Monday, July 17, 2017

A New Look for AFJ

The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, a valuable resource for biographical information about federal judges, recently moved to a new online platform. In addition to the usual profiles on current federal judges, the new site now includes an interactive map, links to court websites, and – perhaps most notably – an archive of inactive judge profiles.

When it debuted in 1984, the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary was a looseleaf notebook of active federal judges, updated periodically with new pages as judges joined the bench or retired from it. Each judge received a basic biographical profile, along with selected notable opinions, and anonymous comments from a survey of attorneys who have appeared before the judge. The lawyers' evaluations assess such topics as legal ability, courtroom demeanor, leanings and impartiality, and provide valuable (sometimes scathing) insight for attorneys who may appear before the judge in the future.

The new platform on Wolters Kluwer provides current profiles of active judges as well as an archive preserving profiles of past federal judges. For example, current Duke Law Dean David F. Levi's profile from his time as a District Court judge in the Eastern District of California is available in the archive, but has been removed from the print looseleaf since he left the bench to join Duke Law School.

A historical print edition of AFJ, updated through 2012, is in the Goodson Law Library collection at KF8700 .A19 A4. Westlaw's AFJ database includes the text of the current print edition (i.e., active federal judges only).

For more resources on researching current or past judges, check out the library's recently-updated research guide to Directories of Courts and Judges or Ask a Librarian.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Duke DVD Delivery Developments

Late last week, the Lilly Library announced that its extensive collection of videos and DVDs can now be requested by faculty, graduate students, and library staff for delivery and pickup at staffed library service points across campus, including the Goodson Law Library. (Previously, Duke users needed to visit the East Campus library in person to borrow these items.)

Lilly videos and DVDs may be borrowed for one week at a time, with a one-week renewal possible for items without a recall or hold list. Up to 3 DVDs from the regular collection, as well as 1 devilDVD (a collection of recently released popular titles) may be borrowed at one time.

This new option to pick up Lilly videos and DVDs at the Law Library is in addition to the Goodson Law Library's own DVD collection in the Leisure Reading area on Level 3, featuring law-related movies and TV shows. Items in the Law Library DVD collection may be borrowed for 3 days at a time by bringing the empty case to the Circulation/Reserve desk.

Search the Duke University Libraries catalog for more than 30,000 DVDs across campus, and find your perfect movie break from the Law Library or Lilly!

Friday, June 30, 2017

What's New with Court Records & Briefs

Our research guide to Court Records and Briefs has just been updated with some new resources. What's changed over the last year?
  • Increased access to oral argument recordings: Effective April 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit joined the majority of federal appellate courts in providing audio recordings of oral arguments on its website. As Law360 noted in December, this change leaves the 10th Circuit as the lone holdout of federal appellate courts which do not provide some free access to audio.
    In addition, the research guide now includes a link to the Free Law Project's Court Listener Oral Argument Audio, which allows users to search more than 20,000 federal and state oral argument recordings by case name, keyword, docket number, and/or judge.
  • A new source for U.S. Supreme Court records and briefs: A link to the ProQuest Supreme Court Insight database was added to the section on compiled U.S. Supreme Court records and briefs. Although the database is not yet complete, it should include records and briefs dating back to 1975 by the end of the calendar year.
  • An old favorite for locating historical trial pamphlets and books: While the guide has long included catalog search instructions for locating publications containing accounts of historical trials, we've just added a classic bibliography source which can help identify the existence of these materials: The Annals of Murder: A Bibliography of Books and Pamphlets on American Murders from Colonial Times to 1900 (Thomas M. McDade ed. 1961). This thorough bibliography contains entries for historical murder trial accounts, with an index allowing users to look up defendant names, trial locations, and even the occasional cause of death (such as "Poisoning cases"). While many of the pamphlets and books themselves have been digitized, this valuable finding aid has not.
We're always happy to help researchers locate court documents, whether current or historical. Begin your searches at the Court Records and Briefs research guide; if you don't find what you’re looking for, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

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.