Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Free Access to Federal Law

The Law Library of Congress has just announced an agreement with legal publisher William S. Hein which provides free public access to historical federal publications, including the United States Code, U.S. Reports, Code of Federal Regulations, and the Federal Register. While neither as complete nor searchable as the HeinOnline subscription libraries which are available to current Duke University community members, these collections linked within the Law Library of Congress's Guide to Law Online help fill in the historical gaps for these important legislative, judicial, and executive branch publications, which have long been available back to the mid-1990s on the federal government website FDsys. Generally, the free Hein libraries begin with the first edition of the publication in question, and end when free access via FDsys begins.

The free collections have been added to the Goodson Law Library's handy list of Federal Law Links, and will be added to subject-specific library research guides as they are updated. The links can also be accessed through the Law Library of Congress's Guide to Law Online web portal. Users may browse to specific volumes or issues, and can download up to 20 pages at a time. (In the subscription-based version of HeinOnline, the download limit is 200 pages at once; a search function is also available.)

Hein describes the free collections as "a donation to the Library and to the American public." Researchers everywhere will undoubtedly benefit from this increased access to historical federal law publications. For assistance with using the Guide to Law Online links or the Duke University version of HeinOnline, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pattern Jury Instructions, Online and Off

Effective on October 6, North Carolina Bar Association members can no longer access the state's Pattern Jury Instructions (PJI) online through the Fastcase research service. Private vendor CX Corp is now the exclusive online source for North Carolina Pattern Jury Instructions, and is offering direct individual subscriptions after 11 years of providing access through the state bar association's member research service.

Goodson Law Library users can continue to find print copies of the North Carolina Pattern Jury Instructions, compiled and updated by the state's Conference of Superior Court Judges and published by the UNC School of Government, in the Walker North Carolina Alcove on Level 2. There are separate volumes for civil, criminal, and motor vehicle instructions. The library's research guide to North Carolina Practice includes information about these PJI publications as well as other state legal research tools.

What's all the fuss about Pattern Jury Instructions? PJI, sometimes also called "model jury instructions" or "standard jury instructions," provide sample language that judges may read to juries before trial deliberations. The instructions generally outline the necessary elements, burdens or proof, and other jury considerations in clear and plain language. PJI publications frequently also include citations to case law and other authority within the jurisdiction. For both of these reasons, they are valuable legal research tools.

PJI from other states are often available in full-text online in Westlaw, LexisNexis, or free through court websites. To locate all jury instruction publications on WestlawNext, follow the path Secondary Sources > Jury Instructions. On Lexis Advance, choose Browse > Sources > By Category > Jury Instructions to see available titles. Available jury instruction publications can also be accessed through the source menu for a specific state.

For help locating or using PJI publications, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Guide to International Legal Research 2014

The Goodson Law Library recently received the 2014 edition of the Guide to International Legal Research, available for consultation in the Reference Collection on level 3. The George Washington International Law Review first published the guide in 1986 as a special double issue (available to Duke users in HeinOnline, under the journal's former name, the George Washington Journal of International Law and Economics), but began an annual book publication of the popular guide in 1990, in partnership with LexisNexis.

The updated Guide is also available online in Lexis Advance. To browse or search, type Guide to International Legal Research into the Lexis Advance search bar, and click "Table of Contents" to reach the full text.

The text of the Guide is divided into two general parts. First, a regional section describes the legal systems and major legal resources for countries and multinational organizations within Africa, Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Russia and the former USSR, Europe, and Latin America. This portion of the Guide is a valuable overview of available sources for statutes, case law, and treatises, as well as valuable links to government websites and local media outlets.

Following the regional bibliography are subject-based guides to resources on international law topics. These include international law in general, as well as more specific topics like animal law, space law, public health, international criminal law, and more. Like the regional chapters, each topical chapter contains a general overview followed by an annotated bibliography of organizations, primary law (such as treaties), and secondary sources covering the topic.

For more assistance with researching international law topics, consult the library’s Foreign & International Research Guides, including International Law, International Criminal Law and Treaties. For help locating resources listed in GWU's Guide or the Goodson Law Library, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, September 26, 2014

225 Years of the U.S. Attorney General

Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to resign his position once a successor is confirmed. Holder has helmed the Justice Department since February 2009; his service already marks the fourth-longest Attorney General term in U.S. history. Speculation – and political sniping – has already begun over the upcoming Senate confirmation process for Holder's still-unnamed successor. The U.S. Senate website contains details about the Senate power to confirm or reject presidential nominations.

