht internet modems. They are also extending their range by housing an extra mule in the village of Calembe, so villagers can take books farther into these foothills of the Andes.

Image of a bibliomula and patron from the BBC story. Thanks to Sharon Shaloo, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Center for the Book for alerting OOTJ to this terrific story!

Boston IP attorney seeking to make our city a go-to for patent litigation

Lee Carl Bromberg, president of the Boston Patent Law Association, is working with a team of other IP lawyers and local federal judges to streamline procedures for patent litigation in the federal courts in Boston. Link to an in-depth article in the Boston Globe by clicking on the title to this post. Local know-how, a knowledgeable judiciary and good procedures have created several magnet districts for patent litigation. In addition, a few districts are renowned for being plaintiff-friendly.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Justice: What's law got to do with it?

My faculty are discussing this question -- do law schools have a responsibility to talk to students about the role of the lawyer in promoting justice in society, not just as a jealous advocate of a client's inrerest?

Like many young law students, I went to law school figuring there was some connection between law and justice. I was stunned when a prof argued that the lawyer was constrained by professional ethics to do no more and no less than vigorously advocate the client's interest. In the US that's been our model.

When I read Rumpole novels, I discovered that British lawyers are constrained to tell the court if they know their client is lying or misrepresenting the truth. Wow! What a concept! Of course, Rumpole skirts the edges of that obligation by telling the client not to tell him if they are lying or know something that must not be revealed to the court. What a departure from US rules of client confidentiality!

Somewhere in there, we must find a balance between representing our client zealously, and advancing the cause of justice in our society. I think the disconnect between those two in American law practice has led to a great deal of public dissatisfaction with and distrust of lawyers. What a shame!

New Blog

One of my colleagues at Pace Law School, Professor Ralph Stein, has started a new blog, Law and Culture, Vulture, which is dedicated to "Thoughts on law, culture and what's on my mind." Professor Stein's interests are wide ranging--music (his particular passion), film, and, of course, the law. The blog reflects these interests. You'll find a review of a recent concert at the Mostly Mozart festival, several perceptive reviews of recent films (not your typical multiplex fare), and a couple of entries on police chases. Check it out!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Mistakes at the reference desk

Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me is the title of a new book by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. It is a great book, quite freeing and humbling.

Why do I say humbling? Because Chapter 5, “Law and Disorder” critiques a book I had always considered a core item for a public law library, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions by Fred E. Inbau, John E. Reid, Joseph P. Buckley, and Brian C. Jayne. It turns out that this book, in spite of its popularity as a police training manual, has been roundly criticized in legal and psychological literature. Why did a person like me, who is fascinated by wrongful convictions not look at this book more critically when I read passages during slow days at reference?

Now why did I consider this a core item? Because my predecessors at the library had purchased it, I deferred to their judgment. I relied upon the reputation of the library. Plus, the book looked so impressive with its solid binding and lovely thick paper. It looked serious and all the other books on the shelf looked reliable, too. I never made the connection to the coercive interrogation techniques described within it to the articles and essays on wrongful convictions. I surrendered my judgment to authority, the author’s: “The manual is written in an authoritative tone as if it were the voice of God revealing indisputable truths, but in fact it fails to teach its readers a core principle of scientific thinking: the importance of examining and ruling out other possible explanations for a person’s behavior before deciding which one is the most likely.”

Tavris and Aronson write about the techniques and the business Reid has developed The Reid interrogation is used by insurance, workman’s comp, and employer investigators in situations in which an in individual is not protected by Miranda.

And I should have read Miranda. If I had, I would have known::
“Inbau and Reid's Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, [134] the police manual which the Miranda Court cited repeatedly as a valuable source of information about police practices and "what in fact goes on in the interrogation room," [135] has recently been republished in its third edition. [136] Despite the Miranda [*536] Court's criticism of the deceptive and coercive strategies advocated by the authors, the third edition contains largely the same interrogation tactics as earlier editions, some even more boldly asserted. [137] The fact that interrogators still tend to ignore a suspect's assertion of his constitutional rights is apparent in the frequency with which courts have had to address this issue. [138]Ada Clapp, THE SECOND CIRCUIT REVIEW -- 1988-1989 TERM: CRIMINAL PROCEDURE: THE SECOND CIRCUIT ADOPTS A CLARIFICATION APPROACH TO AMBIGUOUS REQUESTS FOR COUNSEL: UNITED STATES V. GOTAY. *56 Brooklyn L. Rev. 511, 535-536

This week, I will have to follow up on the footnotes and references in Mistakes were Made. When I ran Inbau /s reid in Lexis combined cases files, I got 122 results. In law reviews combined, I got 193. The Reid technique run through law reviews pulled up 19 hits. Ebsco academic premier pulled up two hits with the phrase Reid techniques. In Ncjrs, Reid technique pulled up 46 hits.

