Thursday, December 7, 2017

Commemorating the National Conference on Crime

At Washington, D.C.'s Memorial Continental Hall, a distinguished group of federal officials, legal academics, and law enforcement representatives gathered to discuss crime prevention strategies. They traded the latest police investigation techniques, expressed concerns about the exploding narcotics trade, and debated the effects that media coverage of crimes has on society. While it sounds like this could be happening right now, it was actually at the Attorney General's National Conference on Crime, which took place more than 80 years ago: December 10-13, 1934.

Attorney General Homer S. Cummings (biography) announced the conference plan in July 1934, shortly before boarding a ship from Los Angeles to Hawaii ("in connection with land condemnation proceedings of the government," according to the Chicago Tribune). The Wall Street Journal reported that the planned December "crime parley" would include discussion of "prisons, paroles, bar ethics, and other problems." Throughout the fall, organizers arranged a notable group of speakers (including President Franklin D. Roosevelt and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, whose addresses would be broadcast to the nation on every major radio network). Attendees included state and local government officials, university presidents and law school professors, and representatives from law enforcement agencies and news organizations.

Duke Law School had a particularly important connection to this event: Justin Miller, on a leave of absence that year from his duties as Law School Dean while serving as Special Assistant to the Solicitor General, helped to organize the Conference on Crime. Dean Miller served as the conference's official Secretary, calling sessions to order and overseeing audience discussions. Dean Miller was also recognized during the conference for his seven-year tenure as Chairman of the American Bar Association’s Criminal Law Section.

The Proceedings of the Attorney General's Conference on Crime can be found in the library at KF9223 .A17 1934 or online in HeinOnline. Among the fascinating discussions and prepared remarks are "Firearms: An Address" by former Massachusetts Attorney General J. Weston Allen, who described planned legislation to implement registration requirements for the permit or purchase of firearms, all of which had been thwarted by the lobbying of the National Rifle Association. In "Why Print Crime News?" Cleveland Plain-Dealer editor Paul Bellamy defended newspapers from criticism that the coverage of crime stories glamorized crime, inspired juvenile delinquency, and impeded police investigations. In "Importance of Criminal Statistics," University of Pennsylvania sociology professor Thorsten Sellin lamented the difficulty in finding reliable state and local crime statistics, with even the federal government’s relatively-new Uniform Crime Reports publication "handicapped by the poverty of local records [and] lack of complete cooperation" – issues which persist into the present day.

In his closing address to the conference (also available at the DOJ website), Attorney General Cummings stated "It would be idle, of course, to expect that the problem of crime could be solved by a single conference or, indeed, by a series of conferences, or, for that matter, in our generation." The continued relevance of many of the issues at hand certainly proves his point, but the 1934 conference is a fascinating look back at how law enforcement and legal professionals in the Depression era handled many of the same concerns which face American society today.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Free & Low-Cost Legal Research Options

It's about that time of year when May graduates lose their extended access to Lexis Advance and Bloomberg Law. Both services allow recent Law School graduates to continue using their academic passwords for 6 months. (Westlaw's post-graduation access lasts a little longer; see Library Services for Recent Grads/Alumni for an overview.) No need to despair, though – several legal research options are available for no cost or low-cost.
  • First, check with your state or local bar association, which may offer free access to the low-cost legal research services Fastcase or Casemaker. Currently, the bar associations in 49 states and the District of Columbia include at least one of these research services as a membership benefit (California, the only holdout, contains many county and local bar associations which provide members with access to one or the other). The Goodson Law Library's map of Legal Research via State Bar Associations has been updated to reflect the latest changes in bar offerings at the state level. (Since the last update earlier in 2017, Delaware became the 29th state to offer Fastcase to its bar association members.) The Duke University community can check out Fastcase before heading into law practice; law students can also create an account on CasemakerX (an educational version of Casemaker).
  • Google Scholar is another starting place for research which is commonly used by practicing attorneys. The "Case law" radio button includes state appellate opinions since 1950, federal lower court opinions since 1923, and U.S. Supreme Court opinions since 1791. "Articles" includes scholarly and commercial law reviews, legal journals, and journals in other disciplines as well. (Users currently affiliated with Duke can add "Duke University Libraries – Get It @ Duke" to Settings > Library Links, in order to access restricted articles with a current NetID and password.)
  • In You're a Researcher without a Library: What Do You Do?, Jake Orlowitz at Medium recently outlined a number of options for scholars who encounter paywalls and affiliation requirements. Orlowitz's article contains helpful reminders of resources available through your public library, such as the databases and e-books available to all North Carolina residents via the NC LIVE consortium. Orlowitz also covers resources like the Unpaywall browser extension, the Internet Archive's massive library of public domain works, and WorldCat, all of which can help you locate the full text of a needed book or article.
Additional free and low-cost legal research options are listed in the library's guide to Legal Research on the Web. These include Cornell's Legal Information Institute and the free law website Justia. For additional help with locating free or low-cost research resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Federal Tax Guide Updated

