Thursday, June 22, 2017

History of Capital Punishment in America

On June 29, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Furman v. Georgia, which held that imposing death sentences on three inmates would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Expressing concerns about "arbitrary and discriminatory" imposition of capital punishment, the Court's per curiam opinion effectively suspended death sentences in the U.S. (Just four years later, the Court would reinstate the death penalty with its 7-2 opinion in Gregg v. Georgia, which reviewed amended Georgia statutes concerning capital punishment.)

As discussed in both Supreme Court opinions, and in countless articles and books, capital punishment in America has a long and controversial history. While the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited "cruel and unusual punishment," the death penalty was common in every state, and the federal Crimes Act of 1790 (1 Stat. 112, c. 9) included death as the punishment for treason against the United States, willful murder, piracy, forgery or counterfeiting, or rescuing any prisoners who had been found guilty in capital cases. However, the concerns expressed in Furman about arbitrary and discriminatory application of the death penalty continue, as well as fears of sending the wrongfully-accused to their deaths: the University of Michigan's National Registry of Exonerations lists 117 death-row inmates convicted in the last fifty years who were subsequently exonerated.

HeinOnline has recently released a new library of resources related to the History of Capital Punishment, available to all researchers within the Duke University campus and also available off-campus with a current Duke University NetID and password. The collection includes the Eugene G. Wanger and Marilyn M. Wanger Death Penalty Collection: A Descriptive Bibliography, a three-volume reference work providing information about relevant books, articles, congressional hearings, and other materials. Bibliography entries link to full text if it is available within HeinOnline's large collection of research resources. (The full Wanger Death Penalty Collection is an archival set housed by the Special Collections & Archives at SUNY Albany).

For additional resources on the history of capital punishment, try a search of the Duke University Libraries catalog for the subject heading "Capital punishment -- United States – History" or "Capital punishment – United States" for more general titles. For help using the new Hein library or locating other resources on the topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Introductions to International Law

From continuing discussions of Brexit, to the Paris Agreement withdrawal announcement, to concerns over the legality of U.S. airstrikes in Syria, international law is a frequent topic in the news lately. If you'd like to learn more about international law, the Goodson Law Library's recently-updated International Law research guide recommends some good starting places.
  • Just need to brush up on the basics? Try the Study Aids section for some titles like Understanding International Law and International Law: A Very Short Introduction.
  • Want an explanation of core concepts? Check out the Treatises section for some seminal works from notable scholars.
  • Need guidance in researching a specific international law topic? Try the Research Guides section, or explore the print and online series of Research Handbooks in International Law.
The Goodson Law Library collection contains thousands of titles on international law topics; additional titles are available across campus, or electronically. To locate your perfect international law introduction, try the research guide's recommended searches of the Duke University Libraries catalog or Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

LexisNexis Acquires Ravel Law

Today, LexisNexis announced that it has acquired Ravel Law (press release). Developed by a team of Stanford Law graduates in 2012, Ravel quickly became known for its visual presentation of case law search results (ABA Journal 2014 cover story), and later for its ambitious partnership with Harvard Law Library to digitize historical case reporters and make them freely available to researchers. (Lexis, Ravel, and Harvard each confirmed in separate statements that the acquisition will not change the Caselaw Access Project's mission to provide open access to historical case law materials.)

Ravel also became known for its data analytics products, including Judge Analytics and Court Analytics, both featured in the Goodson Law Library research guide Directories of Courts & Judges. (A new product, Firm Analytics, was also recently announced, but is not yet available for subscriber trial access.)

Ravel will continue to operate under its current web interface until the end of the year, as its contents become integrated into their future home at Lexis Litigation Profile Suite® and Lexis Advance®. Early 2018 is the target date to switch Ravel users to Lexis completely. Duke users may continue to sign up for a Ravel Law account, which includes access to Court and Judge Analytics, with their Duke email address.

For help using Ravel, Lexis, or other legal research services, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pro Forma

"Get it in writing" is important advice for even relatively straightforward legal matters – disputing a credit card transaction, lending money to a friend, unloading an old car in a private sale. But most people would like guidance on how even simple legal documents might be expected to look. Form books provide a starting point for many researchers, offering templates and tips for creating demand letters and agreements for common legal issues. The Goodson Law Library's research guide to Legal Forms was recently updated, and includes resources for non-lawyers, as well as form sets used by legal professionals.

For non-lawyers, Nolo's 101 Law Forms for Personal Use (Reference KF170 .L46 10th ed. 2016) contains general templates for everyday legal situations, such as creating simple wills, selling personal property, or drafting agreements with various service providers. The forms are not specific to any particular state’s laws, and the introductory text to the forms often includes helpful tips and important cautionary warnings for further research (e.g. "With this will form, you cannot name different guardians for different kids").

In many cases, differences of law in a particular state will require more research or consultation with an attorney to prevent potential legal problems later. Wills and estate planning, in particular, frequently involve more complex issues than many people realize, and do-it-yourself form-based documents can create unintended consequences. For example, the 2014 Florida Supreme Court opinion in the case of Aldrich v. Basile involved a will generated from a pre-printed "E-Z Legal Form," which lacked a residuary clause required under Florida law. As a result, the decedent's property passed not to her intended parties, but to relatives who were not named in the will. In the concurring opinion, one judge called the dispute "a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of utilizing pre-printed forms and drafting a will without legal assistance. As this case illustrates, that decision can ultimately result in the frustration of the testator's intent, in addition to the payment of extensive attorney's fees—the precise results the testator sought to avoid in the first place."

