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.