American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting, July 16-19, 2016 in Chicago, IL

(l.) entrance to the Cook County Law Library, on the 29th floor of the Daley Center; (c.) the view out their window; (r.) a stunning planting near the convention center

July 2010

Calendars from the Historical Society of the New York Courts

September 2013

Calendars from the Historical Society of the New York courts

April 2008

Calendars from the Historical Society of the New York Courts

In front of the Women in the Law Room, June 17, 2013

A most appropriate setting for the reception honoring the 2 newest Court of Appeals judges (Pictured, l. to r.: Justices Pigott, Smith, Rivera, & Abdus-Salaam)

Judicial Portrait Collection

Row of oil paintings at the entrance to the library

Hands-on learning

The School Without Walls Summer Law Camp visiting the Rare Book Room & staff workroom during a tour of the library August 15, 2013

International visitors

A legal delegation from the Ukraine with library staff members September 25, 2013

UB law students visit the library

Students begin their tour of the library on January 23, 2014

Spring 2014

Colorful patches from the library's display on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

2015 Black History Month display

Celebrating a new generation

Through November 2015

800th anniversary of Magna Carta

September 20, 2016

Free CLE offered by Volunteer Legal Services Project
Major Topics: Remote Document Review/Assembly
Eviction Prevention
Debt Collection
Remote Video Consultations
Speakers: David Kagle, Esq., LAWNY
Anna Anderson, Esq., LAWNY
Mike Grunenwald, ProBono.Net
MCLE credits: 2.0 hours - Skills
Date: Friday, October 7th, 2016
Time: 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
(Registration 11:30 a.m.)
Lunch will be served!
Location: Monroe County Bar Association’s Rubin Center for Education
1 West Main Street, 5th Floor, Rochester, NY 14614
Registration: Please register by Wednesday, October 5th, 2016.

This VLSP seminar is free of charge in exchange for a commitment to handle one (1) “Closing the Gap” VLSP pro bono case within one year of the date of the seminar.

VLSP has been certified by the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board as an accredited provider of continuing legal education in the State of New York.

September 6, 2016

If this year's election is too contentious for you,

it may comfort you to know it’s been even worse in the past. For your edification and perhaps consolation, we offer an online version of our current display.

   Election of 1800  
John Adams vs. Thomas Jefferson

... vs. Aaron Burr

- Uglier than 2016, and weirder than them all -

Much like today, by the time this election happened, one can imagine many were happy to see it end. But there was a problem. A big problem. So big that we were forced to amend our Constitution in order to solve it.

The Constitution originally gave each member of the Electoral College two votes. Whoever received the largest majority of votes became President, and whoever came in second became Vice-President. It was expected that the electors would cast one vote for the presidential candidate, and one vote for his running-mate. Jefferson won a majority of the electors—73, but since each elector had two votes, so did his running-mate, Aaron Burr. This meant both men were technically tied, leaving each with an equal claim to the presidency. The tie had to be broken by the House of Representatives.

Burr could have ended the controversy by disavowing any claims to the presidency and accepting the vice-presidency. However, Burr, branded an opportunist by even the most sympathetic historians, did not do this. Instead, he made it known that he would accept the presidency if Congress so chose. The result was surreal: a presidential candidate and his own running-mate squaring off in an election within the House of Representatives for the highest office in the land.

Enter Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was a member of the Federalists, the sworn enemies of Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans. Hamilton strongly disliked Jefferson, but he hated Aaron Burr. Hamilton lobbied members of Congress to choose between the lessor of two evils and elect Jefferson. Still, it took the House 36 ballots to break the deadlock and choose Jefferson as our nation’s third president. Burr, for his part, became the VP and the most reviled man in American politics. Jefferson never forgave him; in fact, he (unsuccessfully) put Burr on trial for treason in 1807.

Pro-Jefferson ad
Pro-Jefferson ad
Pro-Adams ad
Pro-Adams ad

The ads above seem tame when compared to these attacks:

[John Adams has a] “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

[If Jefferson is elected] “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced.”

Further reading:
Jefferson's Vendetta

   Election of 1876  
Samuel J. Tilden vs. Rutherford B. Hayes

- Violence. Fraud. Backroom deals. Messiest election ever. -
(Yes, even messier than 2000.)

The election of 1876 has cast a shadow that still lingers with us today, although most of us know nothing about it. In this absurd election, held only 11 years after the end of the Civil War, the same passions and prejudices that ignited that conflict were played out at the ballot box. Yet, ballots did not decide this election. Ultimately, it was decided in a smoke-filled back room at Washington, D.C.’s Wormley Hotel.

