Monday, April 25, 2011

For the Record

During the contentious debates in Congress over a plan to slash federal funding for Planned Parenthood, Senator John Kyl of Arizona erroneously stated on April 8 that “well over 90%” of the organization’s activity was related to abortion. After constituents and the media complained that the real figure was actually closer to 3% (CNN video), Kyl’s office claimed that the exaggerated number stated on the floor of Congress was “not intended to be a factual statement.” This odd retraction inspired much merriment by late-night comedian Stephen Colbert, who launched a humorous Twitter campaign of non-factual statements about Senator Kyl.

This week’s Time magazine reports that Kyl’s now-infamous 90% figure has been edited from the Congressional Record, the daily transcript of debates and remarks from the floor of Congress. Indeed, the April 8 issue of the Congressional Record now records Kyl as saying: “If you want an abortion you go to Planned Parenthood and that is what Planned Parenthood does.” (PDF page S2289).

But wait. Isn’t the Congressional Record supposed to be the, well, "record" of everything that happens on the floor of Congress? Yes and no. The Library of Congress explains the process on its “About” page: “Members are allowed to edit the transcript of their floor remarks before publication in the daily record or the permanent record.” This situation certainly makes one wonder what choice legislative words may have been lost to history before the age of the 24-hour news cycle.

For more information about the Congressional Record and other congressional publications, check out our research guide to Federal Legislative History.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Library Access & Services During Reading/Exam Period

The end of the semester brings some important changes to the Goodson Law Library’s access and service hours. Please note this information for reading/examination period and beyond:

Library Services

Effective Monday 4/18, the Reference Services desk will be open from Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Circulation/Reserve desk and the Academic Technologies Help Desk will continue evening and weekend service hours until the end of the examination period. Effective Friday, May 6, all three library service desks will operate under summer hours (Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), and will resume evening and weekend service at the start of the Fall 2011 semester.

Library access

To ensure that adequate quiet study space is available for law students, use of the Goodson Law Library for study purposes during the Law School’s reading/exam period (Tuesday 4/19 to Friday 5/6) is limited to current Duke Law students, faculty and staff. University students, faculty and staff who require access to the Law Library for research purposes are welcome to use the library when reference staff are on duty, and should contact the Circulation/Reserve desk for assistance when library doors are locked (weekdays after 5:00 p.m. and on weekends).

Additional study space is available to all in the Star Commons (levels 3 and 4), the Blue Lounge (level 2) and classrooms as available.

Good luck to our readers on final examinations-- be sure to check out our previous post, The ABCs of Final Exams, for some helpful tips on successful studying!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The ABCs of Final Exams

With only a week left until the end of spring classes, final exams are lurking right around the corner (see tentative schedule). No need to panic, though – there’s still plenty of time to prepare with our ABCs.
  1. Assemble those outlines. Can’t decipher your own shorthand in your class notes from January? Have you read one tricky section of the casebook four times and still don’t understand the court’s holding? Fill in those gaps with some popular law study aids, on Reserve behind the library service desk. Some favorites include: Examples & Explanations (also available in large previews at Google Books); the Hornbook and Nutshell series from West; the Understanding series from LexisNexis, and the pocket-sized Mastering texts.

  2. Bring past exams to light. Your professor may opt to post sample exams on the course’s Blackboard site. Please note that the library no longer maintains a collection of old exams in print or online formats; our collection in the Law Archives dates from 1935-2001, and was replaced by the online approach in place today. While the Harvard Law Library’s recent digitization of its past exams may prove interesting to legal historians, we’re doubtful that our own historical exam collection will be very useful to panicking students. If your professor has declined to provide examples of old exams on Blackboard, instead try tactic #3…

  3. Consult law exam study guides. You may not have an old exam from your specific professor, but you can still check out some general guides to preparing for law school exams, which give study tips and strategies for writing the most successful answers. Titles like Law School Exams: Preparing and Writing to Win and Mastering the Law School Exam : A Practical Blueprint for Preparing and Taking Law School Exams can be found in the libraries’ catalog with a subject search for “Law examinations—United States”.

  4. Double-check your Electronic Bluebook settings. You’ve probably downloaded EBB in preparation for previous semesters’ exams. The Spring 2011 version is the same as Fall 2010’s, so there’s no need to reinstall. But even if you used this version EBB successfully in the past, it couldn’t hurt to re-read the setup instructions and take a test run before your first exam this spring to ensure there are no errors or other unexpected surprises. Contact the Academic Technologies Help Desk for questions about downloading or using EBB, and make sure you know what to do if you have a problem during an exam.
As always, Ask a Librarian for help accessing these recommended titles, or for any other exam-related questions.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Absolute Corruption, Absolutely Incredible

The April 4 issue of The New Yorker features the unbelievable but true story of a murder in Guatemala City. To summarize without spoiling the many twists in this intriguing tale, author David Grann describes how attorney and law school dean Rodrigo Rosenberg’s relationship with a client’s daughter set off a chain reaction of tragic events which ultimately almost dismantled the country’s government.

As investigators unraveled the mystery, a shadow of suspicion fell on the Casa Presidencial (Guatemala’s equivalent of the White House). Prior to his death, Rosenberg filmed an eighteen-minute video in which he accused the country’s President, First Lady, and other government officials of a massive conspiracy and a series of murders – including, he predicted, his own (see part 1 on YouTube with English subtitles). The video sparked outrage across the country when it was aired by the national media, and an independent investigation was launched by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG).

While there are many law-related facets to this story which merit consideration, perhaps the most striking is the backdrop of corruption and violence. With a murder rate nearly quadrupling Mexico’s, and an appalling three percent of murders actually solved by police, assassinations are commonplace on Guatemala streets. (For background on the country’s violent history, the article references Francisco Goldman’s 2007 book The Art of Political Murder, which is available at the Perkins/Bostock library.) In addition to rampant violence, the country’s political scene is marred by abuses of power and questionable ethics. (Example: “To circumvent the Constitution, which bars the relatives of a President from succeeding him, the [President and First Lady] recently filed for divorce, in the hope that she can run in an election, in September.”)

Sadly, Guatemala is not alone in this state of violence and corruption. Transparency International publishes the Global Corruption Report, an annual survey on the state of corruption around the world. The group also publishes individual country studies on an irregular basis; the latest for Guatemala is dated 2007. There are a number of books in the Duke University Libraries on the subject of global governmental corruption as well; to locate them, search for the subject keywords “political corruption” in the online catalog.

To learn more about researching political corruption (in a particular country or worldwide), be sure to Ask a Librarian. The New Yorker issue is available in our Leisure Reading collection on level 3 of the library, and online through a variety of Duke databases, as well as currently for free at the New Yorker website.