Holder's announcement came one day after the 225th anniversary of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which created the position of Attorney General (in addition to its more famous impact on the federal court structure). The Judiciary Act called for the appointment of a "person […] learned in the law, to act as Attorney General for the United States." Oversight of the Justice Department was added to the Attorney General's duties in 1870, with Congress's passage of an Act to Establish the Department of Justice.

To learn more about the history of the U.S. Attorney General's office, check out the Department of Justice's 1990 publication commemorating the position's bicentennial, available in the library and online in HathiTrust. The Justice Department website also maintains an online photo gallery with biographies of past Attorneys General. Works about the role of the office in our federal government, including access to published confirmation hearings, can be found with a subject search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for "United States -- Department of Justice --Office of the Attorney General". For assistance with locating information about the Attorney General, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Oxford Handbooks on Law Available Online

The Duke Libraries Catalog includes thousands of e-books, which are available to readers with a current University NetID and password. Law School researchers might be particularly interested in the collection of Oxford Handbooks Online: Law. This collection includes full access to twelve law-themed handbooks, dating from 2004 to 2014.

Most of the handbooks focus on international or comparative law topics, and several feature contributions from current Duke Law faculty members (links below are to print copies; online versions can be accessed above):
These handbooks are a subset of hundreds of Oxford University Press e-books which are available to the Duke University community. To see other titles, search the Duke Libraries Catalog, or visit Oxford Scholarship Online. For information about access and any download/printing restrictions, visit the Libraries' guide to eBooks at Duke or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

U.S. Code Title 52: Voting and Elections on the Move

The Office of the Law Revision Counsel recently announced the addition of Title 52 (Voting and Elections) to the official United States Code (U.S.C.). This "editorial reclassification" takes effect on September 1 for the electronic version of U.S.C., and will relocate voting and election-related laws from existing titles 2 and 42 into the new Title 52. (A chart of the planned changes is already available.) Title 52 will appear in the printed U.S. Code beginning with Supplement II of the 2012 edition.

Five years ago, the Office of the Law Revision Counsel recommended that Congress enact a proposed new title 52 into positive law, but federal lawmakers took no action. An "editorial reclassification" is considered a routine transfer of existing Code sections, and may be undertaken by the Code editors unilaterally.

The last new addition to the Code was Title 51, National and Commercial Space Programs, which was enacted into positive law in 2010 (see our blog post). Law Revision Counsel editors have proposed additional new titles of the Code as potential candidates for positive law codification:
  • Title 53, Small Business
  • Title 54, National Park System
  • Title 55, Environment
Only time will tell if these other proposed new titles will also be added as non-positive law "editorial reclassifications" if no action is taken to enact them into positive law. For help with using the U.S. Code in all its formats, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Digital Law Dictionaries

Law has a language all its own. Newer researchers are often mystified by the Latin phrases, legal jargon, and unfamiliar uses of common English words which litter our case law and statutes. Legal dictionaries are an essential tool for lawyers who need to decode the secret language of law. Black's Law Dictionary and Ballentine's Law Dictionary remain the standard references for legal terms, and both are available for consultation in the Goodson Law Library's Reference Collection (see Level 3 map).

However, even more dictionaries are just a click away in electronic format. The online version of Black's Law Dictionary can be found on WestlawNext, while LexisNexis provides the electronic version of Ballentine's Law Dictionary. But since 1Ls won't receive their passwords to these popular research services until early September, additional legal dictionary options may be worth an online bookmark. Basic free legal dictionaries include those on consumer websites like FindLaw, Nolo Press, and Cornell's Legal Information Institute.

Historical dictionaries can also be found online. This week, Cornell's InSITE service highlighted the Georgetown Law Library's new collection of online legal dictionaries, which includes scans of law dictionaries from 1575 to the early 1900s. Additional dictionaries will be added to this growing collection. One hundred more online legal dictionaries, both historical and current, can be found in the Duke Libraries Catalog with a subject search for "Law – Dictionaries" and the use of the "Online" format filter.

For help accessing a legal dictionary, in either print or online format, be sure to Ask a Librarian.