March 8, 2011

Book Review: Cross Examination Handbook: Persuasion, Strategies, and Techniques

We are pleased to presnet the following review of Cross Examination Handbook: Persuasion, Strategies and Techniques by Ronald H. Clark and others as acknowledged below. The review was prepared by our Senior Law Librarian for Public Access, Theodore Pollack

Title: Cross-Examination Handbook: Persuasion, Strategies, and Techniques

Author: Ronald H. Clark, George R. Dekle, Sr., William S. Bailey

Publisher: Wolters Kluwer: Law & Business

Series: Aspen Coursebook Series

Published: 2011

Price: $39.50

“The Cross-Examination Handbook“ is a useful volume for any law student or litigator. The book and accompanying dvd are provide a trial techniques class on cross-examination and examine various cross-examination techniques and the different trial situations in which they arise (e.g. runaway witnesses or recalcitrant witnesses). To deal with these situations in court or in deposition is often a difficult task and to have a guide which provides strategies, model examinations, and sample questions is of potential great assistance to a practitioner.

This book was written by Ronald H. Clark (Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, Seattle University School of Law), George R. Dekle, Sr. (Legal Skills Professor, University of Florida Law School), and William S. Bailey (Adjunct Professor of Law, Seattle University School of Law). The authors provide a readily read and highly useable aid which is useful to new and experienced trial attorneys. Perhaps it is of greatest utility to new practitioners as they enter trial practice and reduce the need to learn under combat situations and consequently increase their effectiveness.

“The Cross Examination Handbook” is recommended for law libraries, litigators, and law students.

Ted Pollack, Sr. Law Librarian, New York Supreme Court, New York County Public Access Law Library

November 15, 2010

Two Book Reviews - One Author - Ron Arons

Until a few weeks ago before receiving a telephone call I had never heard of Ron Arons. During that call Mr. Arons explained that he had been following postings on this blog and wondered if I would be interested in reviewing two of his books. After some discussion I agreed to either review them myself or ask some of my colleagues to review them for posting on the Criminal Law Library blog, with the understanding that the books provided for reviewing would be added to the library collection of the New York Supreme Court Criminal Term Library of New York County and not given to me personally.

We are fortunate that two colleagues, both experienced book reviewers, were available and eager to take on these assignments. Pepper Hedden who has worked with me on special projects and reviews materials regularly for the Law Library Association of Greater New York (LLAGNY) will graduate December 2010 from St. John’s University with an MLS degree. She is a reference librarian in the law library of the New York County District Attorney’s office and is reviewing The Jews of Sing Sing the first of Mr. Arons' books listed below. Ted Pollack who is reviewing Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records: Sources & Research Methodology, also by Mr. Arons, is the Senior Law Librarian at the New York County Public Access Law Library. Ted continues to review legal materials for both the New York Law Journal and the Library Journal.

Since I am not writing any of the reviews below I will only say that as a law librarian who is always looking for useful sources of criminal records, I have already found Mr. Arons book Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records: Sources & Research Methodology useful in identifying criminal records in other jurisdictions. Unfortunately I have not yet found time to read The Jews of Sing Sing--but I will. Now on to the book reviews:
David Badertscher

Pepper Hedden's review:

The Jews of Sing Sing: Gotham Gangsters and Gonuvin
By Ron Arons
The Jews of Sing Sing proves the adage to not judge a book by its cover – or its title. This book is a lively and crystalline page-turner with something for everyone to enjoy.

Like many, Ron Arons paid little attention to the family stories he had heard over his lifetime until he found himself parentless. While disposing of the belongings of his “packrat parents”, he discovered a family tree his father had started and caught the “genealogy bug”. Having no living relatives of a proper age to ask for stories, the author began his genealogical expedition with the U.S. Census records. What he discovered raised perplexing questions. His great-grandfather had claimed to be born in three different locations. His great-grandmother’s death certificate listed a surviving husband with a name different from that of his great-grandfather. And his great-grandfather had served time in Sing Sing! He didn’t remember hearing such a story and the idea of a Jewish criminal flew in the face of his Jewish teachings to abide to a high moral value system.

Ron Arons is an award-winning researcher who invites us on his odyssey of discovery and engagingly reports the results. Over more than ten years, as he pieced together his great grandfather’ s story, he found a surprising number of other Jewish criminals from the early New York City streets especially the Lower East Side, also known as Five Points. In individual chapters, the reader is entertained with colorful descriptions of some of these Jewish criminals who had called Sing Sing “home” for a time from the mid-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century.

