Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Redistricting on Display

The Riddick Rare Book Room display case currently holds an exhibit featuring items from the Robinson Everett Redistricting Cases Papers. This collection is kept in the Goodson Law Library Archives and is named after Judge Robinson O. Everett (1928-2009), who was a Duke Law faculty member for more than 50 years. The papers tell a unique North Carolina story with several close ties to Duke Law School.

 After the 1990 Census increased North Carolina's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives from 11 to 12, the state General Assembly created a new apportionment plan, with one district drawn to ensure an African-American majority. The U.S. Attorney General's Office objected, stating that the population makeup of the state (78% white, 20% black, and 1% each Native American and Asian) made a single majority-minority district insufficient. In a special legislative session, the General Assembly rewrote the apportionment plan to create an additional majority-minority district. The unusual shapes of the revised districts ("a First District map which looks like a Rorschach ink-blot test and … a serpentine Twelfth District that slinks down the Interstate Highway 85 corridor," observed Justice Voorhees of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina) led to a federal court challenge by a group of North Carolina voters. Robinson Everett represented the plaintiffs (which originally included himself and fellow Duke Law professor Melvin G. Shimm) in this series of four cases, all of which eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court:
  • Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993) held that the district’s bizarre new boundaries were "unexplainable on grounds other than race," and that the legislature had not provided sufficient justification to withstand a strict-scrutiny examination. The case was remanded to the U.S. District Court.
    (Note: Duke Law professor H. Jefferson Powell argued for the state in this case. Everett later wrote in prepared remarks to the International Association of Barristers that "[T]his apparently was the first time in the Court’s history that two law professors from the same school had argued against each other;" a copy of this speech can be found in the display case.)
  • Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1996) confirmed that North Carolina had failed to articulate a compelling government interest for the redrawn Twelfth District, and that the reapportionment plan violated the Equal Protection Clause. (At this point, the Court also held that only residents of the 12th District had standing to continue the suit, which included Professor Shimm but not Judge Everett, who continued to serve as counsel to the remaining eligible plaintiffs.)
  • Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541 (1999) challenged the 1997 redrawing of the Twelfth District.  The U.S. District Court had granted summary judgment in this new challenge, holding that the redrawn boundaries still constituted an Equal Protection Clause violation. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the legislature’s motivation was a genuine issue of material fact which made the case ineligible for summary disposition.
  • Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U.S. 234 (2001) reviewed the U.S. District Court’s finding after remand (from Hunt v. Cromartie, above) that the 1997 legislature's motive was predominantly racial rather than political. The Supreme Court disagreed, reversing the District Court’s ruling as "clearly erroneous" and stating, "[T]he party attacking the legislatively drawn boundaries must show at the least that the legislature could have achieved its legitimate political objectives in alternative ways that are comparably consistent with traditional districting principles. That party must also show that those districting alternatives would have brought about significantly greater racial balance. Appellees failed to make any such showing here."
    (Note: Duke Law professor emeritus and former interim dean Walter E. Dellinger represented the North Carolina governor in both Cromartie cases.) 
The Everett Redistricting Cases Papers collection includes 52 linear feet of litigation filings, depositions, trial exhibits, correspondence, research, scholarship and more. They are the detailed paper trail of the cases' trajectory up and down the federal court system. For more information about the contents of the Redistricting Cases Papers, please contact Lee Cloninger.

To read more about the extraordinary life of Robinson Everett, see the Duke Law in memoriam page. Daniel P. Tokaji’s chapter Representation and Raceblindness: The Story of Shaw v. Reno in 2008's Race Law Stories provides excellent background on the Shaw-Cromartie cases. To learn more about the legal and political issues involved in congressional redistricting more generally, try a subject heading search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for “Apportionment (Election Law) – United States” or Ask a Librarian.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Scholarship Repository: Open Access 24/7

Today marks the end of the sixth annual Open Access Week, an international effort to promote free access to scholarly research. Previous years' events and initiatives are detailed in past Blogson entries.

