Friday, January 6, 2017

A History of the Holman Rule

As the new 115th Congress began its work this week, one of the first orders of business was to adopt procedural rules. House Resolution 5 (text at Congress.gov), Adopting Rules for the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress, garnered much attention for its original controversial plan to limit the powers of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, approved during a closed vote. Following thousands of constituent phone calls (and Twitter criticism from President-Elect Donald Trump regarding congressional priorities), the move was abandoned less than 24 hours later.

However, a new controversy over the rules package took shape yesterday, when the media took note of another provision, the "Holman rule." Originally developed in 1876 but removed from the standing rules in 1983, the Holman Rule allows a member of Congress to propose appropriations amendments which reduce "the number and salary of the officers of the United States" or "the compensation of any person paid out of the Treasury of the United States." As noted in the Washington Post, this measure has raised concerns about the ability of Congress to target individual federal civil servants for punitive salary reduction, or federal programs for elimination.

News reports frequently describe the Holman rule as "obscure," likely due to its removal from the standing rules more than three decades ago. So what is the history of this Holman rule? Answers can be found in some classic Congressional procedure treatises, such as Cannon's Precedents and Deschler's Precedents. Both are available through the subscription database HeinOnline's Congressional Documents library, as well as for free through the U.S. Government Publishing Office's GovInfo.gov. 8 Deschler's Precedents § 4 contains a historical overview of the Holman Rule, covering its development in the late 1800s, to its limitation of scope by the 98th Congress in 1983. The congressional precedent texts can be browsed for free on GovInfo, or searched and browsed on FDsys. More details are provided in the 2010 publication A Concise History of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.

For more information about congressional rules and procedures, try a subject search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for "United States. Congress. House -- Rules and practice" or "Parliamentary practice -- United States." You'll find titles like House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures of the House (2011) and Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process (10th ed. 2016). For help locating these or other titles on the topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lights Out for Lexis.com

On December 31, 2016, Law School access to the original Lexis.com interface will be phased out. Beginning on January 1, all Law School research will be through Lexis Advance, the interface which debuted in 2011. (Recently, Lexis.com was only accessible via a pull-down menu within Lexis Advance, but soon that option will be removed.) 100% of Lexis.com content has migrated into Advance, making the long-term upkeep of parallel research systems unnecessary. (Law firm and other commercial users of Lexis.com will have an additional 12 months to get up to speed on Lexis Advance while retaining access to Lexis.com.)

Lexis has created a "Lexis.com Migration Center" (login required) with handouts and training videos to help Lexis.com users learn more about the Advance interface and content. In particular, the PDF handout "The Research Tasks You Do Most: Here's How at Lexis Advance" is a handy primer to the most popular research needs. Additionally, the LexisNexis Legal YouTube channel for Lexis Advance Training on the Go contains more than 60 videos on various research topics.

Law school researchers are no strangers to changing legal research platforms: in July 2014, Westlaw's "Classic" site was phased out in favor of its WestlawNext interface (now known as Thomson Reuters Westlaw). Like the planned Lexis transition, Westlaw retired the Classic interface from law school users a full year before the sunset date for commercial subscribers: August 31, 2015.

For help with getting up to speed on Lexis Advance, Westlaw, or any other legal research resource, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Charity Checkups

The end of the calendar year often sees an increase in solicitations from non-profit organizations. Whether you feel compelled to give back or are just calculating charitable deductions for next year's tax return, it's helpful to research tax-exempt organizations to learn more about where your dollars are being spent, and to avoid sending money to fraudulent organizations.

The Internal Revenue Service's Exempt Organization Select Check provides quick information about particular non-profit organizations, and the general deductibility level of contributions. For more detailed financial data regarding tax-exempt organizations, the best source is the annual Form 990 filed with the IRS. Form 990 archives are available through a number of sources:
  • Duke University community members have access to GuideStar, a leading source of reliable nonprofit information and backfiles of Form 990.
  • Charity Navigator is another option to review ratings of charitable organizations, including percentages of revenue spent on actual programs and services versus overhead.
  • ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer also includes basic financials and free 990 downloads.
The growth of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo has also affected charitable giving. It's common to see GoFundMe, YouCaring, or other fundraising sites set up to raise medical expenses, funeral expenses, or other needs. However, the Better Business Bureau has warned of fraudulent fundraising sites being created in the aftermath of tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing and the Orlando nightclub shooting. For its part, GoFundMe offers both donors and beneficiaries protection in the event of fraud, and YouCaring provides tips for avoiding fraudulent fundraising campaigns. But as with traditional charities, donors should research carefully to ensure that their money reaches the intended source.

