Thursday, December 22, 2011

Foreign Country "Cheat Sheets"

With the Goodson Law Library preparing for upcoming Christmas and New Year holiday closures (see Hours & Directions for info), it’s a good time to reflect on holidays around the world. As globalization has made transnational business the new normal, lawyers must be aware of cultural differences which can impact scheduling and travel plans; these details aren’t always readily apparent from travel guidebooks or simple web searching.

Most international travelers are already familiar with the Background Notes and travel information provided by the U.S. State Department, including security threats and travel warnings. But a lesser-known series from the federal government can also be invaluable to travelers and those who do business on a global scale.

The Commerce Department’s U.S. Commercial Service publishes and updates Country Commercial Guides, which are intended for use by U.S. companies doing business in a particular country. Chapter 8, “Business Travel,” always contains a section “Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays,” which provides useful information about the typical work week (including the usual lunch hour), important national holidays, and other invaluable insights. While Biglaw associates may be toiling away in their Manhattan offices on Friday the 23rd, they shouldn’t bother scheduling a conference call to Tokyo – it’s the Emperor’s Birthday. Qatar would also be out of the question – Friday, as “the Muslim holy day, is a day of rest for all sectors.” Country Commercial Guides are available free on the web through the Market Research Library, and can be searched by country or browsed by Report Type.

Incidentally, if international travel is in your future, remember that the Duke University Libraries maintain a subscription to Byki, a flashcard-based foreign-language instructional system for more than 70 languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu. Safe travels to our readers over the holiday season, and best wishes for 2012.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Get the Gift of Forgotten Green

December can be full of unexpected surprises – a holiday card from a long-lost friend, a sudden snow day from work or school, or a fabulous gift from your wish list. But for a quick moment of pure unmitigated cheer, a seasonal favorite has to be pulling out your heavy coat in anticipation of another dreary winter, and finding some long-forgotten cash in the pocket.

But wouldn’t it be even better if that crumpled-up $20 bill was a check for $1,500? The Internal Revenue Service recently announced that more than $150 million in federal tax refunds have gone undelivered this year, usually due to outdated mailing addresses. If you’re one of the 99,123 taxpayers who is still waiting for a refund check, visit the IRS status lookup page Where’s My Refund? You’ll need to provide your Social Security Number, filing status and the exact amount of the refund. With the average unclaimed refund totaling $1,547, the site is certainly worth a visit.

The IRS isn’t the only place which may be holding on to your unclaimed money, though. The federal portal contains a page of pointers for locating unclaimed money from failed banks, HUD, employer pension funds, and old savings bonds. There’s also a link to equivalent state government websites via, which can link you to utility and security deposits from past addresses, old bank accounts, and other unclaimed property. Each state will provide a search feature, as well as instructions for how to claim your money.

Finally, December is a great time to grab any or all of your three free annual credit reports for 2011, which are provided at This site was created by the three major credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian, and EquiFax – after a 2003 amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act mandated that consumers must be able to receive a copy of their credit report from each agency at no charge once per year (15 U.S.C. 1681j). (Afraid you'll mistakenly end up at one of the commercial websites which claim to offer free credit reports, but actually sign you up for expensive credit-monitoring services? Use the link through the Federal Trade Commission’s website to be sure.)

For help with finding more consumer protection resources online or in the library, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Poping Ain't Easy

Last week, German newspapers reported that Pope Benedict XVI had been sued by an anonymous citizen for “repeatedly violat[ing] German seatbelt laws during a visit to Freiburg in September.” Allegedly armed with YouTube videos of the Catholic leader recklessly standing “for more than an hour” in his famous Popemobile, the suit requests the maximum fine of 2,500 euros for repeated violations of the misdemeanor. Lowering The Bar investigated further and discovered that even if the Pope did neglect to buckle up in the bulletproof Plexiglas cabin of his armored Mercedes-Benz, diplomatic immunity provides yet another layer of papal protection from an overzealous Verkehrspolizist. (Though he should be more careful in the future - the 5-ton Popemobile can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in a respectable six seconds, and can achieve a top speed of 160 mph.)

With the German attorney outright admitting that the suit was really intended to raise public awareness of the country’s seatbelt laws, the Vatican’s legal department was free to focus on offensive rather than defensive strategies. In November, threats of legal action convinced fashion company Benetton to pull an advertisement which depicted the Pope in a doctored kiss with Egyptian imam Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb. The Vatican has indicated that it will continue to pursue legal avenues, even after the company's voluntary removal of the ads featuring the Pope.

But in this particular case, the Vatican may wish to adopt the more laissez-faire attitude of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (who shrugged off his own Benetton-created lip-lock with President Barack Obama yesterday in a press conference), because they may have a far more serious legal situation on the horizon. In mid-September, a group called Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) petitioned the International Criminal Court in The Hague, requesting that an investigation be opened for crimes against humanity by the Pope and several high-ranking Catholic cardinals, stemming from the worldwide clergy sex abuse scandals from the early 1980s to the present day. (The complaint, and thousands of pages of supporting documentation, can be read at Most ICC-watchers think it’s unlikely that the Prosecutor will decide that the complaint falls within the court’s jurisdiction (NY Times). SNAP provides a FAQ sheet on its website, addressing this and other questions about the filing.

ICC jurisdiction can be triggered by a State Party’s referral, by the UN Security Council or by the Prosecutor acting of his own volition (proprio motu). It is rare for the ICC Prosecutor to invoke his proprio motu power; the first such instance since the Court’s creation in 2002 did not occur until late 2009. Article 15 of the Rome Statute (PDF) does not specify a time frame for the Prosecutor’s determination whether to proceed proprio motu, so it remains to be seen whether the ICC will open a formal investigation into the SNAP complaint. But if you'd like to learn more about the inner workings of the ICC in the meantime, consult the resources in our International Criminal Law research guide, or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

150 Years of "Foreign Relations of the United States"

This weekend marks the sesquicentennial of the U.S. State Department publication Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS). The “thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity” (22 U.S.C. 4351) has undergone many changes since its debut on December 3, 1861, when it mostly reprinted correspondence between State Department officials on then-current matters of foreign policy. Beginning in 1925, FRUS took on more of a historical perspective, covering events which occurred decades prior, and scholarly analysis began to appear alongside the correspondence.

The publication of FRUS is now mandated by the United States Code, although the State Department has a little trouble meeting the 1991 requirement that a FRUS volume should appear “not more than 30 years after the events recorded” (the latest volume, published in 2011, concerns 1973’s Arab-Israeli conflict).