This year, we'd like to highlight an ongoing effort at Duke Law School, which illustrates our commitment to open access: The Duke Law Scholarship Repository. Since 1998, Duke's student-edited journals have been freely accessible on the Duke Law website. The Faculty Scholarship Repository was launched in 2005 to provide broader access to the research of our faculty and affiliates. Today, the Repository houses both the long-running Faculty Scholarship collection as well as the complete back files of Duke Law's nine student-edited journals, which were added to the repository over the last year. Both our collection and audience continue to grow steadily; in mid-September, Duke became the first law school repository to reach 1.5 million downloads.

For a glimpse behind the scenes at the repository work, check out Scholarship Snippets, a daily micro-blog of statistics and other repository usage information which debuted earlier this fall. Each entry describes fun facts like the all-time top download for a particular Duke Law journal, which devices and browsers our readers are using, and how visitors find their way into our repository. The blog is maintained by Digital Initiatives Librarian Hollie White, who also coordinates the Repository. The new Snippets blog, the Faculty collection and the Journals collection are all accessible from the Goodson Law Library home page, under the "Scholarship Repository" heading.

The Repository will continue to post the latest works by Duke Law faculty and new journal issues, and several historical Law School collections are also being prepared for inclusion. Users can subscribe to the latest updates via RSS, for the entire repository or for customized searches (such as a particular author). For questions about the Repository, please contact Digital Initiatives Librarian Hollie White.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Case of Comic Strip v. Court Rules

Law students often curse the dreaded LARW word count, but the truth is that courts can impose very similar restrictions on practicing attorneys. Consider the recent example of California entertainment lawyer (and author of Kohn on Music Licensing) Bob Kohn, who in August sought to submit a 55-page amicus curiae brief in the Department of Justice's e-book price-fixing lawsuit. U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote allowed his brief – on the condition that he limited it to no more than five pages (see a copy of the order at PaidContent). To the delight of legal bloggers around the globe, last month Kohn filed his revised amicus brief in comic-strip form, condensing his argument into five pages of explanatory illustrations (see PDF at Thomson Reuters Insight).

Kohn's comic-strip brief was undeniably fun, but did it conform to court rules? Local rule 11.1(b) of the S.D.N.Y. does specify that "The typeface, margins, and spacing of all documents presented for filing must meet the following requirements: (1) all text must be 12-point type or larger, except for text in footnotes which may be 10-point type; (2) all documents must have at least one-inch margins on all sides; (3) all text must be double-spaced, except for headings, text in footnotes, or block quotations, which may be single-spaced." (It's worth noting that Kohn's brief did include three prefatory and concluding pages which adhered to all of these requirements.)

Courts do have the authority to reject filings which fail to conform to court rules (or sometimes even to common sense). In 2009, a New York state judge dismissed a personal injury motion which, in addition to being unsigned, suffered from “poor stapling of the papers […] so negligent as to inflict and did inflict repeatedly, physical injury to the court personnel handling them” (N.Y. Law Journal story, available with Duke NetID). Fortunately, this dismissal was without prejudice, meaning that the plaintiff could re-file after more careful proofreading and stapling…and fortunately for comic fans everywhere, the court accepted Kohn's illustrated amicus brief.

It's always a good idea to be familiar with the various court rules in your jurisdiction. In the federal court system, this is a combination of rules of general application (such as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Federal Rules of Evidence) as well as local rules for a particular jurisdiction. State courts will have their own unique rules. For help with navigating the rules of a particular court, check out the library’s recently-updated Court Rules research guide or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Legal Research for Non-Lawyers

The Goodson Law Library recently updated its guide to Legal Research for Non-Lawyers. The new additions include an extensive list of local and national services for legal referrals, maintained by the Duke Law School Pro Bono Project. New links to free legal research resources like Google Scholar (for case law) and the American Bar Association's Law Reviews & Journals Search (for articles) have also been added.

