A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Archive for April, 2012

Pizza Wars

Pizza

By Drew Carroll & Nadia-Elysse Harris

Cheap and delicious pizza is as New York as the lights in Times Square. After a drunken night of partying, in between afternoon classes, or just in lieu of cooking – one dollar in New York City can get you a slice of pizza that will have you savoring every last greasy crumb.

There are 773 pizza restaurants on the island of Manhattan according to menupages.com, (pizza is also available at plenty of other places not actually listed as pizza restaurants, too) but on a small section of Avenue of the Americas between 37th & 38th Streets two restaurants serving pizza think that there is, perhaps, just one place too many. And each of them is pointing at the other.

A price war resulted and for now, at least, you can get pizza at both these joints for 75-cents a slice. In New York, where movies go for $13 and the rent is too damn high, this is newsworthy.

According to the New York Times, Bombay Fast Food/6th Avenue Pizza, an eatery offering –you guessed it — Indian food and pizza, was less than pleased to welcome its new just-next-door neighbor last October — 2 Bros. Pizza, part of a growing chain of New York pizza shops.

Bombay’s manager, Mohit Kumar Mitra, willingly states the obvious: that Bombay felt the pressure from 2 Bros., and decided to take competitive action, lowering the price of a slice to 79 cents. Mr. Mitra told us that, “within two hours,” 2 Bros. put a sign in front of their restaurant advertising 75-cent pizza. Bombay felt it had no choice but match it.

The Times reported that Bombay’s owner is “contemplating checking with a lawyer” to see if something could be done.  Bombay was being held hostage to its new neighbor’s lower price offerings, and though he didn’t say it, he was clearly worried that his business would suffer, he’d go out of business, and then 2 Bros. could raise its prices again.  There ought to be a law…But was there?

We figured we’d help the mom and pop shop out and do a little research. And while we were at it, have a slice or two ourselves.   (more…)

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AL: “Bitch” and “Fat Bastard” = Yes. “Dirty Bastard” = No.

dirtyb

By LASIS Staff

Alabama’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has banned the sale of Dirty Bastard beer in its state.

This, despite the fact that Fat Bastard beer and Ragin’ Bitch beer are both widely available in Alabama. Asked to comment on this discrepancy, Bob Martin, an attorney for the state agency had this to say:

“I have no idea how or why or exactly when that went through.”

LASIS has an idea why, Mr. Martin.

Last April, the same issue was taken up in Michigan, which had wanted to ban Ragin’ Bitch beer. We explained why we thought the state would have to permit the beer to be sold.

And as it turned out, we were right.

So if Dirty Bastard beer decides to fight your ban, you might want to start making room for it on your shelves.

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Bill Clinton: Popular, Opinionated, and Still Relevant

Clinton Bicycle

By Tara Krieger

President Obama assured him it would be “just like riding a bicycle.” The ex-president would remember what to do. But former President Bill Clinton described that night in December 2010 when Mr. Obama ceded him the White House podium another way.

“So weird.”

The nation’s 42nd president had appeared in the briefing room to lobby a tax cut bill when his Democratic successor whispered—moments before the cameras began rolling—that he would be ducking out early to appease the First Lady at a Christmas party.

“He hit me right between the eyes when we were standing there,” said Mr. Clinton, who fielded questions for an hour Thursday night from the event’s moderator, Thane Rosenbaum.

(This author, a former LASIS staff writer, feels the macrocosmic parallel of reassuming a role she once performed regularly, and is grateful for the opportunity to pen one final article before she graduates next month.)

Nearly a dozen years have passed since Mr. Clinton last occupied the Oval Office. His hair is a little whiter, his Arkansas drawl a bit hoarser, and his physique, after his much-touted conversion to a vegan lifestyle, much leaner, but he remained ever as likeably outspoken on Thursday night, the centerpiece of a conversation brought to us by the Forum on Law, Culture & Society at Fordham Law School, as part of its annual Conversation series.

