Friday, January 16, 2015

Fastcase Legal Research Service Now Available

The Goodson Law Library now subscribes to the legal research service Fastcase. Members of the Duke Law community may access Fastcase with a current Law School NetID through this link, which is posted on the Legal Databases & Links list as well as in the Duke Libraries Catalog.

You may be thinking, "Not another legal research service to learn!" It’s true that the interface will look somewhat familiar to users of Westlaw, Lexis and Bloomberg, and the primary law content can be found elsewhere. But it's still worth taking a look at Fastcase, especially if you plan to practice in one of the 27 states (or a handful of cities and counties) whose bar associations currently offer the service for free as a membership benefit, a list which includes New York and North Carolina. In jurisdictions with free access to the service for bar association members, Fastcase can be a highly cost-effective starting place for your legal research.

Like other legal research services, Fastcase offers a choice between natural language or Boolean command searching for its content, which includes case law, statutes, regulations, court rules, and constitutions. Most primary law search results are displayed in a traditional list format. However, case law search results can also be displayed in an Interactive Timeline option, a graphical depiction of each case result's influence which was described in the May 2014 ABA Journal cover story on visual law services. Secondary sources include newspapers available through a partnership with Newsbank, and law review articles provided through a partnership with HeinOnline. (Note that in this law school-wide version of Fastcase, your personal search histories and document access histories are not saved, as they would be in an individualized account through a state bar association.)

Many Fastcase tips and tricks can be found on its Help & Training pages, as well as on The Fastcase Blog. To learn more about low-cost legal research services, visit Section IV of the Goodson Law Library guide to Legal Research on the Web or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pa$$w0rdS: Westlaw Reset, LastPass Management, and Security

Online passwords: so necessary, so hard to create, and so easy to forget. If you're prone to keeping the same passwords on multiple sites for long stretches of time, Westlaw is about to make your life a bit more difficult: all academic Westlaw users should change their OnePass password as soon as possible, in order to avoid an upcoming automatic reset which would lock you out of your account until a new password is created. A similar reset occurred last year for law firm Westlaw subscribers; the academic reset may take place as early as mid-January.

To change your OnePass password before the automatic reset, log in to, click "Update" in the left-hand welcome sidebar, and create a new password following the requirements. Passwords must be between 8-16 characters long and contain at least 3 of the required features (upper-case letter, lower-case letter, symbol, and/or number).

But think twice before typing your pet's name or "Password" followed by a "1" to meet the bare-minimum requirements. Recently, iDict, a list of the top 500 iCloud passwords, was posted to GitHub, as both a tool for would-be crackers and a reminder that the most memorable passwords are laughably easy for others to guess. For tips on creating a stronger passphrase which meets security requirements while remaining memorable for you, visit the Duke University IT Security Office Password Security page. This site includes strategies for creating effective passwords and avoiding the worst ones.

If you just can't keep track of all but the simplest passwords, it might be time to take advantage of password management software, which helps you create strong passwords in addition to filling them into your browser automatically and securely. Duke University offers free access to LastPass for students, faculty and staff; it can be downloaded from the OIT Software List with your NetID and password. For assistance with setting up and using LastPass, visit the Duke Law Academic Technologies website or the Help Desk on level 3 of the library.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Positively U.S.C. Title 54

The 114th Congress begins its first session on January 6, after a flurry of legislative activity by its predecessor: Once derided as on track to become the "least productive Congress" in modern history, the 113th Congress escaped the title by passing more than 100 new laws after the November election. (It is, however, still the second least productive Congress since 1947, with the 112th holding the dubious honor.)

Among the many laws passed between the November election and the December adjournment was H.R. 1068. This bill created a new Title 54 within the U.S. Code, dedicated to the "National Park Service and Related Programs," and enacted it into positive law. This marks the first positive law enactment since the creation of U.S.C. Title 51 (National and Commercial Space Programs) in 2010, and the second new Code title added in 2014 (Title 52, Voting and Elections, was created in August as an editorial reclassification, which did not require Congressional approval).

