Friday, September 21, 2018

A New Source for CRS Reports

As reported earlier this week by the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports are now available at the new federal website CRS is a nonpartisan legislative research staff office within the Library of Congress that prepares research reports for legislative committees and individual members of Congress. Researchers have long prized CRS reports for their expert analysis on a variety of topics, but for many years the reports were difficult to obtain. Appropriations legislation expressly prevented CRS from making its research public, and researchers beyond the Hill needed to obtain copies from an insider.

By the 1990s, a CRS cottage industry had sprung up in the form of Penny Hill Press, a tiny family-run publisher in Maryland that obtained the reports and sold them for $20 apiece on its now-defunct website. As Penny Hill owner Walt Seager told the New York Times in 2009, "We wear out a lot of shoe leather and get cauliflower ear on the phone and use e-mail and every other trick we can, and we manage to get virtually all of the new C.R.S. documents."

Over the years, as fiscal watchdogs and government information advocates expressed dismay at the inaccessibility of this federally-funded office's important work, free sites were created to archive obtained CRS reports, including the University of North Texas Libraries' CRS Digital Library and EveryCRSReport. Commercial databases like ProQuest Congressional also developed and sold large backfiles of CRS reports to subscribing institutions.

Finally, after many failed legislative attempts to open CRS reports to the public, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 directed the Library of Congress to make CRS reports publicly available online. The new website at currently includes more than 600 reports from the past year, but plans are in the works to fill in a retrospective backfile as well. The library's research guide to Federal Legislative History will be updated soon to reflect the new option for CRS reports. In the meantime, for help with locating CRS reports or other federal publications, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Safety First

The Goodson Blogson usually focuses on legal research-related news and resources. But the impending arrival of Hurricane Florence on the Carolina coast later this week has us thinking about the safety of our community. Many new law students may never have experienced a hurricane, and even some longer-term residents haven’t seen a storm of this predicted magnitude hit the Triangle region in more than twenty years. Here are some resources to help you prepare for whatever comes at the end of this week.

Follow the forecast. The News & Observer is suspending its usual paywall in order to provide readers with full access to storm coverage. Other sources for updated local forecast information are WRAL and Spectrum News. Keep up to date with the latest forecasts and adjust your planning accordingly.

Prepare a supply kit. Bottled water is already disappearing from local store shelves. The federal government's supply kit checklist at recommends stocking up on water, non-perishable food, medications, and other supplies to last your household at least 72 hours; local sites are recommending a plan to be potentially without power for at least one week. It’s a good idea to fill gas tanks, and to charge mobile devices/laptops/backup power banks before Thursday. Please remember to stock up on supplies for your pets, as well.

Stay informed. If you haven’t already, sign up for the DukeALERT emergency text messaging service to receive notifications to your phone about University closures and campus conditions. Updates are also posted to for those with working internet connections. If the University invokes its Severe Weather Policy, the Law School will be closed and Law classes canceled as well. (Law community retains 24-hour DukeCard access, but use extreme caution if traveling to campus due to risk of downed trees, power lines, flooded roads, etc.)

Take precautions now to weather the storm safely!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Our Finest Reserve

The following guest post was written by Rachel Gordon, Head of Access and Collection Services.

You probably know by now that the Law Library keeps copies of Law School textbooks on Reserve, but did you know that we have other items as well? We have many current study aids, including selected subjects in the Examples and Explanations, Questions and Answers, Nutshell, Glannon Guides, Understanding, and Mastering series. For more information on available study aids, see the Law School Success guide, linked in the JD and LLM orientation packets.

We also have selected dictionaries, multiple copies of The Bluebook, popular legal movies and TV shows on DVD, and various Mac laptop chargers. New to the Reserve Collection this year are calculators, noise-cancelling headphones, and (coming soon) bookstands.

Reserve items are available on a first-come, first-served basis and can be checked out for up to four hours, or overnight if checked out within four hours of closing. (After a Reserve item is returned, the most recent borrower will need to wait one hour before borrowing the same item again, in order to give others a chance to use the item.) We rely on students to return Reserve items on time to maximize their availability to others. Failure to return library items in a timely manner is a violation of Duke Law School Rule 5-2, and the Law Library may refer repeated late returns of Reserve items to the Office of Student Affairs.

If you have suggestions for Reserve purchases or other library ideas, please send them to the Library Suggestion Box.