By far, though, the biggest change to the guide was the addition of e-book versions (where available) of popular Nolo Press self-help guides via the Legal Information Reference Center. These electronic versions may be used on-site by library visitors or off-campus by those with a current Duke University NetID. In many cases, the version available online is more recent than the library’s Reference Collection copies, which are updated less frequently. Some highlights:
  • Paul Bergman & Sara J. Berman-Barrett. Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare and Try a Winning Case, 6th ed. (Ref KF 8841.B47 2008 & 2010 ed. online)
  • David Brown, Beat Your Ticket: Go to Court & Win, 4th ed. (Ref KF2231 .Z9 B76 2005 & 2010 ed. online)
  • Denis Clifford, Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples, 14th ed. (Ref KF538.C87 2007 & 2012 ed. online). 
  • Janet Portman & Marcia Stewart, Every Tenant's Legal Guide, 6th ed. (Ref KF590.Z9P67 2009 & 2012 ed. online
  • Fred Steingold, The Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business, 2011 ed. available online.
As the guide cautions, though, legal research can be a difficult proposition even for seasoned attorneys. Information presented in these self-help resources is necessarily general and introductory, and will likely not provide a complete answer to a particular legal question. Last month, Consumer Reports compared the legal self-help websites Nolo, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, concluding that they are no substitute for the assistance of a lawyer in all but the simplest of legal issues. However, these resources can provide valuable grounding in the terminology and procedures involved in a legal problem, and allow clients to better communicate with their attorneys.

For assistance with locating self-help guides on a particular topic, consult our new and improved Legal Research for Non-Lawyers guide or Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Meet You in 4200B (and Other Library News)

With Fall Break (a.k.a. 1L writing week) on the horizon, the semester is more than halfway over. Break week generally marks a turning point when returning students begin to buckle down and prepare for final exams and papers. As the library fills with increasingly-anxious students, it can be hard to find a place to settle in for long hours of outline review or intensive research.

So with that in mind, the Goodson Law Library is pleased to announce a new option for study groups and other meetings: Room 4200B has now been added to our online reservation calendar. Like the eight study rooms on Level 2 of the library, it can be reserved by current Duke Law students up to 72 hours in advance; once reserved, its key can be checked out from the Circulation/Reserve desk. (Note that unlike the Level 2 study rooms, Room 4200B has no built-in technology, but it can comfortably accommodate 6 people around its large table.) Room 4200B can be found on Level 4, in the area directly above the library service desk, next to the Duke Law Journal alcove (and under the watchful gaze of the Nixon portrait).

But that’s not the only change in the Goodson Law Library. The renovation project which began over the summer will begin a new phase over Fall Break, with extensive work to the ducts and wiring in the west end of Level 1. Details of the project are posted online; the most important note is that the Microforms Room will be accessible only from the back elevator/staircase once this work begins. The center staircase and front elevator will provide no access to the west end of Level 1.

Please also note that beginning at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, the library will operate under Fall Break hours: Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Evening and weekend service will resume on Sunday, October 21. See our Hours & Directions page for details. The Duke Law community will retain its usual 24-hour DukeCard access during the break.

As always, if you have any questions about the use of library study rooms, the ongoing renovation project, or service hours, please don't hesitate to ask library staff for assistance.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Keeping Up with the Court

Monday, October 2 marked an important annual legal event: as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2, the "First Monday in October" begins a new term of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court has already begun to hear oral arguments in the cases it will decide during this term, which adjourns in June 2013.

Court-watchers regard First Monday with great anticipation, and much was written earlier this week about the current docket and expected additions. See coverage at CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among others. But once the mainstream media's excitement about First Monday dissipates, how can you keep up with the goings-on at One First Street? The Goodson Blogson has some ideas.
  • The Court's own website includes argument calendars and transcripts, links to briefs and other docket materials, and opinions and orders as they are released. 
  • For news and commentary, many legal researchers subscribe to U.S. Law Week, which is available electronically to the Duke Law community. The long-running current awareness service includes commentary on the latest federal cases which are likely candidates for appeal to the Supreme Court, as well as a separate section "Supreme Court Today" with links to opinions, case previews, and oral arguments.
  • Bloomberg BNA, which publishes U.S. Law Week, also sponsors SCOTUSblog, a free source for authoritative previews and reports on Supreme Court activities. 
  • The OYEZ Project at Chicago-Kent College of Law posts audio recordings of the latest arguments, along with occasional videos of scholarly commentary. Need your SCOTUS updates on the go? Download the free OYEZ Today App for your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.
For more sources to keep up with the latest SCOTUS activities, check out our U.S. Supreme Court research guide or Ask a Librarian.