Wednesday, September 23, 2020

First Monday in October

The Friday night announcement of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death prompted national mourning. Over the weekend, hundreds gathered on the steps of the United States Supreme Court, and at courthouses around the country, to celebrate the life of this trailblazing jurist. This week, the Justice will lie in repose at first the Court steps, and then at the U.S. Capitol.

To learn more about Justice Ginsburg's remarkable life and career, the Duke University community can access the 2018 documentary film RBG online. Additional biographical resources can be found in the Duke Libraries catalog with a subject search for "Ginsburg, Ruth Bader". The "Available Online" filter will limit your results to e-books and video links; the Duke community may also request circulating print materials via Takeout service.

Justice Ginsburg's death has prompted not only an important national conversation about filling a vacant Court seat during a presidential election, but legal analysis about the potential impact of her absence on the Court's upcoming term, which is scheduled to begin on Monday, October 5. Although the date has fluctuated in the Court's history, the "first Monday in October" has marked the opening arguments for a new term since 1917. (For historical background on the Court's opening session dates, check out section 1.2(f) of the treatise Supreme Court Practice: For Practice in the Supreme Court of the United States, 11th ed. 2019, online to the Law School community in Bloomberg Law).

In a press release, the Court announced that all October oral arguments will take place via teleconference, a practice that began in May due to the coronavirus pandemic. The remote teleconference will include a live audio broadcast for media and the public, once again allowing real-time access to Court proceedings. The Court has not yet decided how November and December oral arguments will be conducted.

SCOTUSblog provides summaries and filing links for cases on the October Term 2020 docket, sorted by argument date. The Court's own website also includes links to argument calendars and docket filings at Calendars and Lists. Up first this Term is Carney v. Adams, a First Amendment case involving Delaware's state constitutional provision limiting the number of state high court judges affiliated with particular political parties. For additional case analysis throughout the Term, the American Bar Association's Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases (via HeinOnline) publishes seven issues that analyze upcoming cases and an eighth summary issue following the end of the Term.

SCOTUSblog will undoubtedly provide ongoing analysis of not only the Court's OT20 term, but the developing nomination and confirmation process ahead. For additional resources on the operations of the U.S. Supreme Court or biographies of justices, check out the library research guide or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Constitution Day 2020

This Thursday marks the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Constitution Day and Citizenship Day are recognized together, as described in 36 U.S.C. § 106(b) to "commemorate the formation and signing on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution and recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens."

While the restricted library building access and quarantine protocols mean we can't provide our usual pocket Constitutions to visitors for the time being, the Government Publishing Office's Constitution of the United States with Index and the Declaration of Independence, Pocket Edition is available as House Doc. 112-129 (be sure to select "Booklet" if printing!). The text of the Constitution is also available in the Organic Laws of every print or electronic version of the U.S. Code, in the Library of Congress's Constitution Annotated site, and as a high-quality scan at the National Archives.

To learn more about the history behind the drafting and signing of the U.S. Constitution, try a search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject heading "United States. Constitution -- Signers -- Biography." Although print materials are available for contactless Takeout requests, you can also use the "Available Online" filter to limit to electronically available texts. E-books containing biographical sketches of the Framers include John R. Vile's The Men Who Made the Constitution: Lives of the Delegates to the Constitutional Convention and the 1986 NARA publication Framers of the Constitution. An electronic version of Janice McKenney's Women of the Constitution: The Wives of the Signers is also available. This title expands upon a classic 1912 text "The Wives of the Signers," which can be found in Volume 3 of Pioneer Mothers of America (in HeinOnline).

For help with locating other U.S. constitutional law resources or with navigating print or online collections, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The State of State Bar Association Benefits

Members of the state bars or bar associations in all fifty states enjoy free access to at least one online legal research service as a benefit of membership. Generally, these membership benefits provide access to either Fastcase or Casemaker; a few states offer access to both. These services each include state and federal case law, statutes, and regulations; each also offer some unique content courtesy of partnerships (law reviews through Fastcase's partnership with HeinOnline; foreign and international content on Casemaker via vLex).

Both services have been in the bar benefit market for many years, and occasionally jurisdictions will switch platforms. Today marks the first day of Fastcase's partnership with the Alabama State Bar, announced back in May. Members had previously received access to Casemaker.

The Goodson Law Library has tracked these changes to the landscape on our page Legal Research Via State Bar Associations. Current partnership lists for each research service are also posted at Fastcase and Casemaker, respectively. The services listed on these sites may also include county and local bar association benefits, which are not tracked on the Law Library's table.

Curious to check out the bar research benefit in your planned jurisdiction of law practice? The Duke University community has access to an educational version of Fastcase with a NetID and password (and can already test the new Fastcase interface, which will become the default later in September). You may also wish to investigate student membership options for bar associations in the locations where you plan to practice; they may provide student members with free or deeply discounted registration and access to member benefits, including legal research tools.

For help with navigating Fastcase or with other legal research tools that are available to the University and Law School communities, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Study Aids for Semester Success

Yesterday, attorney Andrew S. Fleischman observed on Twitter: "Law schools teach you how to write briefs by having you read opinions. Which is a bit like learning to cook by reading restaurant reviews." Many law students would likely agree with this sentiment for just about any legal subject, as they work to piece together disparate holdings from their casebooks in order to form a bigger picture of the law.

Enter study aids, which can provide an overview and introduction that presents the law more clearly than a casebook. These titles range from basic introductions or casebook-keyed outlines to more in-depth discussions of a particular subject. The Goodson Law Library provides electronic access to several law-related study aid collections, accessible to current members of the Duke University community.

