Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lights Out for

On December 31, 2016, Law School access to the original interface will be phased out. Beginning on January 1, all Law School research will be through Lexis Advance, the interface which debuted in 2011. (Recently, was only accessible via a pull-down menu within Lexis Advance, but soon that option will be removed.) 100% of content has migrated into Advance, making the long-term upkeep of parallel research systems unnecessary. (Law firm and other commercial users of will have an additional 12 months to get up to speed on Lexis Advance while retaining access to

Lexis has created a " Migration Center" (login required) with handouts and training videos to help users learn more about the Advance interface and content. In particular, the PDF handout "The Research Tasks You Do Most: Here's How at Lexis Advance" is a handy primer to the most popular research needs. Additionally, the LexisNexis Legal YouTube channel for Lexis Advance Training on the Go contains more than 60 videos on various research topics.

Law school researchers are no strangers to changing legal research platforms: in July 2014, Westlaw's "Classic" site was phased out in favor of its WestlawNext interface (now known as Thomson Reuters Westlaw). Like the planned Lexis transition, Westlaw retired the Classic interface from law school users a full year before the sunset date for commercial subscribers: August 31, 2015.

For help with getting up to speed on Lexis Advance, Westlaw, or any other legal research resource, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Charity Checkups

The end of the calendar year often sees an increase in solicitations from non-profit organizations. Whether you feel compelled to give back or are just calculating charitable deductions for next year's tax return, it's helpful to research tax-exempt organizations to learn more about where your dollars are being spent, and to avoid sending money to fraudulent organizations.

The Internal Revenue Service's Exempt Organization Select Check provides quick information about particular non-profit organizations, and the general deductibility level of contributions. For more detailed financial data regarding tax-exempt organizations, the best source is the annual Form 990 filed with the IRS. Form 990 archives are available through a number of sources:
  • Duke University community members have access to GuideStar, a leading source of reliable nonprofit information and backfiles of Form 990.
  • Charity Navigator is another option to review ratings of charitable organizations, including percentages of revenue spent on actual programs and services versus overhead.
  • ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer also includes basic financials and free 990 downloads.
The growth of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo has also affected charitable giving. It's common to see GoFundMe, YouCaring, or other fundraising sites set up to raise medical expenses, funeral expenses, or other needs. However, the Better Business Bureau has warned of fraudulent fundraising sites being created in the aftermath of tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing and the Orlando nightclub shooting. For its part, GoFundMe offers both donors and beneficiaries protection in the event of fraud, and YouCaring provides tips for avoiding fraudulent fundraising campaigns. But as with traditional charities, donors should research carefully to ensure that their money reaches the intended source.

For more information about charitable organizations and tax law, check out the resources listed in the research guide to Federal Tax or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Remembering Gary Slapper

Last night, the Times of London's Twitter account noted the passing of its longtime "Weird Cases" columnist, Gary Slapper:
Slapper's name should be familiar to many legal researchers, as the author of several leading textbooks on the law of England: The English Legal System and How the Law Works. As the legal news website Legal Cheek noted today, he was also a prolific humorist, in his Times column and on social media. In addition to several editions of Slapper's seminal textbooks, the Goodson Law Library collection also contains Slapper's collection of Weird Cases: Comic and Bizarre Cases from Courtrooms Around the World. To see which of his works are available in the Goodson Law Library collection, try a search of the Duke University Libraries catalog for the author's name.

An obituary for Gary Slapper is available at the Times Gazette. Memorials are also being posted on Twitter, with many readers highlighting Slapper's 2012 column, "Is Studying Law Boring?", as a personal inspiration for their law studies. There, Slapper enthused about the unique adaptability of a law degree, and highlighted law's importance to every aspect of daily life:
Although law is sometimes portrayed as a dull discipline pursued by ethically dubious practitioners, it is a spellbindingly vivid and varied subject which affects every part of human life. Physics, history, Spanish, business, architecture, and other subjects are all vital disciplines but law permeates into every cell of social life. Law governs everything from the embryo to exhumation. Law regulates the air we breathe, the food and drink that we consume, our travel, sexuality, family relationships, our property, sport, science, employment, education, and health, everything in fact from neighbour disputes to war…

Professor Slapper's words – and works on the English legal system – will have the same enduring impact as the legal precedent he highlighted in his writings.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Federal Rules: What's New For December 2016

On December 1, changes to the federal rules of general application become effective, if they are adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court and submitted to Congress before May 1. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court has adopted amendments to selected Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Appellate Procedure, and Bankruptcy.

One of the highest-profile changes this year involved Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which expanded the scope of warrants to search computers. As the December 1 effective date drew closer, civil liberties groups and members of Congress expressed concerns about extending government "hacking" powers, but last-minute efforts to delay Rule 41 from taking effect were unsuccessful.

The U.S. Courts website Current Rules of Practice & Procedure outlines all of the changes adopted in late April, and includes the amended rule text in various formats. Online sources for the federal rule text (such as subscription research services like Westlaw, or the free Legal Information Institute) have already incorporated these 2016 changes to their text. Printed sources in the library, such as annual handbooks or looseleaf services which reprint the federal rules, may have a slight lag time before updating. Researchers should be aware of the annual December changes to the various federal rules.

Additional commentary on the changes is available at the following sources:

For help locating the updated federal rules, or more information about federal rules in general, visit the Goodson Law Library research guide to Court Rules or Ask a Librarian.