The Goodson Law Library's research guide to Federal Tax law has recently been updated. Tax is a complex area of the law, with frequent changes and unique sources. For new researchers, it may be beneficial to begin with one of the research guidebooks listed in section VI, such as the BNA Tax Management Portfolio Legal Authorities in U.S. Federal Tax Matters - Research and Interpretation (online in Bloomberg BNA & Bloomberg Law), for more guidance about specific sources and their authoritative weight.

Although the legal research services Westlaw, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law contain valuable tax research primary and secondary sources, specialized resources like Thomson Reuters Checkpoint  are commonly used by tax practitioners. Checkpoint contains Federal Tax Coordinator 2d and United States Tax Reporter, both of which provide detailed guidance on all aspects of federal tax practice. Checkpoint also includes Citator 2nd, which connects researchers to subsequent case law which has cited or discussed a particular opinion.

The titles above in Checkpoint can also be found in print in the library's Gann Tax Alcove on level 2. The research guide lists these as well as other recommended treatises on income tax, corporate tax, and other specialized tax topics. Additional treatises can be found with a search of the Duke University Libraries catalog.

The research guide also includes a detailed overview of tax authorities and the various places that they can be found. Also included are links to popular tax policy think tanks, and other sources for tax-related legislative policy information.

For help with locating information about federal tax law, consult the updated research guide or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Financial Times Group Subscription for Law Community

The Goodson Law Library has created a group subscription to Financial Times ( for the Law School. Current Law students, faculty, and staff may use their Duke Law email address to register for an account, which will allow access to the full text of unlimited articles.

To take advantage of this group subscription, you will first need to visit on a networked Law School computer (e.g., library workstations or office computers). When you attempt to access a desired article from a networked computer, the following message should appear:
Duke Law Library purchased a group subscription to
Current Law School students, faculty, and staff may join the group subscription using their school email address, which includes unlimited access to FT content on your desktop and mobile.
Scroll down to the "Join Now" button and follow the steps to register an account with If you had previously created an account using your Duke Law email, in order to access free articles each month, the system should recognize your prior use of the email address and connect the old account to this group subscription. Once created, your account will work on from non-networked computers, including on mobile devices. FT also offers mobile apps for Android and iOS.

Not a member of the Duke Law community? Financial Times currently allows registered users to read 3 free articles per month. In addition, readers may be able to access the full text of some stories through social media links, such as via Twitter, without counting toward that total.

For help with setting up a Law School account, or locating other sources for financial news, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Art of Diplomacy

The Goodson Law Library recently received the centenary 7th edition of Satow's Diplomatic Practice, a classic text on diplomacy first published in 1917. (The original edition, then called Guide to Diplomatic Practice by Ernest Satow, can be accessed online through the Making of Modern Law database.) Over the years, Satow's Diplomatic Practice has expanded by hundreds of pages, as the fields of international law and foreign relations have similarly grown and evolved. The current edition begins with "a short introduction" to the history of diplomacy, as well as a separate chapter on the development of international law. Subsequent sections detail the functions of diplomats and consulates, unpack such concepts as diplomatic immunity, and describe the roles of international organizations and agreements in facilitating diplomatic relations. The final chapter, "Advice to Diplomats," provides practical guidance to diplomatic staff about negotiation strategies and handling errors in protocol.

This new edition of Satow's Diplomatic Practice arrives at a time when the U.S. Department of State is experiencing dramatic attrition in diplomatic staff since the start of the Trump administration. Nearly 75 high-level State Department posts are vacant without current nominees, and many career diplomats have departed. Barbara Johnson, former U.S. ambassador to Panama, recently penned a letter in the Foreign Service Journal which expressed concern that more than half of the career diplomats on staff have left the State Department since January. Johnson noted that recruitment of new foreign service staff is also lower than in the previous administration, leaving some experts concerned about the void in advancing American interests abroad.

