Trump Con Law

By Victoria Szymczak, Law Library Director

Of all the podcasts out there this summer, one of the more entertaining and useful ones for law geeks is Trump Con Law.  It is hosted by UC Davis Law ProfessorDonald Trump and US Constitution Elizabeth Joh and Roman Mars, co-founder of Radiotopia, a curated collection of independent, thought-provoking podcasts (check it out if you are unfamiliar with it).  Professor Joh and Mr. Mars review the unbridled adventures of the executive branch under the Trump administration in the context of U.S. constitutional law.  The end result is a targeted lesson in con law based on present-day events.  Weeks 1 & 2 focused on Judicial Legitimacy and the Appointments Clause and Removal Power, for example.  Can’t wait to see what week 3 will bring us!

Trump Con Law occurs weekly.  The podcast is usually a little over 6 minutes in length – so not a HUGE investment in time.  If you miss your Con Law class, or merely want to get a leg up on Professor Freeman this fall, give it a whirl!  It is also a fun way to stay on top of current affairs.

The Law and Public Officials on Social Media: Blocking Beware?

We live in an in ever-increasing era in which the internet intersects with politics. The 2016 Presidential campaign was dominated by Facebook posts, clickbait, internet-driven funding campaigns, “fake news”, and major politicians using Twitter and Facebook to get their messages out. A foreseeable result of this has been politicians wanting to control their message by determining whom may have access to their sites.

One June 13 the Washington Post reported that author Stephen King had been blocked on Twitter by @realdonaldtrump, the Twitter account Donald Trump uses regularly instead of the official @POTUS account. Did this action violate the First Amendment?

Legal scholars at Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute think so. “Blocking users from your Twitter account violates the First Amendment,” the lawyers write in a letter to Trump. “When the government makes a space available to the public at large for the purpose of expressive activity, it creates a public forum from which it may not constitutionally exclude individuals on the basis of viewpoint.”

And here’s a law prof’s discussion of free speech rights relative to websites that are clearly government sponsored. It provides some leeway to politicians’ own sites:

Sometimes individual politicians or private political organizations have their own independent social media presence. Depending upon how they are set up, these may not be considered government forums, even though public officials are using them. Individual politicians who set up their own Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, without governmental sponsorship or funding, are probably not subject to the limitations discussed here.

Donald Trump clearly is a businessman with his own private affairs and interests outside the office as President. He will likely insist he has his name and image to protect and will do all within his power to do so. This presents a new area of the law that needs researched.

References

  1. Mari Cheney, Blocked on Twitter…By the President – AALL Computing Services SIS, http://blog.cssis.org/2017/06/19/blocked-on-twitter-by-the-president/ (last visited Jun 19, 2017).
  2. Timothy B. Lee, Users threatened to sue Trump for blocking them on Twitter. Experts say it’s a long shot. Vox (2017), https://www.vox.com/new-money/2017/6/8/15758408/trump-twitter-blocking-lawsuit (last visited Jun 19, 2017).
  3. Charles Ornstein, Trump Isn’t the Only Politician Blocking Constituents on Twitter, Slate, 2017 (last visited Jun 19, 2017).

A Rare Experience at Rare Book School

By Storm Stoker, Technical Services Support Specialist

I wasn’t even in the door of the old stone Alderman Library on the University of Virginia (UVA) grounds when I heard three clever Harry Potter references. These were my people- book nerds. I was among twenty fellows who received the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Rare Book School (IMLS-RBS) Fellowship.

Storm Stoker at Rare Book School (UVA)

This fellowship is designed to provide professional development education opportunities to early career special collections librarians, with a special emphasis on recruiting those that are currently underrepresented in the field. Funding included travel costs and tuition for the History of the Book 200-2000 course at UVA, as well as for the annual conference of Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries at the Biltmore in Florida (the course and conference took place from June 9-24, 2016).  RBS offers over 60 courses in various locations throughout the US, but their home base is UVA.

RBS Director Michael F. Suarez gave an inspiring introductory lecture, encourages us to look and see the books, and not to just take pictures in an attempt to possess them.  Good advice for anyone in this age of over documentation to stop and enjoy the moment.