The mess that was the “election” of 1876 was possible because of the still-fractured status of the nation as it attempted to heal the wounds of the Civil War. Most of the former Confederate states had only recently seen federal troops removed from state governments, resulting in a re-assertion of white dominance (via the Democratic party) over black “freedmen.” However, three states, Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, remained under federal military control. The Reconstruction Era was breathing its final breaths.

DEMOCRATIC "REFORMER": "You're as free as air, ain't you? Say you are, or I'll blow your head off."
The problem was that white Southern Democrats had no intention of being “reconstructed.” Their goal was to terrorize, intimidate and marginalize blacks by whatever means necessary. The Ku Klux Klan was born in this time. Along with other paramilitary organiza- tions like the Red Shirts, the KKK worked with the Democratic Party to ensure blacks would not vote Republican.

Amidst widespread violence and intimidation of black voters, every single former Confederate state voted for Tilden, the Democrat. In Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, the three states that were still occupied by the military, federal officials disqualified many of the Tilden votes because it was known they were procured by fraud, resulting in apparent victories for Hayes. However, the locally-elected Democratic governments in the three states certified the original vote counts, which awarded apparent victories for Tilden. In the rest of the former Confederate states, the votes for Tilden were allowed to stand, because those states were now controlled by local white Democrats.

The result of this was chaos. Three states’ electoral votes were being claimed by both parties, and the only thing anyone agreed on was that those electoral votes were “disputed.” When the rest of the electoral votes were tallied up, the result was 184 for Tilden and 165 for Hayes. The number needed for a majority was 185. Not counting the 20 disputed votes, Tilden was only electoral vote shy of the presidency. Hayes could only become president if all 20 of the disputed votes were awarded to him.

The nation faced a Constitutional crisis. With no guidance to be found in the Constitution or historical precedent, the politicians on both sides bickered for months, right up until the day before the new president was to be sworn in. At an infamous meeting at Washington’s Wormley Hotel, the “Compromise of 1877” was worked out. All 20 disputed electoral votes would be awarded to Hayes, the Republican, who would become president. In exchange, the Republicans agreed to remove all remaining federal troops from the South.

The result was disastrous for the Republicans. Sure, they “won” the battle that was the election. But they’d lost the war: the moment federal troops left the South, blacks were effectively disenfranchised. Jim Crow laws abounded, and the Southern Democrats reversed with impunity the gains that blacks had made during Reconstruction. These wounds are still with us today, 140 years later.

Further reading:
Centennial Crisis: the Disputed Election of 1876

   Election of 1828  
Andrew Jackson vs. John Quincy Adams

- The ugliest of them all -

Rachel Jackson
Rachel Jackson
There have been closer elections (2000, 1877, 1960). There have been more violent elections (1877). But as for sheer ugliness, nothing can quite match 1828. It is the only presidential election in American history to have gotten so ugly, so dirty, so downright cruel that it killed the first lady before her husband served a day as president.

Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams knew each other well—they had faced each other (and a few others) in the previous election of 1824. That election had to be resolved in the House of Representatives, because no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes. Jackson had won the most, by a fairly comfortable margin, but through a deal that came to be known as the “Corrupt Bargain,” he was denied the presidency in favor of Adams. Jackson swore revenge. He eventually got it, but paid a horrible price.

The deeply personal attacks reached depths that have never quite been matched (though many have tried.)

Adams, the sitting president, is accused of pimping for the czar or Russia, among other things:

• John Quincy Adams served as ambassador to Russia from 1809-1814. One of Adams’s chambermaids, a young woman, had expressed a desire to meet the czar. The czar agreed to allow Adams to bring her to his court, where they engaged in a very short, very mundane and very public conversation. Somehow, Jackson’s supporters twisted this event into a story involving Adams “procuring prostitutes for the czar.”

• Adams was accused of transforming the White House into a “gambling den” because he installed a pool table. Then some more creative mudslingers declared that the pool table had been purchased with government money, allowing Adams to wager the “public treasury” on games of billiards. (Adams did purchase and install the pool table, but with his own money and by all accounts he had no time ever use it.)

• Adams was called an aristocrat, and was accused of spying for Europe with the intent of introducing monarchy in America. Never mind that during the four years he served as president, or at any point in his life did he ever even hint at desiring a monarchy.

• Adams’s father, the recently deceased former president John Adams, was called “the worst president…ever” and a “traitor” by Jackson’s supporters. It was claimed that the younger Adams was “unfit to carry his father’s water.” Adams was so offended by the insults to his dead father that he virtually ceased all campaigning.