Indeed, said Professor Rosenbaum, the Forum’s director, the Clinton administration feels like “another lifetime ago.”  He reminded us of that seemingly-long-ago era before the peace and prosperity of the 1990s yielded to war, terrorism, and economic strife; before a Congress that once worked together became horribly fragmented; before a budget surplus gave way to colossal debt; before traditional print and broadcast media were supplanted by the Internet and 24-hour news networks. The dualities are far from that simply pronounced—among other things, the Clinton era also featured government shutdowns and partisan impeachment hearings—but a longing for those rosier times could explain Mr. Clinton’s continued involvement as a “crusading diplomat on the world stage.”

Since leaving office in early 2001, Mr. Clinton has partnered with other political leaders—including unlikely ones such as former Senator Bob Dole and both former President Bushes—and been deployed by the United Nations, all in the name of humanitarian work, raising money for families of 9/11 victims and recovery efforts after the South Asian tsunami, Hurricanes Ike and Katrina, and the earthquake in Haiti.

In 2005, he established the William J. Clinton Foundation, a sort of global think tank that brings together philanthropists, heads of non-governmental organizations, and members of the media to form “creative networks of cooperation” to address problems such access to HIV/AIDS and malaria medication, childhood obesity, and climate change.

“If I were a lawyer, I’d say I got a disaster practice here,” said Mr. Clinton.

Well-known is that Mr. Clinton, who Thursday night offhandedly professed a love for the Socratic Method, graduated from Yale Law School in 1973. Less well-known is that his first post-law school job was teaching law at the University of Arkansas.   (more…)

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It’s Not Jury Tampering, it’s Just Free Speech

Jury Room

By LASIS Staff

Eighty year old retired chemistry professor Julien Heicklin is happy that the charges against him for jury tampering in Manhattan were dismissed, though you might not know it from his master of understatement-esque reaction: “This is better than having them throw me in jail.”

According to federal judge Judge Kimba Wood, Mr. Heicklin is off the hook because he was trying to influence all jurors, for any and all cases, and not specific jurors for a specific case.  For that reason, Judge Wood didn’t even have to wrestle with thorny first amendment issues.

Back in March, 2011, LASIS did.

And though she threw out the charges on other grounds, Judge Wood’s decision is the win for free speech we predicted.

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Taking it to the Street

Street Law Logo

By Drew Carroll

Yankee Stadium comes into view out the window of a Bronx bound 4 train and I feel a tinge of excitement.

I’m not going to a game, though.  Instead, I get off at the next stop, from where I head for my weekly visit to a seventh grade classroom inside Jordan L. Mott Middle School.

My mission: To teach the class of minority students – mostly black and Latino—about the Constitution.  Lately, the lessons have had real world practicalities for these kids.

Trayvon Martin’s shooting in Florida has sparked a nationwide discussion about that state’s “Stand Your Ground Law.” People in New York City are also talking about the New York Police Department’s “Stop-and-Frisk” policy, which is said to apply disproportionately to minorities.

The statistics bear out such suspicions: of the 684,330 stops last year, 87 percent were either black or Hispanic. The NYPD says that this is not due to racial profiling, but because more cops are assigned to high crime (mostly minority) urban areas.

Though some lawmakers are trying to craft legislation to curb the racial profiling inherent in the city’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy, it’s the law for now, and one that these seventh graders are familiar with, from their parents, siblings, or even from personal experience – though they are only 13.

My visit to the school is coordinated through Street Law, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides information to underprivileged communities about law. The program was created in honor of the slain Robert F. Kennedy, and in the 40 years since it was created, Street Law has expanded into a million dollar operation bringing legal education to the underserved across the United States and in 40 countries worldwide. Over 100 law schools participate, offering practical legal lessons in their communities.

New York Law School’s Street Law program is designed specifically to meet the challenges presented to minority communities by the city’s Stop-and-Frisk policy. For ten Fridays in the spring, New York Law School students travel to the South Bronx, lesson plans in hand. With the fourth amendment as the focal point, middle school students learn about the law governing police stops, frisks, searches, and arrests, read Supreme Court cases about their rights as students, and then argue both sides of the issues. It may be hard to imagine a group of middle school students sitting around talking about a Supreme Court case, but that is the beauty of Street Law. As one student recently told me, “I need to talk about this,” and with Street Law, she gets that chance.   (more…)

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