Judicial Review

 Justice John Marshall was the first to flex SCOTUS's Judicial Review muscle. 

Justice John Marshall was the first to flex SCOTUS's Judicial Review muscle. 

There is a commonly held, but incorrect, belief that Judicial Review in the United States began with Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803). While this ruling marked the first time the Supreme Court held a law passed by Congress to be unconstitutional, the roots of Judicial Review in our land go even deeper, stemming beyond the Constitutional Convention, beyond Federalist No. 78, and even beyond 18th century British colonization in North America.

Jamestown, the first successful, permanent British settlement in North America, was established by the Virginia Company of London in 1607. Puritan separatists landed near Plymouth Rock in 1620. Judicial review existed in some form or another in 17th century England until William of Orange overthrew James II in 1688, but remained in the collective consciousness of the geographically separate North American colonists. By the time the Constitutional Convention rolled around in 1787, a majority of the newly formed states had already witnessed the power of Judicial Review exercised by their own supreme courts.

 Despite dying in Greenwich Village in 1804, Alexander Hamilton can now be seen nightly on Broadway.

Despite dying in Greenwich Village in 1804, Alexander Hamilton can now be seen nightly on Broadway.

Though the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists argued over the level of power the Federal Judiciary should be able to wield over the co-equal Executive and Legislative branches, the record is clear that Judicial Review was a foregone conclusion on both sides, and the question was one of limitation. Jefferson fretted that the Judicial Branch would become the ultimate arbiters of what is or is not Constitutional, and would rule like oligarchs. Hamilton argued that the Judiciary was the weakest branch, and that its existence would ensure its own continued weakness by encouraging the Legislative and Executive Branches to preemptively conform their works to Constitutional restraints.

 The 1953 Warren Court attempted to desegregate American schools through its  Brown  ruling.

The 1953 Warren Court attempted to desegregate American schools through its Brown ruling.

Let's go Rockets!

Congrats to our hometown Houston Rockets on winning Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. In support of our team, the Harris County Law Library has created a very bookish tribute that will remain on our shelves throughout the Rocekts' playoff run. Stop by, take a #shelfie, and tag @HCLawLibrary to show your book-loving, team spirit!


Latest & Greatest – Texas Law Enforcement Handbook (Contemporary Criminal Procedure)

 By Larry E. Holtz and Warren J. Spencer  Published by Blue360 Media  KFT 1761 .A7 H6 2017

By Larry E. Holtz and Warren J. Spencer

Published by Blue360 Media

KFT 1761 .A7 H6 2017

A new edition of Texas Law Enforcement Handbook (Contemporary Criminal Procedure) has arrived here at the Harris County Law Library. Written for those engaged in the practice of criminal justice, this book sets out clear and concise discussions of important concepts in criminal law and criminal procedure. Explanations are supplemented by leading cases for which the authors have delineated the key issue presented, the holding, and the court’s reasoning for the decision. The authors have also provided additional notes and comments that further clarify some terms or themes presented in the case. Topics include: arrest, search and seizure, privacy expectations, confessions, and eyewitness identification.

Texas Law Enforcement Handbook (Contemporary Criminal Procedure) is a handy reference resource to have when faced with an issue involving the activities with which law enforcement personnel handle daily. Don't be put off by the words “law enforcement” in the title. This book is a good source of information for issues involving criminal procedure in its early stages.

Fashion Law: A New Frontier

 Law librarian uniform, standard issue.

Law librarian uniform, standard issue.

Law librarians are no strangers to fashion. Anyone familiar with our cardigan game knows what I’m talking about. Increasingly, other lawyers are catching up, with fashion law rapidly expanding as both a practice area and a field of general interest.

What even is fashion law? It covers everything from intellectual property, to business, to international human rights.

 Classic cinema.

Classic cinema.

Traditionally, fashion has enjoyed only limited intellectual property protection in the United States, where clothing design has been considered such an essential (or maybe inessential, depending who you ask) part of culture development that copycats have been encouraged by the market and the lack of legal constraints. Readers may recall the classic scene in “The Devil Wears Prada,” when Runway Magazine editor Miranda explains this phenomenon to fashion neophyte Andy, who had no understanding of the lofty origins of her "lumpy blue sweater."

