Monday, August 14, 2017

Pleading the Twenty-Fifth

This past February marked 50 years since the ratification of Amendment XXV to the U.S. Constitution. Written to clarify the procedures for presidential and vice-presidential succession in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, the amendment also allows for a U.S. President to be sidelined by either his own declaration of incapacity, or by a declaration of "the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide."

Since Donald Trump's inauguration, the 25th Amendment has been discussed on social media and in op-eds, in response to concerns about erratic presidential behavior. In May, the Atlantic summarized the growing discussion. More recently, UW law professor Hugh Spitzer explored the possibilities last week in the Seattle Times.

In April, freshman U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin introduced H.R. 1987, a bill which would establish an "Oversight Committee on Presidential Capacity," an example of one "such other body" as may be established under section 4 of Amendment XXV. While even Raskin has recently acknowledged to Newsweek that the bill has virtually zero chance of passage, he contends that the committee closes a long-overlooked loophole in the amendment, which Congress never addressed: "[T]he Trump administration underscores the importance of acting, but we need this body for all times."

To learn more about the history and uses of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, check out The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (CONAN) (Ref Doc. Y 1.1/3: 112-9 & online at Congress.gov and GovInfo.gov). Always an excellent place to research the U.S. Constitution, CONAN is a lengthy one-volume treatise published by the government and maintained by the Congressional Research Service. Organized by article, clause, and amendment number, each section describes the background and application of that constitutional language, and also provides summaries of related U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

The CONAN entry for Amendment XXV is brief, but describes the background need for the amendment and its invocation during the Watergate era. It also provides citations to legislative history materials, which can be found in the library's usual sources for Federal Legislative History or in Fordham Law School's Twenty-Fifth Amendment Archive.

You can find additional research materials on the 25th Amendment with a subject heading search in the Duke University Libraries catalog for "United States. Constitution. 25th Amendment". This subject search will retrieve about a dozen books and e-books on the subject, including the latest edition of Fordham Law professor John D. Freerick's The Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Its Complete History and Applications (3d. ed. 2014, available in off-site storage & online). Like CONAN, chapter 8 of this book also includes detailed analysis of each section of the amendment.

For help researching the Twenty-Fifth or any other constitutional amendment, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Research Guides: Don't Reinvent the Wheel

We hope you already know about the Goodson Law Library's research guides. Written and maintained by our reference librarians, these pages provide detailed guidance for researching more than three dozen legal subjects – and are great starting places (if we do say so ourselves!). Some of our recently-updated topics include Federal Legislative History, Court Records & Briefs, and Legal Research for Non-Lawyers.

As proud as we are of our law library research guides, though, we know there will be times when you need to research a subject which they don’t cover. So here are some quick tips for finding a roadmap to your research topic.
  • You could, of course, always use your favorite search engine to locate a research guide for your topic, with a search like international tax law research guide. But you could also use CALI.org's custom Law School Search Engine, which will automatically limit your results to those on the sites of ABA-accredited law schools. This custom search engine is linked on the sidebar of our Research Guides page.
  • Many book-length legal research guides are also available in the Goodson Law Library collection. These research guidebooks may cover a single jurisdiction, or a specific legal subject area. To find them, try a search of the Duke University Libraries' online catalog for your topic and the phrase research guide or legal research (or, if those don’t work, just the word research). For example, cemeteries legal research would retrieve the 2015 book title Disposition of Human Remains: A Legal Research Guide by Wake Forest University law professor Tanya Marsh. This title is just one of a lengthy legal research guidebook series by the publisher W.S. Hein, which are also available electronically within the HeinOnline database.
  • Perhaps you need to get started with researching a non-legal topic. In that case, be on the lookout for an authoritative research guide from a university or public library, such as the Duke University Libraries' new Guides by Subject page, or the New York Public Library's extensive Research Guides list.

For other recommended research guides or starting points for your research topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A History of GPO

Since 1861, federal publications have been issued by the U.S. GPO. Originally known as the Government Printing Office, GPO was renamed the Government Publishing Office in 2014 to reflect the increase in digital publication. The new book Keeping America Informed, The U.S. Government Publishing Office: A Legacy of Service to the Nation, 1861-2016 tells the story of GPO's evolution from massive printing-press operation to modern digital and print publisher, illustrated with beautiful photographs from GPO's history. A copy of Keeping America Informed is available in the Goodson Law Library's Documents collection on level 1. (A free digital edition is also available from – where else? – GPO.)

From Keeping America Informed: "The Monotype keyboard section in 1915. 'The biggest battery of composing machines in the world,' according to the Monotype Co."

In addition to printing and digitizing millions of pages of government information every year, GPO is also responsible for distributing federal government publications to the American public. GovInfo.gov provides free access to materials from all three branches of government. GPO also oversees the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), which distributes government publications to selected libraries which have agreed to provide free public access to them. The Goodson Law Library has been a selective depository since 1978, and receives around 9% of available items from FDLP. The Perkins/Bostock library on campus was designated as a depository in 1890, and receives closer to 80% of available documents.

Keeping America Informed and the long history of government publications by GPO helped inspire the current Riddick Room display, "Graphic Government," by Reference Librarian Cas Laskowski. The Graphic Government display highlights various visual representations of government work – from photo histories to political cartoons. Pages will be turned periodically to display new images, so be sure to check back for later changes.

Part of the current "Graphic Government" display on level 3 of the library.


To learn more about federal government publications, consult the Goodson Law Library research guide to Government Documents, visit the GPO website, or Ask a Librarian.