Monday, July 27, 2015

25 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Sunday, July 26 marked the silver anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark federal law which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA also created clear accessibility standards and requirements for employers, governments, places of public accommodation, and transportation services. President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990, in a ceremony on the White House lawn which included a number of disability rights advocates.

Signing ceremony for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
ADA signing ceremony, July 26, 1990.
(AP Photo/Barry Thumma)

The U.S. Congress outlined the purpose of the ADA in a lengthy and moving "Findings" section, codified today at 42 U.S.C. § 12101(a). Lawmakers noted that "physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person's right to fully participate in all aspects of society, yet many people with physical or mental disabilities have been precluded from doing so because of discrimination." The ADA drafters expressed concern over the lack of legal remedies available for persons with disabilities who face such discrimination, compared to the already-protected classes of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, and age. "[T]he Nation's proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals," declared Congress, and "the continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous."

The ADA National Network has created an ADA Anniversary website which contains numerous FAQs, multimedia resources, and links to more information about the ADA, its history, and its impact on the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice enforces compliance with ADA standards. DOJ's Civil Rights Division contains a Disability Rights Section and also maintains the information clearinghouse provides the text of the law and its 2010 amendments, as well as design standards implemented by DOJ rulemaking and technical assistance materials, such as frequently-asked questions or guidance on topics like service animals and voting difficulties.

To learn more about the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act, search the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject heading "United States. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990." You'll find titles like Understanding the ADA (KF480 .G67 2013), the Americans with Disabilities Act Handbook (KF3469 .P47 2003), and the complete legislative history of the 1990 ADA via HeinOnline. To learn more about disability discrimination in general, a subject heading search for "People with disabilities -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States" will return titles like Disabilities and the Law (KF480 .R672 2015:Spring & online in WestlawNext) and What We Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement (KF480 .P45 2012). For assistance with locating these or other library resources about the Americans with Disabilities Act, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, July 17, 2015

LoislawConnect: Legal Research Campus-Wide

The Goodson Law Library has just added the legal research service LoislawConnect to its database subscriptions. The service includes federal and state case law, statutes, and regulations, as well as a large practitioner treatise library of Wolters Kluwer publications and Continuing Legal Education materials from five states, including New York. Finding documents on Loislaw requires the use of Boolean searching; an extensive help menu of Expert Search Tips is available.

LoislawConnect home screen

Loislaw is one of several legal research options available to Duke users who are not affiliated with the Law School. LexisNexis Academic is a campus-wide version of the Law School's LexisNexis research service. Select Search by Content Type: Legal to view available resources, including state and federal case law, statutes and regulations, and law review articles. The University community can also search thousands of law review articles through the LegalTrac database. HeinOnline also includes a massive backfile of legal journals, as well as treatises and primary sources of law.

The Goodson Law Library's Legal Databases and Links list provides descriptions of available research databases, as well as information about access. Titles coded with the letter "D" are available campus-wide. For help using Loislaw or other campus-wide legal research databases, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

America's First Patent: 225 Years of History & Mystery

The Framers of the U.S. Constitution vested Congress with the power "[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." The earliest American patent statute was enacted in April 1790, and provided successful applicants with exclusive rights in their inventions for a period of fourteen years. Only three inventors were granted patents under this version of the Act (which would be revised in 1793). The first was "Samuel Hopkins of the city of Philadelphia," who was granted patent number X0000001 on July 31, 1790. Hopkins received the first U.S. patent, signed by President George Washington himself, for his method of manufacturing pot ash and pearl ash, forms of potassium carbonate which were commonly used in the production of soap or fertilizer.
U.S. Patent No. X000001, granted to
Samuel Hopkins on July 31, 1790.
The enterprising Hopkins is also credited with securing the first-ever Canadian patent, granted the following year for the same pot ash manufacturing process by an April 1791 ordinance from the provincial government of Quebec. (For more on the history of Canadian patent law, see Gordon Asher, Development of the Patent System in Canada Since 1767, 43 C.P.R. 56, 59-60 (1965), available on level 1 of the library.) But little was known about this mysterious inventor from Philadelphia, especially after a fire swept through the U.S. Patent Office in December 1836 and destroyed the nation's earliest patent applications. Although the Patent Office attempted to re-create its early records, its 1847 index of patent-holders erroneously listed Hopkins's residence as Vermont. With the Patent Office copy lost, and Hopkins's personal copy unaccounted for, this bit of misinformation kindled a decades-long debate about the life of inventor Samuel Hopkins.