Why is this important? Well, the library is seen as an authority. I relied upon my predecessors at Alameda. If someone came to the reference technique and asked for Inbau and Reid, I would want to suggest reading the critical articles.

Now, I just have to figure out a way to get the catalog and library resources to encourage users to think critically.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A new book on lawyering

Effective Lawyering: a checklist approach to legal writing & oral argument, by Austen L. Parrish and Dennis T. Yokoyama (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press) 2007.

This slim book is designed to be a desk-top reference for experienced writers, not a text-book for a LRW basic class. There are brief exhortations on writing style, grammar, punctuation, but the authors assume a basic familiarity with grammar and style. These brief paragraphs are designed to remind the reader of what they already have learned. What the authors add to the existing literature on writing and argument is an interesting mix of checklists and very practical advice tailored to a word-processing/e-mail world.

The book is very accessible, the authors taking their own advice about clarity and brevity. The layout makes it easy to scan for quick reminders and explication. Nearly every topic is represented with a heading and a single paragraph. Checklists follow every chapter, with sample briefs and memoranda at the end of the book. There is a good index and a nice table of contents to aid readers in finding what they need.

There seem to be several ways to use the book. The authors intend the reader to use the checklists, and refer to the text to supplement their memory or understanding of the checklist headings. But they also have arranged the text to make it easy to use as a reference to explain a new task. The book covers general legal writing tips, trial briefs, appellate briefs, oral argument, inter-office memos, letters (including e-mail) and academic writing.

The advice is clear, and generally excellent and current. For instance, they warn the reader about the dangers of e-mail: misinterpretation, broadcasting, loss of attorney-client privilege and retrievability of erased e-mails. There is, however, no discussion of the dangers of metadata in documents created with word-processors. This is not a huge lapse, but it would be an excellent addition to this very practical guide for modern lawyers and upper-class law students.

Portions of the book deal very briefly with legal research. Again, the authors expect the reader to have a good grounding from previous classes and/or books. The statements are sound, but aren’t designed to education a novice. The chapter on academic writing has helpful advice on doing a pre-emption search, and exhortations to thoroughly research the topic. But again, expects the reader to have good training or other resources.

Understood as a quick reference and checklist for experienced students and lawyers, this is a book I can recommend. It should never take the place of other, more in-depth resources for basic instruction or complex problems. But it would be an excellent desk-top guide to improve legal writing and advocacy.

Friday break time

Seagulls, beautiful riders on the wind, white wings outstretched in the sun... Seagulls are often symbols of freedom. They sail along all the coasts, up large tidal rivers and into some large lakes.

I never really saw seagulls while I lived in the interior of the country. Having moved to Boston, however, I now see them all the time. They sail past my windows downtown, calling that instantly recognizable cry. To me, it still rings of freedom, of afternoons strolling along beaches, of bright sparkling waves rolling.

Those who grew up with seagulls often have a less romantic image. One colleague who lived all his life along the shore says they remind him of trash dumps. And they do, indeed, love dumps, dumpsters, and trashcans. They steal from other birds, and are aggressive enough to take food right from a human hand.

But I still get a thrill each time I hear a gull call. When I see them gliding, riding the air above the city or my neighborhood, I am glad. They shine white in the sun, against brilliant blue skies or gray. I think of freedom, of beauty and of the wind and the sea.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

World e-book fair again! 7/4 - 8/4!

Click the link above to visit the World E-book Fair -- we almost missed it! Don't you miss it now!

