The Supreme Court and the “Ministerial Exception”: Protecting Freedom of Religion? or Permitting the Disguise of Employee Discrimination?

By Anjalee Daryani, Albany Government Law Review

On January 11, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision concerning religious liberty.  The Court recognized for the first time a “ministerial exception,” precluding employment discrimination claims in the context of “the employment relationship between a religious institution and its ministers.”[1]  The case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was instituted on behalf of a teacher who was employed by a Lutheran school and had been fired for threatening to file a lawsuit for the church’s violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).[2]  The Supreme Court acknowledged that the interference by states into a religious groups’ employment decision, would be an intrusion on the internal governance of a religious organization, and as a result would be infringing upon their rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.[3] Continue reading “The Supreme Court and the “Ministerial Exception”: Protecting Freedom of Religion? or Permitting the Disguise of Employee Discrimination?”

Keeping it in the Family: The New York State Kinship Caregiver Program

By Matthea Ross, Albany Government Law Review

Background

Many programs in New York State are in danger of being cut due to budget cuts.  One example is the Kinship Caregiver Program.[1]  However, this program should be maintained because it provides children with the stability of family during times when their lives are being greatly disrupted. [2]

Kinship Care is defined as “the full time care, nurturing and protection of children by relatives, . . . godparents, stepparents, or any adult who has a kinship bond with a child,”[3] including close family friends depending on the jurisdiction.[4]  Often considered a way of preserving the family, placing children with relatives helps children maintain those familial connections.[5]  Continue reading “Keeping it in the Family: The New York State Kinship Caregiver Program”

Albany County’s Cyber-bullying Law: Is it Constitutional?

Written by Alaina Bergerstock, Albany Government Law Review Member

 

Introduction

The days of traditional bullying on the playground or school bus have transformed into a more technological type of bullying called “cyber-bullying,” as discussed in a recent article by Michael Telfer.[1] Cyber-bullying has increasingly become an extremely serious problem as technology develops.   Cyber-bullying not only includes written words in chat rooms and instant messages, but it also includes impersonation through the creation of fake Facebook and MySpace pages.[2] In addition, “happy slapping” has developed as a new means of cyber-bullying.[3] “Happy slapping” involves a victim being physically attacked while the attacker’s accomplice stands by and videotapes or takes pictures of the attack, and the video and/or pictures are then posted on an online site, such as YouTube.[4] Another means of cyber-bullying is where an individual takes pictures of the victim in the locker room, bathroom, or other location, and then posts those pictures online.  Online polls, in which readers are asked to vote on humiliating questions about the victim, are also used to cyber-bully.[5]

The problem with cyber-bullying in comparison to face-to-face bullying is that bullying that occurs via electronic means is capable of reaching a lot of people at once[6] Cyber-bullying also has the potential of being an around the clock problem since not only does it happen during school hours, but it also takes place off of school grounds.[7] The use of internet and cell phones allow bullies to torment their victims any time they want.  Young people are using the internet and text messaging as a means of bullying because it is easier for them to be mean when they don’t have to face their victims.  The internet allows an individual to make embarrassing and derogatory comments and remain anonymous.  However, the truth is that cyber-bullying hurts just as much, if not more, than if a victim is being bullied in person.[8] The importance of peer approval to children is high and thus, cyber-bullying can be extremely destructive to those who fall victim to it.[9] Unfortunately, the prevalence of cyber-bulling is increasing; “[t]he U.S. Justice Department recently reported that cyber-bullying is at an all-time high, with 43 percent of teens saying they have been victims.”[10] Continue reading “Albany County’s Cyber-bullying Law: Is it Constitutional?”

The Reality of the Socratic Method in Law School Classrooms: A Call to Preserve our Longstanding Tradition

Written by Oriana Carravetta, Albany Government Law Review Member

 

Fictional characters like Professor Kingsfield of The Paper Chase have contributed to an image of the quintessential law school professor who puts a student in the “hot seat” and delves into what seems like an intimidating and almost torturous line of inquiry.[1] This pedagogical technique is commonly known as the Socratic method: one of the defining characteristics of the American legal education system, almost universally used during the first year of law school.[2] At the crux of this method is a focus on having the students extract and explore legal theory for themselves.[3] It is often viewed as a coaching method that, when executed properly, assists to develop a student’s ability to think critically and present ideas in an effective manner.[4]

Without a doubt, this pedagogical technique puts an overwhelming amount of pressure on students to prepare well for class, think fast, and have no choice but to speak publicly.  According to the authors of Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law, “the case-dialogue method is a potent form of learning-by-doing.  As such, it necessarily shapes the minds and dispositions of those who apprentice through it.”[5] The unfortunate reality though, is that the Socratic method has been losing its force over the last thirty years, as it has now been viewed more as a symbol of traditional legal education rather than a classroom technique.[6] American legal institutions are no longer placing any sense of value on understanding its own history.  That is to say, embracing history in its pedagogical practice is no longer viewed as an important tool in preserving historical continuity.[7]

Continue reading “The Reality of the Socratic Method in Law School Classrooms: A Call to Preserve our Longstanding Tradition”