--Rachel Gordon, Head of Access and Collection Services & Senior Lecturing Fellow

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

YMMV: Emoji in Legal Research

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit made headlines for using emoji in a published opinion. While they are not the first U.S. court to discuss or reference emoji, many commentators assert that Emerson v. Dart is the first time that emoji images have been embedded in the text of the opinion itself rather than described verbally. It also marks the judicial debut of the "poop emoji," a cartoonish depiction of a pile of excrement.

Emerson v. Dart involved a Title VII retaliation claim brought by a female corrections officer. During the course of the litigation, the plaintiff was sanctioned for making a threatening Facebook post to a group of fellow correctional employees:
To my fellow officers! DON’T GET IN A FIGHT THAT IS NOT, I REPEAT THAT IS NOT YOURS. I’VE JUST RECEIVED THE NAMES OF SOME PEOPLE THAT THE COUNTY IS ATTEMPTING TO USE AS WITNESSES, (1) IS A SGT, (2) OFFICERS, (1) OPR INVESTIGATOR, on the job 18mths, this fight is from 2009 & I’ve been off since 2012, sooooo do the math. Yes, I will definitely put your name out there in due time 😊. This is a PSA for those of you still believing that being a liar, brown noser will get you something. MESSING WITH ME WILL GET YOU YOUR OWN CERTIFIED MAIL. SO GLAD THAT THE ARROGANCE OF THIS EMPLOYER HAS THEM BELIEVING THEIR OWN 💩.

In upholding the sanctions against Emerson, the appellate court quoted her threatening message and reproduced the emoji images. As How Appealing blogger Howard Bashman noted, "The words 'poop' and 'emoji' don’t appear anywhere in the opinion, raising the question whether Westlaw, Lexis, and similar legal search engines will implement some method of searching for emojis in a judicial opinion."

But actually, as Fastcase CEO Ed Walters noted a few days later, the first hurdle for research services was not how users might search for the emoji, but how the research services would even display them:

Fastcase CEO Ed Walters Tweet (Aug. 17, 2018),
regarding how research services will handle emoji display

So how did the major online legal research services compare? The threatening Facebook message included both a smiley face emoticon and the notorious concluding emoji. Each service, as of August 20, displayed the images slightly differently.

First, a quick look at the Seventh Circuit opinion, available at the court's website and through PACER.

7th Circuit opinion, Emerson v. Dart (Aug. 14, 2018)

Westlaw's version of the opinion, at 2018 WL 3853761, appears to have copied and uploaded an image of the court's version of the emoji. Westlaw's smiley face is a bit hard to see until the font size is enlarged, but overall it is a fairly faithful replication of the Seventh Circuit's opinion.

Westlaw display of Emerson v. Dart emoji

Lexis Advance and Bloomberg Law both displayed the smiley face, but their systems did not display anything in place of the other emoji image – leaving Emerson's quoted post to appear to trail off at the end.

Bloomberg Law display of Emerson v. Dart emoji

Lexis Advance display of Emerson v. Dart emoji

Fastcase, as its CEO indicated on Twitter, spent some time on the second emoji, inserting Unicode #128169 to the end of the transcribed Facebook message to ensure proper visual display. Unfortunately, they overlooked the smiley face, which appears (at least in two tested browsers) as a question mark.

Fastcase display of Emerson v. Dart emoji

Other court opinions that have referenced emoji generally describe their contents in writing, leaving the visuals to be found in the various exhibits filed with the trial court. Researchers can view the screenshot of Paula Emerson's original Facebook post in the trial court docket, where it was Exhibit A in a motion for sanctions. Since this case was in federal court, the motion can be accessed in or through Bloomberg Law's Litigation Intelligence Center. While the court filing best illustrates that none of the research services quite captured the smiley face, it has its own drawbacks in the loss of color and the poor reproduction quality.

Trial exhibit in Emerson v. Dart (N.D. Ill. 2016)
Online legal research services sometimes struggle with displaying other visual components of court opinions and articles, such as images, maps, and statistical tables. (As an example, compare the display of the Appendix maps in the U.S. Supreme Court opinion Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U.S. 234, in various research services. Westlaw displays the images for download, albeit sideways. Bloomberg Law and Fastcase contain a placeholder message that "Appendixes containing maps from appellees' and appellants' briefs follow this page." Lexis includes a more detailed placeholder message for the various maps, directing readers to the original source.) If courts continue to embed rather than describe emoji in opinions, emoji are likely to join this category of visual components whose online display will vary widely by research service.

