Friday, June 27, 2014

Free Legal Research via State Bar Associations: An Update

Last October, Goodson Law Library Head of Reference Services Jennifer L. Behrens compiled an online map detailing which low-cost legal research services were provided for free to members of various state bar associations. This was an update of a 2010 map created by Greg Lambert of 3 Geeks and a Law Blog.

Since the October 2013 map was compiled, several state bars have either changed or announced upcoming changes to their free legal research services to members. The Goodson Law Library map has now been updated for June 2014 to reflect those changes, and can be found at or downloaded below.

Although the overall market share of leading services Fastcase and Casemaker remains steady, several states have made changes to their designated free research service. Most notably, the State Bar of Texas will offer both Fastcase and Casemaker to its members, after previously providing only Casemaker. Several states will also switch their longstanding services later this year, with Pennsylvania adopting Casemaker this summer in place of its InCite service, and South Carolina switching from Casemaker to Fastcase in November.

Chart view: Legal Research Services by State Bar Association, as of 06/27/2014 07/01/2014 (thanks to Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase, for the correction)

Service Offered
No statewide service
(some access via local bars)
No statewide service
District of Columbia
No statewide service Fastcase
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
InCite (switching to Casemaker in August 2014)
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Casemaker (switching to Fastcase in Nov. 2014)
South Dakota
West Virginia

Currently, Duke Law students can sign up for free access to Casemaker through the CasemakerX educational platform. Although there is currently no direct access at Duke Law to Fastcase, currently-enrolled law students can join the North Carolina Bar Association for free to enjoy this membership benefit. In addition, Duke students can see some Fastcase materials through its partnership with HeinOnline. HeinOnline's research libraries include links to state and federal case law which are powered by Fastcase. Fastcase's Authority Check citation analysis tool is also used within Hein in order to locate additional relevant case law and make note of potentially negative treatment. To see the Hein-Fastcase partnership in action, visit HeinOnline and click the Fastcase tab in order to quickly access cases by citation. 

For more information about low-cost legal research alternatives, check out the Goodson Law Library guide to Legal Research on the Web or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Price of a Wrongful Conviction

What is a year of your life worth? If you spent it behind bars for a crime you didn't commit, the answer may be lower than you think. As NPR reported yesterday, slightly more than half the states have procedures in place for restitution when a wrongfully-convicted person is exonerated. An interactive map, with links to the relevant code sections, is available courtesy of the Innocence Project.

North Carolina fixes the amount at $50,000 per year in prison – an amount equal to the federal government and several other states, though experts note that this amount was selected by the federal government ten years ago simply to match the top-paying state at the time. Texas tops the list at $80,000, while Wisconsin offers only $5,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment.

Although Wisconsin may look comparatively stingy, the states which offer higher amounts are not necessarily being generous. In many states, acceptance of the fixed payout waives a former inmate's right to sue – which could cost the state much more in potential legal fees and damage awards. And as outlined in a 2012 Albany Law Review article, many exonerees must wait for years to receive their statutory compensation.

To learn more about the legal issues surrounding wrongful convictions, try a subject search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for "Judicial error – United States". You’ll find titles like Duke Law alumni author James R. Acker's 2011 title Wrongful Conviction: Law, Science, and Policy. For help locating this or other resources about wrongful convictions, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

United Nations Law Collection Now Available in HeinOnline

The Goodson Law Library has added HeinOnline's United Nations Law Collection to its subscription of Hein content libraries. Researchers at Duke University now have additional options to access key UN legal publications, including the United Nations Treaty Series, the League of Nations Treaty Series, UNCITRAL and UNIDIR publications, UN Yearbooks and journals. A collection of current and historical treatises on international law, human rights, and the history of the UN is also included.

Although many of these items are available in the Goodson Law Library's book collection as well as on the United Nations' own website, the Hein library makes it easy to quickly retrieve a UN Treaty by UNTS or LNTS citation, locate a UN Treaty by topic, and link to the full text of law review articles that cite a specific UN Treaty. The enhanced searching and retrieval features will undoubtedly aid international law researchers at Duke Law and Duke University, who can access the Hein library from off-campus with a current NetID and password.

Access to UN resources through HeinOnline will soon be added to the Goodson Law Library's extensive research guide to the United Nations. In the meantime, explore the United Nations Law Collection directly, or Ask a Librarian for assistance with using it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tiananmen Square: 25 Years Later

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, during which the Chinese government declared martial law in order to brutally end several weeks of peaceful pro-democracy student protests in central Beijing. The exact death toll remains uncertain, but hundreds of citizens were fatally beaten, shot or crushed by tanks; thousands more were wounded in the daylong military reaction.

The world media has commemorated the somber anniversary with fascinating histories of the events. TIME magazine's cover story provides a detailed view of the events on the ground, while the New York Times reviewed internal Chinese military documents which showed discord among military leaders regarding the use of force on student protestors. London's Independent paper examined the uncertain fate of the iconic "Tank Man," who defiantly blocked the path of a line of tanks in the street (CNN video footage). The powerful sight of a lone dissident bravely standing before the Chinese army became the most recognizable image from the Tiananmen Square protests. Many Chinese citizens have likely never seen this incredible moment, however, due to censorship of the state-run media and school textbooks.

To learn more about the history of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, visit the National Security Archive's collection Tiananmen Square, 1989: The Declassified History, which reproduces embassy cables and other State Department communications from the crackdown. A subject search of the Duke Libraries catalog for "China -- History -- Tiananmen Square Incident, 1989" will reveal titles on campus such as the 2001 collection The Tiananmen Papers, which purported to reproduce key official documents related to the crackdown (although the New York Times notes scholarly controversy about the authenticity of its contents). The Duke database Tiananmen Square and U.S.-China relations, 1989-1993 also offers thousands of pages of White House and State Department files related to the massacre and its effect on foreign policy. For help using these library resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.