Town Meeting on Research & the Future of Print

Here are the correct links for that AALL Town Meeting sponsored by Thomson West on Research Skills and the Future of Print (and more, lesson materials to support teaching to the problems raised) link

White Paper on Research Skills for Lawyers and Students link

Deans Meeting to consider library cost savings

Deans of Boston area law schools are planning a meeting with the library directors in mid-September. The idea seems to be that since there are so many schools locally, we should be able to work out agreements to collect different areas.

I don't know if the deans who are pushing this have thought through what it would mean to share collections in a meaningful way. It would mean that researchers would have to be told either to travel to another school to work or wait for ILL (even if we send runners, it will take time to retrieve materials). NELLCO directors have discussed this periodically and it always foundered on what Dan Freehling called the "local hero" problem. Nobody wants to tell their faculty that "we don't collect that -- you have to use X library for that research."

This will be interesting. It's possible we may be able to come up with certain areas to rely on each other for. But I'm guessing that it will be a very difficult matter. Faculty members are not going to be happy if the material they use will be housed and collected at a different school. We will have to be very careful to consider current research interests and hope to be right about future research areas. I will periodically post here as things develop.

Authoritative Sources, or Whom Do You Trust?

I don't know much about economics, but one of the things I think I know is that much economic theory is based on the concept of the "rational actor." Economic choice depends on having good information. But how do you know the information you have is good? This is one of the issues that librarians are concerned about as well; hence the debates over the reliability of online resources vis-a-vis print and the work of the AALL State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources.

There is currently a little flurry of discussion on the heuristics of trust on some of the economics blogs, starting with Arnold Kling's essay, Should You Trust the Government? The scope of Kling's essay is somewhat larger than the title suggests; he tries to come up with some rules as to how the relatively uninformed public can determine whether or not to trust "expert" opinion.

A high-trust society is one where trust extends beyond one's clan or village. Trust within families is something that can be taken for granted, even in a low-trust society. A high-trust society is one that has found a way for trust to extend to strangers.

Sometimes, trust is based on experience that leads one to believe that someone else is virtuous....

However, the highest form of trust is trust in the processes followed by other parties, including the incentives governing those processes. Information that is developed using scientific methods, with careful consideration of alternative hypotheses and limitations of the data, comes from a reliable process. Transactions are most trustworthy when they take place in a context where similar transactions have proven trustworthy and cheating is easily detected and punished.

Not all disciplines follow the scientific method. With regard to trusting economists, Kling offers a couple of suggestions:
With one exception, I think there is nothing that the public can look for in terms of a signal about economists. The best thing is to force economists to explain their arguments clearly in layman's terms, and then to evaluate the arguments on their merits. That means you have to know enough about economics to be able to distinguish a compelling economic argument from demagoguery.

The exception is this: when an economist known for one ideological leaning makes an argument that favors a different persuasion, that in itself should lend credibility to the case.
Bryan Caplan offers a few more rules of thumb:
  • Compare credentials. If the advocate of X teaches at Harvard, and the opponent of X teaches at a community college, this raises the probability that X is true. (And yes, this means that all else equal, you should side with Dani Rodrik against me. Fortunately, all else is not equal).
  • Adjust for social sanction. If X is a popular, crowd-pleasing conclusion, you should expect this to make smart defenders of X more abundant - regardless of the truth of X. You should therefore hold the defenders of such views to higher standards.
  • Check the bets. If only one side is willing to bet hard cash, that side is probably right.
  • You don't have to take a side. If you really have no idea who to believe, remain agnostic. In fact, it would be much better for the world if the less-informed practiced Swiss neutrality, leaving the well-informed to guide policy.
Kling also points to EconTalk, a podcast series on economics, and particularly to the latest episode, a conversation with economist David Henderson on why economists disagree.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Executive Order 13422

(I'm posting this for Betsy McKenzie, who was having troubles with this particular entry. Something to do with Microsoft Word, I suspect. -- Jim Milles)

The Union of Concerned Scientists offered a press release on July 24. The occasion was the Senate confirmation hearing for the new head of the Office of Management and Budget.