For more information about charitable organizations and tax law, check out the resources listed in the research guide to Federal Tax or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Remembering Gary Slapper

Last night, the Times of London's Twitter account noted the passing of its longtime "Weird Cases" columnist, Gary Slapper:
Slapper's name should be familiar to many legal researchers, as the author of several leading textbooks on the law of England: The English Legal System and How the Law Works. As the legal news website Legal Cheek noted today, he was also a prolific humorist, in his Times column and on social media. In addition to several editions of Slapper's seminal textbooks, the Goodson Law Library collection also contains Slapper's collection of Weird Cases: Comic and Bizarre Cases from Courtrooms Around the World. To see which of his works are available in the Goodson Law Library collection, try a search of the Duke University Libraries catalog for the author's name.

An obituary for Gary Slapper is available at the Times Gazette. Memorials are also being posted on Twitter, with many readers highlighting Slapper's 2012 column, "Is Studying Law Boring?", as a personal inspiration for their law studies. There, Slapper enthused about the unique adaptability of a law degree, and highlighted law's importance to every aspect of daily life:
Although law is sometimes portrayed as a dull discipline pursued by ethically dubious practitioners, it is a spellbindingly vivid and varied subject which affects every part of human life. Physics, history, Spanish, business, architecture, and other subjects are all vital disciplines but law permeates into every cell of social life. Law governs everything from the embryo to exhumation. Law regulates the air we breathe, the food and drink that we consume, our travel, sexuality, family relationships, our property, sport, science, employment, education, and health, everything in fact from neighbour disputes to war…

Professor Slapper's words – and works on the English legal system – will have the same enduring impact as the legal precedent he highlighted in his writings.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Federal Rules: What's New For December 2016

On December 1, changes to the federal rules of general application become effective, if they are adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court and submitted to Congress before May 1. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court has adopted amendments to selected Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Appellate Procedure, and Bankruptcy.

One of the highest-profile changes this year involved Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which expanded the scope of warrants to search computers. As the December 1 effective date drew closer, civil liberties groups and members of Congress expressed concerns about extending government "hacking" powers, but last-minute efforts to delay Rule 41 from taking effect were unsuccessful.

The U.S. Courts website Current Rules of Practice & Procedure outlines all of the changes adopted in late April, and includes the amended rule text in various formats. Online sources for the federal rule text (such as subscription research services like Westlaw, or the free Legal Information Institute) have already incorporated these 2016 changes to their text. Printed sources in the library, such as annual handbooks or looseleaf services which reprint the federal rules, may have a slight lag time before updating. Researchers should be aware of the annual December changes to the various federal rules.

Additional commentary on the changes is available at the following sources:

For help locating the updated federal rules, or more information about federal rules in general, visit the Goodson Law Library research guide to Court Rules or Ask a Librarian.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Judge for Yourself

Data analytics are a rapidly-growing feature in legal research services. From the intellectual property predictive analysis in Lex Machina (now owned by LexisNexis) to the recently-unveiled Bloomberg Law Litigation Analytics, many legal research services are offering their users charts, tables, and other information about the connections between court opinions and orders, lawyers, judges, and companies.

Judges are a particularly interesting use case. Most research services provide a basic biographical profile of current judges, along with links to their full-text opinions and orders. However, some research services provide a bit more analysis and examination of individual judges.

The Judge Analytics module of  Ravel Law, featured in Forbes earlier this year, is one example of the possibilities. Duke Law students, faculty, and staff may request an Educational Account. Judge Analytics' coverage includes current and historical federal judges, as well as current state appellate court judges. Type a judge's name into the main Ravel search box and select their name from the "Judges" auto-suggest in order to view a dashboard. The "Opinions" tab provides quick access to the judge’s authored opinions. The "Analytics" tab includes lists of their most-cited opinions, judges, and courts. The "About" tab links to biographical information and available news articles.