A recent Supreme Court ruling, however, has shifted the conversation. In Star Athletica, L.L.C. v. Varsity Brands, Inc., 580 U.S. ___ (2017), the Court held that graphic designs applied to useful articles can be subject to copyright, even if those designs are apparently essential to the usefulness of the article. This ruling certainly favors large shops with the resources to create novel designs, register them with the Copyright Office, and litigate against smaller operations with fewer resources. However, it also means that independent artists will now have recourse when their designs are mass produced without permission by behemoths like Walmart or Urban Outfitters.

 The cheerleader uniforms at the heart of the Star Athletica case.

The cheerleader uniforms at the heart of the Star Athletica case.

 View of the Dhaka, Bangladesh river walk.

View of the Dhaka, Bangladesh river walk.

The fashion industry is using the law to combat human rights abuses long associated with “fast fashion.” An international organization called Fashion Revolution is leading the charge to provide safe working conditions and fair wages for everyone employed by the industry, including floor shop laborers in developing nations. International scrutiny of these issues increased significantly in the wake of the November 2012 Tazreen Fashion factory fire, which killed at least 117 workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Attorneys and legal professionals can now obtain specialized degrees in fashion law. The Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School offers both an LLM and MSL in this burgeoning space, as well as two CLE “bootcamp” events, one in New York and the other in San Francisco.

Interested to learn more? Check out The Fashion Law, which tracks legal developments in the fashion industry.

Latest & Greatest – Pet Law and Custody: Establishing a Worthy and Equitable Jurisprudence for the Evolving Family

 By Barbara J. Gislason  Published by American Bar Association. Section of Family Law  KF 390.5 .A5 G57 2017

By Barbara J. Gislason

Published by American Bar Association. Section of Family Law

KF 390.5 .A5 G57 2017

Leona Helmsley, the late real estate billionaire and hotelier, made news (again) in 2007, when she left her dog, a Maltese named Trouble, a $12 million trust fund. Bequests and estate arrangements such as hers are no longer newsworthy and have become more and more commonplace. Pets have evolved from being characterized as property to being named as beneficiaries and considered family members and companions. In her new book, Pet Law and Custody, author and animal law pioneer Barbara J. Gislason examines the developing jurisprudence surrounding how we treat our pets and how the law treats our furry, and maybe not so furry, companions.

At the outset, the author notes the difficulties courts have faced when confronted with questions concerning pets and how they should be classified and treated under the law. To alleviate some of the confusion, she sets forth selected criteria for identifying a companion animal and some characteristics that might indicate that the pet is not a companion animal. From this introduction, the author launches into the heart of her book: an analysis of specific areas of law as they relate to pet law and pet custody issues. Subject areas include: family law and replevin actions; alternative dispute resolution; estate planning, wills, and trusts; contract law and the Uniform Commercial Code; property law; and tort law. She also looks into how the law treats cases involving animal cruelty and the certain amendments to the U.S. Constitution impact such laws. In addition, Gislason presents the nuts and bolts of a dangerous dog proceeding and provides some points to consider when owning an at-risk animal. Other chapters address the legal issues surrounding science and technology, such as genetic testing, cloning, and animal patents.

Filled with summaries of applicable case law and practical advice, Pet Law and Custody is a useful book for lawyers and all those interested in animals to aid in the understanding of this developing and emerging area of law.

