Thursday, February 25, 2016

Historical Martindale-Hubbell Directories Online

HeinOnline recently added a collection of historical Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory volumes, along with scans of its predecessor titles, Martindale's American Law Directory and Hubbell's Legal Directory. Taken together, the collection includes American lawyer directories spanning nearly a century, 1868-1963, and will certainly be a valuable resource for legal historians, genealogists, and other researchers.

The directories offer location-based listings of law firms and attorneys (with alphanumeric codes providing educational background, reputational rankings such as "estimate of legal ability," estimated worth, and "promptness in paying legal bills"). Other features (which vary by the publication and time period) include lists of law schools and universities, specialized listings for selected non-U.S. attorneys, judicial directories, and even summaries or digests of state or foreign laws.

Take, for example, the earliest listing in Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory for Duke Law School's most famous alumnus, Richard Nixon, who returned to his home state of California following his 1937 law school graduation. Nixon first appears in the geographic listings for Whittier, California (population 14,822) in the 1939 edition of the directory:

Richard Nixon's first appearance in Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (1939).
Each listed lawyer for the city has codes after his name, which provide some biographical clues about his education and law practice. Some lawyers and law firms also have a separate, more detailed biographical listing (reminiscent of a late-20th-century Yellow Pages ad), for which the geographic listing provides a cross-reference where applicable. The other number and letter codes can be deciphered with the "Confidential Key" and "Symbols" lists that came with each volume of the directories. Unfortunately, the Hein collection appears to have omitted a scan of this page for 1942, which appeared on the inside front cover of most directories, before the title page which marks the start of the online volumes. (At least some confidential keys and symbol pages do appear in Hein for other years, usually in a "Supplement" section of the volume.)

The images below were taken from the library's print archive of Martindale-Hubbell volumes, dated 1942:
"Symbols" legend from 1942 edition of Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.

"Confidential Key" page from 1942 edition of Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.

To fully decipher the Richard Nixon entry (or any other lawyers or firms listed), researchers would need to consult the geographic listing, the lists of colleges/universities and law schools, and the confidential key and symbols. In Nixon's case, the listing provides only information that's easily accessible elsewhere by now: born in 1913, graduated law school in 1937, attended Whittier College ("C.940" on the university/college/law school list) for an A.B. degree and Duke University ("L.228") for his LL.B. For other attorneys listed in Martindale, though, the codes can reveal more about their reputation and finances – Nixon simply hadn't been practicing law long enough to merit those codes yet.

Although more difficult to use without easy access to the confidential keys and symbols, the online Martindale-Hubbell law collection will undoubtedly be beneficial for historical research on particular lawyers. Searching in the format "Lastname, Firstname" (with quotation marks) is likely the most efficient way to quickly scan the available results (although results will vary with middle names or initials). For other potential sources of information about attorneys (both current and historical), check out the library's research guide to Directories of Lawyers or Ask a Librarian.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Law and Literature: The Cox Collection

Today, acclaimed novelist Harper Lee passed away at the age of 89. Lee was best known for her 1960 debut novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, a classic tale of criminal justice and race relations in a small Southern town. (A long-lost early draft of Mockingbird was released in 2015 under the title Go Set a Watchman, amid controversy about Lee's mental state and intentions not to publish the draft.) While Harper Lee's literary output may not have been prolific, To Kill a Mockingbird had a huge cultural impact which endures to this day. It remains one of the most widely-taught novels in American classrooms, and was also adapted into an Academy Award-winning 1962 film starring Gregory Peck as attorney Atticus Finch, who defends a black man accused of rape in Depression-era Alabama.

Want to read, or re-read, Harper Lee's works? Although you may need to place a hold request for these popular books, both Mockingbird and Watchman are available in the Duke University Libraries collection, with Mockingbird part of the Goodson Law Library's Cox Legal Fiction Collection on level 3 near the windows. The Cox Collection was established in 1987 by Duke Law professor James D. Cox, with a donation of funds received as the recipient of the Duke Bar Association Distinguished Teaching Award for the library to purchase novels and other fiction involving lawyers or legal themes. Over the years, with continued generous support from Prof. Cox, the collection has grown to include DVDs of film and television programs with lawyers or legal themes (such as the 1962 film adaptation of Mockingbird on DVD), as well as scholarly non-fiction works discussing law and literature.