FRUS is available in the Goodson Law Library at the call number Documents S 1.1 (Level 1), and volumes spanning events from 1945-1976 are available free online via the State Department website or from 1861-1960 via the University of Wisconsin. Members of the Duke University community can also access the complete set in PDF via HeinOnline’s Foreign Relations of the United States library, which also includes a number of historical e-books about foreign policy and diplomacy.

Learn more about the last 150 years of Foreign Relations of the United States at the State Department’s website, or Ask a Librarian for help locating the volumes in the library.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

AAA Digest of Motor Laws Online

Driving to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner? There’s no better time to check out the AAA Digest of Motor Laws, a free compilation of state laws related to motor vehicle ownership and operation. The source is browseable by individual state, as well as by category: Is your window tint too dark for a neighboring state’s comfort? Do you need to put away that radar detector when you cross state lines? And even though you know you shouldn’t, can you legally use a cell phone or send a text message behind the wheel, wherever you may roam?

The American Automobile Association added this long-running 50-state survey of vehicle laws to its website this summer (once upon a time, we received print editions in the libraries), and plans to expand the online service in the future with Canadian law and also comparative search tools. Note that the site links to undated summaries of the relevant state law, rather than the text of the actual statutes: to confirm the accuracy of the information, start at Cornell’s State Legal Links to access primary sources of law for each state (such as North Carolina’s online General Statutes).

For more help with locating 50-state surveys on other research topics, check out the Subject Compilations of State Laws (in print or in HeinOnline) or Ask a Librarian. No matter where your travels take you, the Goodson Blogson wishes all its readers a safe and happy Thanksgiving break.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nixon Grand Jury Investigation Records Unsealed

Yesterday afternoon, the Government Printing Office and the National Archives and Records Administration announced the public release of President Richard Nixon's Watergate grand jury testimony. Federal grand jury proceedings typically remain secret, but last September historian Stanley Kutler petitioned the U.S. District Court in D.C. for the Nixon transcripts’ release, citing their substantial research value. On July 29, Chief Judge Royce Lamberth granted the petition, agreeing with Kutler in his 15-page order that “[t]here is no question that the requested records are of great historical importance…[disclosure] would likely enhance the existing historical record, foster further scholarly discussion, and improve the public’s understanding of a significant historical event.”

The grand jury records have been reviewed and some information has been redacted from the public release in order to protect the privacy of certain named individuals. Still, even a redacted release is undeniably valuable for researchers, and may mark the beginning of increased public access to federal grand jury proceedings of similar historical importance. As the Blog of Legal Times reported last month, Attorney General Eric Holder recently recommended a change to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which if adopted would clarify the procedures for releasing historical grand jury proceedings. Under the model described in Holder’s letter to Advisory Committee Chair Judge Reena Raggi, proceedings could be eligible for public release after 30 years with a court order, and after 75 years such records would be available through regular archival access procedures.

Only time will tell if this proposed approach to grand jury proceedings becomes the norm (though you can learn more about the F.R. Crim. P. revision process in our Court Rules research guide and track this suggestion’s progress on the U.S. Courts’ Federal Rulemaking page). In the meantime, the newly-available Nixon Grand Jury Records are posted online via the Government Printing Office's FDsys. As always, Ask a Librarian for help with locating our many resources on Richard Nixon, the Watergate era, or court records.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Holiday Gifts for Lawyers & Law Students

Around this time of year, the Goodson Blogson features links to unique sources of holiday gifts for lawyers and law students (see 2009 and 2010). Though many of these sites have appeared in our past roundups, their selections of merchandise often change from year to year, and are worth a second (or third) look this holiday season.

Many D.C.-area government attractions maintain online gift shops with a wide range of law- and government-themed gifts, which can be perfect presents or stocking-stuffers to the lawyers and law students in your life:
More general sources for law-themed gifts include The Billable Hour, which continues to offer its “Survival Kits” for students and new associates in addition to office accessories, board games, and DVDs of the cartoon-lawyer classic Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. For Counsel is another online site devoted to law-themed gifts, although the featured gifts can sometimes be found elsewhere online with a little research (such as the 4th Amendment-themed doormat, which is available for about five dollars less at Attorney and blogger Reid Trautz also offers an annual Holiday Gift Guide: watch for his 2011 entry later this month for more great gift suggestions. If procrastination is your typical approach to holiday shopping, keep in mind that Friday, December 16 is Free Shipping Day for more than a thousand online retailers.

Finally, if you find yourself on the receiving end of an odd and useless law-themed gift this year, (a) don't blame The Goodson Blogson, and (b) remember: it's the thought that counts.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oh Là Là! Recueil des Cours Online

The Goodson Law Library now provides campus-wide electronic access to the complete set of the Recueil des Cours (Collected Courses of the Hague Academy) through HeinOnline. Previously, Duke users needed to consult the print set in the library’s Periodicals collection and had electronic access to only a small subset of the publication (1923-1937) through the Gallica Periodicals database.

The Hague Academy is a major research center for the study and teaching of international law, and its “Collected Courses” (Recueil des Cours) are drawn from its famous summer class series. Top international law scholars visit the academy to deliver lectures on public and private international law topics, which are then published in a volume of the Recueil des Cours. Each volume contains the courses for that year, in the language in which they were delivered (generally, either French or English). To locate Collected Courses on a particular topic, the individual courses are indexed in the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, and in a browseable and searchable bibliography on the Peace Palace website. The full text of the collection may also be searched within HeinOnline.

The Hein library includes the complete full text of the Recueil des Cours from 1923 forward in PDF, indexes from 1967 forward, and a separate collection of “Law Books of the Academy,” many of which reprint the materials from separate academy workshops. See the full list of library contents on Hein’s website or browse the collection yourself in HeinOnline.

For more resources to aid your international law research, consult the library’s Foreign & International Law Research Guides or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Expanded Access to Federal Court Opinions

In the spirit of Open Access Week, (see more about Open Access at Duke), Reference Librarian Kelly Leong highlights the collaborative efforts of the U.S. Government Printing Office and Administrative Office of the United States Courts in piloting a program to offer free electronic access to federal court opinions.

FDsys, the GPO’s collection of electronic materials, currently offers a plethora of free authenticated content, including the U.S. Code, Federal Register, and numerous congressional documents. As announced earlier this month, FDsys now also offers the United States Courts Opinions – Beta collection, providing free electronic access to federal court opinions. The current Beta version offers the authenticated opinions from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island, U.S. Bankruptcy Court - Southern District of New York and U.S. Bankruptcy Court - Southern District of Florida. The collection is set to expand to twelve courts, and then to “more than thirty,” although there is no information of which courts are slated to join and when.