In the early 20th century, genealogical researchers connected the first patent to a Samuel Hopkins from Pittsford, Vermont. Bolstered by the Patent Office's published error, Vermont local historians reconstructed the life of this Hopkins, who later moved to a town in New York also named Pittsford. Some details didn't quite add up, especially after the discovery of the Philadelphia Hopkins's personal patent copy in the archives of the Chicago Historical Society – but the "Pittsford legend" took hold in both cities, which erected historical markers commemorating the life (Vermont) and death (New York) of this Samuel Hopkins. The Pittsford Hopkins began to receive credit in accounts of U.S. patent history as well – even in official Patent & Trademark Office publications.

In 1998, Philadelphia attorney and historian David W. Maxey published several articles debunking the conventional wisdom about Hopkins's identity, after extensive archival research. Samuel Hopkins, The Holder of the First U.S. Patent: A Study of Failure, 72 Penn. Mag. of Hist. & Biography (Jan./Apr. 1998), and Inventing History: The Holder of the First U.S. Patent, 80 J. Pat. & Trademark Off. Soc’y 155 (1998) finally set the record straight.

"An Address to the Manufacturers
of Pot and Pearl Ash," a 1791
pamphlet by inventor Samuel Hopkins.
Available with Duke NetID in Evans
Early American Imprints database.
Maxey determined that the true first U.S. patent holder was a Maryland native who relocated to Philadelphia around 1760. A shopkeeper-turned-entrepreneur, this Samuel Hopkins appeared in Philadelphia city directories as a "pot-ash manufacturer," published a pamphlet on his invention which he sent to Thomas Jefferson, and traveled to Canada to secure his 1791 patent from the government of Quebec. The head of a devout Quaker household, this Hopkins's movements could be traced through detailed meeting-house records, which recorded all member applications to relocate. It seemed that the true Philadelphia patent-holder had finally been discovered.

In 2000, the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission erected an historical marker to Philadelphia's Samuel Hopkins, which still stands near the east end of Arch St. But dismantling the commemorative signs for the other Samuel Hopkins took longer, with all three cities claiming the holder of the first U.S. patent for nearly a decade. Pittsford, New York removed its historical marker in 2007 after declaring its information erroneous (although the town continues to sell and distribute a 1993 informational pamphlet which still includes the Hopkins plaque). Pittsford, Vermont finally removed its sign in late 2013, following a dogged investigation by Corporate Counsel contributor Lisa Shuchman, which revived the Samuel Hopkins identity crisis.

Some Hopkins scholars have also revised their works in light of Maxey's discoveries, but the persistent misinformation continues to dot the World Wide Web. From Hopkins's Wikipedia page to recent Vermont travel guides, it seems that old legends, much like old habits, can be stubbornly difficult to break – and the story serves as an excellent reminder to researchers not to automatically believe the first thing you read.

For more information about the history of patent law, check out the Goodson Law Library's research guide to Intellectual Property or search the Duke Libraries catalog for the subject "Patent laws and legislation – United States – History." For help locating these resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Independence on Display

[This is a guest post by Reference Librarian and Senior Lecturing Fellow Marguerite Most.]
Resolved: that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be totally dissolved.
With these words Richard Henry Lee of Virginia stood before the Second Continental Congress on June 7, 1776 at the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall today) and advocated independence from the British Crown. Lee's Resolution began the series of events that lead to the writing of the Declaration of Independence and its adoption on July 4, 1776.

Five days after Lee's Resolution was introduced, the Congress appointed a committee to "prepare a declaration to the effect of the said first resolution." The Committee of Five – Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and William Livingston – edited Jefferson's initial draft and presented it to the Congress on July 2. The Congress voted for independence from Britain. Two days later, on the Fourth of July, church bells rang out over Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence, setting out the rallying cry, and justification for the American Revolution and for ending the rule of George III over the North American colonies, had been adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies.

Independence Day display in
Riddick Room, Level 3.
The following day copies prepared overnight by John Dunlap, the official government printer, were sent to state conventions and commanders of Continental troops. New York added its support on July 9, and ten days later the Congress announced the Declaration of Independence "The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America," and ordered that it be engrossed and "signed by every member of Congress." John Hancock, President of the Congress, signed first.

