Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Independence on Display

[This is a guest post by Reference Librarian and Senior Lecturing Fellow Marguerite Most.]
Resolved: that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be totally dissolved.
With these words Richard Henry Lee of Virginia stood before the Second Continental Congress on June 7, 1776 at the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall today) and advocated independence from the British Crown. Lee's Resolution began the series of events that lead to the writing of the Declaration of Independence and its adoption on July 4, 1776.

Five days after Lee's Resolution was introduced, the Congress appointed a committee to "prepare a declaration to the effect of the said first resolution." The Committee of Five – Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and William Livingston – edited Jefferson's initial draft and presented it to the Congress on July 2. The Congress voted for independence from Britain. Two days later, on the Fourth of July, church bells rang out over Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence, setting out the rallying cry, and justification for the American Revolution and for ending the rule of George III over the North American colonies, had been adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies.

Independence Day display in
Riddick Room, Level 3.
The following day copies prepared overnight by John Dunlap, the official government printer, were sent to state conventions and commanders of Continental troops. New York added its support on July 9, and ten days later the Congress announced the Declaration of Independence "The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America," and ordered that it be engrossed and "signed by every member of Congress." John Hancock, President of the Congress, signed first.

The Declaration has been called "something of a press announcement...when newspapers were still an inadequate means of reaching people." The text was publicized with public readings on court days and in Massachusetts, after Sunday services. These readings were accompanied by parades of militiamen, gun salutes, and the ripping down of royal flags – all intended to rally support of the colonists.

Beyond speaking to the colonists, the signers of the Declaration were looking for foreign aid. To continue the 15 month war effort against Britain the colonies needed financial help from foreign powers. Inclusion in the Declaration that "these United colonies are & of right ought to be free & independent states" with "separate and equal station" among the "powers of the earth," announced to the world, and specifically to France, that the colonies had become a treaty-making entity. International standing freed the colonies to form alliances with foreign nations, and independent status meant foreign nations could form alliances with the colonies without meddling in Britain's internal affairs. Within the month, a committee of the Continental Congress began drafting a treaty with France, as well as a confederation binding the thirteen new sovereign entities.

Although the celebrated preamble of the Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal and have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, John Adams himself noted that the Declaration contained nothing novel. And political historians generally agree that the principle source of its political philosophy reflects the writing of the English philosopher John Locke. In his Two Treatises of Government, Locke refuted the doctrine of the divine rights of kings and wrote of a contractual government with God-given natural rights that precede the existence of the state. Among the rights belonging to man by the laws of nature and of God were life, liberty, property and equality.

Although Locke is considered the most famous source of American political ideas, historians mention the common law, including Magna Carta, and the treatises of Edward Coke and William Blackstone as providing legal ammunition to the colonists. Of the 55 delegates to the Continental Congress, 45 were lawyers or had legal training – they were familiar with the works of Blackstone and Coke. These English barristers wrote of the law of nature as defined by the will of God, and, like John Locke, they recognized certain natural rights guaranteed all men. Fundamental Law and the American Revolution 1760-1776 by Charles F. Mullett provides a detailed discussion of continental and common law sources of political thought known to members of the Congress.

Closer to home, Jefferson drew on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason and adopted on June 12, 1776, when he composed the initial draft of the Declaration of Independence. Both documents recognize the "natural rights" of man. As well as providing a model for the Declaration, George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights became the basis of the United States Bill of Rights and was widely copied in other colonies. Notably, Locke's natural rights included property, while the Declaration of Independence does not.

As often remarked, time can alter history in the public mind. For members of the Continental Congress and for Americans in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Declaration of Independence was not the founding document of American liberty we celebrate today, but rather, in Jefferson's words, was meant to offer "an expression of the American mind, and to give that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion." This was a revolutionary document dissolving ties with Britain, justifying the break, and clearing the way for new governments to serve the "safety and happiness" of the people.

Later generations across the political spectrum have invoked the Declaration to support their causes. Abolitionists and suffragettes, as well as populist movements, have drawn on the Declaration. Abraham Lincoln invoked the Declaration of Independence when he opened the Gettysburg Address with these words: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." And in the 1963 March on Washington, Martin Luther King recalled the Declaration of Independence with these words: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." In his 2013 inaugural address, President Barack Obama remembered the Declaration of Independence with these words: "What makes us exceptional, what makes us America, is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

In his 2013 book For Liberty and Equality: the Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence, law professor Alexander Tsesis examines how the Declaration has shaped the United States over time, and the roles it has played in the drafting of the Bill of Rights, the Reconstruction Amendments, the New Deal, the Civil Rights movement, and in presidential debates and elections in the twenty-first century.