Throughout the book, the author’s meticulous research in census records, prison records, newspapers, archives, books, police records, court transcripts and personal interviews is impressive. Where pieces about the underworld characters do not fit nicely together, Ron Arons suggests possible answers based on other research. The details are exquisite. Locations, names and facts are exact. The storytelling is infectious.

For instance, we meet Monk Eastman, “the first true Jewish gangster” whose “presence and influence lasted for decades”. In one recounting, Monk and his companions were unaware they were being watched by undercover detectives as they “pushed revolvers in the youth’s face and attempted to steal his stash.” One detective “like an Olympic hurdler” cleared the leg Eastman put out to trip him as he pursued the companion “in front of Lewis & Conger, a crockery and home furnishings store located at 130 W. 42nd Street.” What follows is literally a blow-by-blow account of how the officer used the companion as a shield to block the gun shots hurled by Monk until Monk’s revolver was empty and he threw it through the Lewis & Conger store window to later be used as evidence. There are dozens of other delightful stories.

We learn that Bennet’s Hotel once existed at 7th Avenue and 41st Street and a Worker’s Party of America office was located at 110 West 14th Street. Did you know that the phrase “keeping tabs” stems from card players who hired “counters” with tablets called “tabs” to count cards?

The Jews of Sing Sing tells the story of crime and vice as the decades unfold. Gambling at times was almost entirely in the hands of Jewish gangs. It seems that in 1910, 16% of the Sing Sing population was Jewish. Many were immigrants who disguised their identity by using aliases, as shown on serial arrest records or, as was common, to Americanize their names to hide their heritage. For instance, Bugsy Siegel’s true name was Benjamin Siegelbaum.

Along the way, we briefly encounter more recognizable figures such as Clarence Darrow, J. Edgar Hoover, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. On the flip side is the story of the cozy relations between the gangsters and Tamany Hall politicians, police, unions and the rich and famous as they collaborate in corruption, graft, extortion, and prostitution as well as those determined to root out crime. A successful, and corrupt, wealthy Mr. Hertz bribed a graft investigator to resign from the police force. . .and he did. Louis Shomberg, ostensibly a prominent businessman is thought to be behind crime networks in New York for decades. He was so successful is covering his tracks that in the 1960’s federal prosecutors just gave up trying convict and deport him in his advancing years.

An unusual story in the criminal context is that of Benjamin Gitlow, one of the founders of the American communist movement in the early 20th century who was charged under new sedition laws. Later he had a change of heart and testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and cooperated with the FBI in rooting out communism in America.

Researchers will appreciate the efforts Aron’s took to accurately detail the lives of the gangsters he profiled and the circumstances in which they lived. Historians, or lovers of New York history, will delight in description of the events in various decades and the city that knew them. New Yorkers and those familiar with the New York streets will be making mental pictures of City addresses and imagining the buildings and business that once occupied it. For fans of crime novels, this book is a romp. The Jews of Sing Sing will appeal to and delight many readers whatever their interests.

Pepper Hedden will graduate December 2010 from St. John’s University with an MLS degree and is a reference librarian in the law library of the New York County District Attorney’s office.

Ted Pollack's review:

Title: Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records: Sources & Research Methodology

Author: Ron Arons
Publisher: Criminal Research Press

Pages: 365

Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records” is a volume dedicated to assisting in locating current and archival material related to individuals with a criminal history. Ron Arons became interested in this area while researching a relative’s criminal past. This volume compiles a comprehensive listing of libraries, archives, and other physical locations as well as online resources that are very useful in locating criminal records. The author acknowledges that the method used to track records for and individual often varies from case to case. The apparent value in this work is the large number of resources compiled. The book is organized and covers each of the fifty states as well as the District of Columbia and the federal system. For individuals performing research in this area this book will be a highly useful tool. Nonetheless, the publisher might consider offering a digitized version with active links to websites to save users the difficulty of entering long web addresses to access online records locations. This book is recommended for special libraries, professional researchers, and individuals interested in performing research involving relatives with shady pasts.

Ted Pollack, Sr. Law Librarian, New York County Public Access Law Library

December 23, 2009

Guide to Selected Free and Accessible Programs Available Via the Internet

There are a variety of webcasts of lecture series both law-related and general interest available from courts, law libraries, public libraries, and other organizations. Below is a non-comprehensive listing of links to transcripts and related videos (if available) of various types of programs compiled by our Senior Law Librarian for Public Access, Theodore Pollack. These programs are free and accessible via the Internet.