The advanced searching features available elsewhere on FDsys are also available for this new collection, including common fields such as party name, case number, and court type. Similar to PACER (the federal judiciary’s repository of court filings, which requires a password and charges per page viewed), users can also search the FDsys collection by “nature of suit” code. The availability of opinions date as far back as 2001 for the Eighth Circuit, but the collection is not yet complete even for the selected pilot courts. Opinions are provided in PDF; the “More” link provides access to metadata and “Document in Context,” a notable and interesting feature associated with the collection is the ability to locate other opinions within the same case. If the Eighth Circuit has previously ruled on an issue within the same case, it will be linked to the opinion under this page.

Most importantly, the GPO is seeking feedback on this new collection. Share your thoughts with GPO, and Ask a Librarian for help with locating other court opinions.

--Kelly Leong, Reference Librarian

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"As a Matter of Law, The House Is Haunted"

This month’s issue of the New York State Bar Association Journal features a fun cover story on “the law of Halloween.” Buffalo attorney Daniel B. Moar unearths a collection of devilishly funny Halloween-themed court opinions from across the United States, which run the gamut from personal injuries sustained by flammable costumes, to emotional distress claims arising from haunted-house attractions, to “the constitutional right to insult your neighbors with tombstone displays.” The article is provided as a free sample online to non-subscribers at the Journal website. If you’re pressed for time but are curious about this blog entry’s title, it is a quote from one of the featured cases: Stambovsky v Ackley, 169 A.D.2d 254 (full text via Google Scholar).

North Carolina isn’t featured in Moar’s round-up, but this month has already seen some Halloween decorations cause a bit of emotional distress across the state. In early October, a Salisbury farmer who decorated his lawn with a mangled pair of legs pinned underneath a tractor prompted a 911 call from a concerned motorist. Later that week, another Halloween home decoration caused an emergency call in Charlotte, this time a realistic-looking dummy clinging to a roof gutter. No legal action has been taken in either case, and the Goodson Blogson certainly hopes it stays that way.

For help with locating the cases cited in Moar’s article, or anything else related to researching Halloween and the law, be sure to Ask a Librarian. We'll even be open on Halloween night!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Introducing the Doswell Collection

In April 2011, the Goodson Law Library received a generous donation from John Simpson of Charlotte, North Carolina: a collection of books and memorabilia related to the Nuremberg Nazi war crime trials, named in honor of his uncle, Marshall Doswell. The J. Marshall Doswell, Jr. Nuremberg Trials Collection was unveiled on July 29 at a gathering in the library’s Riddick Rare Book & Special Collections Room, which featured remarks from Mr. Simpson and Mr. Doswell (pictured at right), as well as Duke Law Professors Paul Carrington and Madeline Morris.

For the next few weeks, you can view a selection of The J. Marshall Doswell, Jr. Nuremberg Trials Collection in the window of the Riddick Room. The display includes books and media about the Nuremberg trials, photographs of the July 29 event, and memorabilia such as a commemorative medal and a shoulder patch worn by U.S. forces who served at Nuremberg during the trials.

The Doswell Collection items are being added to the Duke Libraries’ online catalog. Additional works about this important time period in world history and international criminal law can be found with a subject heading search for “Nuremberg Trial of Major German War Criminals, Nuremberg, Germany, 1945-1946” and “Nuremberg War Crime Trials, Nuremberg, Germany, 1946-1949”. For assistance with locating these materials, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Easier Access to Leadership Library Yellow Books

It’s probably happened to you: maybe you’re searching the libraries’ online catalog. Maybe you’re browsing one of our excellent research guides. Maybe you’re skimming our list of Legal Databases & Links. Wherever you may be looking, once in a while you’ll see an ominous-looking note like “Password is required; see reference desk for assistance.”

It’s hardly the end of the world to have to stop and ask for the password (we’re actually very friendly), but these little hurdles can be especially problematic for late-night and weekend researchers. While the library tries to provide easy NetID-based login to its electronic resources, not every database allows us that option, and some have restrictions (such as a limit on access to only current Law School students, faculty and staff) which require a little oversight by staff.

One frequent password request at the Goodson Law Library reference desk has always been The Leadership Library, which is featured in our guides to Directories of Courts & Judges and Directories of Lawyers. The Leadership Library publishes the “Yellow Book” series of directories for government and corporate entities, like Judicial Yellow Book, Congressional Yellow Book, and Law Firms Yellow Book. Although the library also has print copies of these titles in the Reference Collection, the pace at which contact information changes along with the ability to search across the entire directory made the electronic versions particularly useful.

We’re pleased to announce that Duke University now has campus-wide, NetID-based access to The Leadership Library. Users can search the directories, browse visual “maps” of organizations to locate particular people, and build exportable lists of search results. Our research guides are being updated to reflect the change. Although you no longer need to contact us for a separate password to this resource, feel free to Ask a Librarian for assistance using the Leadership Library online.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who Was That Masked Man (In Handcuffs)?

During the ongoing "occupation" of Wall Street by protestors, police have unearthed—and enforced—an obscure state law which prohibits loitering in a public place while wearing a mask or disguise. Yesterday's Wall Street Journal reported that, since the start of the protest on September 17, at least five of the demonstrators who have been arrested were issued a summons for violating the strange old statute, which has been on the books since 1845.

The protest has roots with the online collective Anonymous, whose members often don Britain's iconic Guy Fawkes mask (as seen in the 2006 film adaptation of the graphic novel V for Vendetta) during public demonstrations. (Notable past targets of the group include the Church of Scientology in 2008, and more recently the San Francisco BART system, in response to transit officials' jamming of subway cell phone service to prevent a growing demonstration in the city.) But it wasn't only the Guy Fawkes impersonators who were corralled by the NYPD; the WSJ interviewed one protestor who was detained for wearing just a bandanna over his face.

So what does this state law say, exactly? Like most newspapers and popular media outlets, the WSJ doesn’t provide a Bluebook-ready citation. But the quoted language is enough to search the state code in either LexisNexis, Westlaw, or the free version at the NYS Legislature.

RESEARCH CHALLENGE: Can you track it down without peeking at the rest of this entry?

(We'll wait.)

OK, we’re back. If you took our test, we hope you found N.Y. Penal Law § 240.35, which states: "A person is guilty of loitering when he [...] [b]eing masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised, or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place; except that such conduct is not unlawful when it occurs in connection with a masquerade party or like entertainment if, when such entertainment is held in a city which has promulgated regulations in connection with such affairs, permission is first obtained from the police or other appropriate authorities.”

The WSJ article provides a bit of historical background on this little-known section of the New York penal code, which we sure hope won't ruin anybody's Halloween plans. If you read about interesting statutes or cases in the news and have trouble tracking down the original sources, be sure to Ask a Librarian for help.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bwexis? Blexstlaw? Make Room for Bloomberg!

