Tuesday, February 17, 2015

NC Court Reports Digital Collection

The North Carolina State Library has completed its digitization project of official North Carolina Supreme Court reports. Although additional search features will be released later, the collection is now available at http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/search/collection/p16062coll14/order/title/ad/desc. The scanned volumes date back to volume 1 (decisions from 1778-1804) and conclude with the recent volume 365 (2011-2012). The State Library also continues to digitize the North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports, with the first 100 volumes already available.

Although both the North Carolina Reports and North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports are available in the Goodson Law Library's collection as well as online sources like LLMC Digital, this additional free access is a welcome public service to legal researchers. In addition to centuries of case law, the reporters also include valuable biographical information about court justices, such as reprinted remarks from portrait dedication ceremonies.

For more information about sources for North Carolina case law, visit the library's research guide to North Carolina Practice or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The 19th Century Struggle for Civil Rights

[The following guest post was written by Goodson Law Library Reference Intern Aaron Kirschenfeld, who is completing a dual J.D. and Master's of Information Science at UNC-Chapel Hill in May.]

The monumental changes in American law, let alone in society, brought about by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s are well known to many in the legal community and to our country as a whole. Cases like Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964) and Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. U.S., 379 U.S. 241 (1964), and major federal legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 241, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 437, have left a lasting impression on the nation.

But what about the significant legacy of legal reform in the years following the Civil War? A new display in the Goodson Law Library's Riddick Rare Book & Special Collections Room, located on Level 3, commemorates Black History Month with a gathering of materials related to 19th century efforts to secure civil rights for the recently emancipated former slaves. (For an official federal recognition of Black History Month, along with a brief bit of history, see 100 Stat. 6.)

 During Reconstruction (1865 – 1877), Republicans in the U.S. Congress made several sweeping attempts to legislate equality: The Civil Rights Act of 1866, 14 Stat. 27, several Reconstruction and enforcement or "force" acts, and finally, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, 18 Stat. 335. (All of these statutes can be found in the U.S. Statutes at Large database on HeinOnline.) This last act contained language that would be echoed nearly a century later in the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964, including entitlement to:
equal enjoyment of … public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement….
Debates printed in the Congressional Globe (the predecessor to the Congressional Record) and testimony from special Reconstruction hearings are on view.

The 1875 Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883), with a lone dissent by Justice John Marshall Harlan. Harlan was also the only dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). Both opinions are included in the excellent collection, I Dissent, edited by Mark Tushnet (KF8742 .I35 2008).

The 14th Amendment was passed by Congress in 1866 and ratified by the states in 1868. Also in 1868, North Carolina approved a new Constitution; a contemporary printing is on display (KFN7801 1868 .A4 1868 c.1). By that time, the Republican Party had gained control in the state, lifting "scalawag" William Woods Holden of Hillsborough into the Governor's office (though he was first appointed Military Governor by President Johnson in 1865). He was impeached with the backing of the nascent Ku Klux Klan in 1870. A record of the impeachment trial, complete with a handbill from the 1868 election, is also on display. When Republicans regained control later in the decade, the state elected its first black U.S. Congressman, John Adams Hyman.

Before the civil war, Black Codes often governed the rights of both slaves and free blacks. Louisiana, with its historical background in civil law, passed a Black Code in 1807, soon after statehood. After Reconstruction and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, states again began enacting codes restricting the rights of blacks. These Jim Crow laws included mandates of racial segregation in public areas. In 1890, for instance, Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act, the public accommodation statute challenged, unsuccessfully, in Plessy.

Justice Harlan, in his Plessy dissent, wrote:
Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.
In all likelihood, Harlan lifted this notion of a color-blind Constitution from Albion W. Tourgée, Plessy's lawyer. After fighting in the Civil War, Tourgée, a native of Ohio, moved to Guilford County, North Carolina, where he served as a judge during Reconstruction. He fictionalized his experience as a “carpetbagger” in the novel A Fool's Errand (1879) and became a well-known speaker and writer. His novel Bricks Without Straw (1880) was written from the perspective of emancipated slaves as they experienced newfound political freedoms.

Come by the Riddick Room on Level 3 of the law library to see these and other materials on the struggle for civil rights and its roots in 19th century law.

-- Aaron Kirschenfeld, Reference Intern

Monday, February 2, 2015

Budget for the U.S. Government FY2016

This morning, the U.S. Government Publishing Office released the President's Budget of the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2016. The Goodson Law Library's print copy has not yet arrived, but users can read and search the online version at GPO's FDsys website or through the Office of Management and Budget. An app version for mobile devices reproduces the main budget text, and directs readers to FDsys for access to the supplemental Analytical Perspectives, Appendix, and Historical Tables volumes.

The President's budget request to Congress is step one of the federal appropriations process for the upcoming fiscal year, which for the government begins on October 1. (Although this first step can sometimes be delayed, today's release meets the traditional due date of the first Monday in February.)  Following the President's budget request, Congress then works to pass a budget resolution, which has a target due date of April 15 (but is also frequently delayed). More details about the federal appropriations process can be found on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website and the 2014 Congressional Research Service report The Federal Appropriations Process: An Overview.

Historical budgets can be found through FDsys back to 1996 and through the Federal Reserve or HeinOnline's U.S. Federal Agency Documents, Decisions, and Appeals library back to 1923. The Goodson Law Library also maintains a historical print collection of the federal budget at Documents PrEx 2.8. For assistance with locating current or past federal budgets, be sure to Ask a Librarian.