The Declaration has been called "something of a press announcement...when newspapers were still an inadequate means of reaching people." The text was publicized with public readings on court days and in Massachusetts, after Sunday services. These readings were accompanied by parades of militiamen, gun salutes, and the ripping down of royal flags – all intended to rally support of the colonists.

Beyond speaking to the colonists, the signers of the Declaration were looking for foreign aid. To continue the 15 month war effort against Britain the colonies needed financial help from foreign powers. Inclusion in the Declaration that "these United colonies are & of right ought to be free & independent states" with "separate and equal station" among the "powers of the earth," announced to the world, and specifically to France, that the colonies had become a treaty-making entity. International standing freed the colonies to form alliances with foreign nations, and independent status meant foreign nations could form alliances with the colonies without meddling in Britain's internal affairs. Within the month, a committee of the Continental Congress began drafting a treaty with France, as well as a confederation binding the thirteen new sovereign entities.

Although the celebrated preamble of the Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal and have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, John Adams himself noted that the Declaration contained nothing novel. And political historians generally agree that the principle source of its political philosophy reflects the writing of the English philosopher John Locke. In his Two Treatises of Government, Locke refuted the doctrine of the divine rights of kings and wrote of a contractual government with God-given natural rights that precede the existence of the state. Among the rights belonging to man by the laws of nature and of God were life, liberty, property and equality.

Although Locke is considered the most famous source of American political ideas, historians mention the common law, including Magna Carta, and the treatises of Edward Coke and William Blackstone as providing legal ammunition to the colonists. Of the 55 delegates to the Continental Congress, 45 were lawyers or had legal training – they were familiar with the works of Blackstone and Coke. These English barristers wrote of the law of nature as defined by the will of God, and, like John Locke, they recognized certain natural rights guaranteed all men. Fundamental Law and the American Revolution 1760-1776 by Charles F. Mullett provides a detailed discussion of continental and common law sources of political thought known to members of the Congress.

Closer to home, Jefferson drew on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason and adopted on June 12, 1776, when he composed the initial draft of the Declaration of Independence. Both documents recognize the "natural rights" of man. As well as providing a model for the Declaration, George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights became the basis of the United States Bill of Rights and was widely copied in other colonies. Notably, Locke's natural rights included property, while the Declaration of Independence does not.

As often remarked, time can alter history in the public mind. For members of the Continental Congress and for Americans in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Declaration of Independence was not the founding document of American liberty we celebrate today, but rather, in Jefferson's words, was meant to offer "an expression of the American mind, and to give that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion." This was a revolutionary document dissolving ties with Britain, justifying the break, and clearing the way for new governments to serve the "safety and happiness" of the people.

Later generations across the political spectrum have invoked the Declaration to support their causes. Abolitionists and suffragettes, as well as populist movements, have drawn on the Declaration. Abraham Lincoln invoked the Declaration of Independence when he opened the Gettysburg Address with these words: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." And in the 1963 March on Washington, Martin Luther King recalled the Declaration of Independence with these words: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." In his 2013 inaugural address, President Barack Obama remembered the Declaration of Independence with these words: "What makes us exceptional, what makes us America, is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

In his 2013 book For Liberty and Equality: the Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence, law professor Alexander Tsesis examines how the Declaration has shaped the United States over time, and the roles it has played in the drafting of the Bill of Rights, the Reconstruction Amendments, the New Deal, the Civil Rights movement, and in presidential debates and elections in the twenty-first century.

Noting our country sprang forth from a revolution in political and social structure, law professor J. M. Balkin in his article The Declaration and the Promise of a Democratic Culture argued that "we should interpret the Constitution in order to fulfill the promises that we Americans made in our Declaration, promises that are to be redeemed in history, and that we should understand many of our most important social movements as a continuation of the original social revolution against unjust hierarchy that began with the American revolutionaries."

If you are around the Library this summer, we hope you will take a few minutes to look at the Fourth of July display in the Riddick Room window. The display includes a facsimile copy of the Declaration of Independence and a selection of books from the Library’s collection. The quotes about the Declaration were identified through these books and searches of primary texts and online databases. Happy Fourth of July!

--Marguerite Most, Reference Librarian and Senior Lecturing Fellow

Additional Reading