Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Field Guide to Hater Judges

Over the holiday weekend, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spent 12 minutes of an hour-long speech in San Diego criticizing a sitting federal judge. Gonzalo Curiel (biography) of the Southern District of California is presiding over a fraud lawsuit against the candidate's now-defunct Trump University, filed in 2010 and scheduled for trial in late November. The Wall Street Journal published excerpts of Trump's speech, which is also available at C-SPAN in video and full transcript:
"I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He's a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel […] He is not doing the right thing. [...] The judge was appointed by Barack Obama, federal judge. Frankly, he should recuse himself because he's given us ruling after ruling after ruling, negative, negative, negative. […] I'm telling you, this court system, judges in this court system, federal court, they ought to look into Judge Curiel. Because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace, OK?"
Trump also remarked upon Curiel's ethnicity: "the judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that's fine." In his appearance on a Sunday news program, he unpacked that comment further, connecting Curiel's alleged distaste for Trump to the candidate's campaign pledges about border security and immigration: "I think it has to do with perhaps the fact that I'm very, very strong on the border […] Now he is Hispanic, I believe. He is a very hostile judge to me."

Hours later, Judge Curiel issued an order to unseal selected exhibits in the Trump University suit, including Trump University "playbooks" which the defendants claimed contain trade secrets. The order noted that Donald Trump "has placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue," referencing several published interviews. (A staff member at the court told the Wall Street Journal that the judge could not respond directly to the speech's allegations, citing the Judicial Code of Conduct.)

Should Trump's legal team wish to file a bias complaint against Curiel, they might have a tough road ahead. Judicial discipline at the federal level is outlined in the U.S. Code and complaints are handled at the level of the appropriate U.S. Court of Appeals. (For more details, see the 2011 Congressional Research Service report Judicial Discipline Process: An Overview.) The Ninth Circuit, which includes California federal courts, offers an information page for judicial misconduct, but notes that "Congress has created a procedure that permits any person to file a complaint in the courts about the behavior of federal judges—but not about the decisions federal judges make in deciding cases. […] Almost all complaints in recent years have been dismissed because they do not follow the law about such complaints."

Trump's allegations of bias seem out of step with Curiel's evaluations in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary (AFJ) (Duke NetID required for link), a long-running directory of sitting federal judges which includes comments from lawyers who have appeared before that judge. The anonymous comments in AFJ can occasionally be blistering, but Curiel garnered praise across the board for his fairness ("he listens to both sides and tries to judge fairly"), his courteous courtroom demeanor ("I have nothing negative to say about him"), and his lack of apparent leanings ("He's not naturally inclined towards plaintiffs but he doesn't have leanings"). Members of the Duke University community may access the AFJ in Intelliconnect; current Law School community members can also access AFJ within Westlaw.

To locate other sources of information about judges, check out the Goodson Law Library Directories of Courts & Judges research guide. To track the Low v. Trump University lawsuit developments, try the research guide to Court Records & Briefs. For other legal research questions, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Oh Yay: Oyez Stays!

Earlier this spring, it seemed like last call for Oyez (pronounced oh-yay), the repository of U.S. Supreme Court oral argument transcripts and audio recordings, currently hosted by the Chicago-Kent School of Law. As creator Jerry Goldman neared retirement after a long career as a law professor, he announced that the site would be shuttered at the end of this month unless a buyer was willing to commit to both the six-figure annual operating costs and a buyout for Goldman's two decades of helming the site.

Fortunately for Supreme Court researchers, Oyez has just announced its new home, at Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute. As reported late yesterday in the National Law Journal and on Bob Ambrogi's Law Sites, the shift to Oyez's new host is expected to be in place by the beginning of the Court's next October term. Free Law partner website Justia will provide additional support.

Since its debut in 1996, Oyez has grown to a massive archive of U.S. Supreme Court case information and audio recordings. Audio is available back to 1955, and selected case summaries back to 1793. Audio recordings breathe new life into landmark Supreme Court cases, such as the emotional appeal during oral argument for 1967's Loving v. Virginia, after which the Court unanimously struck down anti-miscegenation laws: "No matter how we articulate this, no matter which theory of the due process clause or which emphasis we attach to, no one can articulate it better than Richard Loving when he said to me, 'Mr. Cohen, tell the Court I love my wife and it is just unfair that I can't live with her in Virginia.'"

Additional research resources for accessing U.S. Supreme Court oral argument transcripts, opinions, and case summaries are listed in the Goodson Law Library research guide. These include SCOTUSblog, with case materials back to 2007, and the American Bar Association Supreme Court Preview, which archives merits and amicus briefs back to 2003. For help locating other U.S. Supreme Court materials, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Finding Federal Law Materials

Statutes and regulations and case law, oh my! There are so many places to find federal legal sources that it can feel overwhelming at the start of a research project. If you've been relying on Law School-only tools like Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law, you might not know where to begin when you no longer have access to your favorite research service. Fortunately, the Goodson Law Library can help with our Federal Law Links list, which provides alternative (and often free) web access to the current and historical U.S. Code, federal legislative history documents, federal court opinions, and agency/executive resources.

For items published after the mid-1990s, the U.S. Government Publishing Office's govinfo, currently in beta, is a great place to start. This site will eventually replace FDsys as the federal government’s official online repository; note that both sites currently offer the same content, but govinfo does not yet include browsing capability for certain collections. Govinfo's A-Z collection browse and Frequently Asked Questions should clarify any coverage concerns.

The Federal Law Links list also covers some other sources for federal material, particularly through the Library of Congress's partnership with the subscription database HeinOnline. The LOC/Hein partnership provides free public access to historical PDF backfiles of the U.S. Code, Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Register, and U.S. Reports – all pre-dating what is available in govinfo/FDsys. (Researchers with a current affiliation to Duke University may also access these titles directly in HeinOnline, by authenticating with a NetID through a link on a Duke Libraries site.)

Remember that the Goodson Law Library Legal Databases & Links page as well as its Research Guides are great places to begin forming your research strategy. For further assistance with locating federal legal materials, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Expanded Legislative History Access

The Goodson Law Library has added a few new legislative history search options to its collection of electronic resources.

ProQuest Congressional now contains the library of Digital U.S. Bills and Resolutions, 1789-2013. This module includes the full text of all federal bills and resolutions since the 1st Congress, including PDF images of handwritten early bills (see example below).

An Act Making an Alteration in the Flag of the United States (1789). Senate bill from 1st Congress; accessed in ProQuest Congressional.

Use the "Bills & Laws" search option, or choose "Legislative & Executive Publications > Search by number" to retrieve known citations. Results include a "Bill profile" which compiles information about the bill's progress within Congress and subsequent or variant versions. This resource will be particularly valuable for researchers working with bills related to unenacted laws, since many full-text legislative history resources focus only on enacted statutes.

Also within ProQuest Congressional, access to the full-text committee reports in the U.S. Serial Set has expanded up to 1989. Congressional committee reports are considered the most persuasive evidence of legislative intent. Duke University researchers also have electronic access to committee reports within the U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection (1817-1994) and ProQuest Legislative Insight (1897-present, reports related to enacted laws only), with additional coverage within Law School legal research databases like Westlaw. However, additional access to committee reports through the ProQuest interface will be convenient for researchers.

Finally, the ProQuest Legislative Insight database coverage has been extended up to 2016. This database provides compiled legislative histories for nearly 30,000 enacted federal laws, dating from 1897-present.

For more guidance on researching federal legislative history, visit our newly-updated research guide or Ask a Librarian.