Haunted HouseEnter our research competition to win a $25 gift card to the Cornell Store! The rules are easy: email the answer to the question below to me (imh24@cornell.edu) by midnight on October 31, 2010. We will draw a winner from the pool of correct answers next week and announce it on the blog.  Everyone who enters wins a fun-size candy bar.

The Problem:

The town of Sleepy Hollow has an old mansion named “Rosebud.”  Rosebud was the family home of the Voorhees family, who during their heyday hosted the most extravagant parties and balls in the county.  The family was known for expensive tastes, furnishing Rosebud with elaborate chandeliers and paintings and once having flowers flown in from Brazil for a daughter’s sixteenth birthday party.  But over the years, the family gradually died off until only Samara Voorhees was left.  Uncomfortable living alone in the large house, she locked up Rosebud and moved to Panama to live off the family’s remaining money on a small island.  The house has been empty for 42 years, and neighborhood children now tell stories about the ghosts that supposedly haunt the house—a headless cat that sneaks up on you from behind and rubs against your legs, and Uncle Earl whom the family imprisoned in the attic for twenty years, eventually starving him to death, because they were embarrassed by his Tourette’s Syndrome, and he now takes revenge on the family by scaring anyone who tries to come near his attic.

Three local teenagers decide to test the ghost stories on Halloween to see if they are true, Ghost Hunters-style, arming themselves with cameras, snacks, and baseball bats.  Entering the house at 11 p.m. and finding everything quiet, the boys begin smashing one of the chandeliers by throwing their baseball bats at the ceiling.  The noise of a squeaking door upstairs finally scares the boys away.

The next morning Sleepy Hollow police receive a tip that the front door of Rosebud is wide open, swinging and banging in the wind.  Upon investigation, the police discover the damaged chandelier and one baseball bat labeled with a boy’s name.  The police interview the boy, who quickly confesses under the pressure and gives up the names of his compatriots in crime.

Back in Panama, Samara Voorhees, who regularly checks the Web site of the Sleepy Hollow Herald, learns of the damage to her chandelier and has her attorney file a lawsuit against the parents of the boys.  In court the parents argue they should not be held liable because the boys believed that Rosebud was abandoned, but they lose.  A judgment is entered against them for $46,793.15.

Locate the factually similar case that inspired the above the story.  Send me the name of the case and the citation in the regional reporter by midnight on Sunday, October 31 for a chance to win a $25 Cornell Store gift card.

Rare Book Open HouseThere will be a Rare Book Open House for LLM students, JSD students, visiting Faculty and Scholars, and new Faculty. It will be held from 11:00a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 28th, 2010. Among the items which may be on exhibit are famous trials, the Psychological Profile of Hitler, Nuremberg Trial Transcripts,  old state statutes of Hawaii, and Blackstone Commentaries along with the Code of Napoleon. Please come and see the treasures and have a bit to eat, too.

Rana book coverIn honor of Professor Aziz Rana‘s new book The Two Faces of American Freedom, today Cornell Law School hosted a celebration featuring remarks from Nancy Rosenblum, the Senator Joseph Clark Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government at Harvard University, William Forbath, the Lloyd M. Bentsen Chair in Law at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and Richard Bensel, Associate Chair and Professor in Cornell University’s Department of Government.  The book is also being featured at the Law Library circulation desk in the Reading Room.

Professor Rana’s book, which grew out of his dissertation work at Harvard, argues that in the United States, freedom and exclusion were not competing values, but part of the same ideological system.  Those in power maintained their economic and social freedom by denying those same freedoms to others (e.g., Indians and African Americans).  This practice continues today; interest groups (for example, the Tea Party movement and labor unions) advocate for policies to protect their economic well-being and against policies that will extend privileges and benefits to others, fearing their own economic and political positions will diminish.  The book’s concluding argument is that political change and the preservation and extension of freedom has continuously been the result of groups of people, most often the marginalized, unifying their voices in support of freedom.  For these and other insights, presented in beautifully written prose, take a look at the book.