Upon arrival in our first class, we were led by candlelight and in complete silence to a dark basement room surrounded by books. I was a little worried we were about to sacrifice something, as UVA is famous for its secret societies.  Artificial candles provided the only light as the professors passed around copies of illuminated manuscripts and told us to read quietly for three minutes. It was difficult reading the ornate writing in the dim

Book with illumination

light and the few phrases I could make out referred to torture, the devil and hell. This strange and dramatic introduction to RBS demonstrated in a very visceral way the difficult conditions in which medieval scribes created their exquisite works. Most scribes had to work on farms during the day and could only do this work at night with a minimum of illumination. This introduction was indicative of the enthralling teaching style of my two professors who led us through 1800 fascinating years of the history of the book.

The course was taught by Dr. John Buchtel and Mark Dimunation. Dr. Buchtel is the Head of Special Collections at Georgetown University and has worked as the curator of rare books at the Sheridan Libraries at John Hopkins University. Mark Dimunation has been the Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. since 1998. Both professors are eccentric geniuses, gifted with a peculiar and fascinating sense of humor.  The course began with cuneiform tablets and covered the past 1800 years of book production.

As part of the class we visited the Library of Congress Rare Book Collection where Mark Dimunation is “The Chief.” I hope you are all as sufficiently impressed by this fact as I am.  I took a class from THE CHIEF!  We were taken to the special collections room where the most amazing moments of our experience took place. The class got to see and touch illuminated manuscripts that were ancient but glowed as if they were just created. We saw an impossibly miniature book of hours covered with embroidered fabric and encrusted with pearls. The most electric moment took place when a very plain book bound in vellum was produced. It was a scientific book with Marginalia (hand written notes), smudgy fingerprints and dog-eared pages. We were astonished to learn this was Galileo’s book. Not just written by Galileo, but a book written, printed and doodled in by Galileo. The smudgy fingerprints were made by him as this copy came off the printing press he was using. He noticed a mistake in this copy so he used it for his own personal reference and corrected the mistake for future printings.  (Book nerds and book collectors everywhere are now feeling a bit lightheaded as all these details, known as provenance, increase the value). Holding this book was an unforgettable thrill.

Beware, there is singing in Rare Book School.  Before we left Mark Dimunation and

Mark Dimunation, Chief of the Rare Book Spec. Coll. at LOC

another St. Olaf alum, treated us to a strange rendition of their school song. If you haven’t heard this hilarious ditty, I recommend you Google it immediately.  As a class we were frequently and horrifically required to sing “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili” (an early example of printing) but at least I won’t forget the title of this important tome.

Did you know that many expressions that we use today started with the printing press?  “Mind your p’s and q’s,” means to pay attention, because each letter was an individual metal mold, apprentices had to be careful to put the letters back in the right place, to avoid mixing them up.   The capital letters were kept in the top portion of the case (upper case) and the regular letters were kept in the bottom portion of the case (lower case).  There were opportunities to practice printing our own almanacs on UVA’s replica printing press.  We saw some of the vocabulary we had been learning in the flesh, words like; beaters, bite, bosses, fetishes, type height and pied type.

So what is it like to attend Rare Book School?  For the book nerds it is about as close as you are ever going to get to the Hogwarts library. It was the experience of a lifetime and I gained the knowledge and vocabulary needed to work with others researching rare books. I can share the experience with my community and help people appreciate and value special collections. It was informative, inspiring and oh, yes, it was the best “summer camp” ever, if you are a book nerd.

Just the Facts

By Victoria Szymczak, Director of the Law Library

During the past year, a lot has been made of “fake news.”  Even if the news isn’t exactly “fake,” writers present facts in a way that may garner approval or outrage from their readers.  Newsworthy facts are accompanied by a narrative to provide context, and it is the narrative that creates the spin.  The curious reader may be left wanting to know just the facts.  Fortunately, there are some outlets that will satisfy those cats.

USAFacts.org is the brainchild of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.  Content consists of freely available information organized into a single platform.  To start off, the landing page for USAFacts.org presents a graphic showing you how much money the U.S. government took in (5.2 trillion) and how much it spent (5.4 trillion) in 2014.   You can browse the broad categories and then narrows down to smaller sets.  For example, if you follow the trail for revenue collected from payroll taxes, we learn that the U.S. government collected $228.2 billion for Medicare in payroll taxes.  On the other side – money spent – we can follow the trail in Wealth and Savings to see that we spent $511.6 billion (net of premiums) on Medicare.  You can also search for facts.  Searching for Presidential Campaign Contributions will yield results for 2014 ($924,000,000) and 2012 ($1,008,000,000).  This is a growing, and incomplete resource but it is easy to use and gets to the point quickly.

