Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Wills of the People

When Grammy and Academy Award-winning musician Prince (née Prince Rogers Nelson) passed away last week at age 57, his fans around the world were shocked at the sudden loss. This week, it was alleged in court filings that the famed entertainer died without preparing a will – this time, sending a shock through the legal community. Prince's estate is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions, including his lucrative songwriting catalog (which Prince controlled after decades of legal wrangling with record labels). Prince was unmarried and had no living parents or children (his only son, with ex-wife Mayte Garcia, died shortly after his 1996 birth). Tyka Nelson, Prince's sister, has petitioned a Minnesota court for control of the entertainer's estate. (Prince also has five half-siblings, which the ABA Journal notes are treated as full siblings under Minnesota probate law.)

While it's surprising that Prince would die intestate after a career marked by legal battles over control of his intellectual property, he is hardly alone in neglecting to create a will. An oft-quoted statistic maintains that more than half of Americans – 55% – die without a will or estate plan in place. Even other celebrities occasionally ignore estate planning until it's too late – the do-it-yourself website LegalZoom published a list of 10 Famous People Who Died Without a Will, including musicians Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley as well as artist Pablo Picasso.

Want to see a particular celebrity's will (assuming they made one)? You might need to do some legwork. The Living Trust Network contains more than 40 reproductions of Wills of the Rich and Famous, including documents from pop stars (Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston), actors (Katharine Hepburn, Heath Ledger), and even presidents (John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon). A Century of Celebrity Wills, by probate attorney Herbert E. Nass, describes and quotes the estate plans of some notable historical figures. But many celebrity wills can be found only in the records of the court where they were filed – and not necessarily available online. (David Bowie, who died earlier this year, is one such example – details of his will were described in the New York Times, but records of the Manhattan Surrogate's Court are not available online.)

To learn more about the basics of estate planning, take a look at the American Bar Association's Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law, which offers a helpful Frequently Asked Questions section on estate planning. Unsurprisingly, the ABA cautions against using "do-it-yourself" will websites or forms, but does include a helpful discussion of the situations which are more likely to require professional assistance. Consumer Reports also found in 2012 that self-service will-making websites can result in unintended legal consequences for all but the simplest estate plans.

For more information on estate planning resources, search the Duke Libraries catalog for "Estate planning – United States" or Ask a Librarian.

Friday, April 22, 2016

PACER Fees Face Legal Fire

On Thursday, three nonprofit groups filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint, which is available free from the Alliance for Justice website and the Internet Archive, alleges that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts charges excessive fees to access federal court filings on its PACER service (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). The Wall Street Journal Law Blog and ABA Journal have helpful write-ups of the case background.

As legal researchers know, PACER.gov is the official source for federal court filings, and is currently used in all federal jurisdictions except the U.S. Supreme Court (which announced in its 2014 Year-End Report of the Chief Justice that it is developing its own electronic alternative for filings). PACER requires individuals to register an account, along with a credit card for payment of any fees incurred above $15 in a quarterly billing period. Fees in PACER (for both searching and viewing individual case documents, currently $0.10 per page with individual document caps of $3.00) are intended to keep the service self-funded. However, the complaint notes that PACER fees collected by the Administrative Office (estimated as $145 million in 2014) far exceed the actual costs of maintaining the service, and that the additional revenue has funded non-PACER initiatives, contrary to Congress's stated intent. The complaint includes an informative history of PACER's fee schedule, and past lawsuits concerning PACER fees.

The Goodson Law Library's research guide to Court Records & Briefs lists a few options for legal researchers to track the progress of a particular case docket, including National Veterans Legal Services Program et al v. United States. The free docket search at Justia Dockets includes an information page for this lawsuit with direct links to the appropriate PACER site, but only case documents which are tagged as free "opinions" within PACER will be available to download from the case info page. However, the Internet Archive is providing a free mirror of the case docket with access to documents.

Current members of the Law School community may also view the case docket and download documents through Bloomberg Law's Litigation & Dockets tab. (See our research guide to PACER Access via Bloomberg Law for more about Bloomberg's free educational access to PACER materials for Law School accounts.)