However, form books can still provide useful guidance on the layout and content of common legal documents, even for seasoned attorneys. In North Carolina, Douglas' Forms (NC Alcove KFN7468 .D682 & online in Lexis Advance) is a multi-volume set containing both pleading and practice forms and general forms. Other form sets commonly used by lawyers include American Jurisprudence Legal Forms, 2d ed. (Practice & Procedure KF170.A542 & online in Westlaw) and Federal Procedural Forms Lawyers Edition (Practice & Procedure KF8836.F4 & online in Westlaw). The Legal Forms guide also provides information about topical form sets, as well as online access through Westlaw, Lexis Advance, Bloomberg Law, and Fastcase.

For more information about finding legal forms, visit the recently revised Legal Forms research guide, or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Multinational Sources Compared

What are other nations doing to combat the financing of terrorist organizations? How do the United States' laws on family medical leave compare to the United Kingdom? What are the differences and similarities in corporation laws around the world? The Goodson Law Library's research guide to Foreign & Comparative Law has just been updated with a number of sources to help you find the answer to these and other comparative law questions.

In particular, the new HeinOnline database Multinational Sources Compared: A Subject and Jurisdiction Index is a great starting place to locate treatises and other publications which compare multiple countries' domestic practices on a particular topic. The database can be searched by keyword, browsed by subject, or browsed by country to see available publications.

For example, a subject search or browse for "Terrorism Finance" will identify three books comparing anti-money laundering law and practice in dozens of countries, including Money Laundering, Asset Forfeiture and Compliance: A Global Guide (online in Lexis Advance). A subject search or browse for "Corporations" would likewise return seven results, each featuring different countries and subtopics on corporate law. Each source's entry in Multinational Sources Compared briefly describes the contents of each work, lists the countries covered, and includes information about electronic access through legal research services such as Lexis Advance, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law. (Although each entry also features a "Get It @ Duke" button to link users with campus-wide electronic resources, keep in mind that these Law School-only restricted resources are not listed in the Duke University Libraries’ online catalog. Researchers will need to visit the research services separately, rather than relying on the Get It @ Duke link.)

Search options can also be combined. A search combining the subject "Family Leave" with the jurisdiction "United Kingdom" would retrieve three book results, including the Kluwer title International Encyclopaedia of Laws for Social Security Law. The International Encyclopaedia of Laws are a set of treatises which provide "National Monographs" outlining each featured country's practices on the topic. Countries covered will vary across the different IEL topics, and Multinational Sources Compared will quickly tell a researcher if a country of interest is included. (The IEL set can also be searched or browsed separately at Kluwer Law Online.)

The Foreign & Comparative Law research guide also contains resources for researching non-U.S. legal systems and introductions to comparative law methods. A separate section provides starting places for locating primary legal materials from other countries, either in translation or in the vernacular.

For help with locating comparative and foreign law materials, or with using the resources listed in the research guide, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Congressional Budget Office

Yesterday, a revised version of the American Health Care Act, intended to reverse a number of insurance measures enacted as part of the President Barack Obama-era Affordable Care Act, narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon, in a 217-213 vote. The bill passed despite vocal opposition from citizens concerned about a return to heightened insurance rates for patients with pre-existing conditions, as well as pushback from both health care providers and the insurance industry itself.

The controversial House bill now heads to the U.S. Senate, which is expected to draft its own version of Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace legislation. As the Washington Post noted today, though, the future of such legislation in the Senate is uncertain. One major reason? The Senate cannot take up consideration of the bill until the Congressional Budget Office completes its report:
First, the Senate's parliamentarian — or rules-keeper — cannot review the legislation and determine the rules of debate until the CBO submits its official estimate, which could take several more weeks to complete, according to congressional aides. That would mean that official Senate debate on the bill could not begin until June.
The Congressional Budget Office is an independent office in the legislative branch which provides non-partisan analysis of proposed legislation's budgetary effects. Established in 1974 by the Congressional Budget Act, CBO analyses are cited by Congress as useful assessments of a particular legislative proposal's effects. An earlier version of the American Health Care Act was pulled from a House vote in March after the CBO estimated that an additional 24 million Americans could be uninsured by 2024 as a result of its passage. The version which passed the House yesterday was voted on without a revised CBO score.

CBO reports are available on the office's website, back to its 1975 Testimony on Long Range Budget Projections. The federal Documents collections at the Goodson Law Library and elsewhere on campus also contain hard copies of many CBO publications, which can be found with an author search of the Duke University Libraries catalog for congressional budget office. More background about the CBO and its work can be found in the United States Government Manual.

For help locating information about the CBO or federal legislation, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Researching International Criminal Law

The 2013 and 2017 chemical weapon attacks on civilians in Syria have generated ongoing conversations about the role of international criminal courts in humanitarian crises. A new book in the Goodson Law Library, Christopher Rudolph's Power and Principle: The Politics of International Criminal Courts (KZ7230 .R83 2017), explores the history and politics behind international criminal courts, and their role in humanitarian law.

To learn more about international criminal tribunals, check out the Goodson Law Library's recently-updated research guide to International Criminal Law. This brief guide links to print and electronic resources for researching the International Criminal Court and other specialized international criminal tribunals, as well as guidance for locating books and other materials in the Law Library's collection. A more extensive overview of online research resources for international criminal law can be found on the American Society for International Law's Electronic Resource Guide for International Criminal Law, maintained by Penn State University Dickinson Law Library Director Gail A. Partin. (The Law Library's guide links to this and other helpful research starting places.)

For assistance with researching international criminal law in print or online resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.