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 However, past editions of The American Bench (back to 1977) can be found in the library’s Superseded Reference collection on Level 1.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.