The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report last month entitled Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress, identifying the potential effects of climate change that Congress should take into consideration.  Some of the issues raised may surprise you; the report is worth a look.

Matthew Benner, a 3L, is the winner of the Halloween Research Competition!  Matthew’s prize is a $25 gift card for the Cornell Store.  Congratulations goes out to everyone who found the correct answer, Hayward v. Carraway, 180 So. 2d 758 (La. Ct. App. 1965).  And the moral of the case is…just because a house is abandoned and haunted, doesn’t mean you can break into it with impunity (shocking, I know)!

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 ( 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.

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?

In 2008 Latham & Watkins attorney Kirk Davenport developed a list of 750 need-to-know terms for corporate and deal attorneys.  Now that list is available as a free iPhone/iPad Touch/iPad app courtesy of the IT and business development teams at Latham.  The app, called “The Book of Jargon,” is missing some important terms like “credit default swap,” but it still does a good job of covering the obvious (“common stock”) to the more advanced (“Macaroni Defense”).  You can search or browse for terms.  I would have liked to see an example for each entry as well as links to other resources illustrating the terms–but hey, it’s free.  And how much free time can Kirk Davenport have?  Recommended for aspiring corporate lawyers, perhaps as a supplement to that pricey but highly functional Black’s Law Dictionary app.

PiratesPiracy is funny when it involves parrots with risqué vocabularies, saying “Argggh” a lot, and Johnny Depp proudly debarking from his sinking jalopy of a raft.  Piracy is deadly serious when it is a form of terrorism in which routes of commerce are disrupted, people die, and a sea captain in Swiss Family Robinson makes his granddaughter dress like a boy to protect her from…well, I could never figure out from what when I was eight years old.  But something really, really bad.

In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day this coming Sunday (September 19th every year), here are some resources for learning about the not-so-funny legal aspects of piracy.

Digital libraries


  • The Law of Piracy. Alfred P. Rubin. 2nd ed. Irvington-on-Hudson, New York: Transnational Publishers, Inc., 1998.  Law Library call number K5277 .R89 1998.  This book traces the development of piracy and piracy law in the Greco-Roman world, England, and the United States.
  • La Piraterie au Vingtième Siècle: Piraterie Maritime et Aérienne.  Corinne Touret.  Paris: Librairie Générale de Droit et de Jurisprudence, E.J.A., 1992.  Law Library call number K5277 .T68 1992.  This book takes an international law approach.
  • Patriot Pirates: The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution.  Robert H. Patton.  New York: Pantheon Books, 2008.  Olin Library call number E271. P27 2008.  Patriot Pirates describes of the history of American colonial privateers during the Revolutionary War (like Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, except in a different war), their motivations, and the questionable legality of their actions.

Articles (links to HeinOnline)

Web sites

Image: “The Pirates” Under False Colors-Can They Capture the Ship of State? from Cornell University Library’s Collection of Political Americana, available on

BNA is providing training for Cornell Law students on Monday, September 27 at 2:30 in room 279. The training ends at 2:55.

A special training for members of the law journals will be held in room 279 from 3:00 until 3:25.

The BNA representative will be passing out information in the foyer from 11a.m.-2p.m.

BNA publishes looseleaf services that help lawyers stay abreast of the latest developments in their practice areas.  BNA employs attorneys who report on legal news. BNA also publishes articles from high-profile attorneys analyzing the latest developments.  Some BNA resources include primary law sources such as cases and verdicts.

There are BNA resources for a wide variety of topics, from international trade to intellectual property, from environmental law to securities law, from employment law to criminal law.  View the full list of BNA titles available at Cornell Law School here.

A good BNA publication for all law students to subscribe to is United States Law Week, which provides a weekly report on the most significant U.S. legal news for all areas of law. Get the news delivered to your inbox by clicking “Sign Up For E-Mail” on the U.S. Law Week home page.

CALI logoYou may have noticed the DVDs on the table near the reference desk.  These DVDs from CALI, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, have tutorials designed by law professors and librarians across the country on many legal topics, such as torts, contracts, and even legal research.  CALI is another tool to help you study smarter, not harder, in law school.

Feel free to grab a DVD from the table, but the best way to access CALI is, which is a little more up-to-date than the DVDs.  To set up an account on the CALI Web site, grab a CALI card from the table in front of the reference desk (right next to the DVDs).  This card has a code you can use to set up your account. Please email me if you have any questions.

The Law Library of Congress launched a blog in August 2010 titled In Custodia Legis (translation “In Protection of Law” or “In Guardianship of the Law”).  The Law Library of Congress is the largest law library in the world with over 2.65 million volumes.  Founded to provide legal materials to Congress, the Library of Congress now takes a global approach, recognizing the interconnectedness of national legal systems and working to ensure access to the world’s laws.  The blog also has a global viewpoint and is a great way to learn about international events related to legal information as well as the LLOC ‘s special collections and interesting questions they have received (check out the one on Al Capone’s jury).

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