Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Exam Season Excellence

Hard to believe that the fall semester is coming to an end! After the Thanksgiving holiday break, there's just one week of classes left to get your exam plans in order. Fortunately, the Goodson Law Library is here to help – and not just for quiet study space.

Past exams, if your professor chooses to make them available, will be linked on your course's Sakai site. The library does not maintain a database of past Law School examinations from recent years. (We do have some in the archives dating from the 1930s to the 1990s, but those aren't going to help you by now.) However, help is still available if your professor opts not to share a sample exam. General law school exam-taking advice can be found by searching the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject "Law Examinations – United States."

Study aids can supplement your class material, clearing up any lingering confusion about a particular topic.
  • West Academic Library Study Aids provides full-text access to hundreds of study aids, treatises, audio lectures, and flash card sets published by West Academic. The available series include Concepts and Insights, Hornbooks, Nutshells, Black Letter Outlines, Legalines, Sum and Substance, and many more.
  • Elgar Advanced Introductions provide accessible overviews to about 15 topics, mostly in comparative and international law.
  • Additional study aid series, such as Examples & Explanations and Glannon Guides, can be found in print on Reserve with a search for the topic, limited to the Law Library Reserves collection. Part III of the library's Law School Success guide details the series available and how to locate them.

Need to block out distractions? Our friends at CALI (The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) have kindly provided us with a supply of earplugs, now available at the service desk. (We've always had disposable foam earplugs available upon request – but CALI's come in a nice plastic shell, and give you a few more color choices.) When you come to pick them up, ask the librarian on duty for the CALI registration code (or access it here with NetID if you're shy), in order to unlock more than 1,000 online tutorials on legal topics, all created by law school faculty members. CALI also features free e-books in its eLangdell bookstore.

Good luck with final examinations! For help locating study aids in print or online, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Federal Judicial Ratings

Last week, former White House lawyer Steven J. Menashi was confirmed 51-41 to a lifetime judicial appointment on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, over strong objections from Senate Democrats over Menashi's role in developing White House immigration policies and his past writings on LGBTQ issues. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer described the nominee as "one of the most contemptible" he had ever considered during his time in the Senate, and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine even crossed party lines to vote against his confirmation.

Despite this controversy, Menashi had received a rating of "Well Qualified" from the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which has played a role in the federal judicial nomination process since the Eisenhower administration. The history of the ABA's evaluation process was described last year in the ABA Journal. The committee itself also provides a detailed backgrounder document, Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary: What it Is and How It Works. This document includes sample copies of the questionnaires and a template for the committee's confidential formal report.

As the ABA Journal article noted, "ratings are never made public until a judicial candidate has been officially nominated, and it elaborates on what is discovered during the evaluation process only if committee members are asked to testify before the Senate." A rating of "Not Qualified" may sink a potential nomination before a public announcement, or may complicate the confirmation process, as with a current Ninth Circuit nominee. Lawrence VanDyke made headlines for his emotional reaction to a negative ABA rating during his October confirmation hearing, disputing the committee's negative assessment of his impartiality and pointing to problems with the interview process. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination on Thursday.

Ratings for federal judicial nominees dating back to the 101st Congress (1989) are available on the Standing Committee's website. For the committee's ratings of U.S. Supreme Court nominees, more detailed rating information back to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg can be found on the committee website as well. Earlier U.S. Supreme Court nominee rating summaries from 1956-2010 are compiled in table 4-16 of The Supreme Court Compendium: Data, Decisions, and Developments, 4th ed. (Reference KF8742 .S914 2015 & online).

Other assessment tools for federal judges include the interview comments in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary (online in Westlaw Edge), which provide evaluations from attorneys who have appeared before the judge. Only current federal judges are included in this resource, meaning that neither Menashi nor VanDyke have profiles yet. For judges with completed evaluations, though, AFJ can be a valuable insight into the judge's temperament and judicial philosophy. For additional resources that feature judge profiles, check out the library's research guide to Directories of Courts & Judges or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Legal Holiday Gift Guide 2019

It's that time of year again! Since 2009, the Goodson Blogson has proudly provided an almost-annual roundup of law-themed gift ideas for the lawyers and law students in your life. Entries for previous years in this series (minus 2012, when we somehow forgot) can be found in the blog archives.

Does your workaholic loved one need a little help with unplugging? Maybe work and/or school schedules don't leave much time for long vacations or travel planning. Consider giving a gift code to the "surprise travel agency" Pack Up & Go, which plans 3-day plane, train, or road trips around the United States whose final destinations are kept secret until the day of travel. Travelers complete a brief planning survey to gauge their interests, and the agency develops a suitable itinerary, advising travelers of necessary information like the weather forecast and any special items to pack. Travelers receive their itinerary via mail and email shortly before their departure.