The new Title 54 relocates national park-related laws which were previously scattered across Title 16 (Conservation) of the U.S.C. More information about the new title 54 can be found at the Office of the Law Revision Counsel, which edits the official U.S. Code. A placeholder for the new title has already been added to the U.S. Code website; research services like Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg will add the new title's text after it is released by the OLRC. In print, the new title will appear in the 2014 annual Supplement to the 2012 edition of the U.S.C. (Supplement II). For now, Title 54's planned text can be read via the enrolled bill at

What is positive law codification? As the Office of the Law Revision Counsel explains, the first U.S. Code was published in order to arrange all of the federal laws then in force (from the chronological U.S. Statutes at Large) by their subject matter. This editorial arrangement of the general and permanent laws in force was considered to be only "prima facie evidence" of the law (i.e., in the event of a typo or other textual discrepancy, the Statutes at Large would control). Beginning in 1947, Congress enacted several U.S.C. titles into positive law, systematically revising a title and enacting it as a new statute (thus turning the U.S.C. title itself into legal evidence of the law, rather than prima facie evidence).

Currently, 27 titles of the U.S.C. have been enacted into positive law. Several other positive law efforts have been planned, with two which would enact additional Code titles rather than re-codify existing ones: Title 53 (Small Business) and Title 55 (Environment). For details about these projects, visit the OLRC Positive Law Codification page.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Effective Dates of Statutes

The New Year is more than a fresh start for post-holiday diets and personal goals. It's also often the effective date for new legislation which was enacted in the previous year. Legislative research service StateScape offers a handy chart of Effective Dates for state legislation. Effective dates vary widely by jurisdiction, and individual bills can also specify a different effective date than a jurisdiction's general rule. When reading a session law or code section online or in print, look for a note about its effective date, usually located at either the top of the screen (particularly online) or at the end of the law's text (especially in print). These notes help legal researchers determine whether a particular law was in force on a specific date in time.

So what new laws took effect on January 1? Here in North Carolina, the Legislative Library has compiled a helpful chart of 2013-2014 legislation sorted by effective dates. The 20+ new state laws which took effect on the first of the year begin on page 13 of the document, and they include a new mandatory retirement age for magistrate judges, criminal background checks for firefighters and emergency personnel, and tightened restrictions on state candidates in a primary election. USA Today explores changes to other states' laws as of the new year. Many other states will see a boost to their minimum wage laws in effect as of January 1, although North Carolina is not one of them. At the federal level, new regulations approved by the Department of Labor in October have also raised the minimum wage for certain federal contractors – a good reminder that effective dates are also important to note when researching regulations as well as statutes.

To learn more about effective dates of statutes, consult chapter 33 ("Time of Taking Effect") in the treatise Sutherland on Statutes and Statutory Construction (KF425 .S966 or on WestlawNext: SUTHERLAND database) or Ask a Librarian.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Patently Devious

One of the newest titles in the Goodson Law Library is Invented by Law: Alexander Graham Bell and the Patent That Changed America (KF3116 .B43 2015), by Brooklyn Law School professor Christopher Beauchamp. This engaging, accessible work details the legal battles surrounding the invention of the telephone, giving a fascinating history of American patent law in the process.

On March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell's patent for Improvement of Telegraphy (No. 174,465) was approved by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO). It was an unusually fast approval process, with three applications hand-delivered by Bell's lawyer on February 14, mere hours before a competing application was submitted by engineer Elisha Gray. Bell's legal maneuvering strongly suggested that an unknown informant within the PTO was assisting efforts to beat Gray to the telephone patent. Subsequent litigation reached the U.S. Supreme Court twice in 1888, first with The Telephone Cases (126 U.S. 1),  and then with United States v. American Bell Telephone Corp. (128 U.S. 315). Beauchamp untangles these lawsuits and analyzes their aftermath in a way that should appeal to even intellectual property novices.

For further reading on the history of patent law, search the Duke Libraries Catalog with a subject keyword search for patent laws and legislation and history. To learn more about modern patent law, consult the Goodson Law Library's research guide to Intellectual Property Law or Ask a Librarian.

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 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, 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!