Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Finding Historical Primary Sources

If you’ve ever tried to trace a historical state code section back through its various amendments and re-numberings, or track down proceedings from early state or territorial constitutional conventions, then you already know the unique challenges involved. A good portion of these historical sources are available in the library’s print collection, but not every state’s collection is 100% complete, and many of the oldest materials are in fragile condition. Fortunately, these early primary source materials are becoming increasingly available online.

The Goodson Law Library has just purchased access to the Making of Modern Law database Primary Sources, 1620-1926, one such collection of early United States and American primary sources. It includes primary sources like early state and territorial codes and constitutional conventions, city charters, and even some historical law dictionaries and case digests. The Primary Sources database joins other “Making of Modern Law” products which are available through the Law Library, including Legal Treatises 1800-1926 and Trials 1600-1926; like these “sister” databases, the Primary Sources collection is searchable and browseable (searching just a particular state or territory is especially effective). The scans are high-quality and allow users to print or download custom PDF files of up to 50 pages at one time.

Similar historical primary sources can also be found in LLMC Digital’s state collections and in HeinOnline’s Legal Classics Library (browse the subject "State Law"). All of these databases are available for use by the Duke University community (with a NetID for off-campus access), and are linked from the library’s Legal Databases & Links page. For assistance with tracking down early primary sources of law, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"The Bluebooks Are Coming!"

Here at the Goodson Law Library, the summer’s biggest blockbuster has no explosions, car chases, or teenage vampires. Instead, we’re camping out for the new edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Legal Citation (19th ed. 2010). The new edition was released in early June, and we expect our copies to arrive any day now. Once the books arrive and are processed by library staff, copies of the new Bluebook will be available to borrow from the library’s Reserve collection.

Maybe you aren’t as excited as we are about this, but there are certainly some readers who will be affected by any changes to the 18th edition’s rules—such as journal members or faculty research assistants. The Pace Law Library blog has already compiled a helpful PDF chart of new or updated rules in the 19th edition. For those who learned legal citation from previous editions of the Bluebook, the chart is thankfully short, with the majority of the changes focused on Rule 18 (governing citation of electronic materials).

If you just can’t wait until the library’s print copies arrive, the Bluebook website already allows subscribers to toggle between the 18th and 19th edition texts. (They also offer a variety of affordable subscription packages for either online-only access or combinations of a print copy plus electronic access.)

For questions about legal citation during this transition period, remember to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Candid Camera, COPS Edition

One of this week’s most-watched YouTube videos depicted a Seattle police officer punching a 19-year-old woman in the face. Bystanders recorded the tense confrontation, which began when Officer Ian Walsh stopped the woman and her 17-year-old friend to issue a citation for jaywalking. The younger woman angrily disputed the detainment and resisted Walsh’s repeated attempts to physically restrain her; when her older friend attempted to pull the 17-year-old away (shoving the officer in the process), Walsh responded with a quick punch that stunned the nearby crowd and ignited debate online about the appropriate use of force.

Although the general consensus on this particular video seems to be that putting one’s hands on a police officer tends to invite this sort of reaction, there have certainly been other police incidents caught on camera which have created more controversy about officers’ behavior, from the 1991 Rodney King beating in Los Angeles to another incident in Seattle earlier this year, where officers were recorded while kicking and making ethnic slurs to a robbery suspect (who was later exonerated). In recent years, the development of sophisticated cell phone cameras and the rise of video-sharing sites like YouTube have made it easy for everyday citizens to become amateur journalists; home videos of traffic stops, confrontations, and arrests abound on the web, and can ultimately be valuable evidence in proving or disproving allegations of police brutality.

No one disputes that police officers have one of the toughest jobs in the world, and that vocal onlookers can make an already stressful situation turn even more volatile. In some states, though, police who find themselves the stars of an impromptu documentary are now striking back -- with wiretapping charges. An Illinois man currently faces 4 to 15 years in prison for felony eavesdropping, stemming from the use of a voice recorder during a conversation on the street with police. Earlier this year, a Massachusetts bicyclist was also arrested for illegal wiretapping during a traffic stop (see his blog post about the incident). And in Maryland, a National Guard sergeant who posted video of his traffic stop on YouTube also faces a wiretapping charge. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing many of these defendants, and challenging such applications of eavesdropping laws in court. But until these cases are resolved—how would you know if your cell phone video recordings of police activity on the street could land you in legal hot water?

You might start with your state laws on wiretapping and/or eavesdropping, perhaps even comparing the language to the laws in states where would-be journalists have found themselves facing charges. State codes are available in print on level 3 of the library, and online through the websites of most state legislatures (links at State Legal Sources on the Web). But finding the right sections in codes can be tricky—a 50-state survey may be a better place to start, giving you a shortcut to the relevant code sections in each state. Law students have access to the 50-state survey databases in LexisNexis and Westlaw, which each offer a survey on electronic surveillance laws; a similar survey of electronic surveillance statutes is available for free from the National Conference of State Legislatures’ A-Z Issues list.

The ACLU’s downloadable pocket card "Know Your Rights" may also be handy in situations involving the police. Although the card does not specifically address photography of police activity, it does contain general tips for handling police stops—including some ("Don’t get into an argument...Don’t touch any police officer") that perhaps would have saved that Seattle teenager a bruised jaw and an assault charge. The ACLU website also offers news and updates on related cases in its "Technology & Liberty" section; for additional coverage of related stories, check out Miami blogger Carlos Miller’s Photography is Not a Crime.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dude, Where's My Lexis? (Or Westlaw?)

