Friday, April 19, 2013
Amanda Gorence highlights a photo-essay centered on children and their toys:
Shot over a period of 18 months, Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti’s project Toy Stories compiles photos of children from around the world with their prized possesions—their toys. Galimberti explores the universality of being a kid amidst the diversity of the countless corners of the world; saying, “at their age, they are pretty all much the same; they just want to play.”
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Time magazine looks at the the resilience of the ideas of Karl Marx
With the global economy in a protracted crisis, and workers around the world burdened by joblessness, debt and stagnant incomes, Marx’s biting critique of capitalism — that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive — cannot be so easily dismissed. Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic crises and heightened conflict between the rich and working classes. “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole,” Marx wrote.
A growing dossier of evidence suggests that he may have been right. It is sadly all too easy to find statistics that show the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are not.
Dustin Zacks (King, Nieves & Zacks PLLC) has posted Robo-Litigation (Cleveland State) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
recent housing crisis increased demand for attorneys to process
foreclosures through state courts. This increase in demand was coupled
with a desire for the fastest and cheapest legal services available. As a
result, large foreclosure firms designed to handle an enormous number
of foreclosure cases quickly and inexpensively evolved and flourished.
During their ascendancy, these firms consistently generated complaints
about their conduct, including questions about their ethical
decision-making and about the veracity of the pleadings and documents
they filed. Scholarly literature on the housing crisis, however, is
largely devoid of commentary on ethical issues related to increased
This Article tracks the rise and fall of several notorious high volume foreclosure firms and examines the numerous instances of serious misconduct their attorneys and paralegals perpetrated. The Article accordingly examines the curiously muted reaction from state bar associations, judges, and state legislators.
The Article then proceeds to examine how these foreclosure firms differ in makeup from traditional large law firms. Notable characteristics of these foreclosure firms include lenders and servicers’ relentless demand for increased speed and low costs, lack of firm-specific capital at foreclosure law firms, and a factory-like atmosphere of legal practice. The Article concludes with an examination of three policy options to prevent another surge in attorney misconduct: changing ethical rules, improving ethical education, and increasing state bar association funding and authority.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Wind turbines may be a promising low-carbon power source, but the communities in which they are sited do not always welcome them with open arms. Residents of the Forest hills subdivision in Washoe Valley, Nevada, were none to pleased when one of their neighbors planned to erect a wind turbine to power his home. They sued, alleging the 75-foot-tall turbine would constitute a nuisance, and won. While noting that “the aesthetics of a wind turbine alone are not grounds for finding a, nuisance,” the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that “a nuisance in fact may be found when the aesthetics are combined with other factors, such as noise, shadow flicker, and diminution in property value.” On this basis, the court upheld the lower court’s determination that the wind turbine would constitute a nuisance, and could be enjoined.
Jessie Hohmann (Cambridge) has posted The Right to Housing: Law, Concepts, Possibilities - Introduction (Book Chapter) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This is the introduction to a monograph on the right to housing as a human right.
A human right to housing represents the law's most direct and overt protection of housing and home. Unlike other human rights, through which the home incidentally receives protection and attention, the right to housing raises housing itself to the position of primary importance. However, the meaning, content, scope and even existence of a right to housing raise vexed questions.
Drawing on insights from disciplines including law, anthropology, political theory, philosophy and geography, this book is both a contribution to the state of knowledge on the right to housing, and an entry into the broader human rights debate. It addresses profound questions on the role of human rights in belonging and citizenship, the formation of identity, the perpetuation of forms of social organisation and, ultimately, of the relationship between the individual and the state. The book addresses the legal, theoretical and conceptual issues, providing a deep analysis of the right to housing within and beyond human rights law. Structured in three parts, the book outlines the right to housing in international law and in key national legal systems; examines the most important concepts of housing: space, privacy and identity and, finally, looks at the potential of the right to alleviate human misery, marginalisation and deprivation.
The book represents a major contribution to the scholarship on an under-studied and ill-defined right. In terms of content, it provides a much needed exploration of the right to housing. In approach it offers a new framework for argument within which the right to housing, as well as other under-theorised and contested rights, can be reconsidered, reconnecting human rights with the social conditions of their violation, and hence with the reasons for their existence.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The New York Times reports on how a tax change has dramatically increased the value of some co-op shares:
Until 2007, a federal tax regulation known as the “80-20 rule” required that residential co-ops receive at least 80 percent of their gross income from their tenant-shareholders, and no more than 20 percent from other sources, like ground-floor rent for retail space. If they didn’t comply, buildings lost their legal status as co-ops and the tax benefits that come with it. As a result, buildings charged below-market rent for their commercial spaces or otherwise performed legal gymnastics to retain their status as co-ops.