  • West Academic Study Aids Library includes more than 500 study aid titles. Available series include Nutshells, Hornbooks (and Concise Hornbooks), Sum & Substance, and Black Letter Outlines. Users may search or read online, or create an account that allows for offline reading and annotation.
  • Wolters Kluwer Study Aids includes full-text access to nearly 200 study aids. Available series include Examples & Explanations, Glannon Guides, Emanuel Law Outlines, and more. Users may search or read online, or create an individual account that allows for offline reading and annotation.
  • Elgar Advanced Introductions to Law currently includes 17 titles, although more will be added during the coming year. These accessible, concise overviews tend to focus on comparative and international law topics.

With the Reserve Collection unavailable for the indefinite future due to coronavirus quarantine protocols, electronic study aids should help fill any gaps in your class outlines. For help with locating a study aid for a particular topic, or with using these databases, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

100 Years of the 19th Amendment

Today marks the centennial of the ratification of the Amendment XIX to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing: "The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, which had passed in both chambers of Congress during the summer of 1919. The National Archives include a high-resolution image of the House Joint Resolution at its America's Founding Documents site for the U.S. Constitution.

To commemorate the occasion, the New York Times has published Suffrage at 100, a series of articles exploring the fight for women's right to vote and the stories of those left behind by it. As the articles note, Native American women and Asian immigrants were excluded due to citizenship laws of the era, while Black Americans faced discriminatory measures such as poll taxes in much of the country.

For more information about the history of the 19th Amendment, check out the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject heading "Women -- Suffrage -- United States -- History". You’ll find dozens of electronically available titles like 2020's Picturing Political Power: Images in the Women's Suffrage Movement or the recent anthology 100 Years of Women's Suffrage. Print titles are also available and may be requested through the Library Takeout Service by the Duke University community.

For help with navigating library resources on the Nineteenth Amendment or voting rights history, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Regulations.gov Begins the Move to Beta

Law students who are finishing up the Legal Research Bootcamp sessions have likely already completed the module on Congress.gov and Regulations.gov. The session on Regulations.gov mentioned that the content of the "classic" site was being migrated to a new "beta" site, which would launch officially at some time in the future.

Well, as is true for many of us during these times, it appears to be officially "Blursday" for Regulations.gov. Starting recently, Thursday is "Beta Day," meaning that the only version of Regulations.gov that you will be able to access every Thursday is the beta. If you try to access the classic site on Thursdays, you will automatically be redirected to the beta one. This will be true even if you click on "For the official site, visit www.regulations.gov" link at the top of the beta site.

Although you can easily access the classic site on any other day of the week, if you did attempt to use it on a Thursday, you will have to either (1) clear your cache, or (2) use a different browser for your research in order to see the classic version again. (Confusing, we know! There should now be a banner at the top of either site with this warning...which appears on every day but Thursday).

Regulations.gov was launched with the stated purpose of encouraging greater public participation in the rulemaking process by creating, in essence, a "one-stop shop" for access to rules open for comment. Many agencies, in addition, use the portal as a place to receive comments directly from the public, making it as easy to submit one as pressing a button on the screen. Not all agencies, though, receive e-comments through Regulations.gov, and a list of participating and non-participating agencies can be found here.

By redirecting patrons to the beta site every Thursday, the administrators are hoping to get more robust feedback on the usability, functionality, and tools it has to offer. Currently, there are several significant differences between the two versions, including:
  • Beta is built with a responsive design for better compatibility with mobile devices.
  • Beta automatically separates search results into Docket, Document, and Comment tabs, allowing for easier navigation between the results.
  • Beta currently lacks access to agency reports required by statute.
  • Beta no longer allows you to browse regulatory material by agency, as the administrators found it had "limited usage."
  • Beta does not currently allow you to export comments into a CSV file.

A more complete list of differences between the two versions can be found on the beta site’s FAQ page, along with justifications for the transition to the beta version and a history of its creation. For additional questions about using either the classic or beta site, or anything else related to regulatory research, please feel free to Ask a Librarian.

--Wickliffe Shreve, Faculty & Scholarly Services Librarian

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Resources for Docket Research

This week's Legal Research Bootcamp session on dockets came at just the right time! Whether you’re a law student enrolled in the online bootcamp or not, you may be interested in several important changes to major resources for researching court filings.

Last week, the federal court site PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) unveiled a redesign to its home page and informational sections, the first such cosmetic change in more than ten years. (The PACER database in which users search for and retrieve case filings was not part of this redesign.) Legal blogger Bob Ambrogi outlines the changes, which include improved navigation, new accessibility tools, and a mobile-friendly design. The site also provides easy access to PACER's fees and billing information. PACER requires account-holders to have a payment method on file, although users are not charged unless they accrue $30.00 of charges (at a cost of $0.10 per page) during a billing quarter.

Members of the Law School community likely use Bloomberg Law as an alternative to PACER, as their Litigation Intelligence Center has long provided law schools with subsidized access to PACER materials, as well as to selected state court docket filings. Recently, Bloomberg announced a change to law school docket access that limits educational account usage and provides warnings for excessive docket access (with the possibility of suspension, in the event of prohibited uses like automated data-scraping). Under the new system, there will be caps on incurring docket charges for both individual users and the institutional subscriber. Heavy docket users may receive separate communications from administrators to discuss the most efficient and cost-effective ways to receive docket information. (Viewing dockets or documents already available to "View" in Bloomberg does not incur costs; these new limits are related to tasks like setting up alerts, updating dockets, and downloading documents that are not yet available in "View" mode within Bloomberg Law.)

With both PACER and Bloomberg Law now leaving users a bit more cost-conscious, what should the average researcher in search of a court filing do? It's certainly a good idea to look for free access to the needed documents.
For help with locating court filings from a state or federal case, check out the above resources or Ask a Librarian.