For help accessing these or other federal court filings, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

All About Alumni Authors

With Reunion Weekend fast approaching, the Goodson Law Library is proud to highlight Law School Alumni Authors. Level 3 of the library contains a special Alumni Authors collection (view map); works in this collection will have a Location note in the Duke University Libraries catalog. If you have a tip about an existing or upcoming alumni publication which is not yet featured in our collection, let the library know in our online Suggestion Box.

The Goodson Law Library is also proud to sponsor an annual Alumni Author event, in observance of National Library Week. On Thursday, April 14, Jacinda Townsend (Class of '95) will discuss her acclaimed novel, Saint Monkey. This year's event is co-sponsored by the Black Law Students Association and the Women Law Students Association.

Poster for Jacinda Townsend Alumni Author event


Previous Alumni Author events can be found in the Duke Law video archive:

For help with locating our alumni author publications, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Preparing for Summer Employment

It's hard to believe, but the summer break is only a few weeks away! Once you've navigated the obstacle course of final exams, it's time to get ready for summer employment.

Prepare to Practice training

If you missed the library's recent presentation in the Career Center's 2L Research Refresher Series, "What to Know Before You Go," you can access the slides and handout on the Library Workshops and Instruction page. This session gave helpful tips about beginning any research assignment, including: brainstorming search keywords, formulating advanced searches, locating background information in secondary sources, and keeping current with the latest developments in your practice areas.

Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law will also offer "prepare to practice" or "summer certification" trainings over the next few weeks in the Fite Room, on level 2 of the library. View the Training Calendars and sign up:
Each service also offers online tutorials or other self-guided training materials for summer employment preparation. On Bloomberg's main screen, scroll down to the "Be Practice Ready" section; on Lexis and Westlaw, look for links to Tutorials.

Summer Database Access

While you're likely to use Lexis, Westlaw, and/or Bloomberg Law in practice this summer, be aware that there may be restrictions on using your Duke Law-issued research passwords during your summer employment. These restrictions may be set by the services themselves, or by your employer.

Westlaw restricts student passwords over the summer for specific academic uses only:
  • Summer law school classes and study abroad programs
  • Law Review and Journal, including write-on competitions
  • Research assistant
  • Moot Court
  • Unpaid internship/externship

Students who meet one of these educational exemptions can extend their password here. Students with summer jobs in law firms, corporations, and government agencies should not use an academic password for research and must use a firm-issued password.

Lexis provides all returning law students with "free and unlimited access to their Lexis Advance IDs" over the summer. No action is needed to extend the password, and no restrictions are placed by Lexis on using the educational ID in either academic, non-profit, or commercial settings. (Note that some employers may require students to use a firm-issued ID instead.) Graduating students will continue to have access to Lexis Advance until December 31; graduates working for a qualifying public interest organization can apply for the "ASPIRE ID," which provides Lexis access for an entire year.

Bloomberg Law accounts are valid during the summer and for 6 months after graduation. Unless your employer states otherwise, your Law School Bloomberg account may be used for both academic and employment-related purposes, including full access to federal court filings from PACER (see our research guide). If you do not already have a Bloomberg Law account, you may Request A Law School Account with your Duke email address.

Other Duke databases continue to be available to returning students over the summer, and most can be accessed off-site with your NetID and password. See the library's list of Legal Databases & Links.

Getting Help

Beginning on the last day of the exam period (Friday, May 6), the library will be staffed weekdays 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is available to assist with research questions over the summer. (Talk to your employer about policies regarding external assistance, and be mindful of confidentiality concerns!) For help with your summer research, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Justice of the Peace Manuals: Early American Law Textbooks

In recent years legal scholars and historians have begun mining justice of the peace manuals and related early court records as a way to understand the role lower courts played in the development of American law. The manuals were used by lay judges to address the day-to-day dealings of ordinary folks. They explained English common and statutory law in layman's terms, and helped justices of the peace settle trespass and hunting disputes, fine the keepers of alehouses, punish the foul-mouthed and blasphemous, address family matters such as marriage, adultery and divorce, and provide forms the local population could use to make contracts, deed land and write wills.

