First Monday in October

We are nearing the end of September and that means the new Supreme Court term is right around the corner!  Every year, the first Monday in October marks the beginning of a new term.  This year’s term begins on Monday, October 2.

As of now, the Court has agreed to hear 32 cases.  Justices will hear arguments on several important issues including partisan gerrymandering, immigration, and marriage equality and religious freedom.

Some cases of note include Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project and Trump v. Hawaii, both of which involve challenges to President Trump’s controversial Executive Order suspending for 90 days entry into the United States by foreign nationals from specific countries.  Carpenter v. U.S. asks whether a warrantless search and seizure of cellphone records is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.  Finally, in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission the justices will decide between a same-sex couples’ right, under a state anti-discrimination law, to obtain a custom wedding cake to celebrate their marriage and the constitutional rights of a small business owner who refused to create the cake because of religious beliefs.

You can find more information on the upcoming Supreme Court term  at HeinOnline’s Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases, SCOTUS Blog and Supreme Podcast.  You can also listen to oral arguments at the Supreme Court’s website and find the parties’ briefs at the ABA’s Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases.

Happy Constitution Day!

Constitution Day (officially observed this year on September 18) commemorates the formation and signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787.  On this date, after fewer than one hundred working days, thirty-nine of the Philadelphia Convention’s delegates signed the Constitution, the longest surviving written charter of government.

Of the three delegates from New York, only Alexander Hamilton participated through to the end and affixed his name.  The other New York delegates, John Lansing, Jr. and Robert Yates, left after six weeks because they opposed the movement to consolidate the United States into one government.

The original Constitution is held at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. but you can pick up your own pocket-copy at the library’s reference desk!

Interested in Presidential Power?

In conjunction with a course on presidential power at the University of Washington School of Law last year, the Gallagher Law Library created a large and growing resource guide filled with links, readings, videos, podcasts and much more all focused on the presidency and presidential power and the relationship with other branches of government.  You’ll find official documents as they become available and plenty of background material to keep you in the know.

Celebrate Constitution & Citizenship Day

September 17 marks the annual celebration of Constitution Day, commemorating the date on which 39 of the Philadelphia Convention’s delegates signed the Constitution in 1787. This year, it will be observed on September 16, and will include forty federal judges across the country swearing in new citizens during special naturalization ceremonies held at national historic landmarks. Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, will preside at an Ellis Island ceremony.

Constitution Day was created in 2004 to encourage public schools and governmental offices to promote a better understanding of the Constitution, the world’s longest surviving written charter of government.

The original document is held at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. You can read the Constitution online, or pick up your own pocket-copy at the library’s reference desk! For deeper coverage, you can also download the Library of Congress’s free app containing the official, annotated version of the United State Constitution, U.S. Constitution: Analysis and Interpretation.


For more information about the day, visit the National Constitution Center’s web site.

The Natural Born Citizen

There’s been a lot of debate lately about the citizenship of presidential candidates and the constitutional requirement that only a “natural born Citizen” is eligible for the Office of President.  You can find the relevant provision in Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the United States Constitution.

It was not until 1868, however, that the Fourteenth Amendment established “birthright” citizenship, declaring all persons born in the U.S. to be citizens.  That was only one aspect of the amendment’s profound importance.  For a brief introduction to what historians and scholars describe as the most important amendment since the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791, see this excerpt from Professor Michael Roffer’s recently published The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law.


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.

Happy Birthday ADA!

Twenty-five years ago, on July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 101 Pub. L. No. 336, 104 Stat. 327.  The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation and its impact on American society has been undeniable.  It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and guarantees them the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life—to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. The ADA is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities.

Want to know more?  Visit, the official government website from the United State Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.  And of course, the Library has a very comprehensive collection of materials for your review.  Getting started is as easy as doing a title search in the Library catalog: Americans with Disabilities Act.

Celebrating Black History Month: NYLS and the First African-American Newspaper

Celebrating Black History Month has always taken on special significance at NYLS, particularly when you consider how closely entwined our community is with African American heritage. Consider, for example, our connection to the historical publication of Freedom’s Journal.

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’s 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.

To learn more about Freedom’s Journal, seek out a copy of the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of New York Law School Magazine, which contains a more in-depth article regarding NYLS’s connection to the newspaper.  You can also access a copy of the article here.

Happy Constitution Day

Constitution Week was first established in 1956 to encourage Americans to learn more about the world’s longest surviving written charter of government.   Later in 2004, Constitution Day was created to encourage public schools and governmental offices to promote a better understanding of the Constitution.

As a day of education about, and celebration of, our constitutional rights and freedoms, Constitution Day commemorates the date on which thirty-nine of the Philadelphia Convention’s delegates signed the Constitution.  The original document is held at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. You can read the Constitution online, or pick up your own pocket-copy at the library’s reference desk!  For deeper coverage, you can also download the Library of Congress’s free app containing the official, annotated version of the United State Constitution, U.S. Constitution: Analysis and Interpretation.

The Real 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).   This year, President Obama held a reception at the White House to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

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