Listen to Second Circuit Court of Appeals Arguments

If you can’t make it to the U.S. Courthouse in Foley Square to attend oral arguments before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, next month you’ll be able to access audio recordings of them from the court’s own website.  See the court’s announcement here or here.

The recordings will become available on August 15, 2016, the first day of the court’s 2016 term.

Most of the other circuit courts of appeals also make audio recordings available on their respective web sites.  The 10th and 11th circuits are the exception.

Meet Peggy!

The President has proclaimed March 2016 as Women’s History Month and has asked all Americans to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016.  Our friends at HeinOnline have introduced Peggy, their new Women and the Law database.  It brings together books, biographies and periodicals dedicated to the role of women in society and the law.  You can access it from the HeinOnline home page.  In addition, the Library of Congress has a dedicated web page for Women’s History Month, including information about events, ceremonies, and celebrations.


On Oct. 26, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the USA PATRIOT Act, giving authorities unprecedented ability to search, seize, detain or eavesdrop in their pursuit of possible terrorists.

If you’re interested in more details, read this excerpt from Professor Michael Roffer’s new book, The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law

On September 11, 2001, four passenger planes hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing a total of 2,977 victims. In the wake of that horrific tragedy, Congress passed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act. For years it has polarized a nation struggling with concerns for security on the one hand and threats to privacy on the other.

Once described as “perhaps the longest, broadest, most sweeping piece of legislation in American history,” the USA PATRIOT Act reflected unified congressional

effort to combat terrorism by enhancing law enforcement agencies’ surveillance and investigative powers. Congress passed it with overwhelming support: 357–66 in the House and 98–1 in the Senate, but critics have challenged the unorthodox nature of its passage. It had little federal agency review, no public hearings, no committee markup, no Conference Committee Report, little floor debate, and almost no time for review of the final bill before Congress voted, imparting a legacy of controversy to the legislation.

Two of the Act’s core and most controversial provisions gave law enforcement agencies additional powers to monitor and intercept electronic communications that might relate to terrorist activities. This provision enhanced powers long available under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The new act permits electronic surveillance where a “significant purpose”—as opposed to the sole or primary purpose—is to gather foreign intelligence. Second, it permits “roving”surveillance of individuals, not limited to a single telephone or computer.

So as not to grant law enforcement officials a perpetual license to spy on whomever they wanted, the Act also included a four-year sunset stipulation. In 2005, Congress enacted the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act, which made permanent most of the expiring provisions of the original act and adopted a new sunset date for the two most controversial sections. At time of press, the current expiration date for those sections was June 1, 2015. The debate over the Act is sure to persist as the nation continues to negotiate a balance between civil liberties and national security.

New! Web Access to NY Law Journal and other Legal Newspapers!

We now have a site-license for unlimited access to all articles and cases found on the websites of four major legal newspapers: The New York Law Journal, The New Jersey Law Journal, The National Law Journal, and The American Lawyer. These sites offer the latest legal news, with a six-month archive. Earlier content is available on Lexis.

Access is easy: Under Electronic Resources on the Library’s homepage, click Complete List by Title. The newspapers are listed there alphabetically. Click on the “website” link for the title you want. If you’re on campus, you’ll go straight to the newspaper’s website. Off campus, you’ll be prompted to enter your name and ID barcode.

We’re still working out some technical issues, but once we’re done you’ll also be able to subscribe to emailed alerts from these newspapers. They serve as excellent current awareness sources. Watch this Mendik Matters blog for further announcements!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May), and we hope you all found at least some time to celebrate and enjoy the day amidst all the hard-core studying.

Often mistaken for a celebration of Mexican independence, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory in the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.  On May 5, 1862, General Lorencez and 6,000 French troops marched towards Puebla, Mexico.  Greatly outnumbered, the Mexicans fought and improbably defeated the French army at Puebla.

Now, Cinco de Mayo is widely celebrated in the United States as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.  Even Congress has officially recognized the holiday, passing a number of resolutions entitled “Recognizing the historical significance of the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo.”  For example, S. Res. 128, 111th Cong. (2009),  H. Res. 230, 111th Cong. (2009), and H. Res. 347, 110th Cong. (2007).  And this year, President Obama issued a formal statement that read, in part, “[o]n Cinco de Mayo we celebrate the contributions and heritage of Mexican Americans and we recognize the strong cultural, familial, and economic ties that bind the United States and Mexico.”  Interestingly, Cinco de Mayo is not considered a public holiday in Mexico and is not widely celebrated in Mexico.

Check out these links from the Law Library of Congress for more information.