LexisNexis and Westlaw have long battled for the hearts (and dollars) of legal researchers. The two premium legal information systems are so ubiquitous in law practice that many refer to the pair of market competitors with the single, Brangelina-esque nickname "Wexis." But beginning in 2004, the financial juggernaut Bloomberg began an expansion into the legal research market, albeit one limited to use on Bloomberg Professional's proprietary computer workstations (four of which are still available in Duke's Ford Library at the Fuqua School of Business and three more at the Perkins Library's Data/GIS Computer Cluster). In 2009, Bloomberg launched an alternative web-based legal research interface, Bloomberg Law, and has provided pilot access to selected law schools, including Duke. An ABA Journal cover story in February 2010 detailed the development of this version of Bloomberg Law, and the difficulties of breaking into a market so dominated by longtime competitors.

Over the summer, Bloomberg launched a new and improved web interface, and also moved to add secondary sources to its research arsenal with the addition of titles like Business Torts Litigation (2d ed.), and The M & A Process: A Practical Guide For The Business Lawyer. The company's recent $990 million purchase of BNA Publications, which publishes such key newsletters and current-awareness services as U.S. Law Week and Securities Regulation Law Report, also leaves industry experts speculating about where those will fit into the new system.

Only time will tell if Bloomberg Law will rise to the same level of ubiquity as "Wexis," not to mention how they might be worked into the legal-research portmanteau. But in the meantime, you can check out their system and make your own comparisons to Lexis and Westlaw: Bloomberg will visit Duke Law for table days on Tuesday, September 27 and Wednesday, September 28. Current Duke Law students, faculty and staff are eligible for free password access, and can sign up in advance of the visit by filling out the online registration form (Bloomberg will then email you a username and temporary password, which should be changed to something personalized and memorable).Representatives from Bloomberg will be available to answer questions about the new interface during the table days, and also to sign up interested members of the Duke Law community who didn't pre-register with the online form. In the meantime, you can learn more about Bloomberg Law by checking out the product guides on its About page.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thunderstruck by Trial Transcripts

The Goodson Blogson is a few years behind on its leisure reading, but just finished Erik Larson's Thunderstruck (2006), a fascinating nonfiction work which interweaves the notorious 1910 North London Cellar Murder case with Guglielmo Marconi's struggle to perfect his wireless telegraph (the technology which eventually led Scotland Yard investigators to ambush their suspects aboard a transatlantic steamer ship).

American doctor Hawley Harvey Crippen and his wife Cora, an aspiring singer, moved to England in 1900. A decade later, Cora disappeared from the quarreling couple's North London home; the doctor informed concerned friends that she had returned to America and later died of an illness. Unconvinced by Crippen's story (particularly since his young secretary, Ethel Le Neve, moved into the home almost immediately, and was frequently spotted around town wearing Cora's furs and jewelry), Cora's friends alerted the police, who eventually discovered human remains buried in the doctor's coal cellar. Thanks to Marconi's invention and an eagle-eyed ship captain, inspectors were able to intercept Crippen and Le Neve on the S.S. Montrose, as they sailed toward America. Both were tried for murder in London during the fall of 1910; Crippen was found guilty and later executed by hanging, while Le Neve was cleared of all charges.

Larson's work is carefully crafted from historical accounts: newspaper reports, letters and other personal papers, and court records. Historical works like these typically require authors to consult a large number of previously-published books (like The Trial of Hawley Harvey Crippen (1920)) and also travel to specialized archives in person to view manuscript collections. But what a difference a few years makes – transcripts from the North London Cellar Murder trials are now freely available to the public on Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online, a massive electronic archive of cases from London’s famed Central Criminal Court. The archive now spans a staggering 240 years, from 1674 to 1913, although Larson could not take advantage of it while researching Thunderstruck: the site launched in 2003 with the years 1714-1759, and gradually expanded its years of coverage until the project's completion in 2008, well after the book's publication.

The Old Bailey site is searchable by a number of options (party names, verdicts, time period, etc). Quick links to the North London Cellar Murder proceedings:
The Old Bailey database has just been added to the library's research guide for Court Records & Briefs, in the "Trial Transcripts/Oral Arguments" section. For help locating transcripts in other trials, from any time period, be sure to check out the research guide, or Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Keeping Up with Law Journal Contents

School is back in session, and the student journal editors are busily preparing new issues of their law reviews and journals. With literally thousands of law review articles being published every year, keeping up with the latest scholarship in a particular area can be a challenge.

Sadly, one of our favorite law-focused current awareness services closed up shop this summer: Washington & Lee’s Current Law Journal Content service stopped updating its database in May 2011. The site lives on as a searchable archive of more than 1,400 law journals' tables of contents from approximately 2000- April 2011, and remains linked on our Legal Databases and Links page as a helpful tool for finding articles. But those who used its handy tools for saving searches as email alerts and RSS feeds will need to look elsewhere from now on.

That leaves another long-time TOC service, the University of Washington's Current Index to Legal Periodicals (CILP) as an obvious choice. CILP indexes the latest tables of contents to almost 600 law journals (view list), and provides links to the full text of the article in LexisNexis, Westlaw and HeinOnline. The Duke community can view a weekly CILP TOC update (changed each Friday); Duke Law faculty may also contact the Reference Desk to sign up for the SmartCILP email service, which delivers tailored lists of the latest articles from a particular journal or on a particular topic of interest.

The Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas maintains seven "current legal literature services," with free RSS feeds of the latest articles on the following topics: actual innocence/wrongful convictions, capital punishment, copyright, domestic violence, energy law, patent law and trademark law.

The Social Science Research Network (SSRN) also provides email alerts from "subject matter e-journals" on a variety of topics, which include working papers as well as forthcoming ("accepted") articles from law reviews and legal journals. Free registration is required, and some e-journals are listed as "fee-based" on the subscription list, but are free to Duke Law users through our "site license." For an overview of the subscription process, watch the brief instructional video online. Once you have registered with SSRN, current Law School students, faculty and staff can "join" Duke Law School's site license to the Legal Scholarship Network. Then you can sign up for the "fee-based" journal alerts as well as the free SSRN alerts.

You can also save a topical article search as an email alert in LexisNexis, Westlaw, and LegalTrac. Individual journals and journal publisher websites also offer table of contents alerts, although most sites require free registration.