Rising 2Ls and 3Ls who did not request a summer extension to their Westlaw and/or LexisNexis passwords are starting to receive some unpleasant news when they try to log in. June 1 is generally the cutoff date for educational passwords which are not extended for academic or non-profit purposes. In some cases, access to the full range of research databases will be reduced to only employment-related sources; in other cases, users will see a message like “You have exceeded your monthly usage allotment” and be denied access to the research system.

Never fear! If you meet one of the many criteria for a summer password extension, it’s not too late to request one now. For either site, you will need to log in to the homepage with your existing account and simply look for information about summer extensions.
  • LexisNexis: Log in to http://lawschool.lexis.com and the welcome screen should present a link to extend your password for the summer. (If this information is not readily displayed on your welcome screen, it should also be linked under “Manage My Account.”)
Please read the exceptions carefully to ensure that you qualify. Both Lexis and Westlaw allow summer extensions to students or recent graduates who work as research assistants, take summer classes, participate on law reviews or journals, or would like to use the services to aid in bar exam study. The services vary on their exceptions for summer internships (Westlaw allows an exception for an "unpaid internship with a nonprofit organization," while Lexis allows exceptions for an "internship or externship for school credit").

Remember that any commercial/for-profit research conducted on an educational password violates the terms of the extension, and may result in termination of access or collection of the research charges which would have been incurred on a commercial password. If you don’t meet one of the academic or non-profit exceptions to extend your educational subscription to Lexis or Westlaw, expect access to be fully restored for you at the beginning of August.

If you experience any problems when extending your passwords, or for questions related to your Westlaw or LexisNexis IDs, please Ask a Librarian.

Friday, June 4, 2010

All Law Is Local, Too

Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously declared “All politics is local,” meaning that even a national politician’s success was inextricably linked to his or her connection with local constituents and their concerns. The maxim is equally applicable to law—not only because of local constituents’ impact on their U.S. or state congresspersons’ votes, but also for the large amount of county, city, and other municipal legal materials which govern a good deal of daily life in America.

Since legal education tends to focus mostly on the federal system, law students generally don’t learn how to research local and municipal legal materials until they enter full-time law practice. But no need to wait—knowing how to navigate local ordinances now can help you answer such burning questions as “What time can I officially pull the plug on my neighbor’s heavy-metal music?” (in Durham, NC: after 11 p.m. on weekdays) to “Can I shoot the pesky squirrel that eats all my birdseed?” (sorry, not with “any gun, firearm or bow and arrow”; poisoning is likewise not an option) to “Is it OK to go jogging through the Durham city cemeteries?” (we’re not sure why you’d want to, but the answer is no).

While the Goodson Law Library maintains print copies of ordinances for selected local cities and towns (Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill), it’s generally difficult to find printed copies of local ordinances outside of their immediate geographic area. Fortunately, most local governments also make their codes freely available online through the publisher’s website (it’s best to start at the municipality’s website and look for an official link to the ordinances).

Some of the sites which you’re likely to encounter include:
  • Municode Free Online Library includes some local codes from all 50 states (including many governments here in the Research Triangle), and offers searchable city/town/county ordinances as well as the option to search multiple codes. Single keywords or exact phrases seem to work best for searching this site.
  • American Legal Publishing Online Library includes codes from 38 states (local municipalities include Wake County and the town of Cary). As with Municode, there are options to search within a single code or across multiple codes.
  • Code Publishing Company includes 19 states, mostly concentrated in the western region of the U.S. Other publishers focused mostly west of the Mississippi include Quality Code Publishing and the Colorado Code Publishing Company.
What if you want information related to the ordinances, such as enforcement statistics or the local equivalent of legislative history? The "paper trail" related to city and county ordinances will vary greatly, but you may find records or minutes of council meetings or administrative hearings posted on the government’s web site. If there isn't anything readily posted online, a phone call to the appropriate government office may provide a lead to additional information.

Local newspapers are also an extremely valuable source for information about local government ordinances. Due to their focus on the geographic region, they’re almost certain to report on the passage of new ordinances (like the recent bans on tethering animals in various North Carolina counties), or the enforcement of ordinances (such as a city contractor being cited for violation of the livable wage requirement). The America's Newspapers database includes a number of local newspapers, in most cases dating back to the mid-1990s. Keep in mind that free city papers, like the Triangle’s Independent Weekly, are also great sources of information on local politics and news.

If these tips for local government research don’t get you what you need, please remember to Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kluwer Arbitration Now Available

The Goodson Law Library has just purchased access to Kluwer Arbitration, a one-stop shop for news, primary source documents and analytical publications related to international commercial and investment arbitration. The database includes easy access to the text of bilateral investment treaties and international conventions, a library of online treatises such as Law and Practice of Investment Treaties (2009) and the Yearbook, Commercial Arbitration (1976- ), and a backfile of periodicals like the Journal of International Arbitration. The News tab includes the latest additions to the database, news stories and analysis, and conference/event announcements. There’s even a blog featuring expert analysis of the latest developments in commercial arbitration, from law professors and practitioners around the world.

You can access Kluwer Arbitration from the library’s Legal Databases & Links page, under the “Foreign & International” column. For help navigating the content of Kluwer Arbitration, visit the database User Manual, or Ask a Librarian.