Monday, April 14, 2014

Westlaw Classic to Retire on July 1

After several years of operating alongside "next-generation" platform WestlawNext, Westlaw Classic will no longer be visible to all Law School password-holders, beginning on July 1. You will likely see announcements about this change when logging in to Westlaw. After July 1, WestlawNext will be the only option at the Law School for accessing Westlaw legal research content.

For databases where WestlawNext users are currently "bridged" into Classic (illustrated by an arrow pointing to the upper right, such as selected public records), WestlawNext will continue to link to the Classic interface after July 1. Law firms, courts and governments will also continue to have access to Classic for a while longer – meaning your LARW training on the Classic interface could still prove useful for the time being!

If you are unable to locate particular sources, or notice other features from Classic which are missing in WestlawNext, you are encouraged to report them directly by using the "Improve WestlawNext" link at the bottom of the screen. Note that defunct databases which ceased to update on Classic before the advent of Next will never be migrated over, so check the database's scope note in Classic (by clicking the "i" button) for currency before reporting those databases as missing from WestlawNext.

Westlaw offers a number of interactive WestlawNext Research Basics online tutorials to help users get up to speed with the newer interface. For assistance with using WestlawNext, or for any other legal research questions, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Final Judgment Will Be Based on the Finished Picture"

One of the most popular postings in Goodson Blogson history was our 2009 exploration of Hollywood's "Hays Code," which governed immoral or indecent conduct in American films during the early part of the twentieth century. (In hindsight, the attraction might have been the salacious title lifted directly from the Code's text, "Complete Nudity Is Never Permitted".) The 2009 post outlined the history of Hollywood’s self-censorship from the 1920s to the 1960s, which began as a way to evade planned scrutiny by a proposed Federal Motion Picture Commission. Thanks to the film industry's self-regulation efforts, the planned federal agency never materialized. In its place came a series of morality codes, drafted by former U.S. Postmaster General William Hays. The “Hays Code” grew from a 1927 brief list of "Don'ts and Be Carefuls" into the more formal "Code to Govern the Making of Motion and Talking Pictures" which began to appear in the 1930s. These codes were enforced by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), which was replaced in the 1960s by the Motion Picture Association of America, and its familiar movie content rating system which continues to operate today.

The Duke University Libraries' new subscription database Hollywood, Censorship, and the Motion Picture Production Code, 1927-1968 allows researchers to learn even more about this interesting era in cinema history. This archival collection digitizes a microfilm set of primary sources, and includes MPPDA regulators' correspondence and memoranda related to specific films of the era. For example, the 1959 courtroom classic Anatomy of a Murder, featured in the Goodson Law Library's Legal DVDs collection, generated several dozen pages of correspondence between the studio and the MPPDA on suggested changes to the script, including a lengthy dispute over sanitizing verbal references to a rape, which was a central plot point in the film.

Coincidentally enough, the author of the best-selling book on which the film was based was a moonlighting Michigan Supreme Court justice. John D. Voelker (who published his 1958 novel under the nom de plume Robert Traver) also served as legal adviser to the film, and drafted a two-page memorandum to the censorship board, arguing against the suggested terminology changes. To bolster his argument, Justice Voelker cited such familiar research resources as Black's Law Dictionary, Michigan state legal encyclopedias, and the state criminal law treatise Tiffany's Criminal Law. The censors appeared unmoved by the judge's thorough legal research, writing in response to producer and director Otto Preminger: "I imagine Justice Voelker would likewise appreciate the fact that a good deal of clinical discussion of rape, while valid in a court of law, would undoubtedly be considered unacceptable for discussion before mixed audiences in a movie theatre. […] [T]his is not quite the same as laying down a judgment in a restricted court of law."

The remainder of the collection's 42 pages on Anatomy of a Murder consists of press clippings and reviews, many of which detail the film's censorship battles over its groundbreaking frankness in the discussion of rape. In July 1959, the film was banned in the city of Chicago; Preminger fought the ban in federal court, and it was quickly reversed. Preminger and Voelker ultimately had the last laugh – the film was a critical and box-office success, earning seven Academy Award nominations and numerous other accolades.

