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December Book of the Month: How to Become a Federal Criminal

how-to-become-a-federal-criminalHow to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender
Written and Illustrated by Mike Chase
Reviewed by Courtney Nguyen, Reference Librarian


The road to hell may very well be paved with federal statutes and regulations, as demonstrated by our December Book of the Month, How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender by Mike Chase. As the title promises, this book enumerates (with pictures!) the seemingly endless ways anyone can descend into a life of crime, even by accident. Chase writes with his tongue firmly in cheek, but even without the rude humor the actual statutes, regulations, and congressional hearings are outrageous and absurd enough to amuse and shock everyone. Here you will find lurid accounts of the depraved Yellowstone Off-Leash Cat Walker, and those wayward souls who dress like postal workers—when they aren’t even postal workers. Divided into eight sections based on type of offenses, this book barely scratches the surface of the innumerable crimes proliferated by Congress and various federal agencies.

Chase, an attorney who also runs the popular Twitter account @CrimeADay, clearly revels in the madness of it all, writing with a mix of juvenile glee and genuine befuddlement over how ridiculous these crimes can be. But he includes more than just illustrations on how to mail a mongoose; it’s clear that he has put extensive time and research into his work. This “handbook” also serves as a simple and easy to understand primer on the basics of the criminal justice system and how to read a federal statute, useful for aspiring offenders and law-abiding folk alike. He explores how there came to be so many federal crimes—more than it’s conceivably possible to count—tracing the labyrinthine path from the three listed crimes in the Constitution to the thousands upon thousands of criminal statutes and rules carrying criminal penalties we have today. There are also brief summaries of some of the stranger cases that went to court (some involving margarine).

This book not only gives you endless facts to share at cocktail parties, but also leaves you with some important takeaways. Such as, don’t bother trying to modify the weather with your weather laser unless you’ve filled out the right forms first. Or how the only thing standing between you and a cell might be how properly you label that box of dead bees you want to mail. And don’t even think about leaving the country with a pocketful of nickels.

Find How to Become a Federal Criminal (along with our other criminal law materials) at the library today!


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How About a Supreme Court Recipe for Thanksgiving?

SCOTUS ThanksgivingThinking Dessert here: which, for some, is the whole point of the holiday. And Table for 9: Supreme Court Food Traditions & Recipes has some for you to savor, as did all the members of the Court. Perhaps these sweetened their minds to face the issues on their desks a bit more amiably?

How about the Orange Cake with Grand Marnier and chocolate chips? There’s a recipe provided by Martin Ginsburg, the late husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who everyone knows doesn’t cook). His Frozen Lime Souffle (in yet another recipe collection) was said to be Justice Ginsburg’s very favorite dessert.

Your choice: that’s what Thanksgiving is all about—and why not make two desserts? For a copy of the Martin Ginsburg Orange Cake recipe, email the reference team at sfll.reference@sfgov.org and we will send it to you. For the many other recipes and conjunctions with previous Justices and the ones serving now, take a look at the book itself for other temptations such as Chopped Apple Cake, Deluxe Mango Bread, and Permission Pudding; or, as starters, Deviled Almonds or a Cowslip Sandwich. It’s the secret story behind those opinions, and one we can all relish.


Thanksgiving 2019


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Advanced Westlaw MCLE Nov. 7

Thursday, November 7, Noon to 1:00
Advanced Research on Westlaw
Presented by Jonathan Dorsey, Client Representative
Government, Thomson Reuters
1 Hour free MCLE Credit – This is a repeat of the
January 17, 2018 program
An email address is required to receive
The MCLE certificate from Thomson

***Download Flyer Here***

This course will help you refine your search construction using both plain language and terms & connectors, while also showing you tools and resources to help you efficiently complete your research assignment.