For help creating an email alert for articles in a particular journal or on a particular subject, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The United States of Emergency

It’s been a wild week for weather around Duke Law. On Tuesday afternoon, the Southeast was rocked by a rare 5.8-magnitude earthquake, which rattled our library windows and library users alike, but caused no lasting problems in this area (although our nation’s capital, closer to the quake’s epicenter in Virginia, sustained some damage to national monuments). Now, North Carolina’s coast is bracing for a direct hit from Hurricane Irene, which is expected to make landfall on the Outer Banks today before heading toward New York City.

Currently, the effects of Irene here in the Research Triangle are expected to be comparatively minimal, although meteorologists predict a soaking rain on Saturday along with some high winds, which could cause flash flooding and power outages in the Durham area. Duke University is monitoring the situation carefully, and the Goodson Law Library will announce any emergency closures this weekend on our website. You can also sign up for Duke Alert emails and text messages at, which will send an instant alert if the University invokes its Severe Weather Policy.

In the meantime, you’ve probably heard a lot about “state of emergency” declarations in the news, at both the state and federal levels of government. On Thursday morning, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue issued a state of emergency for counties east of Interstate 95, and on Thursday evening, President Obama signed a federal state of emergency declaration for North Carolina. Why the double layer of emergency orders? In a word: money. The President’s state of emergency declaration authorizes the federal government to provide disaster relief and assistance to the state in question. For an overview of the process, check out the helpful background information in the Congressional Research Service report, FEMA’s Disaster Declaration Process: A Primer (May 18, 2011), available online at

To learn more about emergency management and disaster relief, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To access the treasure trove of research information in CRS reports, check out the CRS Reports section of our guide to Federal Legislative History, or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What to Know About the New Semester

Welcome to our new students, and welcome back to our returning students! The Fall 2011 semester is about to begin, and the Goodson Law Library is ready for the typical questions we hear around this time of year:

Are you ever open later than 5:00 p.m.? Yes! While the library is always "open" to Duke Law students (who enjoy 24-hour access with their DukeCards), the library service desk will resume evening and weekend hours on Sunday, August 21. See the Hours & Directions page for information. Staffing hours vary a bit across the three service points (Circulation/Reserve, Reference, and Computing Help), but generally the desk will be staffed until 9 p.m. on weeknights, 5:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 6:00 or 9:00 p.m. on Sundays (depending on the service point).

Does the library have copies of my textbooks on Reserve? Maybe! Historically, the library's textbook collection has been the "luck of the draw;" we always buy extra copies of casebooks authored by our faculty, but other textbooks were less dependable presences in our collection. This year, we’re purchasing a copy of every 1L textbook and will place them on reserve, where they can be borrowed for 4 hours at a time, or overnight if borrowed with less than 4 hours before the Circulation/Reserve desk closes. 2L and 3L course textbooks may also be on reserve in some cases. To locate a particular title, search the Duke Libraries' online catalog and visit the Circulation/Reserve desk for assistance.

Where can I find course supplements and study aids? The library buys a number of popular law school study aid series, like Examples & Explanations, the "Understanding..." series, and Nutshells and Hornbooks. Check out our Law School Success handout for a list of the most common study aids in our collection, and consult the online catalog for their locations.

When do I get my LexisNexis and Westlaw passwords? It depends. New transfer/exchange students should have already received an email with their Duke Law registration codes for the popular legal research databases (check your account). New international LLM students will receive their passwords on the first day of their Legal Analysis, Research & Writing for International Students class, either August 22 or 23. New 1L students will receive passwords at the beginning of the research portion of their LARW class, either September 5 or 6. Contact the Reference Services desk if you have questions about your LexisNexis and Westlaw passwords.

Can I take a tour of the library? We'll be glad to show you around. Scheduled library tours will take place during the week of August 22. JD students can sign up at, and international LLM students can sign up at The 30- to 40-minute tours will meet at the library’s service desk, and will cover common questions from new students about library collections, printing and other technology, and study space.

How do I reserve a study room? The library's eight private study rooms can be reserved up to 72 hours in advance with a Law School NetID and password at Note that during the first few weeks of classes, many (if not all) of the rooms may be reserved during the day for On-Campus Interviews (OCI).

Anything else? Talk to the library staff for assistance with other questions, or make an anonymous suggestion in our online Suggestion Box.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When Contracts Stop Being Polite, and Start Getting Real

With the explosive growth of reality TV over the last decade, it’s increasingly likely that you already know someone who has participated in one of the many competitions or candid programming out there (in fact, a Duke Law 2L and Simpsons superfan put in a winning appearance on a 2009 Food Network Challenge). But for the rest of us, we can only speculate about life behind the scenes...that is, until Monday night. That’s when the Village Voice Runnin' Scared blog published a copy of MTV's standard participant contract for its long-running Real World series, and highlighted the blogger's favorite clauses in the 30-page document. Among the explicitly-assumed risks: you might die, and it's not the producers' responsibility. Your new roommates could assault you (sorry, engage in "non-consensual physical contact"), and you have only yourself to blame. And if the show completely misrepresents your life story, unjustly casting you as its major antagonist? Totally within their rights. Oh, and you’re also paying for your own long-distance calls on that miked house telephone.

Given these drawbacks, it's hard to imagine anyone willingly signing up for such a deal, but thousands of young adults still dream of being one of the "seven strangers, picked to live in a house" (if any intrepid law students still want to try before their 24th birthday, the show accepts applications online). In fact, many of the contract's clauses have appeared in response to events on past seasons, as outlined by the blog Jezebel. Avoiding potential liability is clearly a moving target for the makers of reality television.

Interested in researching more about the legal issues in reality TV production? Try a search of the Duke Libraries’ online catalog for subject heading for "Television--Law and legislation--United States" or "Artists’ contracts -- United States" to find titles like Hollywood Dealmaking: Negotiating Talent Agreements for Film, TV, and New Media, which provides a slightly less terrifying standard "Form of Reality Series Participant Agreement" as well as a chapter devoted to the genre. And as always, be sure to Ask a Librarian if you need assistance.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How Netflix Got "Borked"

July was a rough month for Netflix, all things considered. First the film-subscription service announced a radical change to its pricing structure, which by September could hike some subscribers’ monthly payments by nearly 60 percent. The company’s July 12 blog post sparked enough bourgeois Internet outrage that created a parody “Relief Fund” with celebrity spokesman Jason Alexander.