The Law Library subscribes to a database of statistics called Data Planet which is significantly larger than USAFacts (for the moment).  Data-Planet Statistical Ready Reference is designed to allow users to quickly navigate the billions of points of data contained in the repository, representing ~5,000 datasets covering thousands of geographic entities. With Data-Planet users can quickly search and view charts, maps, and rankings of time series among other filters.  Data Planet’s advanced search feature that allow you to tailor your search by category, state, and country.  For example, a search for solar energy consumption yields data from 1960 to 2014.  Using the advanced search feature, we can limit the results to Hawaii which tells us that we consumed 10,277,000,000,000 BTUs of solar energy in 2014 compared to 1,347,000,000,000 BTUs in 2000.

If you are savvy enough, you might be able to tap into government sources directly.  The gateway to government stored statistics is at https://www.usa.gov/statistics.  In addition to the federal sources, you can find links to local and state statistical gateways.  For example, if you select Hawaii from the state resources and follow the link to the Corrections Department, you will learn that 1,620 incarcerated men are being held at the Saguaro, AZ Correctional Facility and 2,954 incarcerated men are being held at jails and prisons in Hawaii.  Many of the larger, federal databases are more difficult to pinpoint and decipher, which makes the above two resources more friendly in some instances.

It does not take much to check the facts yourself.  So, don’t be lazy!

Expanded Assistance to Justice Portal Available to Hawaii Public

Legal service providers continue to find creative ways to use technology to expand assistance to justice efforts. Starting March 2017 the Hawaii Consortium of Legal Service Providers launched an online comprehensive legal services portal that guides people in need of civil legal help to the most appropriate organizations and resources. It has been designed to be a great first place for those seeking help in civil matters (non-criminal).

From the portal users will find brochures, videos, do-it-yourself online court forms, virtual learn-the-law courses, and other online legal resources. This portal is ideal for public librarians, social workers, the courts, and other state agencies.

You can find links to this portal and many other resources on the library website at http://library.law.hawaii.edu/public-patron-services/#resources.

For more informaton about the Portal see http://www.legalaidhawaii.org/hawaii-legal-services-portal.html.

Celebrate the 14th Amendment on May 1st – Law Day

By Roberta Woods, Reference and Instructional Services Librarian

Law Day 2017 The 14th Amendment Transforming American DemocracyRepresentative John Bingham of Ohio, who Justice Hugo Black called “the Madison … of the Fourteenth Amendment,” wrote the text of Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment. This section includes the due process, equal protection, and citizenship clauses, which, today, are at the heart of many of the most important U.S. constitutional protections. Bingham’s use of “privileges or immunities” is explicitly drawn from the language of Dred Scott (Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857)) and is intended to fundamentally reject the case.

Ratified on July 9, 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment is one of three Reconstruction Amendments. The Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, was ratified in 1865; the Fifteenth Amendment, prohibiting the federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote based on that citizen’s race, color, or previous condition of servitude, was ratified in 1870.

The 14th Amendment covers a number of important topics in its different clauses, including:

  • U.S. citizenship (providing for birthright citizenship)
  • The privileges and immunities of citizens
  • Due process (including both substantive and procedural)
  • Equal protection under the law
  • Enforcement of laws

The Fourteenth Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment. Through a doctrine known as incorporation, it is the reason that many of the protections of the Bill of Rights have been applied to shield us against state action. Previously, those rights were only enforced against the federal government. Given that most of the law enforcement in this country is done at the state and local level, the importance of having constitutional protections applicable to those proceedings cannot be overstated. Without incorporation, Miranda warnings would not have to be administered by local police, the First Amendment would not stop states from restricting free speech, and an individual would have no Sixth Amendment right to counsel in a state proceeding.

The Fourteenth Amendment has also been the basis for the recognition of certain fundamental rights, including the right to privacy and the right to marry. Many of the laws that resulted from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s found their support and inspiration in this amendment. It has also served as the basis for such key Supreme Court cases as Brown v. Board of Education (barring racial segregation in education) and Loving v. Virginia (striking down laws against interracial marriage), just to name a couple. Rarely, if ever, does a Supreme Court term go by without some major decision grounded in Fourteenth Amendment principles.

The information for this blog entry came entirely from the ABA website.  More information is available on the ABA website: http://www.lawday.org.