In situations like these, it is worth comparing results if possible, or at least trying to track down the most "official" source for the opinion. For assistance with that process, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Self-Checkout Kiosk Now Available

While Duke Law students, faculty and staff have long enjoyed 24-hour access to both the Law School and Law Library, the Duke Law community didn't have a 24-hour service desk…until now. A Self-Checkout Station is now available at the Circulation/Reserve desk. If you need to check out a Law Library item after hours – or just feel like bypassing a line during the day – bring your items to the iPad kiosk at the service desk. Follow the instructions on the touch screen to log in with your NetID and password, use the camera to take photos of the item barcodes, and verify that the system has logged you out when you are finished.

Need to borrow items even faster? With the Duke Self-Checkout smartphone app, you can borrow Standard Loan library items right at the shelf. MeeScan Duke Self-Checkout apps for iPhone and Android devices are available at the App Store and on Google Play.

Note that this station offers checkout service only – to return items for check-in after hours, use the secure silver drop slot near the Law Library entrance. Self-checkout service is not available for items with "Library use only" restricted circulation (such as the Reference collection or federal and state codes), and is not available to users with blocks on their accounts (such as overdue recalled items).

Duke Self-Checkout stations and mobile app access are also available at the Perkins & Bostock Libraries on West Campus, as well as the Marine Lab Library in Beaufort. Please note that their kiosks differ slightly from the Law Library's, so be sure to follow the instructions on the screen at each location. More information about self-checkout can be found at the campus libraries' Duke Self-Checkout page.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Greatest Legal Movies Revisited

The ABA Journal's cover story this August updates its 2008 list of The 25 Greatest Legal Movies. The 2018 update expands the scope of the original list. More recent examples of award-winning courtroom dramas are here (such as Loving and Marshall), but the list also includes films whose subject matter intersects with the law (such as the investigative journalists in 2017's Spotlight) and legal documentaries (such as this summer's breakout hit RBG).

The 2018 list also makes a bit more room for laughs: 2001's law school comedy Legally Blonde has been added to the 2018 best-of list, and 1992's hilarious My Cousin Vinny retains its place on the list. An additional 25 Honorable Mentions are featured in the 2018 update as well. See the original 2008 list gallery and the 2018 update.

The Goodson Law Library has many of the original 25 films, as well as the new updates, in its Legal DVD collection on level 3. DVDs may be borrowed for 3-day loans; just bring the empty case to the Circulation/Reserve desk to receive the disc. Thousands of additional films are available in the Duke Libraries Catalog either through the Lilly Library on East Campus or through online databases, such as the Alexander Street Video Collection or NC Live Video. For help locating feature films or other video, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Highest Court in the Land

The U.S. Supreme Court and Sports Illustrated don't often intersect. But the July 30 issue of the popular sports magazine features a delightful story about the true "highest court in the land": the small basketball court above the U.S. Supreme Court's historic courtroom. You can read it online now, or look for the print edition in the Goodson Law Library's Leisure Reading collection soon.

Keeping with Court tradition, the story does not include actual photographs of the basketball court and its neighboring gym. As with the Court's longstanding ban on photography and video in the SCOTUS courtroom, the SI story instead features illustrations by sketch artist Arthur Lien.

The basketball court and gym began life as a Court storage room, before their transformation sometime in the 1940s. From that point on, Justices, clerks, and Court staff alike enjoy the facilities for games of basketball and other athletic pursuits – as long as the Court is not in session below, where noise from the basketball court and neighboring gym would rattle the walls of the building.

The SCOTUS basketball court has caused its share of injuries over the years. Justice Clarence Thomas tore his Achilles tendon in a 1992 pickup game with his clerks, who at the time included former Olympic athlete and NBA player Karl Tilleman. While clerking for former Justice Thurgood Marshall, current Justice Elena Kagan also sustained a leg injury from the court's unforgiving floor. Still, Kagan fondly recalls her basketball glory days, when teammates nicknamed her "Shorty" but ran plays that allowed the 5'3" now-Justice to score over much taller players.

To learn more fun facts about the history of the U.S. Supreme Court and its building, try a search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject United States Supreme Court – History. You'll find many titles, including the 1965 title Equal Justice Under Law: The Supreme Court in American Life that is referenced in the Sports Illustrated article. The library's research guide to the U.S. Supreme Court will also provide information about reference works on the Court’s history. For help with finding these resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.