Then came the corporation’s July 25 quarterly letter to its shareholders (PDF), which described plans for a “Facebook integration” tool which will soon launch in Canada and Latin America. But what’s the holdup in Netflix’s home country? The shareholder report explains:
At this point, we plan to launch this initiative only in Canada and Latin America, as the VPPA (Video Privacy Protection Act) discourages us from launching our Facebook integration domestically. Under the VPPA, it is ambiguous when and how a user can give permission for his or her video viewing data to be shared. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a simple clarification, HR2471, which says when and how a user can give such permission. We’re hoping HR2471 passes, enabling us to offer our Facebook integration to our U.S. subscribers who desire it.
Suddenly, the mainstream media was re-examining a long-forgotten privacy law from 1988, and legislative history was a hot topic of discussion. So what is the VPPA? The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) maintains a helpful backgrounder, which explains the law’s unlikely origin in a Supreme Court nomination hearing: while the Senate considered President Reagan’s unsuccessful nomination of then-D.C. Circuit Court Judge Robert Bork, a local paper obtained and published the judge’s video rental records (reprinted at author Michael Dolan’s website). The Washington City Paper found nothing scandalous in Bork’s video rentals (aside from the sheer number, which prompted Dolan to quip that “if anything, Robert Bork ought to be nominated for Supreme Couch Potato”), but Congress responded with Public Law 100-618, which prohibits the disclosure of a consumer’s video rental or sales records without “informed, written consent of the consumer given at the time the disclosure is sought” (view 18 U.S.C. 2710 at the new U.S. Code beta site).

Certainly, the 1988 Congress did not anticipate the possibility of Internet-based DVD rentals and streaming services, and if Netflix were a web-only service, it is likely that the VPPA would not apply (as Inside Facebook points out, the web-only Hulu was able to successfully launch a Facebook app without concern). Netflix’s letter to shareholders notes a pending bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 2471 (bill tracking report), which would enable sites like Netflix to obtain ongoing consumer consent to records disclosure on an opt-in basis, rather than requiring consent each and every time a disclosure is sought.

Certainly, Congress has had its hands a bit full with debt ceiling negotations in the weeks since H.R. 2471 was introduced, so only time will tell if the VPPA amendment will pave the way for a Facebook-Netflix union in the USA. But if you’d like to research the history of the VPPA, or track the pending bill’s progress, check out the resources listed in our Federal Legislative History research guide or Ask a Librarian.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Hardest Bar Exam in the World?

With July bar exams right around the corner, a weekend of panic is perfectly normal. We hope you’ve kept up with your study program, and consulted our additional tips for bar exam success from earlier this month. But if you just can’t shake that sense of dread, here are some fun (or maybe not-so-fun) facts about bar exams in other jurisdictions to help put things into perspective.

The ABA’s Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements (Reference KF302 .Z9 C65 2011) is chock-full of statistics about the bar exams in other states and U.S. territories, and it just might reassure you that the grass is greener than you think. Take, for example, the length of exams, which is compared in Chart 6 on page 23. California has long been famous for its grueling 3-day bar exam, but did you know that Mississippi and Palau also triple the fun? Nine other states also use a two-and-a-half day format, which might as well be three for those souls who must hole up in a hotel. Suddenly that 2-day format isn’t looking so bad (or 1.5-day, if you are heading to Wyoming or Nebraska).

The cost of examination application fees is also covered in Chart 7 of the ABA Guide. Duke Law students who plan to remain in North Carolina are unfortunately near the top of the first-time test-taker expense list at $700, but are edged out by Alaska ($800) and Massachusetts ($815).

Passage rates can be found in the ABA/LSAC Official Guide to ABA Approved Law Schools (Ref KF273 .A86 2011). A country-wide “Career Placement and Bar Passage Chart” uses 2008 exam data to compare state overall passage rates: while California’s 3-day marathon is undeniably difficult, with an overall 78% passage rate throughout the state, the dubious award for toughest exam in the continental U.S. surely goes to Louisiana, whose civil law influence probably plays a part in the nationwide low 67% passage rate.

The alphabetical entries for each law school further break down passage statistics for an individual school. Our grads should be happy to hear that Duke generally scores 5 to 8 percentage points higher than the state’s average, and has a bar passage average of 93% overall. If you’d like to calculate the odds yourself, this guide is also available online.

“But what about that other 7%?” asks the truly nervous Duke Law grad. OK, we’ll need to travel internationally to help ease your troubled mind. As the ABA Journal recently reported, some law schools in Japan reported a zero percent passage rate in 2010. The overall passage rate in the country last year? A dismal 25%. Who’s worried about a measly 7% now?

Finally, while Japan’s bar exam is indisputably tough, nothing beats the passage rate (or lack thereof) from fellow Pacific Ocean island Guam. This tiny U.S. territory doesn’t attract a lot of bar-takers each year, but as the Official Results from July 2006 suggest, they just might have administered the hardest bar exam in the world.

Good luck to all of our recent graduates who will sit for a bar exam next week, in whatever jurisdiction you’ve chosen. (But hopefully not Guam.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Test-Drive Two New Legislative Research Databases

“Try before you buy” isn’t just good advice for car shopping – the Duke University Libraries share that motto when purchasing shiny new research toys, too. The Duke community has always been able to test-drive Trial Databases at, but this summer offers two trials which are particularly interesting to the Duke Law community, since both can help a great deal with federal legislative research.

First, there’s the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1981-1994. The Serial Set is an essential resource for legislative history research, as it reprints House and Senate committee reports and other congressional documents. The Duke University Libraries already subscribe to the online serial set from 1817-1980, and the additional years featured in this trial could help fill gaps in our online access through other sources to congressional reports and documents (outlined in our Federal Legislative History research guide). This trial of 1981-1994 runs through August 6. If you have a legislative history research need this summer, be sure to try it out and leave your comments for the purchasing committee at

The University Libraries have also set up a trial with CQ First Street. First Street aggregates legislative and policymaking data (lobbyist disclosures, congressional staff directory information and biographies, legislative information from THOMAS, and Federal Election Commission disclosures) into nifty visualizations, which make it easy to identify relationships between members of Congress, federal staff, lobbyists, and PACs. (We don’t see Stephen Colbert’s recently-approved Super PAC yet, but we’re sure it’s coming soon.) This trial ends on August 12, and comments left at will be considered in the libraries’ decision whether to purchase a subscription.

If you have questions about using these databases, or about legislative research generally, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beating the Bar Exam

With the bar exam now less than three weeks away, the Goodson Law Library staff have noticed an increase in questions about additional study resources. In our online catalog, try a subject keyword search for “Bar examinations—United States—Study guides”. This will retrieve some helpful resources for any state’s bar exam, including a 2010 edition of Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Reserves KF303 .W345 2010) and other titles like The Essential Rules for Bar Exam Success (KF303 .F75 2008).

