Tuesday, December 16, 2014

World Treaty Library Now Available in HeinOnline

The Goodson Law Library has just added the new World Treaty Library to its HeinOnline subscription. Members of the Duke University community can access the new library from the HeinOnline Welcome screen.

This library includes digital versions of many important treaty indexes and compilations, including the League of Nations Treaty Series (L.N.T.S.), the United Nations Treaty Series (U.N.T.S.), and the Kavass (KAV) treaty collection. Of particular interest to historical treaty researchers is Wiktor's Multilateral Treaty Calendar, 1648-1995, which extends the library's historical reach to the mid-17th century. In all, Hein estimates that more than 180,000 treaty records are available through this library.

Long-time treaty researchers will likely appreciate the convenience of a single source for searching and accessing the text of historical treaties. (For example, one foreign & international law librarian described the collection as "a truly monumental library" in a review published this month on the blog DipLawMatic Dialogues.) Even novice treaty researchers should find the Treaty Index search feature to be easy to use; its 12 search options include keyword or full text, citation, countries/party, and even place or date of signature. The Browse Options also simplify navigation through the default Treaty Index search, separate landing pages specifically for U.S. or U.N. treaty collections, or collections of treatises and articles on international law topics.

HeinOnline has prepared a 7-minute training video to help users navigate the new library. For further assistance with treaty research, consult the Goodson Law Library research guide to Treaties or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holiday Gift Ideas for Law Students

'Tis the season for holiday shopping! If you are still in search of the perfect gift for the legal eagles in your life, check out the Goodson Blogson's suggestions. Blogger Reid Trautz's 10th edition of his annual gift guide at Reid My Blog has higher-end gifts for lawyers covered, so our gift guide focuses on affordable items which should appeal to law students.

If your law student is also a Supreme Court geek, the Supreme Court Historical Society Gift Shop is always worth a browse. It's made our shopping list every year for good reason – there is a wide variety of Court-themed books, ornaments, office accessories, and even glassware. SCOTUS-lovers might also enjoy National Public Radio’s Warhol-esque tribute to its Legal Affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg – the Nina Totin' Bag.

The "Notorious R.B.G." meme hit the mainstream this fall, with cheerful approval from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself. There are a few variations on the Notorious R.B.G. t-shirt out there, but this one is sold by the makers of the original Tumblr. (Another law-related social media phenomenon, Twitter's Kanye WestLaw, offers its "Law So Hard" t-shirt in black or blue for both men's and ladies' sizing.)

Also in apparel: if your law student still mourns the end of Breaking Bad and/or is just counting the days until the 2015 debut of its prequel spin-off Better Call Saul, the series' gift shop offers a walking advertisement for shady lawyer Saul Goodman's practice. (If you're also shopping for some sci-fi/fantasy fans and want to combine shipments, the same shirt is also available through ThinkGeek.)

Legal history buffs might like the Library of Congress's Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, a companion book to the current exhibit featured in the Goodson Blogson last month. (A Magna Carta coffee mug is also available.)

On the lighter side of legal history are the head-scratching tchotchkes at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library gift shop, including a stackable head-and-top hat salt-and-pepper shaker set...or perhaps an Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln figurine salt-and-pepper shaker set. (The site also includes jams and jellies from Mary Todd Lincoln's own recipes and a Log Cabin play set.)

If you need stocking stuffers, the Lucky Bar Exam Pencil set on Etsy is sure to be a hit for either the holidays or graduation. The American Bar Association's "Little Book of ___ Law" publication series might not fit into every stocking, but could contain a fun idea for a small gift if your recipient is interested in one of the 17 available topics (including movies, fashion, and even BBQ).

Finally, most law students would certainly appreciate a trusty Amazon.com gift card to help purchase pricey spring semester casebooks (and perhaps a few select other goodies for themselves). But did you know your Amazon purchases can do double-duty through the Amazon Smile program for charitable organizations? Simply log in to http://smile.amazon.com/, and select a charity before shopping. Amazon will donate 0.5% of your total purchase to a worthy organization on its list – which, if you want to stick with our theme, includes more than 700 legal aid providers in the United States.