Noting our country sprang forth from a revolution in political and social structure, law professor J. M. Balkin in his article The Declaration and the Promise of a Democratic Culture argued that "we should interpret the Constitution in order to fulfill the promises that we Americans made in our Declaration, promises that are to be redeemed in history, and that we should understand many of our most important social movements as a continuation of the original social revolution against unjust hierarchy that began with the American revolutionaries."

If you are around the Library this summer, we hope you will take a few minutes to look at the Fourth of July display in the Riddick Room window. The display includes a facsimile copy of the Declaration of Independence and a selection of books from the Library’s collection. The quotes about the Declaration were identified through these books and searches of primary texts and online databases. Happy Fourth of July!

--Marguerite Most, Reference Librarian and Senior Lecturing Fellow

Additional Reading

Monday, June 29, 2015

New Research Guide to Health Law

The Goodson Law Library has recently added a brand-new research guide to Health Law. Reference Librarian Jane Bahnson, who also teaches the advanced research course Health & Medical Research for Lawyers, curated this list of primary and secondary resources on health and medical law topics.

Looking for a treatise or hornbook to explain health care-related legal concepts? Want a medical dictionary to illustrate complex terminology? Need statistics about a particular health care issue? It’s all in the guide. The "Primary Sources" section also describes and lists background and legislative history resources for nine major federal health statutes. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act (which marks its 25th anniversary next month), Medicare/Medicaid, and the recent Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, whose health care tax subsidies were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last week (see SCOTUSblog info page for King v. Burwell).

Color diagram of a human heart
Color diagram of a human heart,
which many attorneys have been
accused of not possessing.
From Attorney's Textbook of Medicine,
available on Lexis Advance.

Although some resources, such as Bloomberg BNA's Health Law Resource Center, are available only to current members of the Duke Law community, the guide also includes free Internet resources as well as books and e-books which are available to the Duke University community and library visitors.

For more assistance with locating library resources on health law topics, check out the guide’s tips for Searching the Duke Catalog or Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


The U.S. Supreme Court will close its October Term 2014 at the end of this month. With several blockbuster decisions still pending (including same-sex marriage, and the Affordable Care Act exchanges), the Court has scheduled opinion announcements at 10 a.m. each day on Thursday, Friday, and Monday.

SCOTUSblog will live-blog each announcement, and post opinions and commentary to each case page on its website. The OYEZ Project at Chicago-Kent Law School will also feature live coverage of opinion announcements.

Opinions will also be loaded to the Supreme Court's "Latest Slip Opinions" shortly after their announcement each day. Commentary and analysis of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions can also be found in United States Law Week, available via Bloomberg BNA or Bloomberg Law.

For more resources devoted to the activities of our highest court, check out the Goodson Law Library research guide to the U.S. Supreme Court, or Ask a Librarian.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Tools for Language Learning

Whether you're planning a summer vacation or hoping to land a legal job abroad, it never hurts to become familiar with a foreign language. The Duke University Libraries offer access to two subscription databases for language learning, which are available to current students, faculty, and staff. Both use an audiovisual "flash card" style to reinforce lessons.

Transparent Language Learning, formerly known as Byki, has been available to the Duke community for several years. Transparent Language Learning features more than 50 foreign-language modules (from Afrikaans to Zulu) as well as English-language learning modules designed specifically for native speakers of more than two dozen languages. Lessons reinforce all four major skills required to truly learn a language: reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

Pronunciator is a newer addition to the Duke Libraries' collection. Offering 80 language choices, as well as 50 customized ESL modules, Pronunciator provides flash card instruction as well as interactive quizzes. Individual languages are broken into sub-modules such as a condensed "travel prep" lesson. Lessons may also be downloaded for offline instruction.

Both Transparent and Pronunciator require the setup of individual usernames and passwords in order to save your personal learning progress. Access both databases for the first time through the Duke University Libraries' website in order to authenticate as a valid subscriber. After your username and password has been created, you can access the sites without authenticating through Duke first. Both services also offer mobile apps to take your language learning on the go.

Not a Duke community member? Pronunciator is also available to North Carolina residents through the NC Live consortium. NC Live offers access to hundreds of subscription databases through a user's "home" public or academic library. Access Pronunciator via your library at

For help with accessing Duke databases, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bluebook 20th Edition: What's New?

Last week, the long-awaited 20th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation hit bookshelves. While the Goodson Law Library's copies have yet to arrive, the 20th edition will replace its 2010 predecessor on Reserve after arrival and processing. Bluebook users with subscription access to the electronic version at can already view the new edition online. (Purchasers of the print edition will also receive a code for a 30-day free trial of the online version; or the book can be purchased as a bundle with online access for up to 3 years.)

