Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Superheroes, Under Government Contract

Our Government Documents collection on level 1 contains a variety of federal government publications, including agency decisions, research reports, and even a set of citizenship test flash cards. But we definitely don’t have most of the titles in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s new Government Comics Collection.

We’ve previously written about online repositories of government films, which covered everything from 1950s nuclear-disaster preparedness to dramatic reenactments of historic Supreme Court trials. The digitized comics (which can be downloaded with a click of any of the book cover images) feature an equally expansive topic list, and some include familiar characters working overtime for the government:
But the real historical gems are the comics without famous characters, like UNESCO’s 1987 cartoon history of apartheid in South Africa, or the U.S. military’s World War II-era Pocket Guides to Australia, New Zealand, and China, which were intended to teach soldiers a bit about the culture, history, and languages of where they were stationed. Although the content and depictions are now outdated and sometimes downright offensive (particularly the Pocket Guide to China, which closes with 10 pages of instruction in discerning a Chinese ally from a Japanese enemy), these comics all provide an interesting perspective on world history, by illustrating the limited types of information which was available to soldiers of the era. (If you'd like to see them up close, the Perkins library has print Pocket Guides to both China and Australia in its Rare Documents collection, but you’ll need to view them in person at the Special Collections Library.)

As the Goodson Blogson prepares for the holiday break (the library will close from Thursday, 12/24 through Sunday, 1/3), one last comic seems especially appropriate. The US Postal Service’s 1987 Working Together…for a Safer Winter! contains injury prevention tips for postal carriers who encounter icy conditions. Given last weekend's snowy weather in North Carolina, the advice in this short brochure might come in handy as our readers brave slippery sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots. (For the record, the USPS advises its falling carriers to “relax, and fall as limply as possible! Let your satchel or heavy clothing cushion the impact. Roll as you land, like an acrobatic tumbler…don’t stiff-arm! Fold your arms across your chest.” But it’s more fun with the illustrations.) See you in 2010!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Last-Minute Law Gifts

What do you get the legal eagle who has everything? Just like any other law-related question: “It depends.” When cash seems too impersonal and disaster kits seem too depressing, turn to the Goodson Blogson for legal-themed gift ideas.

The Billable Hour is probably the largest collection of gifts aimed squarely at the legal profession. They offer board games like LAWSUIT!, office accessories, and “survival kits” for all stages of law careers, including law school and the bar exam.

Constitutional law fans and other SCOTUS geeks will find something to love at the Supreme Court Gift Shop, including its popular annual holiday ornament series. There seems no limit to what the Court will lend its official seal, including a ruler, guest room soap, and drinkware. (For the lawyers and judges of tomorrow, also consider the ABA’s Supreme Court Coloring Book, which comes complete with its own crayons.)

If money is no object, try some of the gifts and fine art at LawGallery. The most affordable item on the site is a $35 set of law-themed wine charms, but even window-shopping is a treat at this classy clearinghouse. Art prints include reproductions of vintage courtroom scenes, turn-of-the-century Vanity Fair illustrations, and works by the 19th-century caricaturist Honore Daumier.

For more art options, check out the New Yorker store. The magazine's cartoons about lawyers can be framed as artwork or imprinted on coffee mugs, t-shirts, or note cards. (The Goodson Blogson’s favorite: “What are you, some kind of justice freak?”).

Still more comics await you at the LawComix Store, where your favorite strips from LawComix.com can also be purchased as t-shirts or coffee mugs. This site also features a variety of legal calendars.

More ideas, at all price points (although not all strictly law-themed), are available at blogger Reid Trautz's fifth annual Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers. Reid also points to the Gift Guide roundup at Legal Blog Watch.

Finally, a reward for procrastination: Thursday, December 17 will be Free Shipping Day for nearly 700 online retailers. Visit the site on December 17 for coupon codes offering free shipping for any purchases, with delivery guaranteed by the 24th.

The Goodson Blogson wishes you a happy and safe holiday season. Do you have any legal gift ideas to share? Let us know in the comments.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Services for Reading/Exam Period & Winter Break

The end of fall classes will bring some changes to the Goodson Law Library’s service hours and building access.

Effective today, Reference Services will be available from Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Circulation/Reserve Desk will maintain regular hours during the reading and examination period, and will begin operating under winter break hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, December 18.

The Academic Technologies Help Desk will remain fully staffed during reading and exam period, as well.

Regular service hours will resume at the beginning of the Spring 2010 semester. As always, current members of the Duke Law community will retain 24-hour access to the Law School and Law Library with a valid DukeCard. For the latest updates, see the Library's Hours & Directions page.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Slave Law & the 13th Amendment

December 6 marks exactly 144 years since the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. This shameful chapter of American history began in pre-colonial days, and resulted in the development of a surprisingly detailed body of law concerning the rights of slaves, the penal code as it applied to slaves, and the separate “slave court” systems which developed in many U.S. states. Although the contents of the relevant legal treatises and court opinions are appallingly inhumane to a modern reader, they do cast an interesting perspective on a portion of legal practice in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Each slave-holding state (and, previously, colony) maintained its own slave code, which defined the status of slaves, the powers of slave owners, and related legal issues (such as handling claims of emancipation or punishing crimes committed by/against slaves). For example, browse a hand-written copy of the District of Columbia’s 1860 slave code at the Library of Congress’s digital collection Slaves and the Courts (a typeset edition from 1862 is also available to browse).

Lawyers of the day were assisted by legal treatises, which like their modern counterparts provided an overview of the law related to a particular topic. Many slave law treatises and reprints can be found in the Goodson Law Library collection with a subject keyword search for “Slavery—Law and Legislation—United States”. A sample of titles, with links to electronic copies where available:
  • Goodell, The American Slave Code in Theory and Practice: Its Distinctive Features Shown by its Statutes, Judicial Decisions and Illustrative Facts, 1853 (HeinOnline & MoML)
  • Stroud, A Sketch of the Laws Relating to Slavery in the Several States of the United States of America, 2d ed. 1856 (HeinOnline & MoML)
  • Bassett, Slavery in the State of North Carolina
    (For additional North Carolina-specific resources, check out the digitized titles from UNC’s North Carolina Experience collection).
The slave system also impacted courts. The above treatises, as well as Catteral’s Judicial Cases Concerning American Slavery and the Negro (KF4545 S5 J83 1998; reprint of the 1926 edition), provide digest access to many court cases involving slaves and emancipated slaves. Countless other docket records and court petitions remain in local archives. UNC-Greensboro recently launched the Digital Library of American Slavery, which summarizes thousands of county court and legislative petitions (1775-1867) from fifteen states and the District of Columbia. Users may search the records by name, subject, and/or keyword; although the full text of the petitions is not provided, the database includes source information to allow researchers to track down a copy through the appropriate archive.

For additional resources on the Thirteenth Amendment, check out the libraries’ catalog with a subject keyword search for “constitution and 13th”. Harper’s Weekly maintains a fascinating interactive timeline at http://13thamendment.harpweek.com/default.asp, including the official proclamation from Secretary of State William H. Seward: "the amendment aforesaid has become valid to all intents and purposes as a part of the Constitution of the United States.". (For the serious legal researcher, this proclamation was officially printed at 13 Stat. 774-75 (1866).)