Category Archives: 1983 Litigation

A Bitter Cup of Coffee: Postscript

Special Guest Post by Doug Gladstone, author: A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees A Curve, and panelist for The Albany Government Law Review Spring Symposium: Baseball & the Law: America’s National Pastime.

On Thursday, April 21, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) announced, with much fanfare, that they would be giving all those men who played in “The Show” from 1947-1979, who had more than one day of service credit but less than four years, and who were therefore unable to qualify for MLB pensions, payments of up to $10,000 each for the next two years, depending on their respective lengths of service. The issue of these inactive, non-vested retirees was why I was on the “Legal State of Our National Pastime” panel at  Baseball & The Law: America’s National Pastime symposium held on Monday, April 11 in the Dean Alexander Moot Courtroom at Albany Law School.

As the author of the book widely credited with helping spur MLB to pay these men the monies they’re about to receive, I’ve naturally been asked what I thought about the announcement quite a bit over the last week or so. Admittedly, I have mixed emotions about it. Obviously, given the continuing national recession in this country, there are very few people nowadays who would turn up their noses at an extra $10,000 per year. But that pales in comparison to what some of these men could have received if they were just restored back into pension coverage.

Take Tom Bruno, for instance. A native of Chicago who pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays, Bruno finished his career having accrued three years and 161 days of service. He fell one game short of meeting the vesting requirement. One game. Based on a report which indicated that the average baseball retiree was making $30,000 in 2006, you know what a onetime retroactive check would be worth to a guy like Bruno?  If you answered, “$900,000,” you’ll realize why I’m not so impressed that he’s getting $10,000.

For the record, Major League Baseball is a $7 billion industry. Today’s player makes, on average, $3.3 million. You know what the most Tom Bruno ever made was? Only $65,000. These days, men like Ryan Howard ($125 million over five years), Matt Holiday ($120 million over seven years) and A-Rod ($27.5 million per year) are commanding what some would perceive are ridiculously obscene salaries. And part of the reason they’re able to earn that kind of money is due to men like Bruno, who frequently went without checks during work stoppages because he realized that a union is supposed to go to bat, not only for future players, but for past players as well.

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Filed under 1983 Litigation, Constitutional Law, Employment Law, Equal Protection, Finance, Sports Law

Panel 2 The Lawyer Presidents: Lincoln, Obama & the Rule of Law

Robert Magee, Former Managing Editor of the Fireplace Blog

         Panel Two was entitled The Lawyer Presidents: Lincoln, Obama, and the Rule of Law.  It featured three speakers, each of whom strove to connect the lessons of Lincoln’s Presidency to the problems faced by the Obama Administration.  The first was Dr. Timothy Huebner, Associate Professor of History at Rhodes College, the second was Dr. Thomas C. Mackey, Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, and the third was Anthony Paul Farley, the James Campbell Matthews Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at Albany Law School. 

            Dr. Huebner’s talk was entitled The Supreme Court and the Presidency: Lincoln/Taney and Obama/Roberts.  In it he outlined the revolution in America’s understanding of the Constitution that Lincoln represented.  Symbolically, it was a revolution against the constitutional view Chief Justice Taney represented when he swore in President Lincoln in March of 1864.  Dr. Huebner began by noting that the swearing in of President Obama was the first in which a Chief Justice swore in someone who had voted against his appointment to the Supreme Court.  As we all remember, this was an awkward moment. 

            This awkwardness was nothing compared, Dr. Huber noted, to Chief Justice Taney’s swearing in of Lincoln.  Taney had spent his career as both a politician and a judge promoting a Jacksonian constitutional understanding, an understanding typified in his opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford.[1]  It was a view that considered individual liberty and political power to be inherently opposed to one another.  It was a view which generally opposed centralization of power and which viewed the right to own property as the cornerstone of individual freedom.  Thus, Chief Justice Taney held in Dred Scott that a slaveholder’s individual right to own and use his property trumped federal prohibitions against the spread of slavery in the territories.  Dr. Huebner stressed that Taney’s holding that the Constitution had been written by the Founders on the understanding that slaves were to be property and not citizens was not the crucial concern of Taney’s, no matter how essential it was to its logic.  It was this idea of individual liberty which informed Taney’s jurisprudence and which led him to conclude that government’s role under the Constitution was a limited one.  In Dred Scott Taney had memorialized his most fundamental political inclinations and, in doing so, brought constitutional jurisprudence to the head of a movement that began under Jackson in the 1830s. Continue reading

