Monday, April 6, 2020

Summer Access to Library Resources

Whether you're continuing at Duke Law next year or graduating this May, your access to legal research services like Westlaw, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law will change.
All Students
Many of the temporary resources for textbooks and eBooks listed on the Library's Working Remotely site will expire at different times this summer.

Continuing Students
For rising 2Ls and 3Ls, your Law School research access generally continues uninterrupted over the summer. Lexis Advance and Bloomberg Law both allow student usage over the summer for educational as well as for commercial purposes. (However, check with your employer before using your Law School accounts for paid work – many employers prefer that summer associates avoid using their school accounts for researching firm matters.)

Westlaw restricts continuing students' summer access to non-commercial/educational research purposes only. The eligible categories for summer access include:
  • Summer coursework
  • Research assistant assignments
  • Law Review or Journal research
  • Moot Court research
  • Non-Profit work
  • Clinical work
  • Externship sponsored by the school

2020 Graduates
Before leaving Duke Law, check out the library's information page on Library Services for Law Alumni, which contains helpful details about accessing legal research services, borrowing library materials, and extending building access for bar study.

For graduating 3Ls and LLMs, Bloomberg Law automatically extends educational accounts for 6 months.

Lexis offers a Graduate Program that provides recent law school graduates extended access to Lexis Advance; a customized version of the Law School Home Page with graduate specific content; and a choice of a graduation gift from LexisNexis. Spring graduates have access to Lexis Advance via their law school IDs through December 31, 2020. This ID also grants them access to the Graduate Home Page.By July 8, 2020, spring graduates' view of the Law School Home Page will switch to the graduate view.

Under Westlaw's "Grad Elite" program, access continues for 6 months after graduation. Duke Law graduates are allowed 60 hours of usage per month for services like Westlaw and Practical Law for educational purposes. Graduating students will need to register for extended access this spring.

For help with your summer access to these or other Duke resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian. The library's summer hours, which take effect at the end of final exams, are Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Virtual Law Documentary Festival

This weekend would have marked the 23rd Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, a world-renowned celebration of nonfiction filmmaking. Although this year's festival was canceled due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the festival website continues to provide information about the selected 2020 feature-length and short films that would have been a part of this year's festival. Festival organizers have also shared a list of past Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant Award winners (a prize that brings first-time documentary filmmakers to the festival) with information about where their films can now be streamed.

Current members of the Duke University community have access to a number of resources for streaming documentary films, beyond your own consumer subscriptions to platforms like Netflix and Hulu. If you'd like to host your own documentary film festival this weekend, here are some options available with a NetID, featuring some favorite titles from the Goodson Law Library's DVD collection:

Next year's Full Frame festival has been scheduled for April 8-11, 2021, but you can enjoy many documentaries online in the meantime using the resources above. For help with accessing Duke databases, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Tax in the Time of Coronavirus

Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced a 90-day extension of federal income tax payments for 2019, due to the global coronavirus pandemic (story at CNN). Despite the extension of time to pay federal taxes owed, Mnuchin recommended that taxpayers still attempt to complete and file their 2019 returns by the normal April 15 deadline. [UPDATE 3/20: The deadline to file has now been extended to July 15 as well, per an updated announcement by Secretary Mnuchin.] (The extension also does not apply to states, which must set their own deadline extensions for tax filing; California has already changed its payment and filing deadline to June 15.)

Taxpayers whose income was at or below $69,000 in 2019 may qualify for the IRS Free File service, which offers online tax preparation assistance and free e-filing for federal taxes. The Free File Online Lookup Tool helps taxpayers identify available free online filing offers that are appropriate for their tax situation.

If you do not qualify for Free File, the IRS also outlines additional e-File Options, including free fillable online forms for federal taxes. Should your taxes prove too complicated to go it alone, the IRS also has tips for Choosing a Tax Professional.

For more resources on federal tax law, including access to research databases like Thomson Reuters Checkpoint, visit the Goodson Law Library's research guide to Federal Tax or Ask a Librarian.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Resources for Social Distancing

The global response to the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been swift and drastic, with most universities and other public spaces closing temporarily in an effort to "flatten the curve" of new infections. For information on Duke University's response, check https://coronavirus.duke.edu/; the Law School information page can be found at https://law.duke.edu/about/coronavirus-response.

Experts agree that "social distancing," which encourages people to self-isolate as much as possible at home, is key to preventing further transmission. While schools transition to online learning and many workers shift to remote employment, that leaves the question of how to spend free time in an age when most restaurants and non-essential services are shuttered for the foreseeable future. Here are some resources to brighten your time at home.
Additional online resources can be found on our website, including access to the Duke Libraries Catalog and Research Databases A-Z.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Putting Your Papers to Work

Sure, grades are a good enough reason to put in the hours of research and writing on a seminar class paper. But what if all that hard work could earn you even more than a top grade? You might consider reworking past or current research projects for a law student writing competition. Many organizations sponsor writing contests for current law students, and most offer cash prizes as well as potential publication opportunities.