In the meantime, legal researchers have already begun noting the latest rule changes. Law librarian Janelle Beitz compiled a list of differences between the 19th and 20th editions on Google Drive. The new edition clarifies rules regarding quotations within a quotation, adds sources and terms to various tables, and includes some new material in Rule 18, which governs the citation of electronic resources. Although the Bluebook continues to privilege print editions for some citations, such as the date of a statutory code volume, the new edition does allow for the use of online newspapers as a substitute for print, and no longer requires pagination.

The Bluebook has come a long way since its development in 1925, when it was a mere 28 pages long! If you'd like to track changes even further back in time, the Bluebook publishers have posted PDFs of the 1st through 15th editions on their website:
For help with legal citation questions, be sure to Ask a Librarian...although we are still waiting for our new copies, too!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Start Smart on Summer Research

Sometimes, it can seem like your summer employer has asked for the impossible, or at least the very unfamiliar. Quick keyword searches on WestlawNext and Lexis Advance just aren't cutting it, or perhaps you aren't even sure what words to use in your search? The best legal researchers know that a smart start is the key to completing research assignments efficiently and effectively. While the Goodson Law Library remains available on weekdays over the summer to provide guidance, our research tips for beginning a new project can help you shine all on your own.

If you missed the library's 2L Research Refresher workshop in March, the slides and handout are available on our Workshops & Instruction page. The workshop provided an overview of real-world research steps, including tips for brainstorming potential search words, locating useful secondary sources and research guides, and searching primary authority effectively. In particular, resources like Zimmerman's Research Guide and's custom search engine of all ABA-accredited law school websites can help you find preexisting research guides on an unfamiliar legal topic.

Our Research Refresher emphasized the importance of using encyclopedias, but you should also keep in mind the value of consulting treatises. Legal treatises can range from a single-volume handbook or overview to a multi-part, in-depth exploration of a particular topic, and they will provide helpful footnotes to primary authority to aid further research. While treatises do appear in search results on WestlawNext and Lexis Advance, it is often more efficient to browse or search a treatise text directly, rather than filter through large amounts of secondary source results in the hopes of locating a useful treatise section. Several resources can help you discover relevant treatise titles and their online locations.
  • We hope you held on to your first-year legal research textbook – Legal Research in a Nutshell Appendix B contains a list of legal treatises by subject, with information about online availability. (Although the appendix isn't included, the nutshell companion website also maintains helpful links for online legal research.)
  • Georgetown Law maintains a Treatise Finder guide for more than 60 legal topics. Each page in the alphabetical topic listing includes a list of selected treatises, with brief descriptions, and information about online availability in Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg, or other sources.
  • On the hunt for more treatises on a topic? Consult Legal Information Buyer's Guide and Reference Manual, an annual guide to legal publications which contains useful reviews of print and electronic legal resources. Although the two most recent editions are not available in full text online, even the slightly older 2012 edition in HeinOnline can provide helpful recommendations for subject treatises (Chapter 27) and state-specific materials (Chapter 28). Those two chapters provide more than 500 pages of reviews and recommendations for legal treatises and other publications.
Still stumped on a particular research question? Contact the library's Reference Services Desk on weekdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm this summer. Be sure to consult with your employer before enlisting outside assistance, and be mindful of client confidentiality when describing your question.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Charity Cases

Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission announced a massive lawsuit against four cancer "charities" which allegedly misused nearly $200 million in consumer donations. The complaint was filed in federal court on Monday, with the FTC as well as all 50 states' attorneys general offices listed as plaintiffs. As Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring noted in the FTC press release, "This is the first time the FTC, all 50 states, and the District of Columbia have filed a joint enforcement action alleging deceptive solicitations by charities and I hope it serves as a strong warning for anyone trying to exploit the kindness and generosity of others."

The FTC's case infographic starkly illustrates the discrepancy between the defendants' charitable aid and organizational overhead expenses, with the vast majority of donations going to employee compensation and other non-charitable uses, such as cars, tickets to sporting events, trips, and even dating site memberships. The complaint alleges that less than 3% of contributions were spent on direct aid to cancer patients.

Half of the implicated defendants (the Breast Cancer Society and Children’s Cancer Fund of America) have already agreed to settle. Proposed settlement orders (linked from the FTC press release) would dissolve the organizations and ban their executive directors from future charitable management and fundraising, as well as levy multi-million dollar judgments. The remaining defendants (Cancer Fund of America and Cancer Support Services) have opted to continue the litigation.

How can consumers be sure that their charitable donations are funding legitimate aid? The FTC maintains a site to warn about the common Charity Scams, including a helpful Charity Checklist to investigate particular organizations before donating. Duke University community members have access to GuideStar, a leading source of reliable nonprofit information. Charity Navigator is another option to review ratings of charitable organizations, including percentages of revenue spent on actual programs and services versus overhead.

To learn more about the legal issues surrounding nonprofit organizations, search the Duke Libraries Catalog for "Nonprofit organizations – Law and legislation – United States" or Ask a Librarian.