Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bringing Tort Law to Life

The average torts casebook contains a fascinating – and sobering – history of negligent acts and liability for injuries, from bringing fireworks onto a crowded train to being hit by a stray baseball and countless other misfortunes in between. But now there's a place where seminal moments in the history of U.S. tort law will really come to life. This weekend, the American Museum of Tort Law had its dedication ceremony in Winsted, Connecticut, and officially opens its doors on Sunday. The new museum is the brainchild of consumer advocate (and Winsted native) Ralph Nader, whose 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed revolutionized the consumer protection movement and resulted in the passage of federal automobile safety standards.

The New York Times reviewed the museum's development and opening exhibits. These include such well-known examples as the McDonald's "hot coffee" spill, tobacco and asbestos litigation, and the defective automobiles which spurred the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed. The museum's website discusses several of these exhibits in detail online, under the section Cases that Made a Difference. A brief Q&A about tort law basics is also available.

The Goodson Law Library has a number of resources available to help readers learn more about this topic. General tort law overviews and study aids are listed in the library's guide to First-Year Treatises. A number of other works in our collection discuss the history and stories behind seminal torts cases, including Torts Stories and the excellent 2011 documentary Hot Coffee: Is Justice Being Served?, which debunked a number of popular myths about the McDonald's litigation as well as misconceptions about "frivolous lawsuits" in the American legal system. To locate materials in our collection on tort law, search the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject heading "Torts – United States" or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Forms Fitting

Legal forms can be a time-saving template for any attorney, providing suggested language for the drafting of a contract or legal pleading. In some areas of practice, the use of certain forms may be required. The Goodson Law Library has just updated its research guide to Legal Forms, which provides information about locating forms in print and electronic formats. The Goodson Law Library maintains a collection of many major form book sets in print, including American Jurisprudence Legal Forms (a companion to the AmJur encyclopedia), West's Legal Forms, and Douglas' Forms (specific to North Carolina practice). Most of the general form sets can be found in the Practice & Procedure collection on Level 3; Douglas' Forms is located in the North Carolina Alcove on Level 2.

Krusty's Legal Forms, which is sadly not a real publication.
Credit: The Simpsons: The Last Temptation of Krust
(FOX television broadcast Feb. 22, 1998).

As the guide notes, members of the Duke Law community have additional access to form books as well as other form collections through the legal research services Bloomberg Law, Lexis Advance, and WestlawNext. Both WestlawNext and Lexis Advance include "Forms" as a browseable source category; in all three of these services, forms may also be found in the appendices of subject-specific treatises, or included with the text of legislative code or court rule publications. For example, the North Carolina General Statutes include a number of sample or required forms, such as N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-440.24, providing a template for notice of levy in a garnishment proceeding. The research guide does not attempt to include every topical publication in the library collection which contains forms, but does include instructions for locating potentially relevant subject treatises in the campus libraries' online catalog.

In addition to the library collection and Westlaw/Lexis/Bloomberg, LoislawConnect, available to the Duke University community, includes helpful sub-libraries of "Treatise Forms & Checklists," which cull available forms from the Wolters Kluwer treatise publications available within Loislaw. To view a list of forms in Loislaw on a particular subject, click the Forms & Checklist library sub-folder, then select "Display All Forms." (Forms in Loislaw can also be accessed by viewing the full text of a specific treatise publication, but this method is a handy way to display a list of all available forms within Loislaw on a topic.)

Legal researchers should be aware of potential differences between the print sets available in a library and how they are displayed online. For example, the library's print set of Douglas' Forms includes a 2009 supplement called Transactions in Turbulent Times, containing forms related to transactional law practice topics relevant to the economic difficulties of the late 2000s. When a researcher accesses Douglas' Forms on Lexis Advance, this supplemental volume does not appear in the table of contents browse. However, Transactions in Turbulent Times can be browsed and searched as a separate source in Lexis Advance by entering the title into the main search box or in the Browse Sources search box.

If you encounter issues with accessing legal forms in our research services, or need help identifying legal form publications, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, September 4, 2015

New Research Guide to Securities Law

When even the author of a leading scholarly treatise calls its subject matter "tricky" and "a puzzle," researchers know they are in for a challenge. That's the reality of securities law, a complex area governing such negotiable instruments as stocks and bonds, as well as their secondary markets. Securities law research can include primary and secondary sources of law, at both the federal and the state levels. It is governed by a massive collection of statutes, regulations, and administrative law materials from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In addition, self-regulating organizations (SROs), such as FASB and FINRA, set standards and issue pronouncements which may also need to be reviewed when researching a securities law topic.

These sources are available free on the web in some cases, but may be more conveniently navigated in a subscription research database like Westlaw, Lexis, or Bloomberg Law, which each have customized securities law practice pages. Need help finding your way through this maze? The Goodson Law Library has just added an extensive new research guide to Securities Law, authored by Reference Librarian and Senior Lecturing Fellow Laura Scott. This guide recommends a number of helpful secondary sources to learn essential background or current developments (such as scholarly treatises, casebooks, newsletters, and blogs). Primary law is covered in detail, including:
  • A list of the major federal securities statutes and how to convert their popularly-used session law section numbers into a current U.S. Code citation. Legislative history research is also covered. 
  • Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, filings, releases, staff interpretations, and other agency guidance. 
  • Case law, including judicial court opinions as well as Administrative Law Judge and SEC decisions. 
  • Special resources for researching state securities laws, also known as "Blue Sky" laws. 
Check out this detailed new guide at our Research Guides page, linked under "Research Help" on the library website. It's listed along with nearly 40 other topical guides on legal research, all created and maintained by Duke Law Reference Services staff. There is also a link to's Search All Law Schools custom search engine if you are researching a topic which isn't listed.

Law school library research guides are an excellent starting place for any research topic. If you need additional help researching securities law or locating a guide on a different topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.