Even if a spontaneous vacation isn't your recipient's cup of tea, all lawyers and law students could probably use a luggage upgrade for interviews, business travel, or wherever else they may be roaming. Earlier this year, Travel & Leisure profiled The Best Luggage Brands for Every Budget, providing affordable and high-end options for a new suitcase or carry-on. Don't forget about must-have travel accessories, like portable chargers, power adapters, packing cubes, and organizers; The Inventory rounded up suggestions to Make Travel Suck Less with These Seven Gadgets and Accessories.

Shopping for a public defender, privacy rights advocate, or star Crim Law student? Adversarial Fashion features clothing that is designed to trigger and confuse license-plate surveillance systems. The site includes shirts, skirts, and dresses with several styles, including the text of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution rendered in license plates. For less, well, adversarial fashion gift options, Stitch Fix offers gift cards to its personal-stylist-by-mail service, as does Nordstrom's Trunk Club service.

We’ve spruced up your loved one's travel and clothing, so maybe it's time to redecorate their office or living space. We've previously written about (and remain fans of) the National Archives gift shop's Patent Prints. But if intellectual property isn't your recipient's specialty, how about some artwork that celebrates…dare we say it…legal writing? Punctuated Law Designs, a project by UVA Law professor (and Duke University alumnus) Joe Fore, offers unique prints that present court opinions and other law documents solely through their punctuation marks. Several pre-selected opinions (Loving v. Virginia, Palsgraf) are available; custom orders (perhaps for a litigator friend's proudest victory in court?) are also available with a 3-week turnaround time.

Other adornments for office space include the various bookends, paperweights, and organizers at Uncommon Goods' Office section. Fancy pens are a thoughtful office upgrade – the Supreme Court Historical Society Gift Shop offers a few options, and the National Archives store even more. You can also remind a faraway loved one where they came from with a Custom Map and Pen Desk Set, featuring a map from their hometown, law school, or other noteworthy location in their life.

There's a new legal board game in town, more than a decade after the debut of Tina Nelson's Lawsuit! (previously featured in the Blogson gift guide). Chicago-based criminal defense attorney April Preyar created Trials & Triumph, featured this summer in the ABA Journal, to educate young people about the criminal justice system. Her Indiegogo page includes options to purchase copies of the game as well as packages that include both the game and a t-shirt reading "SHUT UP. LAWYER UP." A percentage of all sales will benefit Chicago's Westside Justice Center.

For a different sort of game night, Drinkin' with Lincoln is a decidedly more adult-oriented set, featuring five presidential-themed drinking games and two Honest Abe shot glasses. More legally-themed barware can be found at the National Archives Store Happy Hour section, including a Hamilton-Burr duel shot glass set and a print of the 1974 "Cocktail Construction" chart designed by a Forest Service engineer.

Elsewhere in the kitchen, the law-themed cookbook market continues its unexpected expansion. The Blogson gift guide has previously covered the late, great Marty Ginsburg's Chef Supreme and Clare Cushman's Table for 9, both worthy offerings for a legal gourmand from the Supreme Court Historical Society gift shop. This year's entry comes from the White House Historical Association, which has published Roland Mesnier's Creating the Sweet World of White House Desserts: A Pastry Chef’s Secrets.

Finally, please remember to support your local businesses this holiday season. Yesterday's announcement that Chapel Hill gourmet grocery Southern Season will close its doors in 2020 after 45 years in business is an important reminder to seek out and patronize local retailers in your community. In the Triangle, a few local sources for eclectic gifts include the Durham Craft Market at the downtown farmer's market, Morgan Imports at Brightleaf Square, and Ali Cat Toys in Carrboro's Carr Mill Mall.

As always, the Goodson Blogson wishes all of our readers a happy and healthy holiday season. We hope this year's gift recommendations have inspired you to spread some legally-minded holiday cheer.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Tax Notes International Now Available

The Goodson Law Library has added the International module to its Tax Analysts subscription (featured in the Goodson Blogson last December). This new module includes full-text access to the Tax Notes International magazine (browseable to 2001, and searchable back to 1989) and the daily news publication, Tax Notes Today International (browseable to 1999).