If you have a hole in your bar exam study outlines from a particularly confusing area of law, check out Part III of our Law School Success guide for an overview of popular law school study aids. Many of these series, like Examples & Explanations and the West Hornbooks, can be found on Reserve. (Tip: Although Reserve Collection items are loaned in 4-hour blocks, arrive at the Circulation/Reserve desk less than 4 hours before our 5:00 p.m. summer closing time to borrow a Reserve Collection item overnight. Arrive less than 4 hours before 5:00 p.m. on a Friday, and you can borrow a Reserve book until we reopen the following Monday morning.)

If you’re interested in seeing past exams from North Carolina, start at the NC Board of Law Examiners site. This site offers past exams from 2005-2007 free for download, for those who would like a peek at the structure of state-specific essay questions. (Even older essay questions are available in the library at the call number KFN7476 .N671, but the latest exam available in print is 2003.) The Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association has also prepared a brief guide to Drafting a Bar Exam Essay Answer (Reserves KFN7476.Z9 D73 2004), with tips and tricks for NC test takers. An updated (2009) version of this pamphlet is available in PDF at

To view older bar examinations from 31 other states, consult our collection of past exams in the Microforms Room on Level 1 of the library (cabinet # 35, top drawer). Available dates vary by state, although many of the most popular bar exam destinations for Duke Law students (like California and New York) have sent us past exams dating up to February 2010. To see which years are available for a particular state, search the Duke Libraries catalog for the subject heading bar examinations [state]; e.g. bar examinations Maryland; then look for the catalog result labeled “[microfiche]”.

Note that many states also make past exams available for free on their bar exam websites, such as New York’s page of Past Exam Questions, which may be more up-to-date than our microfiche collection. Visit to locate the Board of Law Examiners site for your state.

Good luck to all of our July 2011 exam-takers!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting the Goods on Judges and Courts

Need to know some details about a state or federal judge? The Goodson Law Library just added another place to look, with a new subscription to the online version of The American Bench. While the library has always kept the latest copy of this directory in the Reference Collection (and will continue to do so), the online version allows searches by judge name or by court/jurisdiction. Although the Goodson Law Library has a number of other judicial directories available in print and online formats, The American Bench is unique for its inclusion of more extensive biographies of state court judges. (The website also reproduces the print version’s helpful maps of state and federal judicial districts, which are posted in PDF.) Available information varies by judge, but generally entries provide basic biography (such as education and date of appointment) as well as contact information for the judge’s chambers. Occasionally, the entries also include professional affiliations and activities, links to external websites, and a photo of the judge.

If you’re researching a current federal judge, though, you might want to go beyond the basics with a second directory, The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary (Reserve KF8700 .A19 A4 & Westlaw’s AFJ database). Like The American Bench, the Almanac includes basic biographical information about federal judges. But it goes one step further with its “Lawyers’ Comments” section. The comments are culled from attorneys who have appeared before an individual judge, and candidly discuss topics like the judge’s courtroom demeanor and attitude toward certain types of cases. Just for fun, visit the online version in Westlaw and try keyword searches for comments like "terrible" and "awful" to see how detailed these entries can get!

Note that the online versions for both of these directories include the most current listings only; the online entries are not archived as judges leave the bench. Likewise, the print version of the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary is a loose-leaf binder set, and pages are not archived as they are removed. However, past editions of The American Bench (back to 1977) can be found in the library’s Superseded Reference collection on Level 1.

For more information on tracking down the facts about state and federal judges, check out the library’s research guide to Directories of Courts and Judges and/or Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Value of a Dollar (and a Beard)

From time to time, we all feel ripped off. Whether it’s a sleazy car salesman selling you a lemon, or furniture on Craigslist which turns out to be scratched and reeking of smoke, or the online date who hasn’t updated his profile picture since 1999, everyone can relate to being so angered by a raw deal that you just want to forcibly remove the scammer’s facial hair and make him eat it.

Wait...maybe we can’t all relate to that last part. But that’s exactly what happened last November to Harvey Westmoreland, a Kentucky man who just wanted to sell his lawnmower to neighbors Troy Holt and James Hill. But when their negotiations broke down, an intoxicated Holt and Hill held Westmoreland and his brother at knifepoint, then cut off Westmoreland’s beard and force-fed it to him. The unusual story made headlines around the country, and before he “knowed” it [sic], Westmoreland’s grammatically-challenged video interview with a local news station became a top hit on YouTube (as did the dance remix).

Both of Westmoreland’s attackers pleaded guilty, and each were sentenced to several years of probation. But Holt now faces the possibility of jail time for failing to also pay Westmoreland court-ordered restitution. Next Tuesday, a judge will determine whether to revoke Holt’s probation over the snub. What’s the going rate for a lost beard these days, you ask? The Anderson County Circuit Court priced Westmoreland’s ordeal at $570.

It may seem strange to assign a dollar value to facial hair (or the pain and suffering of eating it), but courts and juries must often calculate the value of unusual things: trademarked phrases, missing limbs, and even law degrees. While the Goodson Blogson isn’t sure how this Kentucky court decided on $570, it does know some resources where you can find guidance on valuing other injuries: jury verdict reporters and valuation handbooks.

A popular choice is the book series What’s it Worth? (KF1257 .H3 & online in LexisNexis). This series is sorted into chapters by injury type, and provides brief case summaries along with jury award or settlement amounts. A number of other damage valuation handbooks, like Personal Injury Verdict Reviews, are not available in print by the Goodson Law Library, but can be searched in LexisNexis and Westlaw. On Lexis, follow the link on the Legal tab to “Expert Analysis, Jury Verdicts and Settlements” to view available databases. In Westlaw’s directory, follow the path: Litigation > Jury Verdicts, Settlements & Judgments.

Jury verdicts and settlements are also often reported in legal news sources, such as the New York Law Journal (available online via the library) and other American Legal Media (ALM) publications, which recently moved their full text from Westlaw to LexisNexis (although the library maintains separate web-based passwords to selected ALM titles, which are described in the online catalog records for each).

To learn more about researching jury verdicts and settlement amounts, visit that section of our Court Records and Briefs research guide, or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ferris Bueller's Day in Court

Over the weekend, the John Hughes class-cutting classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off turned 25. An intern at the blog Jezebel marked the anniversary of the film’s release like a typical first-year law student whose thought process has been overtaken by legalese: by compiling a video identifying the various laws broken by Ferris throughout the course of the film.

The compilation was partly inspired by a running list from 2009 at the Metafilter discussion board, which came complete with citations to the Illinois Compiled Statutes. But to play the advanced version of this home game, you’d need to determine what the laws in question actually said back in 1986. In particular, relevant statutes about computer tampering (shown in the video as Ferris revises his school attendance record before the principal’s incredulous eyes) likely changed a great deal between the film’s release and today.