For more gift ideas, explore the New York Times' interactive 2014 Gift Guide, review the daily updates to the best online sales at Kinja Deals, or check out the many law-themed gifts at The Billable Hour. Happy holidays to all our readers!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Papers Chase

This week's New Yorker features "The Great Paper Caper," a fascinating account of the 1970s theft of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter's personal papers from the Library of Congress. The missing documents -- some of which have never resurfaced -- included a 1952 letter from future Chief Justice William Rehnquist, then a law clerk for Justice Robert Jackson, allegedly expressing disappointment with the Court's decision to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson's "separate but equal" doctrine. (Rehnquist's views on segregation, exposed in a separate memorandum released to Newsweek, had become a focal point during his 1971 confirmation hearing. The missing letter from the Frankfurter collection was explored in more detail in a 2012 Boston College Law Review article.)

Author Jill Lepore reconstructs the F.B.I. investigation of the Frankfurter thefts, speaking with researchers who had consulted the papers prior to the theft and recounting the efforts of syndicated columnist Jack Anderson to broker the papers' safe return. Some, but not all, of the purloined papers were eventually sent to him as photocopies; Anderson's plan for publicizing their triumphant return was thwarted by the press's increased attention to the growing Watergate scandal.

It's an engaging heist story which also sheds light on the fractured state of Supreme Court archival research. As Lepore notes:
The papers of Supreme Court Justices are not public records; they’re private property. The decision whether to make these documents available is entirely at the discretion of the Justices and their heirs and executors. They can shred them; they can burn them; they can use them as placemats. Texts vanish; e-mails are deleted. The Court has no policies or guidelines for secretaries and clerks about what to keep and what to throw away. Some Justices have destroyed virtually their entire documentary trail; others have made a point of tossing their conference notes.
Rehnquist, whose Supreme Court career nearly derailed as a result of public access to other Justices' papers, quickly reversed his earlier stated position that Supreme Court papers should all reside at the Library of Congress. His own papers remain mostly inaccessible until the last Justice who served with him passes away. Other Justices' papers might reside at the Library of Congress, with various requirements on the length of their sealing. Some Justices' paper sets were donated to university archives. Still others, such as Hugo Black's, have been burned.

This story is a sobering reminder to historical researchers. While it's well-known by now that not everything is available online, it's perhaps more important to know that many historical records might not be available at all. Databases like WorldCat and ArchiveGrid can help you determine where a particular collection of papers might be held. But access to the documents could require an in-person visit and/or hefty copying fees. Newer archival researchers may benefit from reviewing the Society of American Archivists' Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research, for helpful information on locating archives, requesting materials and planning visits. More seasoned archival researchers might enjoy the recent Inside Higher Ed piece, 6 Tools to Make Archival Research More Efficient, covering apps and technology to make this complex research more streamlined. For assistance with beginning an archival research project, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Unfriendly Skies: Regulating Drones

From modern warfare to planned Amazon Prime delivery, drones (also known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UAS) have become more commonplace in the last few years. As drone technology continues to grow more accessible to consumers (see Gizmodo's recent review of household drones, just in time for the holidays), lawmakers have scrambled to react to the potential implications for aerial surveillance and airspace crowding. The Federal Aviation Administration already maintains an information page on Unmanned Aircraft Systems, with frequently-asked questions, links to regulations, and news releases concerning the use of unmanned aircraft for recreational or other purposes. Most recently, the FAA prohibited the use of drones over sports stadiums which seat 30,000 or more people, through a special security notice posted to its website.

The National Conference of State Legislatures maintains a 50-state survey, Current Unmanned Aircraft State Law Landscape. This page maps the 20 states which have also enacted some sort of drone-related legislation since 2013, along with a summary of each law. Even North Carolina, the birthplace of aviation, enacted drone legislation as part of the 2014 appropriations bill. The new provisions took effect on October 1.

A report released earlier this month by the Brookings Institution urges lawmakers to exercise caution when enacting legislation related to aerial drone surveillance. Author Gregory McNeal, a law professor at Pepperdine, notes that most legal focus has been on the technology itself rather than setting reasonable limits on the surveillance power of law enforcement. Other scholars have also explored various aspects of drone technology; check out the open-access articles available through the ABA's Legal Technology Resource Center custom search engine or use the subscription databases available under the "Finding Articles”" tab of Legal Databases & Links. For help finding additional resources on drones and the law, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Mother Court

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York celebrated its 225th anniversary earlier this month, with the festivities documented in a just-released video from the U.S. Courts. Featuring historical artifacts as well as interviews with federal judges and even courtroom artists, the video provides a quick overview of the S.D.N.Y.'s important place in judicial history.

