Sunday, January 30, 2011

Parental Advisory

If you feel guilty about not calling Mom and Dad enough, be glad you don’t live in China-- where the Civil Affairs Ministry has proposed a new law which would allow lonely parents to sue their adult children if they fail to visit regularly. Today’s New York Times has the full story on the proposal, which is intended to promote closer families and also prevent elder neglect and abuse. (Some provinces in China already have similar local ordinances; the article describes one mother who sued her adult daughters for neglect and received a judgment of monthly “parental support” from each woman.)

Chinese academics and officials who were interviewed by the Times express doubt that this measure will actually be adopted at the next annual session of the National People’s Congress in March. But the proposal has raised public awareness of a growing social concern about China’s elderly-- within the next 40 years, a full 25% of the country’s population will be over the age of 65. The expanding elderly population has brought with it a tragic rise in suicide rates among older people and increased concerns about abuse by “kenlao zu” (“people who nibble on their elders”).

Like China, the United States faces a growing elderly population, as the post-World War II “baby boomers” move steadily into retirement age over the next decade. As the American population ages, undoubtedly we’ll see a corresponding growth in “elder law,” the legal specialization which focuses on issues affecting the elderly. Elder law is a diverse field of legal practice, covering everything from estate planning; health care decision-making; managing supplemental income like Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, veterans’ benefits and disability payments; to dealing with cases of elder abuse and neglect, whether by nursing homes, family members, or others.

To learn more about the practice of elder law, try a keyword search of the Duke Libraries catalog for “elder law”, or a subject heading search for "Older people -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States". You’ll find recent introductory titles like last year’s Elder Law in a Nutshell and Mastering Elder Law. As always, Ask a Librarian for further help locating information on this-- or any other-- research topic.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Bluebook and Beyond

Not a Bluebook fan? You’re in distinguished company. As Above the Law reported earlier today, Judge Richard A. Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has just published a humorous “review” of the new 19th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. “The Bluebook Blues” is available on the Yale Law Journal website, and appears in the new Winter 2010 issue (which will arrive in print at the library soon).

Posner’s disdain for the Bluebook has been well-documented since at least 1986, when he published an even more scathing critique in the Chicago Law Review, featuring a list of the nineteen most obnoxious “anti-lessons” in writing which Posner believed the Bluebook rules reinforced (#1: overuse of passive voice; #10: “Always be stuffy, boring”). Noting that the Bluebook has more than doubled in page length since his last review, Posner now describes it as a “monstrous growth, remote from the functional need for legal citation forms, that serves obscure needs of the legal culture and its student subculture.”

Posner’s 1986 article served to introduce the legal academy to a competing citation manual, which had been drafted and published by the staff of the University of Chicago Law Review. The “Maroon Book”, according to Posner, was a comparative “breath of fresh air; may it swiftly conquer the world of legal publishing.” Unfortunately (for Posner), the Maroon Book failed to gain traction in the legal writing community, although it’s still used by the law journals at the University of Chicago (which posted a free 20th anniversary edition online last fall).

It looks like Posner has abandoned hope for more widespread Maroon Book adoption over the last 25 years – the appendix to the Yale Law Journal piece reprints a internal style manual for the judge’s clerks, whose introduction assures new hires that Posner “doesn’t follow the Bluebook, the Maroon Book, the Chicago Manual of Style, or any other style book, and doesn’t want you to get hung up worrying about citation form.” But unless you’re definitely headed to the Windy City for summer or post-graduate employment, you’ll probably require some Bluebook brushing-up. Remember that the library has multiple copies on Reserve for your convenience, along with several useful help guides which have been updated to incorporate changes from the 2010 edition:
Also, as the Goodson Blogson previously reported in September, some online sources do attempt to create Bluebook citations automatically, including the “Copy (with Reference)” feature on the popular WestlawNext interface. While these sources don’t create 100% perfect citations (especially for short-form cites), they can be useful for helping a novice user view the general format of a particular cite.

As always, if you need help with navigating the Bluebook or locating sources to improve your legal citation skills, don’t hesitate to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Expanded Access to "Examples & Explanations"

The Examples & Explanations (E&E) book series are popular law school study aids, and it’s easy to see why: written by law professors, these books give a narrative overview of the key concepts and rules for a particular legal subject, followed by “examples” (hypothetical questions) and “explanations” of the answers. The Goodson Law Library purchases every title in this series (full list), and previously kept them on Level 2, organized by call number. Although normally items in the stacks loan out for 4 weeks at a time, borrowers of E&E books frequently found their due dates cut short by recall/hold requests from other eager readers, making access to the titles a frustrating experience for everybody.

To ensure access to as many readers as possible, the Goodson Law Library has now placed the most current edition of every Examples & Explanations title on Reserve, where they can be borrowed for 4 hours at a time (or overnight if borrowed with less than four hours before the Circulation/Reserve desk closes). We’re also in the process of ordering additional Reserve copies of E&E titles on the subjects of 1L classes, due to the series’ overwhelming popularity with new law students. As new editions are published, the previous editions will be moved from Reserve to the stacks on Level 2, organized by call number, so the older editions are available for lengthier (if slightly outdated) borrowing.