How could you accomplish this impossible-sounding task, for this or any other research which requires knowing what a code section said at a particular date in time? You might be tempted to start with the current code, find a relevant section, and then use the history notes to work backwards by reviewing the chronological session laws and piecing together the changes over time. But unless you love jigsaw puzzles, this approach can be tedious and time-consuming, especially if you are dealing with a code section which has been repeatedly amended with minor changes by a long list of session laws.

So, is there a better way? Of course there is. Superseded codes to the rescue! Superseded codes provide a historical snapshot of what the laws in force said on a particular date. Many libraries, including the Goodson Law Library, preserve outdated versions of state and federal codes for their research value. In the Goodson Law Library, print versions of superseded codes can be found on Level 1 (map), organized alphabetically by state. (That floor also boasts a spare set of superseded state codes on microfiche.)

You can also find some superseded state codes on LexisNexis and Westlaw, although the available years will vary by jurisdiction. On Lexis, each state’s listing includes a “Legislative Archive;” for Illinois, the path “Legal > States Legal - U.S. > Illinois > Find Statutes, Regulations, Administrative Materials & Court Rules > By Statutes & Regulations > Legislative Archive” offers a list of databases for IL state codes, but only back to 1992. On Westlaw, browse the Directory for a particular state’s folder and look for a “Historical Statutes” option under Statutes & Legislation: in this case, “U.S. State Materials > Other U.S. States > Illinois > Statutes & Legislative Materials > Illinois Historical Statutes Annotated” dates back a little earlier (to 1988), but still not back to Ferris’s day. (You should also be aware that the superseded versions of codes on these services require you to search for your sections – there is no table of contents browse feature here.)

If your desired year isn’t available on Westlaw or Lexis, you might need to consult a print volume in the library. But don’t you want to confirm that we have the right years before you trek down to Level 1 and crank those compact shelves? Searching the online catalog for these superseded codes can be a bit tricky, as there’s a separate record for every time the titles changed even slightly. Table 1 of the Bluebook can assist with the former titles of codes for each U.S. state.

If you’re still interested in Ferris Bueller’s potential liability, you might peruse the Smith-Hurd Illinois Annotated Statutes from the 1980s, which are indeed available on Level 1. If you’re interested in researching other superseded code sections, feel free to Ask a Librarian for help.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Super-Injunction: It's, Like, One Louder than a Regular Injunction

From political love children to movie star arrests, who doesn’t love a bit of trashy celebrity gossip? As it turns out, many British celebrities, who can spend upwards of £20,000-50,000 to squash would-be scandals with a super-injunction, an exceptionally strict UK gag order which keeps the requestor completely anonymous and prevents the British media from publishing details about either the salacious story...or the existence of the gag order itself.

Earlier last month, an anonymous Twitter user attracted more than 100,000 followers by leaking information about alleged scandals which had been smothered by a super-injunction. Following coverage on celeb-watch blogs like Gawker, that Twitter handle fizzled out almost as quickly as it appeared. But by the end of May, a new username seemed to take its place, and then quieted just as quickly as its list of gossip-hungry followers grew. The popularity of these two accounts illustrated the challenges of maintaining an anonymous legal remedy in the Internet age, and raised some fascinating legal questions (e.g., was every British Twitter user who “re-tweeted” the offending accusations technically in contempt of court?).

Super-injunctions are a curious phenomenon to American readers, who are accustomed to more public legal proceedings than are the norm in the United Kingdom. But the popularity of these Twitter exposés demonstrates that many British citizens find the remedy to be excessive, too. In 2010, the UK judiciary convened a Committee on Super-Injunctions to examine use of the remedy from 2005-2011 and provide recommendations on future use of anonymous court orders. The committee’s May 2011 Final Report gives valuable background on the use of super-injunctions as well as their less-strict cousin, the anonymised injunction.

If all of this has left you curious to learn more about the super-injunction or the UK’s legal system more generally, check out the resources in our research guide on English Law. The Goodson Law Library owns a number of relevant treatises, which can be located by using the subject heading feature in the Duke Libraries Catalog (for example, privacy, right of—great britain). As always, if you have questions about researching this or any other legal topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Moon Rock and a Hard Place

Though some spent last week preparing for their last days on Earth, one California woman was more preoccupied with the moon. This weekend brought news of a NASA sting operation after the unidentified woman offered a “moon rock” for sale on eBay. Undercover NASA agents met the would-be seller in an area Denny’s and offered to buy the lunar treasure for $1.7 million, then detained her for questioning and seized the rock.

So is it a question of fraud? Could be, if the rock turns out to be phony. But the woman could also face legal trouble even if the rock is authentic. As it turns out, astronauts who visited the moon during various NASA missions in the 1960s and 1970s did collect a number of rock samples, some of which were given in commemorative plaques as “goodwill” gifts to 135 foreign governments and the 50 U.S. states by Presidents Nixon and Ford. As the London Times explained in 2004, those samples are legally considered the cultural property of the recipient government, and other samples located in the U.S. are classified as national treasure under NASA Policy Directive 7100.10D (since renumbered as NPD 7100.10E).

Over the last four decades, many of the goodwill gifts have made their way to the black market, and some have also made their way to the courts: check out the descriptively-named case of U.S. v. One Lucite Ball Containing Lunar Material, 252 F.Supp.2d 1367 (S.D. Fla. 2003), involving a similar lunar pebble which had been gifted to the government of Honduras and was later smuggled into the United States. (NASA’s 2003 annual report assures us that the ill-gotten treasure was eventually returned to its rightful place in Honduras; see the news and a photo on page 17. Curious to know where all those other chunks of the moon are now? The website CollectSPACE maintains a table of known locations around the world. Many of the goodwill rocks have fascinating stories, including North Carolina’s own, which lived “in a desk drawer” at the state Department of Commerce before finding its way to storage at Raleigh’s Museum of Natural Sciences, where it is scheduled to be displayed when the museum’s new Nature Research Center is completed.)

Only time will tell if the California pebble-peddler had a genuine lunar sample or a very expensive fake. In the meantime, you can learn more about the laws and regulations governing galactic travel in several places. Space-related legislation was recently codified into the new Title 51 of the United States Code (see earlier Blogson post); it’s currently incorporated in the unofficial versions on LexisNexis and Westlaw and the annual bound Supplement IV to the official USC. NASA regulations can be found in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, including 14 C.F.R. 1217.106 (2010), which reassures astronauts that they won’t need to fill out any pesky customs declarations for artifacts which are brought back from space. And the library has a number of books on space law, which can be found in our online catalog with a subject heading search.

For help finding more materials online or in the library about this fascinating field, be sure to Ask a Librarian.