Free Legal Goodness from Rulebook!



In light of the new academic year, I was going to recap some of the Technologist’s suggestions for law students, but then I found something else, so I’ll just link to it here and recommend you check it out for suggestions on computers, mobile devices, and cloud storage.

Instead, let’s take a look at Rulebook. Rulebook offers the Bluebook, State and Federal court rules, sentencing guidelines, etc, as well as style manuals. Once downloaded, you can read and annotated them to your heart’s content. Content is updated as rules are amended, but your notes and highlighting will remain the same.

Foundational legal documents, such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are free, the remainder start at 1.99. The Bluebook, at $39.99 is probably the priciest, but, unbeknownst to most people, new additions are announced on Rulebook’s Facebook page and Twitter feed, and are free for the first few days, so get ’em while they’re hot!

Download Rulebook for FREE on the iTunes App Store. (Sorry, Android users–I’ll get you next time!)


“Stop and Frisk” and the Law

If you have an interest in taking a closer look at the controversy over New York City’s controversial “stop and frisk” practices and the recent court decision declaring them unconstitutional, consider:

New York legislation provides that a police officer may stop persons for questioning and search for weapons under certain circumstances “when he reasonably suspects that such person is committing, has committed or is about to commit” a crime. See New York Criminal Procedure Law 140.50, which “essentially codifies” the Supreme Court’s decision in Terry v. Ohio (1968). With this legislation as its basis, New York City developed the practices known as “stop and frisk.” The practices are detailed and explained here and here.

Widely condemned by civil liberties groups, “stop-and-frisk” was defended vigorously by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

On August 12, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled the policy violated the constitutional rights of racial minorities. The opinion, which runs over 190 pages, concludes:

… I find that the City is liable for violating plaintiffs’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The City acted with deliberate indifference toward the NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stops and conducting unconstitutional frisks. Even if the City had not been deliberately indifferent, the NYPD’s unconstitutional practices were sufficiently widespread as to have the force of law. In addition, the City adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data. This has resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence showed that minorities are indeed treated differently than whites. For example, once a stop is made, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband.  I also conclude that the City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. … One NYPD official has even suggested that it is permissible to stop racially defined groups just to instill fear in them that they are subject to being stopped at any time for any reason – in the hope that this fear will deter them from carrying guns in the streets. The goal of deterring crime is laudable, but this method of doing so is unconstitutional.

Among the undisputed facts that supported Judge Scheindlin’s conclusions were these:

  • Between January 2004 and June 2012, the NYPD conducted over 4.4 million Terry stops
  • 52% of all stops were followed by a protective frisk for weapons. A weapon was found after 1.5% of these frisks. In other words, in 98.5% of the 2.3 million frisks, no weapon was found.
  • In 52% of the 4.4 million stops, the person stopped was black, in 31% the person was Hispanic, and in 10% the person was white
  • In 2010, New York City’s resident population was roughly 23% black, 29% Hispanic and 33% white.
  • Between 2004 and 2009, the percentage of stops where the officer failed to state a specific suspected crime rose from 1% to 36%.

In a recent blog post, Linda Greenhouse examined the issue and considered how the current U.S. Supreme Court might address “stop and frisk,” in the unlikely event that the case were appealed to that level. Considering a pair of opinions, written by Justices Scalia and Ginsberg, Greenhouse concluded it is hard to predict:

How would Floyd v. City of New York have fared at the Supreme Court? The answer is I’m not sure. Pondering the question has been an abstract exercise, in the absence of a Court of Appeals decision that would precede any Supreme Court appeal, and without the briefs that would define and sharpen the issues. But with only six weeks to go before the first Monday in October and the court’s return, it’s worth trying to limber up for the justices’ return by looking at this case through their eyes.

To the question of whether I’m glad the case will likely not find its way to the Supreme Court’s door, the answer is yes.

The New York Times and other new sources have provided extensive coverage of the controversy and the ongoing legal action involving “stop and frisk.” On August 27, the City asked Judge Scheindlin to issue a stay of her order pending appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.


Deja vu all over again?

DOJ Archives logo(DOJ Archives Logo from

A more serious look that our usual technology Thursdays, but an interesting one nonetheless–the U.S. Department of Justice has released a previously unseen series of opinions ranging from the 1930s to the 1970s from the archives of the Office of Legal Counsel. In many cases, the opinions do not reflect the current positions of the office, but illustrate how areas of law developed around previously hot-button issues and thus, may shed light on how similar issues will be dealt with in this day and age, such as domestic surveillance and violations of the Espionage Act of 1917 (For example, in 1941, the OLC weighed in on the Naval Intelligence Service’s desire to listen in on phone calls to use the records “in prosecutions involving espionage, sabotage, and subversive activities,” and in 1942, they opined on the criminal liability for newspaper publication of naval secrets under the Espionage Act).

The opinions also look at historical political issues, such as the legal and practical consequences of a blockade of Cuba, and the removal of Japanese citizens from Hawaii to the United States, as well as recurring constitutional issues, like the President’s power in the field of foreign relations. At 508 pages of historical legal goodness, with contributions from legal heavyweights like Antonin Scalia, William H. Rehnquist, and Robert Bork, they’re perfect for some end-of-summer beach reading. Pick up the PDF from the OLC here or read the highlights from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

* hat tip: Above the Law



Great Lawyer Stories & Characters

Do you like to observe fictional characters practicing law in movies, television shows, novels and stage plays?

The ABA Journal has posted “the greatest” lists in all of these categories, as well as a list of “30 books every lawyer should read.” It is the nature of these lists to provoke discussion and disagreement–at the book that should, or the movie that shouldn’t, have been included. For those of us who like this sort of thing, it’s hard to resist going through the slide shows to see what titles the ABAJ’s committees have selected, to compare them to our own lists and to check out still unfamiliar gems.

Among the greatest law novels, you might expect to find here Bleak House and Billy Budd, but what about Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale? Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead? Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God?

You might have guessed that To Kill a Mockingbird was going to be on the greatest legal movies list, but where does Atticus Finch fall on the great lawyers in films and television? And would you include Jack McCoy? “Vinny” Gambini? Ally McBeal? Would your list of courtroom dramas on stage include The Merchant of Venice, Oedipus the King or A Man for All Seasons?

The ABAJ committee’s list of 30 books that every lawyer should read includes some predictable legal classics and judicial biographies. There are also titles recommended not for their law focus but for their insights about life, success or leadership–among them Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince; Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra; and Martin Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being.

One book on this list is by a former BU Law professor. Can you guess which one?


Are Your Apps Private? An interactive fifty-state survey infographic

Kash Hill, over at the Not-So Private Parts, created this handy map, using data from the Electronic Frontier Foundation showing where the police are (and aren’t) required to get a warrant before searching your cell phone, with links to the applicable court cases from Google Scholar. The awesome map was made using Thinglink, which allows you to tag images, and embed them with additional content, like links to opinions, audio files of oral arguments, videos, related photos, or pretty much anything else you can think of. They’re a pretty handy way to do a fifty-state survey as well.

Want more? Check out the original post, Where the Police Can & Can’t Snoop Through Your Phone and Here’s What Law Enforcement Can Recover from a Seized iPhone.