The Suffolk County Legislature (Long Island, New York) passed a bill this week establishing the country’s first animal abuse registry.  The new law requires individuals convicted of animal abuse to submit their contact information and a photograph to the registry database and pay a $50 annual maintenance fee so that taxpayers are not footing the bill.  See this article from the North Shore Sun and this press release from the Suffolk County Legislature.  I have not located the full text of the new law; it looks like it is not available yet. UPDATE: the text of the law is now available here. Please post the link in the comments section if you have it.  Another bill is pending in Suffolk County that would forbid pet stores from selling animals to individuals listed in the animal abuse registry..

The new law seems like a good idea, especially if it includes offenders who have been found guilty of neglect.  Some people simply should not have pets.  Nevertheless, supporters are overstating the law’s ability to prevent abuse.  The first problem is the irony that pet stores, which may be prohibited in the future from selling animals to abusers, purchase many of their animals from abusers–puppy mills.  The ASPCA estimates that 99 percent of  pet store animals come from puppy mills.  This figure is impossible to verify but nevertheless indicative of the prevalence of the puppy mills.  Abuse needs to be confronted at the supply pipeline also.

Another potential problem is that many animal abusers do not shell out big bucks to purchase their victims at pet stores, from reputable breeders, or adopt from rescue organizations, all of which are either likely or potentially required to use the registry to screen their customers.  Abuse is often a crime of opportunity, with abusers targeting the pets of family, friends, or neighbors.  Secondly,  supporters argue that the law protects not just pets, but people too, since many killers including Jeffrey Dahmer and David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam) tortured animals before murdering people.  This claim is overblown; I do not see how the registry will prevent people from developing into serial killers, especially since they all obtained access to animals through family, friends, or neighbors.

What do you think? Will the new law be as effective as supporters claim?

Peace PalaceFrom September 5 – September 9, 2010, the International Association of Law Libraries hosted its 29th Annual Course on International Legal Information and Law entitled “Dutch Gateways to International Law” at The Hague, The Netherlands.   The meeting took place at the Peace Palace, where I joined approximately 200 librarians, attorneys, and professors in attendance from around the world.  The course is designed to provide international researchers with a clear understanding of the wider legal environment in which we operate.  In addition to presenting attendees with a review the legal system of the host country, the conference also featured several sessions in international law, including an assessment of the ongoing role of The Hague Conference on Private International Law, a review of recent cases at the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and presentations from various distinguished speakers regarding international criminal law, water law, law of the sea, maritime, harbor and transport law, air law, and The Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property, among many other topics.

Image:  IALL Annual Meeting attendees in front of the Peace Palace, The Hague, Netherlands.

PLC LogoWe are excited to inform you about a new online resource available for law students interested in transactional work: Practical Law Company.  PLC gives plain English guidance on transactional practice in corporations, securities, and finance.  This resource is a real world complement to your business law courses.  PLC gives you succinct overviews of practice areas, provides model documents and checklists, and updates you on the current transactional landscape.  The service is free for law students.  All you have to do is register at PLC’s Web site for your username and password.  The service is a great way to prepare for summer jobs.  There is an Interview Survival Guide and a Summer Associate Survival Guide designed to quickly bring you up to speed.  PLC is a subscription service for law firms and legal departments and is used by Baker & McKenzie, Shell International Limited, and Barclays Bank PLC, among others.  PLC could give you an edge.

The first Monday in October is the official start of the U.S. Supreme Court’s new term.  The nine justices, for the first time including three women, start right in on October 4 with oral arguments: 2 on Monday, 3 on Tuesday, and 2 on Wednesday.  The cases on Wednesday focus on very personal stories.  Snyder v. Phelps pits the grieving father of a marine killed in Iraq against infamous Rev. Fred Phelps, whose group displayed hateful signs such as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” near the funeral.  In Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, the Court will rule on the legal right of parents to sue when their children have been injured by vaccines, such as Hannah Bruesewitz who developed a seizure disorder after getting a vaccine when she was six months old.

A great web site to find all the briefs on the merits and the amicus briefs is the ABA’s site for “PREVIEW of United States Supreme Court Cases,” which provides “expert analysis of the issues, arguments, background, and significance of every case slated for argument.”  Another great resource for case previews is the Cornell Legal Information Institute‘s Supreme Court Bulletin, which provides case summaries and analysis written by Cornell Law students.  If you can’t be in Washington this week, you can still find the transcripts and audio of the oral arguments.  Check out “U.S. Supreme Court Oral Arguments: A Research Guide” by Cornell Research Attorney Matt Morrison for guidance.

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