This guest post by Marguerite Most is a brief introduction to early justice of the peace manuals, which are a focus of the Goodson Law Library's special collections. While the focus of the collection is on manuals of colonial America, especially manuals published in the antebellum south, the collection also includes examples of early English manuals. Some of the manuals described in this blog post are on display until mid-April in the Riddick Room, along with other early English and American manuals. Most manuals mentioned here are available online in library-licensed databases, such as the Legal Classics Library in HeinOnline, Early English Books Online and the Making of Modern Law. These databases are restricted to Duke University users, but some titles can be found on free sites such as Google Books.

A few historians date the office of justice of the peace in England as early as the reign of Richard the Lion-Hearted (1189-99), when knights crossed the kingdom administering an oath to observe the king’s peace to men over age fifteen. Most historians date the office from the reign of Edward III and the Statute of 34 Ed. III, ch. 1 (1360), which established the office and empowered justices to try and imprison "offenders, rioters, and all other barators." (In Anglo-French a barator was a brawler.) The jurisdiction of the JP gradually expanded as political control moved from lords of the manor to the landed gentry. By the 1600s local government firmly resided in justices of the peace: local gentry who were seldom trained in law. These judicial officers had wide discretion and needed the guidance provided by justice of peace manuals. During the sixteenth century at least 57 editions of four different treatises were published.
  1. The Boke of Justices of Peas, 1506. This manual, cited as earliest known published manual, was first printed in 1506 and reprinted thirty-one times in the 16th century.
  2. The Newe Boke of Justices of the Peas, 1538. Original copies of these manuals are exceedingly rare. The two titles on display are facsimiles. Both titles suffered from numerous substantive omissions of statutes and many misspellings; neither provided sufficient guidance to justices in the work.
  3. Eirenarcha: or Of the Office of the Iustices of Peace, in four Bookes, first collected by William Lambarde, 1581. Black's Law Dictionary notes that in Roman law the word referred to a provincial justice of the peace. William Lambarde was a member of Lincoln's Inn and a justice of the peace. His manual was intended to correct mistakes and omissions in the earlier Boke of Justices and The Newe Boke of Justices. His 1590 revision of Eirenarcha noted for the first time that the office required the presence of someone "learned in the lawes" for jury cases, and that difficult cases were reserved to the Court of Assize or the King's Bench. The earliest manual in the Goodson Law Library's justice manuals collection is a 1582 copy of Eirenarcha, published during the reign of Elizabeth I.
  4. The Countrey Justice, 1618. Michael Dalton's manual was considered the most authoritative of its time. Dalton focused on powers of justices out of session and included citations to contemporary statutes and legal treatises. His manual was the first to use alphabetically-arranged legal headings under which he included common and statute law and contemporary court interpretations of case law. The Countrey Justice offered advice on such matters as customs, highways, prisons, riots, soldiers, murder, felonies, rogues and vagabonds, wool, and high treason. The manual was as popular in 17th century America as in England.
Lawyers in the colonies were scarce and often mistrusted. As the colonies expanded into less populated areas, men were needed to settle disputes and keep the peace. Men appointed to these justice of the peace offices were seldom trained in the law, and like their English counterparts, they relied on handbooks and manuals for guidance. Their powers varied somewhat from area to area, but they were usually the arm of the government with which the average man dealt. Like their English counterparts, they originally relied on manuals imported from England.

Not until 1722 was a justice of the peace manual printed in America. Conductor Generalis; or The Office, Duty and Authority of Justices of the Peace was printed in Philadelphia, and according to its publisher, it was derived almost entirely from an English manual by William Nelson, The Office and Duty of a Justice of the Peace. Demand for manuals in the northern and middle colonies led to the widespread publication of identical pirated manuals copied from contemporary English justice manuals. Although depending almost entirely on English law, precedents and practice, the early American-published manuals were readily available and have been credited with transferring common-law information to the lower courts and encouraging reliance on English law. The copying of entire paragraphs from English manuals has been noted as helping to establish similar legal systems across the colonies.