New York Court of Appeals webcasts of lectures and arguments:

Law Library of Congress Webcasts related to legal subjects:

Various Law School webcasts of lectures:

United States Supreme Court Justices lecture transcripts:

New York Public Library lecture series programs (variety of subjects):

Library of Congress webcasts (variety of subjects):

Book TV (archive of current and old nonfiction-related book discussions)

Compiled by Ted Pollack, Senior. Law Librarian, NY County Public Access Law Library

December 21, 2009

Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law

December-14-18, 2009.

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U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, December 17, 2009
Mosher v. Nelson, No. 09-1636
In plaintiffs' civil rights action brought following the death of their son against a facility operated by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections that serves as both a prison and a mental hospital, its superintendent, and others, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where: 1) defendant-superintendent is entitled to qualified immunity as a reasonable official in defendant's place, given the circumstances and the legal standard, could have believed that allowing a certain practice to continue would not lead to events that would violate a patient's rights; 2) commissioner is also entitled to qualified immunity as a reasonable official in his position could have reasonably believed that staffing that met the hospital's recommendations was sufficient to avoid constitutional violations; and 3) the district court properly dismissed the plaintiffs' state law claims as barred by the Eleventh Amendment. .

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, December 16, 2009
US v. Hester, No. 08-4665
Defendant's conviction for traveling in interstate commerce and failing to register or update his sex offender registration in violation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) is affirmed where the fact that defendant had no actual notice of SORNA was not sufficient to render his prosecution pursuant to that statute a violation of his due process rights.

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, December 18, 2009
Turkmen v. Ashcroft, No. 06-3745
In an action claiming abuse, mistreatment, and detention of Arab and Muslim aliens who were held on immigration violations in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, an order partially dismissing the complaint is affirmed in part where there was no clearly established equal protection right to be free of selective enforcement of immigration laws based on national origin, race, or religion at the time of plaintiffs' detentions. However, the order is vacated in part where defendant-officials were entitled to qualified immunity because a law enforcement official's actual motivation for the Fourth Amendment seizure of a person was constitutionally irrelevant if the seizure was supported by probable cause.

Continue reading "Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law" »

September 3, 2009

Book Review: Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln

Title: Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln

Author: John Stauffer

Publisher: Twelve (Hatchett Book Group)

Price: $30.00

ISBN: 13-0978-0-446-58009-0

Pages: 432

Abraham Lincoln has been written about extensively and ranks as one of the most prolifically written about subjects in print. Frederick Douglass is a much lesser written about historical figure. This book provides an interesting structure by providing a parallel framework in which the lives of these two individuals are recounted in individual chapters. This volume by John Stauffer (chair of the history of American civilization and professor of English at Harvard University) is written in a fluid and compelling manner that makes for an interesting and illuminating reading experience.

Abraham Lincoln's life story is particularly well known and inspiring and is the fabric of the American story and dream personified. His rise from humble origins in the American heartland, growing up on a farm, becoming a workman and store clerk to become a self-educated, highly successful attorney representing the largest and most profitable clients would be an American success story in itself. But he compounded these facts by entering a career in politics and rising to the American presidency-- the highest office in the land where he provided critical political and military leadership in preserving the union.

Similarly inspiring and perhaps of biblical proportions are the facts of Frederick Douglass' life. Born into the bondage of slavery, he escaped the brutality of a slave's life in the South to become an educated and respected publisher as well as public personage and orator. He became a famed abolitionist, orator, and writer. His most famous work is the Autobiography of Frederick Douglass.

The primary weakness of this book is the fact that there were only a few meetings between Lincoln and Douglass. The stories of their lives are fascinating. Lincoln had a profound impact on the course of history in his political and military leadership role as President. However, the fact that there were few recorded meetings hinders the joining of the two figures in one volume, but nonetheless it is clear that the events of that time period joined the personal and public stories of both Lincoln and Douglass in an uncommon and perhaps uniquely American way.

Lincoln's life was cut all too short by the assassin John Wilkes Boothe. His place in history was ensured prior to his assassination, but as a result he became an almost sainted figure. The Shakespearean lines with which Robert Kennedy paid tribute to his slain brother President John Fitzgerald Kennedy could equally apply to Lincoln: "When he shall die take him and cut him out into stars and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun." This volume shines a different type of light on the lives of these two important American citizens and perhaps is most significant in highlighting and more highly publicizing Douglass' life by linking him more closely with Lincoln.

This book is recommended for public and academic libraries as well as special libraries with an orientation focusing on American history.