How can you identify potential writing competitions for your project? The T.C. Williams Legal Essay Contest Catalog, maintained by the University of Richmond Law School, is the most comprehensive listing of law student writing competitions. The website features several useful searching and sorting options, including the ability to sort by subject matter, deadline, and even prize amount.

The American Bar Association also maintains a list of Writing Competitions, which includes some contests not currently featured on the Richmond list. (This is likely because many of the listed contests are not currently open for submissions, but the ABA list could be helpful in planning ahead for future deadlines.)

Be sure to closely review each individual competition's rules before submission, as they may vary on matters like word count, font size, and required documentation.

For help with fine-tuning your work for potential publication, some useful resources in the library include:
  • Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review, 5th ed. (Course Reserves KF250 .V65 2016)
  • Elizabeth Fajans & Mary R. Falk, Scholarly Writing for Law Students: Seminar Papers, Law Review Notes, and Law Review Competition Papers, 5th ed. (Reserves KF250 .F35 2017)
  • Jessica Lynn Wherry, Scholarly Writing: Ideas, Examples, and Execution (Reserves KF250 .C528 2019)
For assistance with locating these or other legal writing texts, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Being Counted

Over the next week or so, you may notice library staff members taking notes about where our users are sitting (or standing, in the case of our sit/stand desks). It's no cause for alarm – we're conducting an assessment of library space usage, in order to identify patterns (such as the most popular places, times of day, and furniture types), and to help inform future space planning projects. No individually-identifying information is being recorded or reported, just tallies of where and when library visitors are using our space at certain times of day.

Consider our space assessment a warm-up, of sorts, to another important counting project taking place this spring: the 2020 Census. A decennial requirement from Article I, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, Census data helps to determine such critical matters as congressional seats in the House of Representatives and federal funding distribution for public services.

Everyone living in the United States and its territories is required by law to respond to the Census. Invitations will begin to arrive in the mail in mid-March, with options to complete the form by mail, phone, or online. Form questions can be previewed online. Census-takers will visit neighborhoods in May to collect data from households that have not yet responded; the Census Bureau has tips about verifying a census-taker's identity for anyone concerned about potential fraud or scams.

If you're a current student who is not sure whether you should be counted at your local North Carolina address or a different "home" address, the Census Bureau Who to Count page has a helpful section of student information. Students (including international students) attending a U.S. college or university "should be counted at the on- or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time." U.S. students who are currently living/attending school abroad are not counted in the Census.

Last year's failed attempt to reinstate a long-dormant citizenship question on the 2020 Census (detailed in The New York Times) left many would-be respondents concerned about the privacy of Census data. The Bureau has an information page about how Census information is protected. Individual Census records are kept confidential for 72 years, after which point they are available for archival research purposes. (Want to see records from the 1940 Census or earlier? You can do so in Ancestry Library Edition, available to the Duke University community.)

Some historical background on the Census requirement can be found in the government publication The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation ("Constitution Annotated"). The 2020 Census website includes answers to frequently-asked questions and other helpful resources related to this year’s Census. Whether you're using the library during our space assessment or responding to the Census form (ideally both), be sure to be counted this spring.

Monday, February 3, 2020

PACER's Day in Court

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will hear arguments in the ongoing litigation about the cost of PACER, the U.S. government's repository of federal court filings. PACER, or Public Access to Court Electronic Records, operates behind a paywall of $0.10 per page for searches and document retrieval. Charges are capped at $3.00 per document, and individual users are not billed unless they incur more than $15.00 in charges during a billing quarter. While the costs of PACER were designed to support the system’s infrastructure, critics have noted that PACER's annual income (more than $145 million) far exceeds the actual operating costs.

As The New York Times reported over the weekend, several consumer groups have filed suit over PACER costs. The complaint highlighted practices of overcharging or double-charging individual users, and also challenged the judiciary's practice of using excess PACER income for costs unrelated to the maintenance of the court records system. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia allowed the suit to proceed; its denial of the government's motion for summary judgment and partial grant of summary judgment on liability in favor of plaintiffs is now on appeal before the D.C. Circuit. Numerous advocates for free access to federal court filings have filed amicus briefs in the case, which has the potential to unlock PACER's paywall.

In the meantime, current members of the Duke Law community have free access to PACER materials through Bloomberg Law's Litigation Intelligence Center. Docket tracking is also available within Bloomberg Law. For filings that pre-date the PACER service, or from state courts, the library's research guide to Court Records and Briefs provides guidance on additional sources for researching court filings. For assistance with any of these resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.