Use of the Tax Analysts platform requires a username and password. Current members of the Duke University community may register with their duke.edu email address for access. To access the international materials, log in to Tax Analysts. The red "International" link in the top right corner will show the Tax Notes Today International home page; a link to the Tax Notes International magazine can be found by scrolling down to the "Magazines" section of the Tax Analysts home page. The orange "Subscriptions" drop-down menu in the top right corner will link to both international publications as well.

For help with registering for Tax Analysts or with navigating the system, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Democracy in America Digital Edition

Recently, HeinOnline added the new library Democracy in America, an enhanced digital edition of Alexis de Tocqueville's classic text on the American political system. There's no shortage of copies in the Duke Libraries collection (with 18 e-book versions alone), so what makes this one special?

As Hein's user guide for this new library explains, this version provides an interactive experience that links readers directly to the source material that Tocqueville referenced during the creation of Democracy in America. Alan Keely, Associate Director for Collection Services at Wake Forest Law Library, has curated links to contemporaneous source materials and supplemental editorial or translator notes. The Democracy in America library also includes the full text of Works Cited, 18 varying Editions/Translations (with a plan to eventually include all known editions and translations), and a small library of Related Works also published by Tocqueville.

The Democracy in America digital edition can be found in HeinOnline's library listing. For help with using this database, or with locating additional versions of Tocqueville's works, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Mail (Carrier) Fraud

Halloween is just around the corner. Maybe you're too busy with law school to properly plan a costume. Maybe the party store has been picked clean by the time you get around to it, and now you're stuck with a risqué postal worker outfit from the bargain bin. Oh well, you can't just show up to the party dressed as a stressed-out law student, right? Except now, that gunner from your criminal law section who reads the U.S. Code for fun starts telling you how your last-resort costume is actually a federal crime. Wait, what? Is your legal career over before it even begins?

Probably not (at least, not for this). 18 U.S.C. § 1730 does state that "Whoever, not being connected with the letter-carrier branch of the Postal Service, wears the uniform or badge which may be prescribed by the Postal Service to be worn by letter carriers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both." Originally enacted in 1872 (17 Stat. 296), Congress amended the law in 1968 to exempt actors and actresses "in a theatrical, motion-picture, or television production," following several years of requests by industry professionals. At first, the 1960s amendment also included the caveat that the portrayal "does not tend to discredit" the Postal Service. That provision was eventually removed in 1990, two decades after the U.S. Supreme Court had invalidated a similar provision about civilians wearing military uniforms in Schacht v. United States, 398 U.S. 58 (1970).

Even though the exemption in section 1730 is narrowly written to cover only actors' portrayals, it’s unlikely that anyone will find themselves in legal hot water over a postal-worker Halloween costume. For one thing, the law concerns officially-prescribed postal uniforms (so definitely don't borrow a friend's or family member's real postal uniform for Halloween). Considering that the U.S.P.S. itself sells licensed reproductions of its uniforms as children's Halloween costumes, that "sexy letter carrier" costume from the party store is, most likely, just guilty of questionable taste.

The story of section 1730's history, and that of many other unexpected and lesser-known federal crimes, can be found in attorney Mike Chase's recent book How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender (Cox Collection PN6231.C73 C43 2019). This entertaining legal humor text was inspired by the author's popular Twitter account, @CrimeADay, which highlights a different federal crime daily. Additional titles of interest in Duke's collection include You May Not Tie an Alligator to a Fire Hydrant: 101 Real Dumb Laws (K184 .K66 2002) and the 2016 e-book America's Oddest Laws. For help locating these or other legal humor titles, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

First Monday in October

Monday, October 7 marks the official start of oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court's new term. In 1916, Congress enacted a law establishing the Court's opening date as the "first Monday in October," although the number of sessions per year and the timing of the opening day has varied throughout American history.

This new term is already packed with dozens of cases, with still more to come as the Court continues to decide on pending petitions for certiorari. The Supreme Court website provides Calendars in PDF and HTML formats. First up on Monday morning is argument in Kahler v. Kansas (docket), on the ability of individual states to abolish the insanity defense for criminal defendants.

To learn more about individual cases on the Court's docket, SCOTUSblog offers quick access to case information and filings on its October Term 2019 page, organized by argument date. Yesterday, Bloomberg published A Lawyer's Guide to the Upcoming Supreme Court Term (Bloomberg Law login may be required), highlighting several key cases on the docket this term. The ABA also publishes a regular Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases (available in HeinOnline; Duke NetID required) that provides an overview as well as legal analysis of each featured case.

For more information about researching the U.S. Supreme Court and its cases, check out the Law Library's guide to U.S. Supreme Court research or Ask a Librarian.