Interested in reading the correspondence for yourself, or checking out discussions to censor some of your favorite classic movies? Access the Hollywood, Censorship and the Motion Picture Production Code database via the Duke University Libraries. For additional resources about film and the law, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bee Season

One of the more memorable new arrivals in the library this semester was The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance: And Other Real Laws That Human Beings Have Actually Dreamed Up, Enacted and Sometimes Even Enforced. Compiled by Kevin Underhill, the editor of the legal humor blog Lowering the Bar, this new title brings together silly, strange and just plain useless laws on the books in the federal code, the 50 states, several municipalities, and even foreign countries.

Unlike other resources pointing to "dumb laws," many of which turn out to be either unsubstantiated or no longer in force, Underhill's book provides clear citation information for each law described, along with the editor's humorous commentary. The included laws range from quaintly outdated, to just plain odd. Out of more than 200 entries, though, none is stranger than a series of translated German statutes which regulate the ownership of runaway bees.

As it turns out, fugitive bee swarms, or "Bienenschwärmen," take up no fewer than four sections of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, or BGB for short). Most importantly, the owner of the swarm must "pursue it with undue delay" or risk losing his claim to the property (§ 961). It's okay to trespass on other people's property during the pursuit (§ 962). Things get a little tricky if the owner's swarm intermingles with someone else's, so thankfully a few more sections of the BGB address the finer points of separating multiple swarms (§§ 963-64).

They may seem a little far-fetched and oddly specific, but these sections of the BGB are 100% real. To confirm the existence of a fantastical statute from a non-U.S. jurisdiction, researchers might begin at Foreign Law Guide for an overview of a country's law sources. Foreign Law Guide's entry for Germany points to a translated website for statutes, where one can read the bee-related laws in English. Foreign Law Guide will also point to published translations of key statutes, such as The German Civil Code (1994), which may be available in the library’s print collection.

Native speaker? The go-to source for German legal research at Duke is Beck Online, a German-language database for primary and secondary law sources. Although the Goodson Blogson isn't proficient in German, a search in the Suche: box for "schwarm 961" will bring top results from the [Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch] | Bund; from there, researchers can navigate to the subsequent three sections of the Civil Code.

The United States Code is comparatively silent on the finer points of bee swarms, although some U.S. states and territories do have similar statutes to the German laws. For example, The Laws of Puerto Rico § 1953 is nearly verbatim on the subject of the first two German code sections. In addition, searches of American case law turn up a number of 19th-century disputes regarding bee swarm ownership, suggesting that the current German laws are likely just a rarely-enforced holdover from the early days of bee entrepreneurship.

For help separating strange statutes from urban legend, or for assistance navigating research tools for other countries, "bee" sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, April 4, 2014

New Research Guide to Bankruptcy Law

Bankruptcy! Do Not Pass Go; Do Not Collect $200. Most people first learn the concept of bankruptcy as children, when they run out of money in the board game Monopoly. If they are lucky, that's the extent of their experience with bankruptcy. Unfortunately, more than one million consumers filed some type of bankruptcy petition in the federal courts just last year. As the U.S. Courts' Bankruptcy Statistics page details, bankruptcy is a harsh reality for consumers and businesses alike. It's also a complex area of law for legal researchers. A brand-new research guide in the Goodson Law Library will point you to the appropriate sources of law and explanatory texts.

From the quick general primer of Bankruptcy Basics to the nineteen-volume treatise Collier on Bankruptcy, the new research guide on Bankruptcy Law covers resources aimed at attorneys as well as those written for consumers. The guide also outlines free and subscription-based sources for the various statutes, court opinions, and legislative history materials.

You can access the new guide on Bankruptcy Law, as well as guides for 33 other legal topics, on our Research Guides list. For help with using any of the listed sources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Women and the Law Collection Now in HeinOnline

Just in time for Women's History Month in March, HeinOnline released a new collection, Women and the Law. It includes half a million pages of historical books, articles, and government publications on topics related to gender and law, including feminist legal theory, the suffragette movement, abortion and sex discrimination in employment. The Women & Society section of the new library is particularly interesting, featuring a number of 19th and 20th century treatises on marriage and divorce laws. The collection will continue to grow, and there are plans to include an additional sub-library of Title IX materials.