Jackson was called a murderer, and his wife and mother were both disparaged:

• Jackson was accused of being a murderer. He had indeed shot and killed a man in a duel in 1806, but that was not the source of the insult. Instead, it was for the execution of soldiers for desertion that served under him during the War of 1812. Handbills were circulated featuring six coffins, one for each soldier executed.

• Jackson’s mother was called "a common prostitute, brought to this country by the British soldiers," after whose service she "married a MULATTO MAN, with whom she had several children of which number General JACKSON IS ONE!!!"

• Jackson’s wife, Rachel, was called a “bigamist” because of a previous marriage, a “whore” and in the most childish insult of all, fat. Jackson loved his wife dearly, and was deeply affected by the insults. Rachel was affected too, so much so that when she suffered a heart attack and died shortly after her husband’s triumph in the election. Jackson remarked, “In the presence of this dear saint[Rachel], I can and do forgive all my enemies. But those vile wretches who have slandered her must look to God for mercy.”

Further reading:
Andrew Jackson, Portrait of a President

August 23, 2016


We're excited to have made the Daily Record today - a story about our New York Library Association award for the NYCRR digitization project is on page seven.

Also in the paper today is a nice selection of photos from Friday's reception in Buffalo for the three new Appellate Division Fourth Department Associate Justices. It appears to have been quite the event, with attendees including Court of Appeals Justice Eugene F. Pigott, Jr., retired AD 4 Justice Jerome Gorski, past and present NYSBA presidents, and a frequent library patron or two!

July 26, 2016

We won an award!

The library’s project to digitize the NYCRR has won a Notable New York Documents award from the New York Library Association! NYLA Chair Rosemary LaSala states that these awards "honor outstanding information products by state and local government units in New York [and] ... recognize the commitment of government agencies to making information available to the public."

We and our partners in the undertaking, the Charles B. Sears Law Library at the University of Buffalo Law School and the State Supreme Court Law Library in Buffalo, have been invited to speak about the digital archive at NYLA’s annual conference this fall.

Fun facts: NYLA, founded in 1890, was the first statewide library organization in the United States; one of its founding members was Melville Dewey (as in Dewey Decimal System), who was NY State Librarian at the time.

June 28, 2016

painting of Ali by pop artist John Stango
By John Stango, CC BY-SA 3.0
The dedication in this book reads: “To all those with the courage to take a stand.” For Muhammad Ali in 1966, that stand was his refusal to be drafted into the Army to fight what he considered an unjust war in Vietnam. Ali’s refusal was based on religious grounds; he repeatedly stated that, as a Muslim, he was not to take part in any wars “unless declared by Allah or The Messenger.” This book, originally published in 2000, takes an in-depth look at the five-year legal battle which ensued, resulting in Ali being stripped of his titles and banned from the sport during the peak of his boxing career. While his case wound its way through the legal system on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ali endured illegal wiretapping and surveillance by the FBI, continued outright racism, death threats, and nearly universal condemnation in the media. However, in 1971 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ali, relying on a delicate legal theory which would make any litigator proud. The “behind the scenes” story of the Supreme Court’s deliberations on this case are as compelling as the man whose freedom was at stake, and were the focus of the 2013 HBO film of the same name. Both this book, and the HBO film, come highly recommended for anyone interested in this turbulent period of our history.

Originally appeared in our newsletter of November 2014

June 6, 2016

2016 Jazz Festival parking & street closings advisory

Tents will be set up in two parking lots close to the library - AllPro Parking at 86 Gibbs Street and Regents Park Station at 61 East Avenue. See our Transit & Parking page  for alternatives.
Street Closings
Gibbs St. (from East Ave. to E. Main)
Monday, June 20 (Midnight) to Monday, July 4 (Midnight)
Chestnut St. (from East Ave. to E. Main)
Friday, June 24 (6AM) to Sunday, June 26 (2AM)
Friday, July 1 (6AM) to Sunday, July 3 (2AM)
East Ave. (from E. Main to Scio) & Chestnut (from Broad to East Ave.)
Friday, June 24 (5PM-Midnight)
Saturday, June 25 (5PM-Midnight)
Friday, July 1 (5PM-Midnight)
Saturday, July 2 (5PM-Midnight)
Main St. (from Gibbs to Chestnut, not including Gibbs or Chestnut)
Friday, June 24 to Saturday, July 2 (5PM-Midnight)