To learn more about the important work of diplomats around the world, try a subject search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for the word diplomatic. You'll find fascinating practice guides for diplomatic staff, as well as discussion of historical foreign policy crises and academic treatments of diplomatic privileges. The State Department also offers some publications directly on its website, including the handbook Protocol for the Modern Diplomat, last updated in 2013, which provides ambassadors with guidance for understanding the host country's culture and avoiding social faux pas.

For help finding more information about diplomatic practice or the U.S. State Department, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Legal Holiday Gift Guide

Get the drop on your holiday shopping this year with the Goodson Blogson's 2017 roundup of legal-themed gifts for the lawyers and law students in your life. (Be on the lookout for other lawyer gift recommendations from attorney Reid Trautz's Reid My Blog, whose annual gift guide has been providing great suggestions for more than a decade.)

Many legal thinkers on your holiday list would appreciate a gift subscription to The Green Bag: An Entertaining Journal of Law. This quarterly periodical is well-known for its tongue-in-cheek humor, and for its popular U.S. Supreme Court Justice bobbleheads. The limited-edition bobbleheads are hot commodities at PILF Auctions and an online secondary market – but lucky random subscribers might receive a redemption certificate along with an issue. The "Extravagant" subscription option (only $20/year more than the Basic subscription) promises four other (non-bobblehead) "surprises" per year (see past examples). Both Basic and Extravagant subscribers will receive a copy of the annual Green Bag Almanac and Reader along with their four issues.

For the future lawyers (and/or expectant parents) on your gift list, check out Etsy artist dirtsastudio's baby bibs inspired by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's famous jabots. These bibs are available in RBG's favorite white lace or gold "dissent" collars, and can be purchased as a two-pack set. The artist notes that due to overwhelming demand, orders currently take at least one week to process (a backlog that is likely to increase closer to the holidays), so be sure to plan ahead for your would-be "Ruth Baby Ginsburg."

Is there a foodie on your giving list? Consider a law-themed cookbook! We've previously covered the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society's Chef Supreme: Martin Ginsburg, filled with sophisticated recipes by (and loving personal memories of) the late Martin Ginsburg, renowned tax law professor and husband of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg. But a litigator might prefer The Vespers' Trial Cookbook: Italiano Cucina Rustica with Trial Tips for Lawyers, by "the Cookin’ Cousins" Thomas and Dominic Vesper. This unique title is equal parts trial practice handbook and Italian family cookbook, as the cousins (Tom a trial attorney; Dom a retired accountant with a passion for home cooking) share tried-and-true “recipes for success” in both the kitchen and the courtroom. (For non-legal cookbook recommendations, J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats presents one favorite cookbook each day during the month of October on his personal blog. López-Alt’s own cookbook, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, is another great choice.)

If your law student or lawyer is too busy to cook as much as they’d like, consider a gift subscription to meal services like HelloFresh or Blue Apron. If your recipient lives in a Peapod grocery delivery service area, gift cards are available. You could also enhance your loved one's cooking with a gift box subscription to Try the World, which curates an assortment of gourmet goodies from a different country every month. (A smaller international "snack box" monthly assortment, perfect for hungry law students, is also available.)

You can also easily stock someone's kitchen with law-themed housewares. Uncommon Goods offers a "Disappearing Civil Liberties" coffee mug, whose Bill of Rights reprint partially disappears when hot liquid is poured into it. Uncommon Goods also includes a set of four marble Democracy Coasters, reproducing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Civil Rights Act. Perhaps those coasters could protect a table from the set of four old-fashioned glasses etched with the U.S. Supreme Court’s seal?

As finals approach, the law students you know might welcome a set of noise-canceling headphones. This summer, Consumer Reports reviewed several of the biggest name brands. Its rating guide is behind a paywall, but Duke University community members can access it on LexisNexis Academic. (Subscribers to Lexis Advance can also view the rating chart here.) White noise machines might also make a thoughtful gift for law students or attorneys who are disturbed by too much ambient noise. See a March 2017 comparison of six white noise machine brands by The Sweethome.