Browse the new Women and the Law collection by accessing HeinOnline and choosing it from the alphabetical list of libraries. To locate additional titles in the Goodson Law Library collection, search the Duke University Libraries catalog for subjects like "Women – Suffrage – United States", "Feminist Jurisprudence," and "Gender & the Law," or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Summer Legal Research: Access & Guidance

At the end of each spring semester, law students often have questions about translating their academic research experiences into real-world work environments. On Monday, March 31 at 12:15 pm, join Goodson Law Library staff and research instructors in Room 4047 for a Legal Research Refresher: What to Know Before You Go. Part of the 2L Summer Success Series sponsored by the Career & Professional Development Center, this session will offer tips and tricks to get background in unfamiliar legal topics, use low-cost research database alternatives, and conduct business and transactional law-related research at your summer jobs. Lunch and a "swag bag" will be provided to attendees on a first-come, first-served basis, so arrive early!

A common question as students prepare for summer employment is the availability of online research services. Some access to educational databases, like Westlaw and Lexis.com, will be restricted over the summer unless users qualify for an extension:
  • Westlaw offers summer password extensions for limited academic and non-profit purposes, including summer classes, work as a research assistant, participation in law school journals or moot court, or unpaid internships/externships. 1Ls and 2Ls can request an extension online. Graduating students will receive extension information via email soon.
  • Lexis will provide unlimited access this summer to the Lexis Advance platform, for both non-profit and for-profit usage. However, the company encourages students to check with their employers for guidance on using educational accounts during summer jobs, as some employers may prohibit this practice. May 2014 graduates will have access to Lexis Advance until August.
  • Bloomberg Law accounts are valid between school terms and for 6 months after graduation. Bloomberg Law allows use of its passwords for both non-profit and for-profit purposes (again, check with your employer). If you do not have a Bloomberg Law account, register with your Duke Law email at https://www.bloomberglaw.com/activate.
Representatives from all three legal research services will be in the library's Fite Room throughout the month of April to provide additional "Prepare to Practice" training for law students. Training calendars for all three services can be found on the Goodson Law Library home page, under Research Help. Take advantage of the training opportunities and arrive at your summer job ready to research!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sunshine Week: Shining a Light on Government

March 16-22, 2014 is Sunshine Week, an annual event to promote the importance of government transparency. Sunshine Week highlights such issues as increased access to public records, the importance of Freedom of Information Acts at the state and federal levels, and other government accountability concerns.

One new participant this year is the Coalition for Court Transparency, which calls upon the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the video broadcast of oral arguments. The Coalition's website includes a petition to Chief Justice John Roberts, and an advertisement calling for "a more open judiciary". (Supreme Court justices have long resisted efforts to allow televised oral arguments. Last month, a political activist posted hidden camera footage taken during oral argument in McCutcheon v. FEC, a pending high-profile case from this term which has been dubbed "Citizens United II".)

Freedom of information and enhanced access to public records are both frequent subjects of discussion during Sunshine Week. The federal government and all 50 states have enacted statutes ensuring that citizens may request public records related to the functions of government (see a summary of state laws by the National Freedom of Information Center). However, as the Raleigh News & Observer pointed out in a recent story, governments often do not respond to such requests in a timely manner. FOIA.gov, the federal government's Freedom of Information Act portal page, allows users to create interactive reports which display the processing time for various agencies, including an option to view the ten oldest pending requests for each agency.

To learn more about the federal Freedom of Information Act, check out titles in the Goodson Law Library collection like Guidebook to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts (KF5753 .B682 2013) or The Federal Information Manual: How the Government Collects, Manages, and Discloses Information Under FOIA and Other Statutes (KF5753 .G53 2013). To find additional titles on freedom of information or government transparency, search the Duke Libraries Catalog or Ask a Librarian.