Westlaw Profiler and Lexis Advance Litigation Profile Suite both include basic biographical information for state and federal judges, as well as links to opinions, court filings, and secondary sources, such as news. Westlaw and Lexis also include selected charts and tables, where available, of topics like ruling history and judicial reversal rates.

Bloomberg Law's Litigation Analytics module is currently limited to U.S. District Court judges, but includes profiles and analysis of opinions and orders, such as frequently-cited opinions, motion and appeal outcomes, and average length of case.

For more sources of information about judges, including access for the always-illuminating anonymous lawyer survey comments in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, visit the Goodson Law Library research guide to Directories of Courts and Judges or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Indecent Exposure

This weekend's episode of Saturday Night Live sounded a little different to viewers in the Raleigh-Durham market served by NBC affiliate WRAL-TV. Host Dave Chappelle's monologue featured several ten-second audio drops, omitting entire sentences and joke punchlines. The periodic audio interruptions continued into several SNL sketches. (Twitter user Nathania Johnson compared her local DVR recording to video clips from the national broadcast on Hulu. The WRAL interruptions are described in detail at her Medium post, 10 times NBC affiliate WRAL censored Dave Chappelle-hosted SNL last night.)

Raleigh's News & Observer confirmed that the local network affiliate had elected to provide additional local censorship of language, even though several pre-taped sketches already featured bleeping from the national broadcast feed. In an official statement released on Sunday, WRAL said,
"WRAL-TV has a station obscenity, decency and profanity policy that outlines 10 specific words that will not be broadcast on our air. This policy is based on our own standards in combination with FCC guidelines. Our broadcast operators have a 10-second delay button they can choose to use. During Saturday Night Live on NBC, guest host Dave Chappell [sic] used 2 of those words on 9 different occasions and they were silenced. Obviously, SNL is a live show so we had no prior indication about what would be said during the broadcast. We understand this caused disruption during the program. We wanted our audience to know this was a station decision, not the network's, and why we made that choice."

Later, in response to viewer complaints and increasing press coverage, WRAL apologized "for impeding the full flow and message of Dave Chappelle's monologue. It was not our intention to censor his message. We followed policies and procedures that have been in place for many years for programming of any kind," and pledged to review the internal policy while considering viewer input. Variety noted that the station had heard "from many viewers" about the local language censorship, and also had a history of refusing to air certain national programs during its time as a CBS affiliate.

In its statement about the local obscenity, decency and profanity station policy, WRAL mentions national "FCC guidelines" as well. The Federal Communications Commission regulates broadcast television and radio, and does indeed provide guidelines about obscene, indecent, and profane content. Obscene content falls outside First Amendment protection and is prohibited at all times; indecent and profane content is prohibited between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., "when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience." Saturday Night Live airs from 11:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

In the 1970s, the decade when Saturday Night Live debuted, comedian George Carlin’s famous "Seven Dirty Words" routine landed before the U.S. Supreme Court, which considered FCC indecency and profanity standards in the case of Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978). In the Pacifica case, a 5-4 Court upheld the FCC's finding that a radio broadcast of Carlin's routine constituted indecent speech.

The current federal standard for what constitutes indecent or profane content is discussed in the FCC's "Golden Globes order" of 2004, 19 FCC Rcd. 4975, available on the FCC's website. In the "Golden Globes order" (so named for the awards ceremony where singer Bono uttered a "fleeting expletive" in the live broadcast), the Commission cited an earlier internal policy document, Industry Guidance on the Commission's Case Law Interpreting 18 U.S.C. §1464 and Enforcement Policies Regarding Broadcast Indecency ("Indecency Policy Statement"), 16 FCC Rcd 7999. This policy statement outlined more clearly what factors the Commission weighs in determine whether content is indecent.

For more information on broadcast standards and the FCC, try a search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject heading "Broadcasting -- Law and legislation -- United States." You’ll find titles like Rodney Smolla's treatise Rights and Liabilities in Media Content: Internet, Broadcast, and Print (KF2750 .M472 & online in Westlaw) as well as historical works on broadcast regulation and indecency. For more information about the FCC's operations, check out the agency directories listed in the Goodson Law Library guide to Federal Administrative Law or Ask a Librarian.