The Southern District of New York was the first new federal district court to be established following the passage of the Judiciary Act of 1789. Its historic first session, on Nov. 3 of that year, earned the S.D.N.Y. the nickname "the Mother Court." The name has endured, as the S.D.N.Y. continues to enjoy a position of influence among federal courts. It has served as the setting for many major trials throughout our nation's history, and has most recently emerged as a pioneer in electronic discovery practice, thanks to Judge Shira Scheindlin in the Zubulake cases.

To learn more about this influential federal court, check out the recent American Bar Association publication The Mother Court: Tales of Cases that Mattered in America's Greatest Trial Court (KF8755.N9 Z57 2014). The book chronicles some of the most well-known cases tackled by the court, including the Ulysses obscenity trial, the espionage case against Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, and numerous Mafia convictions. Author James D. Zirin, a former U.S. Attorney in the S.D.N.Y., provides both a short history of the court and a more thorough personal recollection of the cases with which he was directly involved. Because Zirin's former World Trade Center office was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the personal anecdotes were assembled from memory – a particularly impressive feat for a lifetime of law practice before the court.

Additional publications on the history of S.D.N.Y. have been digitized by the court. For assistance with researching the history of federal courts, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Magna Carta at 800

Today, the Library of Congress opened its long-awaited exhibition Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, a 10-week celebration of the foundational charter of liberties which has informed the democratic rule of law in both England and the United States. At the heart of the exhibit is one of only four surviving copies of the 1215 document, on loan from England's Lincoln Cathedral. (As noted in a historical document from the Goodson Law Library's collection, also digitized on HathiTrust, the Lincoln Cathedral previously loaned their copy to the Library of Congress for an exhibition in the late 1930s.)

Today's Washington Post succinctly summarizes the history of this "Great Charter". In an attempt to subdue a rebellion among his feudal barons, King John agreed to the terms of the document, which ensured the rights of land-owning subjects and limited the power of the Crown. Forty-one copies were made and distributed to each baron; the document on display at the Library of Congress is one of the few left from this set. However, King John later voided the charter with the help of Pope Innocent, sparking the First Barons' War. Finally signed into law in 1297, Magna Carta rose to philosophical and scholarly prominence in the 17th century, thanks to Sir Edward Coke's Second Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England. And the rest, as they say, is history.

For more information about Magna Carta as its 800th anniversary nears, check out http://magnacarta800th.com/. For more information about the Library of Congress exhibit (which runs through January 2015), visit the exhibition website. The American Bar Association is also planning some anniversary events in 2015. To learn more about Magna Carta's history and impact before its 800th birthday celebration, try a subject search of the Duke Libraries catalog for "Magna Carta" or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Online Index to American Doctoral Dissertations, 1933-1955

In honor of Open Access Week, the Goodson Blogson is highlighting another free research resource. Last week, we brought you the news that HeinOnline and the Law Library of Congress had teamed up to provide free public access to historical federal legal materials like the U.S. Code and U.S. Supreme Court cases. Today, we're featuring a new free resource for historical doctoral dissertations.

Earlier this month, EBSCO announced the release of American Doctoral Dissertations 1933-1955, a free digitized index of nearly 100,000 doctoral dissertations which were accepted by American universities during those three decades. The database, available at http://opendissertations.com/, includes scans of a print index set, Doctoral Dissertations Accepted by American Universities, which is also available in the Duke University Libraries' off-site storage facility.

Searching this free database does not include the same features as other EBSCO-produced subscription databases, but expert field codes are available to perform more advanced searching. For example, to retrieve a list of dissertations from Duke University on the subject of law, use the Advanced Search AF(duke) and KW(law). To limit your search keywords to only the title of the document, try an Advanced Search like TI("supreme court"). Results include a scan of the printed index's relevant page, rather than the full text of the dissertation. However, the increased accessibility of this index should help researchers uncover useful citations from this time period for retrieval.

The full text of many dissertations can be found online via ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. This subscription database, available to the Duke University community and to on-site visitors, offers full-text PDFs for selected dissertations as well as indexing back to the 1860s. ProQuest also offers free access to the full text of open-access dissertations in its collection, via PQDT Open.

Dissertations not available in full-text via these ProQuest databases will likely require an interlibrary loan request. The text would have to be supplied from either the degree-granting institution or from a library which owns a microfilmed copy. For help with locating the full text of a dissertation, be sure to Ask a Librarian.