Nov 7 2019 Adv Research on Westlaw MCLE Flyer

 


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November Book of the Month: Separate

SeparateSeparate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation
By Steve Luxenberg

Reviewed by Aaron Parsons, Reference Librarian


In Separate, author Steve Luxenberg examines the social and historical upheaval that encompassed the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction-era United States and that culminated in the ignominious 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation. Luxenberg begins by tracing the history of the separate but equal doctrine from the northern railroads where Jim Crow laws took hold before the Civil War—dispelling the myth that they originated in the post-war south. He goes on to recount the lives of several of the era’s important figures, including plaintiff Homer Plessy, Justice John Marshall Harlan (the lone dissenter in Plessy), Henry Billings Brown (the opinion’s author), Albion W. Tourgée (Plessy’s lawyer), and Frederick Douglass, leading to their fateful intersection in the Plessy case. The abomination of the Jim Crow laws persisted unabated until 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, though they were continually challenged by abolitionists such as Tourgée and the wider Civil Rights movement. Separate helps the reader understand the lives and motivations that shaped both sides of the racial and equality struggles during a dark chapter of our nation’s history—struggles that continue to shape our striving “to form a more perfect union.”


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Non-Citizen Voting in San Francisco

Non-citizen voting blog image
November 5, 2019 SF Unified School District Board Election
By Ruth Geos

One seat on the SF Unified School District Board is now open for special election on November 5, 2019: a three-way contest between Robert K. Coleman, Jenny Lam, and Kirsten Strobel. This is the one local race for which San Francisco non-citizens have the right to vote, regardless of immigration status, if they are parents to children in the system and are willing to formally register.

This right was established when San Francisco voters approved Proposition N in 2016, granting non-citizens with children in the SFUSD the right to vote in school board elections. Formally speaking, Prop. N became a part of the San Francisco Charter, Article XIII Elections, Section 13.111.  New sections of the San Francisco Municipal Elections Code, §§ 1001-1005 were also adopted to regulate how the non-citizen registration and voting system would be handled separately from other local, state, and national elections where non-citizens could not vote. San Francisco citizen voters—whether parents or not—are also qualified to vote for Board of Education representatives.

Although declared a radical step by some when Prop. N passed, San Francisco’s adoption of limited voting rights for non-citizens is not as bold or as isolated as some may urge, and rather reflects the state of non-citizen rights and public participation that was common in the first part of American history. In early America, the suffrage pattern was to deliberately extend voting privileges to non-citizens, ending only in the 1920s in the wake of world events affecting political attitudes towards immigration.

Equating citizenship with the exclusive right to vote is not as accurate it may sound.  In 1872, four years after the 14th Amendment was passed but 48 years before the 19th Amendment granting women full suffrage, Ellen Van Valkenburg appealed for the right to register to vote in Santa Cruz County. The California Supreme Court found that the US Constitution at that stage did not offer parity in voting to women, even to women citizens, parsing the difference between political and civil rights of citizens. It pointed out that the right to vote is as we grant it:

…unnaturalized foreigners were by State laws allowed to vote—following in this respect the early policy of the Federal Government, who, in the ordinance of 1787, for the government of the Northwestern Territory, had permitted the elective franchise to the unnaturalized French and Canadians, of whom the population of that Territory was then largely composed. It will be found that from the earliest periods of our history the State laws regulated the privilege of the elective franchise within their respective limits, and that these laws were exactly such as local interests, peculiar conditions, or supposed policy dictated…
Van Valkenburg v. Brown (1872) 43 Cal. 43, 50–5

In contemporary times, San Francisco is not the only municipality—nor even the first—to extend voting rights to non-citizens in school board or other local matters. The city of Chicago, and ten municipalities in Maryland, including Tacoma Park, provide for non-citizen voting in local school board elections, and other American cities have also pushed forward on this initiative. Internationally, a range of countries, including Canada, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and New Zealand, extend voting rights to residents who are not citizens, some even further than limited local participation.

The idea behind non-citizen voting in school board elections is to increase parental participation in public schools where their children are being educated. As advocates at the time of Proposition N pointed out, at least a third of all children in the SF public schools have immigrant parents, and these are the non-citizens who may not be otherwise represented. Some of these parents may be documented, with green cards, for example, and others undocumented, but all, as parents, have a stake in the allotment of school resources and development of school curriculum and policies.