Federal museum and monument gift shops are a perennial favorite for locating other law-themed gifts. The U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society Gift Shop continues to stock an assortment of Court- and law-themed household items, books, and office accessories. Likewise, the U.S. Capitol Historical Society catalog offers legislative-themed accessories, including stationery and desk accessories for your favorite lawyer’s office. Most presidential libraries and federal monuments also feature a gift shop.

Shopping for a fashionista? The Capitol Historical Society catalog provides a well-stocked section of Scarves, Totes, and Umbrellas – including a lovely wearable reproduction of the Apotheosis in the Capitol rotunda, or a wraparound scarf of the Constitution's text, available in two colors. Creative jewelry is also available at the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society Gift Shop and in the National Archives' authentic government red tape collection.

Finally, don't forget the many locally-owned and operated businesses in your area, or in your recipient's. Most restaurants and shops will offer gift certificates or cards; many boutiques and shops will offer unique gifts. The map for Small Business Saturday, a post-Thanksgiving local shopping promotion created by American Express, can be a good starting place for identifying local retailers to support during the holiday shopping season.

Have fun finding the perfect law-themed gift for everyone on your holiday giving list!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Truthiness in Numbers

In 1953, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson famously said of his place of work: "We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final." Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443 (1953) (Jackson, J., concurring). This week, ProPublica released the results of a study which examined Supreme Court opinions for factual errors. While the sampling of eighty-four cases from 2011-2015 is too small to draw sweeping statistical conclusions, the researchers did uncover factual errors, both large and small, in seven of the twenty-four sampled SCOTUS cases which contained "legislative facts." (The report also highlights five earlier opinions containing additional factual mistakes.)

ProPublica notes that the sources of the mistakes varied: some apparently originated with a justice's extrajudicial research, while other errors had been repeated from faulty filings and amicus briefs. The impact of the errors also varied – some were minor errors with insignificant effects, while other mistakes seemed to carry more weight on the Court's ultimate ruling. The report analyzes errors within six of the seven opinions in the sampling period; a seventh will be described in a separate article.

A sobering error within the sampling period involved Shelby County v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 2612 (2013), which invalidated section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act based on its outdated "coverage formula" for federal oversight of state voting laws. In support of the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts included a chart on page 2626, comparing voter registration breakdowns by race in the six states which fell under the oversight coverage; the chart was intended to show that voter registration gaps between white and black citizens of those states had narrowed dramatically between 1965 and 2004. As ProPublica notes, Roberts's charts were skewed by a misinterpretation of Census Bureau race categories, using a category for the "White" column which included white voters of Hispanic ethnicity as well as non-Hispanic white voters.

Statistical data was on the Chief Justice's mind again earlier this month, in oral arguments concerning partisan gerrymandering. During questioning in Gill v. Whitford, the Chief Justice expressed concerns about using political science "efficiency gap" (EG) measures as a determining factor in the Court's opinion: "It is just not, it seems, a palatable answer to say the ruling was based on the fact that EG was greater than 7 percent. That doesn't sound like language in the Constitution […] [Y]ou're taking these issues away from democracy and you're throwing them into the courts pursuant to, and it may be simply my educational background, but I can only describe as sociological gobbledygook."

In response, the American Sociological Association released an open letter, defending the use of social science data and describing its benefits to society. The ASA also pointed out that, while "your alma mater would be disappointed to learn that you attributed your lack of understanding of social science to your Harvard education," the ASA would be willing to send representatives to meet with the Court and its staff.

While we don't all have the luxury of renowned social scientists providing in-person overviews of statistical basics, there are many resources available to improve statistical literacy. An accessible introduction to spotting common data misuse in the media can be found in Joel Best's Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists (HM535 .B47 2001 & online) and More Damned Lies and Statistics: How Numbers Confuse Public Issues (HM535 .B474 2004 & online). Shorter guides to spotting erroneous statistics can be found at the UK's Guardian newspaper and at the website Statistics How To. Although not every example contains numbers, you can test your ability to spot misleading statistics and news reports with the Factitious online game developed at American University.

For more academic overviews of statistical methods, the Empirical Collection on Level 3 of the library includes more than 150 titles on statistical methods, including An Introduction to Empirical Legal Research and Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals. Purdue University's Online Writing Lab also offers many tips on accurately Writing with Statistics.

For help with locating information about Supreme Court opinions or statistical methods, be sure to Ask a Librarian.