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Filed under 1983 Litigation, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Equal Protection, Federalism, Human Rights, Legal History, Lincoln's Legacy, Uncategorized

Safford v. Redding in Context: A Brief History of Corporal Punishment at Common Law

Robert Magee,* Lead Writer

I. Introduction

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments in the case of Safford Unified School District v. Redding.1 The case involves the strip search of a thirteen-year-old girl, Savana Redding, on the orders of her school’s vice principal after she had been implicated in a scheme to distribute prescription strength ibuprofen.  The strip involved her taking off all her clothes and shaking out her underwear in front of the vice principal’s female assistant and the school’s female nurse.2 Ms. Redding instituted the present section 1983 claim for violation of her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.3

Though the precise issue today will be whether the Fourth Amendment protects students against being strip searched by school officials and, if not, what level of suspicion must school officials have before doing so, the facts of the case invoke a debate which has murmured throughout the history of the common law and education: what authority does a school official possess over the person of a student?  The treatment at common law of corporal punishment, the physical discipline of students, sheds valuable light on this debate, and provides insight into what the court may be considering during today’s argument.

II. The In Loco Parentis Doctrine

The legal mechanism which allowed corporal punishment by educators against students notwithstanding laws against battery was the doctrine of in loco parentis, the legal fiction that certain individuals, for our purposes educators, occupy the position of parent in relation to students.4 In loco parentis enabled educators to assume the role of the child’s parent when children came under their charge and thus allowing them to inflict corporal punishment in certain instances.  It was fundamentally accepted that parents had the authority to inflict corporal punishment, and therefore so could the educator.5 Continue reading

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Filed under 1983 Litigation, Constitutional Law, Education Law, Legal History, Municipal Liability

Twombly Trumps Conley: Ashcroft v. Iqbal and the Quest for a Standard Pleading Standard

Umair Khan, Staff Writer & Robert Magee, Lead Writer

        On December 10, 2008, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Ashcroft v. Iqbal.1  The case involves a Pakistani Man, Javaid Iqbal.  In the months after September 11th, the Justice Department set out to determine the legal status of every Muslim born man in the New York Metropolitan area.2  Iqbal, a cable repairman, was working in New Jersey when he was brought in for investigation by the Department of Justice on November 2, 2001.  When it was discovered that Iqbal’s immigration status was not current, Iqbal was confined to the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York.3  When he first entered the MDC, he was housed among the general population, but his immigration status, coupled with his Pakistani origin and Islamic faith earned him a “high interest” designation.4  He was thusly confined to a special unit within the MDC, the ADMAX-SHU (“Administrative Maximum Secure Housing Unit”).5  Without ever being afforded a hearing, Iqbal was detained at the MDC for over a year and, he alleges, subjected to horrific verbal, mental and physical abuse, including being left outside during winter without adequate clothing, incessant and unnecessary strip and cavity searches, and starvation.6

        After being allowed to plea to immigration violations, Mr. Iqbal was deported.  Having returned home, though, he has sought legal redress for violations of his Due Process and First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment rights under both Bivens7and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims, along with numerous statutory violations.8  Significantly, Mr. Iqbal alleges that Attorney General John Ashcroft and other officials at the Department of Justice and FBI approved the “hold and clear” policy which led to his being unconstitutionally detained without a hearing.9  Proving such an allegation is determinative of whether a plaintiff has established a valid § 1983 claim.10

        Unfortunately, in writing his initial complaint, Mr. Iqbal had no smoking gun to prove this.  He had no memo or tape in which Attorney General Ashcroft explicitly authorized officials at the MDC to violate Mr. Iqbal’s rights and it was this lack of a specific allegation that Ashcroft and other defendants moved for dismissal of Iqbal’s claim on the grounds that he, inter alia, hadn’t sufficiently plead a cause of action under FRCP 12(b)(6).11  The Eastern District of New York did not agree, the defendant’s appealed, lost in the Second Circuit12, and went on to win a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court.

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Filed under 1983 Litigation, Civil Procedure