This limited right to vote, however, comes with an implicit risk—as plainly stated in all San Francisco election materials:

non-citizen voting

The risk to families is compounded by the requirement that a non-citizen voter registration is valid for one school board election at a time; the San Francisco Municipal Elections Code §1002(d) requires that a new voter registration be submitted for each school board election by non-citizens.

Reports from the 2018 midterm election estimate that no more than 60 San Francisco non-citizens voted in the last school board election. Prop N included its own sunset provision, extending non-citizen voting rights only to the end of 2022, requiring the Board of Supervisors, with the input of the entire San Francisco community, to then decide whether to continue with this policy initiative. At least until 2022, non-citizen parents in San Francisco with children in the public schools are entitled to vote in school board elections—and perhaps that’s sufficient time, in the best of worlds, to resolve the inherent dilemmas and to decide whether we will uphold the right itself.


The registration deadline for all voters for the next November 5, 2019 election has passed; however, all San Francisco voters who missed this date are still permitted to go in person to register and vote a provisional ballot either at the City Hall Voting Center or the SF State voting Center to vote.  Find more information at the SF Board of Elections, or call them at: (415) 554-4375.


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California Wildfire Resources

For those affected by the ongoing California wildfires and the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) or those who would like to help, here are some resources. Additionally, the law library is open to the public for our regular hours.

For victims and evacuees:

Power Outage and Fire Recovery Resources:
Wildfire Incidents
Power Outages
Shelters/Housing
Transportation Impacts
Health Services
State and Local Resources
How to make a donation

Public Safety Power Shutoff Event (PG&E)

SF72 (run by the Department of Emergency Management)

Public Safety Power Shutoff Preparedness Information (available in multiple languages)

Guide to Disaster Assistance Services for Immigrant Communities

Disaster Relief Handbooks (MoFo 2018)

Preparation for Emergencies – LA Law Library (as of 11/19/18)

California Disaster Legal Services: Free legal help for survivors of California disasters, and resources for volunteers, provided by trusted California nonprofit legal aid providers

Legal Help After a Disaster (State Bar of California)

NorCal Wildfires Free Legal Advice Hotline (SF Bar Association): 415-575-3120

Consumer Protections and Resources for Wildfire Victims (CPUC)

CAL FIRE Incident Map

Kincade Fire Updates (including evacuation maps)

Ready for Wildfire

@CAL_FIRE


Donations (information from NY Times):

Northern California Grantmakers – Kincade Fire and Other California Fires: How to Help

Southern California Grantmakers – 2019 Tick Fire: How to Help

American Red Cross

California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund

California Fire Foundation

Caring Choices

Enloe Medical Center

Entertainment Industry Foundation

Humane Society of Ventura County

North Valley Community Foundation

Salvation Army

United Way of Greater Los Angeles

United Way of Northern California

Crowdfunding Efforts:
GoFundMe: page catalogs relief efforts in Northern and Southern California There are multiple crowdfunding efforts for victims of the California fires.
Google: collection donations which will then go to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which will distribute the money to local nonprofits.
Airbnb: has a program that asks people to open their homes to those affected by the fires. Until Nov. 29, the company is allowing residents to mark their homes as a place for evacuees and aid workers to stay for free.


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Free COBRA MCLE Wed. Oct. 30

Wednesday, October 30, Noon to 1:00pm
Employment Law Update: A Closer Look at COBRA
Presented by Cristina A. Collazo, Senior Benefits Advisor
United States Department of Labor
1 Hour free MCLE Credit
***Download Flyer Here***

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. COBRA generally applies to all private-sector group health plans maintained by employers that had at least 20 employees on more than 50 percent of its typical business days in the previous calendar year. This program will go over the nuances of COBRA compliance and employer responsibilities in the administration of their health plans. Complex procedural issues and examples of common employer mistakes will be discussed.

Oct 30 2019 Cobra MCLE Flyer