Table of matters covered in Conductor Generalis (1764 ed.)

In a process much like that in England, justices in the colonies were appointed by the governor and selected from lists of the gentry. A major difference between the colonial justices and their English counterparts was in the jurisdiction of the office. English justices sat as a court of record and had little jurisdiction in civil cases. Colonial justices had wide civil jurisdiction and sat as a court of record in criminal matters. Compared with their northern counterparts, southern justices of the peace had additional responsibilities, especially in dealing with larger slave populations. Perhaps in part in response to these increased duties, the first three original justice of the peace manuals written in colonial America were written by southern justices:
  1. The first truly American justice of the peace handbook was written by George Webb of Virginia. The Office and Authority of a Justice of Peace, published in 1736, relied heavily on earlier English books, but Webb’s manual was for local justices and included annotations and citations to the statutes of Virginia. In Virginia the JP dealt with hunting, hog-stealing, Indians, runaways, servants, slaves and tobacco, and spent time supervising morals - adultery, bastardy, bigamy marriage and religion came under his office. Virginia also declared as nonbailable offenses defaming public officials, blasphemers, marrying interracially, slave stealing, forging tobacco inspector's notes or receipts, and the burning or burglarizing of a tobacco warehouse.
  2. James Davis published the first manual for North Carolina justices in 1774. His The Office and Authority of a Justice of Peace relied heavily on Webb's 1736 Virginia manual of the same title because of its "universal esteem there and much adapted to the practice in this country." However, Davis updated his manual to reflect North Carolina law, and included an appendix with a variety of forms such as copies of land deeds, and copies of a lease, a mortgage, a power of attorney, and a bill of sale for chattel.
  3. The first South Carolina manual, The Practical Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer of His Majesty's Province of South Carolina, was published in 1761. Fear of a slave uprising is reflected in its text. Unlike the North Carolina and Virginia manuals where slave laws were recognized, Simpson’s book included thirty pages of Acts regulating slaves and explaining the duties of military patrols responsible for picking up slaves who were outside their plantations.
These early southern manuals provided their lay readers much more than a way to learn English law. By including American case and statutory law, and commentary, the manuals served as a textbook for local justices of the peace in the southern colonies.

The Goodson Law Library display of early justice of the peace manuals will be on view through mid-April. To learn more about early Justice of the Peace manuals, see these articles: John A. Conley, Doing it by the Book: Justice of the Peace Manuals and English Law in Eighteenth Century America, 6 The American Journal of Legal History, 257 (1985) and Larry M. Boyer, The Justice of the Peace in England and America from 1506 to 1776: A Bibliographic History, 34 The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, 315 (1977).

--Marguerite Most, Reference Librarian and Senior Lecturing Fellow

Monday, March 21, 2016

Researching Jury Verdicts & Instructions

On Friday, a Florida jury awarded $115 million to former professional wrestler Terry Bollea, better known as his 1980s alter ego, Hulk Hogan. Bollea had sued the online news outlet Gawker Media and two of its individual managers for invasion of privacy, related to the 2012 posting of a sex tape involving Bollea and the wife of a former friend. The recording, which Bollea alleged was made without his knowledge or permission, also included a conversation in which the wrestler used racial slurs. Other news outlets published summaries of the tape and the racial remarks, but only Gawker.com included an excerpt of the actual video. The jury's verdict included an award of $55 million for economic injuries, and another $60 million for emotional distress; the jury is currently deliberating additional punitive damages. [Update: punitive damages of $25 million were awarded on Monday evening.] Gawker Media plans to appeal.

Terry ("Hulk Hogan") Bollea, former professional wrestler, prepares to testify in a Florida court.
Photo by Getty Images.
How did the jurors arrive at the verdict, and these numbers? The answer lies in the jury instructions they were given. As illustrated in the Pinellas County Circuit Court's online docket for Bollea v. Gawker Media (case no. 12-012447), jury instructions were being reviewed as far back as last summer, and were the subject of numerous objections by both plaintiff and defendants. Unfortunately, the Pinellas County website and Bloomberg Law don’t include copies of actual filings with their docket information, but researchers can get an idea of the general instruction contents for negligence cases and calculation of damages at the Florida Standard Jury Instructions – Civil on the state court website.

