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.