Latest & Greatest – O’Connor’s Texas Probate Law Handbook

 By Craig Hopper and D’Ana H. Mikeska  Published by O’Connor’s  KFT 765 .H67

By Craig Hopper and D’Ana H. Mikeska

Published by O’Connor’s

KFT 765 .H67

The newest edition to the library’s collection of O’Connor’s books, O’Connor’s Texas Probate Law Handbook, guides the user through the probate process in Texas. The authors begin their book with an overview of Texas probate law and some initial matters that should be considered following a person’s death, including the steps taken after the death, the information that needs to be gathered, gaining access to safe-deposit boxes and personal documents, protecting personal property, and the handling of nonprobate assets. The authors then move onto the nuts and bolts of settling a decedent’s estate, tackling such procedural topics as filing a probate proceeding, opening an administration, and filing and paying any taxes. They detail the rights, duties, and powers of personal representatives and explain how a personal representative administers an estate in a dependent administration and in an independent administration. A chapter is devoted to the legal requirements that a will must satisfy to be admitted to probate. What if there is no will? No worries. The authors spend an entire chapter discussing the laws governing intestate succession. Will contests and alternatives to probate are also addressed in detail.

As is typical with many of the publications from O’Connor’s, the charts are immensely helpful and clarify many of the more confusing issues. These include: determining the appropriate procedure when there is a will and when there is no will, an overview of the intestacy laws, proving proper execution of the will, the personal representative’s duty to file federal tax returns, the priority of payment regarding creditors’ claims, and many more.

If you are looking for a little guidance in handling your next estate administration, come to the Harris County Law Library and have a look at O’Connor’s Texas Probate Law Handbook. You can find it at the reference desk.

Law Day 2018 - Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom

Today we are recognizing Law Day. Our regular Tech Tuesday feature will return next week. 

Today is Law Day, an annual opportunity to reflect on the legal foundation of our nation and the fundamental role that the law plays in securing the freedoms we as Americans hold dear. At the Harris County Law Library, we're observing the day with a special Law Day exhibit, which will be on display all month long in the library lobby. We are also pleased to be featuring selected winning entries from the Houston Bar Association's annual Law Day essay and poster contest. The winning posters can be seen in the video below, along with a special Law Day message from the Harris County Law Library.

In 1957, American Bar Association (ABA) President Charles S. Rhyne, who provided legal counsel to President Eisenhower, conceived of a day dedicated to the celebration of our legal system, a vision that Mr. Eisenhower would help fulfill. The following year, on February 3, 1958, President Eisenhower issued Proclamation 3221, designating May 1st as Law Day and establishing a tradition. Every administration since has issued a Presidential Proclamation for this special occasion. The 2018 Law Day Proclamation emphasizes the wisdom of our unique structure of government. Consisting of three co-equal branches -- Executive, Legislative, and Judicial -- each with its own authority and limitations, this framework has allowed freedom to flourish for nearly 229 years.

Law Day 2018.png

The legislative branch also recognized the importance of this special day. On April 7, 1961, Congress passed a joint resolution (Public Law 87-20, 75 Stat. 43) to officially establish May 1st as Law Day, codifying it into law in Title 36, Section 113. In the years since, Americans have observed Law Day with civic activities, educational programs, and special events consistent with the American Bar Association's annual Law Day theme. Based on a significant aspect of the American legal system (e.g., democracy, civil rights, legal history, the judiciary, or Constitutional law), this theme serves as a focal point for schools, libraries, courts, bar associations, community groups, civic organizations, and others to plan celebratory events.

This year's theme is Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom, which the ABA explains with a quote from James Madison in Federalist 51: “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” On its website, the ABA elaborates:

Madison believed that the Constitution’s principles of separation of powers and checks and balances preserve political liberty. They provide a framework for freedom. Yet, this framework is not self-executing. We the people must continually act to ensure that our constitutional democracy endures, preserving our liberties and advancing our rights. The Law Day 2018 theme enables us to reflect on the separation of powers as fundamental to our constitutional purpose and to consider how our governmental system is working for ourselves and our posterity.

On this day, the Harris County Law Library invites you to reflect on the importance of a legal system designed to guard against tyranny and establish fairness, balance, and justice in the conduct of government. Don't forget to stop by our exhibit throughout the month of May, which explores the Law Day Dialogues presented on the ABA website, and encourages thoughtful consideration of this year's theme, Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom. Happy Law Day 2018! 

Legal Tech Institute Guest Speaker Wins National Association Election

In September, 2017, Saskia presented a CLE for the Law Library's Legal Tech Institute on artificial intelligence in the practice of law. Find a recording of the program on the Legal Tech Institute page today.