But that’s not all! As the John Marshall Law Library blog first reported last semester, Aspen Publishers has made large sections of this series available for free on Google Books. Although the complete full text of each book is not provided, and the “Limited Preview” will occasionally skip over a page or two, the Google Books preview does allow you to search within a particular book to locate relevant pages, and maybe even skim through the sections you’re most interested in (for example, searching for “consideration” in the Contracts title) . So if someone has already snagged the library’s copy of an E&E title, this online preview might tide you over until the book is returned.

For help locating E&E titles, or for recommendations of similar law school study aids, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Finding the Law of Foreign Countries

If it’s true that, as the saying goes, “All politics is local,” it may be equally true that “All law is global.” These days, multinational corporations are keeping abreast of business law developments in every country they call home. American law professors are asked to provide feedback to the drafters of a proposed constitution in Kenya. And more than once, the U.S. Supreme Court has famously looked to court decisions from other countries when considering its domestic jurisprudence on the death penalty and other topics (download a history of such citations from 1789-2005 for free at SSRN).

At this rate, even a lawyer who never leaves the USA in his or her lifetime will need to research foreign and/or comparative law at some point. Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), the use and study of foreign legal materials grew increasingly more popular at the same time that the Internet began to make them easier to locate. While there are still major challenges to accessing foreign law—not every country has the technological infrastructure (or political stability) to maintain legal repositories, and researchers who can’t read the native language will face additional barriers – a number of sources are available, and access to legal materials from other countries continues to widen.

The library’s newly-updated Research Guide to Foreign & Comparative Law contains an entire section of resources devoted to locating legal materials from foreign countries. While many require a current Duke NetID for off-campus access, there are also some great free resources like the University of Texas Foreign Law Translations for selected court opinions; The Rise of Modern Constitutionalism, 1776 - 1849 for historical constitutions; and the Law Library of Congress’s Global Legal Information Network for access to legislation. Duke scholars enjoy a wider variety of online resources, such as two options for constitutions in translation (Constitutions of the Countries & Territories of the World and HeinOnline's World Constitutions Illustrated), the Commercial Laws of the World series online in RIA Checkpoint, and several sources for court decisions.

Still, most foreign law research projects should involve a trip to the Goodson Law Library -- one of the best available online resources, Foreign Law Guide, requires even current Duke Law students to access its wealth of information on law sources from a computer which is physically connected to the Law School network, such as the library workstations. And while anyone can browse the International Encyclopaedia of Laws website to identify whether a particular volume contains discussion of the country you’re researching (such as the “Commercial and Economic Law” monograph’s section on Brazil), you’d need to access the full text in print at the Law Library.

For help with researching the law of a foreign country, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Look for the Libraries' Catalog

If you use the Goodson Law Library’s homepage “Catalog Search” box, you may soon notice a slight difference in the look and feel of your search results. Starting January 5, the Goodson Law Library will change its default catalog search from the “Classic” to the “Basic” view. Links will be updated on the library homepage, as well as in all research guides and other instructional materials.

The new catalog interface contains the same inventory (the collections of all the Duke University Libraries), but with a few changes to the search methodology. Results are displayed by relevance, rather than the traditional reverse-chronological order (making it much easier to search for periodical items, like magazines and newspapers, where the “date” listed in the catalog record is the first year of publication; the reverse-chronological display often pushes these items very low on a search result list). Faceted browsing allows you to further narrow your search results based on certain limits, like subject matter, format, language, and/or owning library. (For those who prefer to set search limits up-front, an Advanced Search screen is also available.)

The new “Basic Catalog” offers a number of useful features which are not available in the “Classic” interface:
  • Permalinks for individual titles in the catalog make it easy to return to a search result, or email the link to a particular title.
  • RSS Feeds are available for any search, via the orange RSS icon next to your total number of search results. If you use an RSS reader (such as Google Reader), you can subscribe to a feed and receive automatic updates when new search results are added.
  • “Where Is This?” links provide quick access to location maps for most search results, making it easy to figure out where a particular title can be found in the library.
  • Book cover images and Google Book Previews, where available, help you assess the potential usefulness of a search result.
The Duke Libraries have a helpful comparison chart of other features in both the new catalog and the “classic” catalog.

Of course, the “new” catalog may not look so new to everyone – it actually debuted on the Duke University Libraries homepage way back in the summer of 2008, but some issues related to the Law Library’s 2007-2008 renovation put a hold on our adoption of the new interface at the time. Because it’s been in use on the Duke University Libraries page for so long, it’s likely that may of our users have already encountered it while searching for library materials. But if the new catalog leaves you in need of assistance, be sure to Ask a Librarian.