February 2010

  • February 2, 2010
    Practical Advice
    In an article for the New York State Bar Association Journal, Gerald Lebovits provides tips on how attorneys can effectively use e-mail. In "E-Mail Netiquette for Lawyers," Lebovits, a judge of the New York City Civil Court and adjunct professor at St. John's University School of Law, writes that "Despite its problems, e-mail is an essential tool. Attorneys must make the most of it - so long as the attorney follows this good advice: ‘Think. Pause. Think again. Then send.'"

    Lebovits's article, which was noted by Raymond Ward's the (new) legal writer blog, includes an array of tips for lawyers on using e-mail. For example, Lebovits stresses careful editing, before hitting send. "Editing includes more than reading for meaning. It means checking spelling and grammar," he writes. "Informality like making typos or using only lowercase letters is fine between friends. It has no place in professional correspondence. To ensure credibility and respect, avoid grammar and spelling errors. Use your e-mail program's spell-check function. Editing is necessary because ‘[c]lients often can't tell whether your legal advice is sound, but they can certainly tell if you made careless typos.'"

    [image via nassaulibrary.org]


  • February 1, 2010

    Fifty years ago today, four black college students undertook a simple act of protest that helped accelerate the civil rights movement and changed history forever. Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, and Joe McNeil entered the F.W. Woolworth's store in Greensboro, N.C., took their seats at the whites-only lunch counter, and asked for coffee and doughnuts. The waitress refused to serve them, but rather than leave the store, the four students remained at the counter in silent protest of the segregation at that store in Greensboro and at lunch counters across the South.

    While the Greensboro Four did not pioneer sit-ins, their act of defiance attracted the attention of other students and catalyzed a movement that made national headlines. Their protest reignited forward progress in the Civil Rights Movement at a time when the Movement arguably was lagging. In 1954 for instance, Brown v. Board of Education paved the way for integrated public schools, but desegregation was only occurring at one percent per year; change was long overdue. The success of the sit-ins resulted in many businesses desegregating, which instilled a newfound sense of hope in the movement, and much needed encouragement that segregation would soon be a practice of the past.

    Following the Woolworth's protest, black students across the South began to participate in sit-ins at restaurants, swim-ins at pools, read-ins at libraries, and a host of other protests against segregation. Within a year of the Greensboro Four's protest approximately 50,000 individuals took part in sit-ins in more than 100 cities. The wave of protests dealt a significant economic blow to businesses in the south. It was estimated that Woolworth's alone lost $200,000 in business in the months following the Greensboro protest. It was a strategy similar to that used by blacks in Montgomery during the bus boycotts; leverage the economy to disrupt segregationists even as the lingering manifestations of Jim Crow left many blacks in the south with few resources to combat systemic racial injustices.

    It worked. Business began to desegregate, Freedom Riders launched a successful, albeit at times bloody, challenge to segregation on interstate busses, Martin Luther King, Jr. led the March on Washington, and just four years after the Greensboro Four left their indelible mark on the Civil Rights Movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed segregation and discrimination in public venues. A heroic act of defiance redefined history of justice and equality.

  • February 1, 2010
    Guest Post

    by Maj. (Ret.) Eric Montalvo, Esq., Founding Partner, The Federal Practice Group Worldwide  Service

    On January 20, 2009 the world changed for a moment. President Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. He became the first African American to hold this office and one of his first acts as President was to publish the now infamous "transparency memo" on January 21, 2009. This memo highlighted three key policy objectives: 1) government should be transparent; 2) government should be participatory; and 3) government should be collaborative.

    This promise of transparency is at best illusive. On January 22, 2010, almost one year to the date that this memo was published, the Obama administration announced that it would be implementing a policy of indefinite detention for 50 or so Guantanamo Bay detainees. The President has decided to travel upon this path in part to "cover up" our use of "harsh interrogation techniques" and intelligence gathering procedures. In theory, the evidence obtained through these techniques cannot be used to successfully sustain a conviction.

    If the techniques are that egregious, the President should grant immunity to those who engaged in such conduct so that closure can be obtained and this sad chapter in American history can be closed. Disclosure of the torture techniques that are purportedly no longer sanctioned can cause no harm. If the concern is incitement of the enemy, then the government can pursue National Security Courts or remit the persons to others jurisdictions to be investigated for their alleged war crimes and/or civil crimes.

  • February 1, 2010

    With the Senate Armed Services Committee's hearing on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" scheduled for tomorrow, another hearing on a controversial issue is being overlooked by many.

    The Supreme Court's recent campaign finance ruling in Citizens United v. FEC has drawn the ire of some on Capitol Hill. That case -- and how Congress might blunt its force before the mid-term elections -- is the topic of tomorrow's hearing before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, entitled "Corporate America vs. The Voter: Examining the Supreme Court's Decision to Allow Unlimited Corporate Spending in Elections."

    The witness list includes two ACSblog guest contributors: Professor Heather Gerken of Yale Law School and Democracy 21's Fred Wertheimer, whose immediate reaction to the decision is available here

    [image via www.yellowdoggereldemocrat.org]

  • February 1, 2010
    The U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services will revisit the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which bars openly gay service members, for the first time in eighteen years tomorrow during a committee hearing. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to testify. The New York Times reported in today's edition that in White House sessions late last year, President Obama called the policy, which has resulted in the dismissal of scores of lesbians and gay men, "just wrong." Additionally, the newspaper reported that the president did not want his administration to wind up having to defend the constitutionality of the ban in federal court.

    "Gay rights leaders say they expect Mr. Gates to announce in the interim that the Defense Department will not take action to discharge service members whose sexual orientation is revealed by third parties ..., one of the more onerous aspects of the law," The Times reported.

    In the fall, ACS hosted a national event exploring the efforts to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which included comments from Erica Alva, a former Marine Staff sergeant, on the corrosive effects of the policy. Video of that discussion is here. Also, following the event, Nathaniel Frank, a senior research fellow at the Palm Center, talked with ACSblog about the history and impact of the policy. See Frank's interview here