While you wait for your Harper Lee holds to arrive, you can also browse the newest Cox Collection titles in the Duke Libraries Catalog by using the filters for Law Library > Cox Collection. For assistance with locating legal fiction titles, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Death of a Justice

Yesterday, the world learned of the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who had been the longest-serving member of the current Court since the 2010 retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens. Excellent obituaries summarizing Scalia's life and legal philosophy are available at the New York Times (free) and in United States Law Week (NetID required).

Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016)
Photo from
  In a televised address to the nation last night, President Barack Obama noted that "today is a time to remember Justice Scalia's legacy" rather than speculate about future appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Justice Scalia's death – in the middle of the Court's current term, with a number of cases left to be argued and/or decided – has naturally sparked questions from the public about the continued operations of the Court. (The last time a sitting Justice passed away was former Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2005.) As noted in Slate and other news outlets, a 4-4 tie on the Supreme Court results in a per curiam opinion which upholds the lower court's ruling "by an equally divided Court." (For more on the subject, see a 2002 article from the William & Mary Law Review, "Ties in the Supreme Court of the United States.") Sources like Slate, SCOTUSblog, and others have already begun analyzing the likely outcomes of this term's highest-profile cases.

It's unknown at this point when a successor to Justice Scalia will be nominated, or if a new justice would be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before the next President takes office in January 2017. Article II, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that the President "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint….Judges of the supreme Court." In his address to the nation, President Obama expressed intent to nominate the next U.S. Supreme Court justice "in due time," and called upon the Senate to act swiftly on a nomination in order to ensure the continued operations of the Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee provides an overview of the process as well as recent nomination hearing transcripts; nomination hearing transcripts back to 1971 are available at the Government Publishing Office's FDsys site.

For more information about any aspect of the U.S. Supreme Court, check out the resources listed in our research guide. To locate Justice Scalia's many writings in the Goodson Law Library collection, try an author search of the Duke Libraries Catalog. To find works about this influential – and sometimes controversial – justice, switch your search from author to Subject Heading. For help with questions about the U.S. Supreme Court, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Monday, February 1, 2016

National Survey of State Laws Available Online

It's been said – many times – that the correct answer to most legal questions is "It depends." While it may be clich├ęd, the statement does emphasize how each legal situation is completely unique, and governed by a complex mix of the facts, the jurisdiction, and the controlling legal authority. 50-state surveys are an excellent tool for comparing the differences between jurisdictions on a particular legal matter.

The latest edition of the National Survey of State Laws (7th ed. 2015) recently landed in the Goodson Law Library's Reference Collection. Like the previous editions, this reference work provides charts comparing state legislation on various topics, both civil and criminal. New this year, though, is an accompanying electronic edition of the National Survey series in HeinOnline. Get up to speed on state-by-state differences on such topics as legal ages (for parental emancipation, ability to sue, ability to make contracts, etc.), the minimum wage, and criminal statutes of limitations, among others. All prior editions of the National Survey, back to 1993, are also available to browse or search.

The National Survey of State Laws is just one example of a source for 50-state surveys. Duke Law also maintains a campus-wide subscription to HeinOnline's Subject Compilations of State Laws database. Based on a book series (available in the library's Reference Collection), this resource is searchable by keyword or browseable by topic, and indexes multi-state surveys from premium databases such as LexisNexis and Westlaw, footnotes and appendices to law review articles, and non-governmental organization websites. Compare, for example, the single chart on capital punishment from the 2015 National Survey with the variety of surveys retrieved with a subject search of capital punishment in the Subject Compilations.

HeinOnline will link to the full-text of any law reviews or other Subject Compilations results which are available elsewhere in the Hein database library. Note that since the latest Subject Compilations volume is 2014, the 2015 National Survey of State Laws does not yet appear in Subject Compilations search results, although presumably these results will be cross-linked in future Subject Compilations. For now, though, it is worth checking both HeinOnline libraries for 50-state surveys, in addition to a general web search for additional non-governmental organization surveys. For help with locating 50-state surveys or legislation on a particular topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.