Monday, October 14, 2019

Mail (Carrier) Fraud

Halloween is just around the corner. Maybe you're too busy with law school to properly plan a costume. Maybe the party store has been picked clean by the time you get around to it, and now you're stuck with a risqué postal worker outfit from the bargain bin. Oh well, you can't just show up to the party dressed as a stressed-out law student, right? Except now, that gunner from your criminal law section who reads the U.S. Code for fun starts telling you how your last-resort costume is actually a federal crime. Wait, what? Is your legal career over before it even begins?

Probably not (at least, not for this). 18 U.S.C. § 1730 does state that "Whoever, not being connected with the letter-carrier branch of the Postal Service, wears the uniform or badge which may be prescribed by the Postal Service to be worn by letter carriers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both." Originally enacted in 1872 (17 Stat. 296), Congress amended the law in 1968 to exempt actors and actresses "in a theatrical, motion-picture, or television production," following several years of requests by industry professionals. At first, the 1960s amendment also included the caveat that the portrayal "does not tend to discredit" the Postal Service. That provision was eventually removed in 1990, two decades after the U.S. Supreme Court had invalidated a similar provision about civilians wearing military uniforms in Schacht v. United States, 398 U.S. 58 (1970).

Even though the exemption in section 1730 is narrowly written to cover only actors' portrayals, it’s unlikely that anyone will find themselves in legal hot water over a postal-worker Halloween costume. For one thing, the law concerns officially-prescribed postal uniforms (so definitely don't borrow a friend's or family member's real postal uniform for Halloween). Considering that the U.S.P.S. itself sells licensed reproductions of its uniforms as children's Halloween costumes, that "sexy letter carrier" costume from the party store is, most likely, just guilty of questionable taste.

The story of section 1730's history, and that of many other unexpected and lesser-known federal crimes, can be found in attorney Mike Chase's recent book How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender (Cox Collection PN6231.C73 C43 2019). This entertaining legal humor text was inspired by the author's popular Twitter account, @CrimeADay, which highlights a different federal crime daily. Additional titles of interest in Duke's collection include You May Not Tie an Alligator to a Fire Hydrant: 101 Real Dumb Laws (K184 .K66 2002) and the 2016 e-book America's Oddest Laws. For help locating these or other legal humor titles, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

First Monday in October

Monday, October 7 marks the official start of oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court's new term. In 1916, Congress enacted a law establishing the Court's opening date as the "first Monday in October," although the number of sessions per year and the timing of the opening day has varied throughout American history.

This new term is already packed with dozens of cases, with still more to come as the Court continues to decide on pending petitions for certiorari. The Supreme Court website provides Calendars in PDF and HTML formats. First up on Monday morning is argument in Kahler v. Kansas (docket), on the ability of individual states to abolish the insanity defense for criminal defendants.

To learn more about individual cases on the Court's docket, SCOTUSblog offers quick access to case information and filings on its October Term 2019 page, organized by argument date. Yesterday, Bloomberg published A Lawyer's Guide to the Upcoming Supreme Court Term (Bloomberg Law login may be required), highlighting several key cases on the docket this term. The ABA also publishes a regular Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases (available in HeinOnline; Duke NetID required) that provides an overview as well as legal analysis of each featured case.

For more information about researching the U.S. Supreme Court and its cases, check out the Law Library's guide to U.S. Supreme Court research or Ask a Librarian.

Monday, September 23, 2019

SCC Online Now Available

The Goodson Law Library has recently subscribed to SCC Online, a database containing legal materials from India as well as dozens of other foreign and international jurisdictions. Access SCC Online via the Duke Libraries Catalog or Legal Databases & Links. First-time users will need to register with a username in order to access materials; this username will allow future access while connected to Duke's IP range. No password is required for IP login.

SCC Online's collection is strongest for Indian law, including current and historical case law, statutes and regulations, constitutional documents, and parliamentary bills. The "Browse Judgments by Courts" tab includes case law from dozens of additional jurisdictions for varying time periods, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and numerous African nations (including Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe). International court materials are also included, such as the International Criminal Court, Permanent Court of Arbitration, and various human rights tribunals. A longer description of the contents within each category can be found at SCC's Data Coverage page.