Gideon v. Wainwright

On March 18, 1963, the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, a case that made significant changes to the face of criminal law in the United States.

Charged with breaking and entering into a Florida pool hall, Clarence Earl Gideon could not afford an attorney. After being convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment, he appealed and asserted that his conviction was unconstitutional because the trial court refused to appoint counsel. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision, written by Justice Hugo Black, found that the Sixth Amendment gives criminal defendants the right to counsel when charged with a serious offense, even if they cannot afford it. Gideon was subsequently retried and acquitted.

In ruling that states are required to provide attorneys to indigent criminal defendants, the Supreme Court effectively created the public defender system that is today accepted as an integral part of the legal community.

Further reading:
Gideon’s Trumpet (Book)

Gideon’s Trumpet (Movie)

Kyung M. Lee, Reinventing Gideon v. Wainwright: Holistic Defenders, Indigent Defendants, and the Right to Counsel, 31 Am. J. Crim. L. 367 (2004). (Article mentions The Bronx Defenders.)

Bruce R. Jacob, Memories and Reflections about Gideon v. Wainwright, 33 Stetson L. Rev. 181 (2003). (The author is the former Florida Assistant Attorney General who argued the case before the United States Supreme Court.)

The Right to Counsel and Privilege Against Self-Incrimination: Rights and Liberties Under the Law

NYLS Site Linked with First African-American Newspaper

Freedom’s Journal, founded in 1827 to provide a voice against racism and intolerance, was the first newspaper published in the United States by and for African-Americans.  A number of sources place its home at 236 Church Street, which is today encompassed by NYLS’ 57 Worth Street building. This neighborhood was home to a large number of free northern blacks who, at that time, constituted a small minority in the city.

Freedom’s Journal denounced slavery and lynchings and advocated for black suffrage. It also published articles on how the U.S. legal and political systems helped to perpetuate slavery.  But the publication itself was not long-lived. Founding editor John Brown Russwurm published the last issue in 1829, shortly before emigrating to Liberia.

Read more about Freedom’s Journal in the Fall/Winter issue of New York Law School Magazine. You can access a copy of the article here.

Research Guide for Supreme Court Affirmative Action Case

Oral arguments are scheduled today (October 10) in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, 631 F.2d 213 (5th Cir. 2011), cert. granted, 132 S. Ct. 1536 (Feb. 21, 2012).  The case is a challenge to UT Austin’s consideration of race as a factor in undergraduate admissions and will be the first time the Court addresses affirmative action in higher education since Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003).  The NYLS Racial Justice Project filed an amicus curiae brief in the case on behalf of the National Black Law Students Association. (See our previous post.)

The reference librarians of the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas have assembled a research guide for the case.  The guide includes the text of selected court documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court; news coverage and law review articles about the Fisher case; and some basic information on UT student body profiles and statistics since 2008.  Tarlton’s librarians will continue to follow the case and update the guide as new articles are published.


Every May 1 the United States observes Law Day, which President Dwight D. Eisenhower set aside as a day for Americans to reflect on the role of law in the foundation of our country and its importance for society.  The theme for 2012, No Courts | No Justice | No Freedom, focuses on the importance of courts, their role in ensuring access to justice for all Americans and how severe funding cuts are affecting the court system’s ability to fulfill this role.  Explore the links below to learn more about Law Day and the many related events.

Making the Case: Highlighting the Importance of the Nation’s Courts

New York City Bar Association Law Day Event

Celebrate Earth Day!

Sunday April 22, 2012 is Earth Day.

Repeating last year’s theme of A Billion Acts of Green®, a “people-powered campaign to generate a billion acts of environmental service and advocacy . . .” the folks at the Earth Day Network have almost reached their goal:  the total Acts of Green reported as of the morning of April 18, 2012 was 977,876,186 (and counting).

One easy Act of Green you could pledge, helping send that number over the one billion mark, would be to turn off the library study table lamps and carrel lights whenever you leave.  Or, you could use the stairs instead of the elevators between floors.  We will thank you and so will the Earth.

Another suggestion:  By drinking your coffee, tea, or other beverage from a spill-proof, reusable mug, you can transform a single Act of Green into an ongoing one, helping continually to reduce the volume of plastic, Styrofoam, and paper cups piling up in landfills or requiring energy for recycling.  At the same time, you’ll be complying with the Library’s food and drink policy and earning our thanks! 

If you don’t have a spill-proof mug, pick one up at the Circulation Desk for $3.00.  Although we already sell these mugs at a loss, for every one purchased through the end of this semester’s exam period librarians will contribute $.50 to Earth Day Network (, which works with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement.

For complete information about Earth Day, visit Earth Day Network.