A Senate confirmation hearing for former U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)... In a July 23 letter, UCS and OMB Watch urged Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) to question the nominee on his opinion of Bush administration Executive Order 13422, which goes into effect today [July 24, 2007]. The executive order bans any regulation from moving forward without the approval of an agency's regulatory policy officer, who would be a political appointee. UCS urged the Senate committee to ask Mr. Nussle how he would ensure that political appointees would not interfere with the work of agency scientists. ... The groups also sent the letter to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), who is holding an additional confirmation hearing for Nussle later this week.
See this earlier OOTJ post on the Executive Order, and link here to read the Executive Order 13422.

Democrats voted to block spending to put the Executive Order into effect:
Calling it a power grab, Democrats running Congress are intent on stopping him.

The House voted last week to prohibit the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from spending federal money on Executive Order 13422, signed by Bush in January and due to take effect July 24.

The order requires federal officials to show that private companies, people or institutions failed to address a problem before agencies can write regulations to tackle it. It also gives political appointees greater authority over how the regulations are written.

The House measure “stops this president or any president from seizing the power to rewrite almost every law that Congress passes, laws that protect public health, the environment, safety, civil rights, privacy and on and on,” said Rep. Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat who sponsored the bill.

The administration contends Bush’s order merely strengthens a similar directive issued by President Clinton in 1993 giving the White House budget office oversight of federal agency rule-making.

Bush’s executive order:

•Requires agencies to identify “market failures,” where the private sector fell short in dealing with a problem, as a factor in proposing a rule.

•States that no rule-making can go forward without the approval of an agency’s Regulatory Policy Office, to be headed by a presidential appointee.

•Directs each agency to provide an estimate of costs and benefits of regulations.

•Requires agencies to inform the White House regulatory affairs office of proposed significant guidance documents on complying with rules.
From an article in the Kansas City Star here.

The Mana of Law Books

I notice how often politicians, lawyers, deans, faculty and even people completely unaffiliated with the law have their portrait made in front of law books. Reporters are instantly recognizable, even to non-lawyers, as official manifestations of The Law. These portraits are obviously using the image of law books as a short-hand for power, law and majesty. The mere inclusion of the books behind the person gives them a gravitas and sense of power that other backdrops cannot.

I find it ironic that, even as so many firms slash or do away with their firm library, these portraits continue to use reporters as a backdrop. I keep a list in my rolodex of people who contact me looking for gift books. Among these potential donees, have been several who said they wanted the books to decorate their office. Although they planned to do all their research online, they wanted the books for instant status as scholars of the law.

The books have become a source of Mana –

... an impersonal force or quality that resides in people, animals, and inanimate objects and that instills in the appreciative observer a sense of respect or wonder. ...

... In Polynesian culture (for example, Hawaiian and Ma-ori) mana is most similar to the English concept of respect; sharing elements of respect, authority, power and prestige; however, it shares aspects of responsibility, balance and purity as well. ...

...To have mana is to have influence and authority. This property and essence-quality of mana is not limited to persons—peoples, governments, places and inanimate objects can possess mana.
From Wikipedia entry on Mana, (last viewed 8/1/07) (link)

Image of the U.S. Reports from
Image of attorney in front of law books from Better Business Bureau's Legal Match

Family Leave

Sunday's New York Times Magazine includes a compelling article by Eyal Press on workers' ability to care for their families. It tells the story of Karen Deonarain whose employer fired her after she endured a difficult pregnancy and premature delivery. Deonarain was fired despite having been assured by her supervisor that "the company understood she would need time off after the pregnancy." After recovering from her initial shock, Deonarain contacted the D.C. Employment Justice Center which helped her find an attorney. "Her lawsuit, which charges that she was fired for complications related to her pregnancy, amounting to a form of sex discrimination, is in the discovery phase." In the past, such lawsuits were rare, but since the mid 1990s, "the number of workers who have sued their employers for supposed mistreatment on account of family responsibilities...has increased by more than 300 percent." And many of them have been successful. Press links the growing number of cases to the growing number of women in the workplace and to the greater difficulty many Americans have in "balancing the demands of work and family." Professor Joan Williams of the University of California's Hastings College of the Law discusses this issue cogently in her 2000 book, Unbending Gender. In Professor Williams's view, these lawsuits are fundamentally about family values, not gender discrimination. For this reason, they unite people on both sides of the political divide. The Times article is definitely worth a read, especially for those of us who have wrestled, and continue to wrestle, with balancing our commitments to our employers and our commitments to our families.