Additional access points to SCC Online will be added to the library's various research guides to foreign and international law. In the meantime, you may also notice pointers to the database when researching in sources like Foreign Law Guide and GlobaLex, both excellent starting places for researching the law of particular jurisdictions. For additional help with foreign, comparative, and international law research, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Monday, September 16, 2019

A New Look for Constitution Annotated

Tuesday is Constitution Day, which commemorates the signing of the United States Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. In celebration, the Library of Congress just announced a redesign of the website for The Constitution Annotated (CONAN), an invaluable treatise on constitutional history and practice. The revised web version of the publication (full name: The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation) allows readers to search from the main page, or to browse individual articles and amendments. Results provide a detailed overview of U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence on that particular article or amendment, written by staff members of the Congressional Research Service's American Law Division. CONAN also includes helpful tables on such topics as Supreme Court Decisions Overruled by Prior Decisions and Laws Held Unconstitutional in Whole or in Part by the Supreme Court.

A print edition of the most recent CONAN volume (issued in 2017) can be consulted in the library’s Reference Collection at Ref Docs Y 1.1/3: 112-9. PDF copies of this volume and prior print editions (back to 1992) are also available on the Government Publishing Office's website. For help with accessing CONAN in its various formats, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The State of State Bar Research Benefits

Effective September 1, members of the Utah State Bar now receive the legal research service Fastcase as a benefit of membership (press release). Previously, Utah attorneys received free access to Casemaker. Bar associations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia provide members with access to at least one of these two low-cost legal research alternatives, making them a cost-effective first stop in legal research by practicing attorneys.

To track the changes in bar association research offerings over time, the Goodson Law Library has maintained a map of Legal Research via State Bar Associations. The map covers only state-level offerings; local and county bar associations may similarly offer members access to one of these services.

Both Fastcase and Casemaker contain U.S. primary legal materials: federal and state case law, statutory and regulatory codes, court rules, and constitutions. Additional features vary within each service. Fastcase offers a number of secondary source libraries, including law journal access via HeinOnline, as well as treatises by various external publishers as well as its own Full Court Press imprint. Casemaker includes legal forms, a memo bank, and content from the vLex database, containing primary domestic legal materials for more than 100 countries.

Want to check out the free research benefit in the state where you plan to practice? The Duke University community has access to an academic version of Fastcase. Law students and faculty are also eligible to sign up for an educational version of Casemaker called CasemakerX. Students may also be eligible for free or deeply-discounted membership to the bar association in their intended practice state, such as the North Carolina Bar Association's free membership for law students.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Immigration Law & Policy Now in HeinOnline

The Goodson Law Library has recently added Immigration Law & Policy in the U.S. to its collection of libraries in HeinOnline. This library includes more than 2,600 primary and secondary sources related to immigration law in America, including historical editions of the U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulations, legislative history materials, administrative law decisions, U.S. Supreme Court briefs, scholarly articles, and books. Topics covered include the history of immigration law and international extradition policy.

A particularly useful feature of this library is the index to BIA Precedent Decisions, which provides quick subject access to Board of Immigration Appeals decisions. The decisions themselves are available here as full-text PDF scans from 1940-present.

This Hein library joins other Duke Law Library resources pertaining to immigration, such as the AILALink database and the seminal treatise by Gordon & Mailman, Immigration Law and Procedure (KF4815 .G663 & online in Lexis Advance). For help with using the new Hein library or locating additional research resources for immigration law, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Elgar Advanced Introductions Now Available Online

The Goodson Law Library has subscribed to e-book versions of the Elgar Advanced Introductions to Law. This series balances accessible introductions to a particular topic with expert commentary.

Currently, the Elgar Advanced Introductions online library includes 15 e-book titles, with dozens of additional titles to be added over the next two years. Subjects skew heavily toward comparative and international law topics, and recent publications in the online library include:
  • Mark Tushnet, Advanced Introduction to Comparative Constitutional Law (also available in print)
  • Reuven S. Avi-Yonah, Advanced Introduction to International Tax Law (also available in print)
  • Jaakko Husa, Advanced Introduction to Law and Globalisation
The Duke University Libraries have additional Elgar Advanced Introduction titles in print, both at the Law Library and across campus. You can locate the e-book series link as well as available print titles in the Duke Libraries Catalog with a search for "Elgar Advanced Introductions."

For additional scholarly overviews of legal topics in electronic format, you might also be interested in Oxford Handbooks in Law Online or the Concepts & Insights and Hornbook series on West Academic Library Study Aids. The Law Library has still more scholarly overviews and study aids in print format, as well. For help finding the perfect depth of treatment for your topic area, be sure to Ask a Librarian.