Florida Standard Jury Instructions can also be found on Westlaw and Lexis Advance, along with the model or pattern jury instructions for many other jurisdictions. To locate jury instructions for a particular jurisdiction:
The nine-figure award surprised many, not just for its potential effect on Gawker's continued operation and future First Amendment rulings, but because it exceeded even Bollea's requested amount of $100 million. But how unusual is an award this size for invasion of privacy in Florida? Jury verdict reporters may help find the answer. These publications collect and summarize reports of jury verdicts, awards, and settlements, allowing attorneys and researchers to identify trends and patterns in similar cases. As described in the jury verdicts section of our research guide to Court Records and Briefs, verdict reporters can also be found on Westlaw and Lexis. A Florida jury verdicts search on Westlaw for "invasion of privacy" revealed a range of awards up to $9.7 million (for a case involving numerous tort claims) but nothing quite like Bollea v. Gawker.

For help with locating court documents, check out the Court Records and Briefs research guide or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Dictionaries Are So Hot Right Now

Spring appellate brief writing assignments mean that dictionaries are in high demand around the library. But what dictionaries are the best to cite in a legal writing project? Which dictionaries are the most commonly consulted by courts? And what are your options for locating the full text in the library or online?
Specialized Legal Dictionaries
If you need the definition of a legal term, you'll want to begin with a law dictionary, rather than a basic English dictionary. There are three well-known U.S. legal dictionaries, and the current edition of each is electronically available on one of the major legal research services.
  • Black's Law Dictionary is the most-cited legal dictionary in U.S. case law, by a wide margin. Currently in its tenth edition (2014), the latest version of Black's can be consulted in the Reference and Reserve collection on Level 3 of the library; as well as online in Westlaw. Previous editions of Black's can be found in the Superseded Reference area of the library, on level 1, at the call number Superseded Ref KF156 .B53.
  • Ballentine's Law Dictionary, with Pronunciations is another popular legal dictionary, which may be useful for defining historical legal terms. Last published in its 3rd edition in 1969, courts do still cite to this dictionary occasionally, though not as frequently as the regularly-updated Black's. The last edition is available in the Reference collection of the library on level 3, as well as full-text online in Lexis Advance or campus-wide in LexisNexis Academic (Search by Subject or Topic > Legal Reference > Advanced Options). Past editions from 1930 and 1948 are available in Superseded Reference KF156 .B191 and .B35, respectively.
  • Barron's Law Dictionary is less-frequently cited by courts, but may be useful for comparative or alternative legal definitions. The most recent edition (6th ed. 2010) can be found in Reference on level 3, or consulted online in Bloomberg Law by typing the term to be defined into the GO bar. Selected past editions can be found in Level 1 at the call number Superseded Reference KF156 .G53.
English dictionaries
If you plan to discuss the "plain meaning" of a word or phrase, a more general English dictionary will be the most useful source.
  • Webster's Third New International Dictionary is commonly cited by courts as a source for the ordinary meaning of a word. The 1993 edition of this dictionary can be found on the stand near the windows of the Reading Room (and yes, much to the amusement of Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, it does reside under the Leisure Reading sign). Earlier editions are available in Superseded Reference on level 1.
  • The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is another popular dictionary used by courts. OED definitions illustrate usage throughout history, providing examples of quotations from literature to show the evolution of words over time. The 2d ed. 1989 OED is available in the library's Reference collection on level 3, and is also accessible electronically with a Duke NetID.
  • To locate additional dictionaries, use the Duke Libraries Catalog subject heading "English language – Dictionaries". You can filter to see results only within the Goodson Law Library, or limit to particular time periods.
For help with finding or using dictionaries in your legal research, be sure to Ask a Librarian.