When Congress relaxed the law, co-ops became free to charge more for their ground-floor stores. But it hasn’t been until recently that most buildings could take advantage of the rule change, because many of them had signed 10- or even 20-year leases that are only now expiring.
In neighborhoods like SoHo and along Madison Avenue, where retail rents are high, it has meant a windfall for some co-ops. [...] A lucrative ground-floor lease can add 10 percent or more to the value of an apartment, residential brokers say. A sprawling two-bedroom loft at 464 Broome Street in SoHo, for example, is in contract for $3.22 million, nearly 10 percent over its asking price, in large part because the listing not only offers no maintenance but provides its shareholders with $20,000 a year in income.
John Sprankling (McGeorge) has posted The Global Right to Property (Columbia J. of Transnational Law) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
right to property exist under international law? The traditional
answer to this question is “no” ― a right to property can arise only
under national law. But sweeping economic and political changes in
recent decades have laid the foundation for recognizing a global right
to property. Ideological opposition to property rights has faded with
the end of the Cold War; China, Russia, and other socialist states have
transitioned to market economies which are premised on private property;
and the globalization of trade has enhanced international support for
protecting property rights. Accordingly, it is appropriate to revisit
This article challenges the conventional wisdom that a right to property can arise only under national law. It is the first legal scholarship to demonstrate that a right to property exists under international law, not merely as a moral precept but rather as an entitlement which all nations must honor. The existence of the global right to property is supported by three independent lines of analysis: conventional law; general principles of law; and customary international law.
Recognition of the global right to property has practical implications for the international legal system. It will ensure that the right is respected in proceedings before international judicial and arbitral tribunals. Over time, it will also contribute to building the legal framework for regulating property in the global commons, areas which are outside of the sovereign jurisdiction of any nation such as the high seas, outer space, and Antarctica.
Monday, April 15, 2013
National Fair Housing Alliance has released a report today on "Modernizing the Fair Housing Act for the 21st Century." The report highlights all the ways that landlords remain free to discriminate. From the summary at the Atlantic Cities Blog:
Federal laws don't protect against housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, income source or marital status (whether or not you're married is a different question from if you have kids). Many states do this on their own. But a surprising number don't. Today, it's still possible for a landlord in Texas to refuse to rent you an apartment with your live-in girlfriend (married couples only!), for a property management company in Alabama to turn you away because you're gay or transgendered, or for a homeowner in Indiana to decline your application because your income (which is enough to cover your rent) comes from housing vouchers, child support or alimony.
TaxFoundation.org recorded property taxes throughout the United States for a three-year period ending in 2009, allowing taxpayers to examine average property taxes by county. Tax-Rates.org then took the information and calculated averages by state. Here's a list of the state average property tax, based on percentage of home value:
Alabama — 0.33 percent
Alaska — 1.04 percent
Arizona — 0.72 percent
Arkansas — 0.52 percent
California — 0.74 percent
Colorado — 0.6 percent
(More below the Jump)
Greg Alexander (Cornell) has posted Unborn Communities on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Do property owners owe obligations to members of future generations?
Although the question can be reframed in rights-terms so that it faces
rights-oriented theories of property, it seems to pose a greater
challenge to those theories of property that directly focus on the
obligations that property owners owe to others rather than (or, better,
along with the rights of owner). The challenge is compounded where such
theories emphasize the relationships between individual property owners
and the various communities to which they belong. Do those communities
include members of future generations? This paper addresses these
questions as they apply to a property theory that I have developed in
recent work, a theory that we can call the human-flourishing theory of
The conclusion drawn here is that property owners do indeed owe moral obligations to future generations. But the scope of those obligations is restricted, certainly more so than some theorists, such as Jeremy Waldron, have claimed. Unlike Waldron, for whom such obligations are a matter of rights, I argue that the obligations that property owners owe to past generations are grounded on dependence. Specifically, I argue that if we expect fellow members of our communities in future generations to continue what I call the life-transcending projects that we began, then it is incumbent on us to provide that same background conditions that we enjoyed to those future generation community members to whom we transfer the responsibility of continuing or fulfilling our life-transcending projects. Moreover, as the distance between the living and the unborn increases, our obligations to future generational communities generally weaken. Our obligations to them are limited to the background conditions that enable them to continue the life-transcending projects transferred to them. These conclusions place me in an intermediate position between those who take a robust view of the obligations that the living owe to future generations and those who think that the living owe no such obligations at all.