Theodore Pollack, Sr. Law Librarian, NY County Public Access Law Library

March 16, 2009

Book Review: Trial Advocacy Planning, Analysis and Strategy


Title: Trial Advocacy: Planning, Analysis, and Strategy

Authors: Marilyn J. Berger, John B. Mitchell, Ronald Clark

Publisher: Wolters Kluwer

Edition: Second

Pages: 596

ISBN: 978-0-7355-7144-0

Publication Date: 2008

“Trial Advocacy: Planning, Analysis, and Strategy” and its companion volume of “Trial Advocacy: Assignment and Case Files” provide a primer on the subject of basic trial skills, litigation techniques, and substantive legal material related to litigation. The authors are affiliated with the Seattle University School of Law in teaching capacities related to trial advocacy. Professor Marilyn Berger is the Director of the Comprehensive Trial Advocacy Program; John Mitchell is the director of the Seattle University School of Law Practice Clinic and has taught courses in Evidence, Criminal Law, and Criminal Procedure; Ronald Clark is Distinguished Practitioner in Residence and served as chief of the Criminal Division for the King County Prosecutor's Office and is the former Senior Training Counsel for the National College of District Attorneys.
“Trial Advocacy: Planning, Analysis, and Strategy” is a thorough and readable introduction to trial advocacy for law students or new practitioners. It covers the various pre-trial issues (e.g. case theory and development, motion practice) and trial stages with a focus on the trial (e.g. opening statement, direct examination, cross-examination, closing, jury instructions, etc.). The related volume, “Trial Advocacy: Assignments and Case Files,” comes with a dvd that contains a movie and factual scenario used for illustrating techniques and procedures as well as material for assignments that flesh out the theoretical structure and content of “Trial Advocacy: Planning, Analysis, and Strategy.” Utilized together the two volumes and multimedia material provide useful instructional material to assist in learning litigation and advocacy skills. These volumes are recommended for trial techniques, law school, and continuing legal education classes.
*Theodore Pollack is the Senior Law Librarian, New York County Public Access Law Library, New York, NY.

December 3, 2007

Public Access Libraries: An American Institution

BY: Theodore Pollack
Senior Law Librarian
New York County Public Access Law Library

The United States Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal....” Perhaps no more beautiful words have ever been written. However, self-represented litigants who are attempting to protect their rights, often discover the vast gulf between the political platitude and the reality of becoming self-educated attorneys competing against trained litigators before the courts.

In order to bridge this gulf, self-represented litigants look to a variety of resources. New York State established by statute the existence of a public access law library in each New York State county. These libraries are part of the New York State Unified Court System and are charged with providing access to legal materials in the hope of making the legal process more equitable and transparent. Legal databases, case reporters, encyclopedias, codes all provide a means for the self-represented litigant to learn the law and educate him/herself.

“Law sharpens the tongue and narrows the mind,” Edmund Burke humorously said of the evolutionary process involved in studying the law. However, anybody who has ever tried to read cases or statutes will acknowledge the struggle encountered in trying to decipher multi-layered procedures and a new language filled with unfamiliar and archaic terminology. Similarly, many fledgling and experienced attorneys have spent long hours trying to decipher the meaning and intent of statutes whose meaning is unclear. In order to shed light on determining, the meaning of a law, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter was credited with saying: “Read the statute. Read the statute. Read the statute.” Is there any better environment to proceed with this activity than a library?

Libraries since ancient times have been the repositories of written knowledge. We in public access law libraries are charged with teaching novice to best utilize legal research resources in order to facilitate advocating their causes and cases before the courts. In the New York County Public Access Law Library, a diverse group of users cross through the Library’s doors each day. The clientele spans the socio-economic spectrum and may very well include a stock broker who lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side or a destitute individual who is homeless. Self-represented litigants are involved in a multitude of cases. However, in New York County, a majority involve housing, family, and other civil issues with a smaller portion involving criminal issues. Other researchers who have used the Library include a Brooklyn College professor doing historical research, journalists examining high and low profile cases, journalism students trying to make sense of the court system, and paralegal students beginning their studies. For each of these types of patrons, the Library is a place to gain research skills and insight into the judicial process.

Are all of the Library’s users successful in their cases and research pursuits after using the Library? Honestly, that is an impossible goal to accomplish. Some Library “graduates” have been successful in the state and federal courts. Yet, it is our true hope that we place self-represented litigants in a better position to advocate their causes. Fairness is an integral value of the American judicial system and is embodied in the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. It is this spirit of trying to make the judicial process more just and open that the staff of public access law libraries seek to help the self-represented litigant. I think that the comment of Court Officer Charley Freeman regarding the New York County Public Access Law Library applies to all public access law libraries: “There is something very American about it [the New York County Public Access Law Library], and we are lucky to have it.”