Friday, February 16, 2018

Researching Canadian Law

Do you have questions about the law of our neighbors to the north? The library's guide to Canadian Legal Research might help you find the answers. The Goodson Law Library offers a variety of print and online sources for locating information about Canadian law, including the specialized database LexisNexis Quicklaw (available to the Law School community) to the multinational research database vLex Global (available campus-wide). The guide also links to excellent free online resources like CanLII and The Canadian Legal Research and Writing Guide.

The book series "Essentials of Canadian Law" is one effective starting place. Titles are available in print within the Goodson Law Library, but the full text of thirteen current titles in the series (including constitutional law, criminal law, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) can also be found online in vLex by following the path Browse > North America > Canada > Books and Journals.

The research guide also includes guidance for searching primary law, journal articles, and specialized citation manuals for Canadian materials. For more assistance with locating Canadian legal research materials, consult the research guide or Ask a Librarian.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Jackpot...or Not: The Law of Lotteries

The Goodson Blogson is sorry to hear that you didn't win this weekend's $180+ million Powerball lottery drawing. (We know you didn't, because no one else did, either.) Let's face facts: you will probably never win more than a few bucks playing the lottery. For a comparison of more likely odds than hitting a multimillion-dollar jackpot, play with Discovery Education's WebMath Lottery Odds Calculator. Interestingly, their calculations for winning a Powerball-like game's jackpot are even more optimistic than Powerball's official prize odds. But both calculations make a big win far less likely than being struck by lightning (1 in 2,000,000 odds in a lifetime).

Every once in a while, though, someone lucks into a large jackpot, and then must navigate the lottery laws of their jurisdiction. Consider the New Hampshire woman who beat long odds to win a $560 million Powerball jackpot in January. As reported last week by the ABA Journal, the woman (known only as "Jane Doe" – for now) signed her name on the back of the winning ticket before realizing that she could have claimed the prize anonymously by first setting up a legal trust instead. She's now suing the New Hampshire Lottery Commission for the right to remain anonymous, citing fears of harassment and violence if she accepts the prize in her own name. The complaint (PDF) cites previous examples of lottery winners who faced such threats, including two jackpot winners who were later murdered. A local paper reports that a court hearing has been scheduled for February 21.

How do New Hampshire's laws for claiming a lottery prize compare to those in your state? A quick way to begin researching such a question is a 50-state survey of statutes on a topic. The Subject Compilations of State Laws, available in print in the library's Reference Collection and online in HeinOnline, points to a helpful comparison chart on "State Lotteries" in the National Survey of State Laws (7th ed. 2015) – also available in print in the library's Reference Collection and online in HeinOnline. This source provides comparison charts of state statutes for several dozen legal topics. The "State Lotteries" chart answers some key questions about lottery operations, and includes citations to specific sections and chapters of state code publications for further research. While the chart doesn't directly answer whether a winner in each state can claim prizes anonymously, the pointers to primary law citations will help a researcher answer that question more efficiently.

It's worth noting that, just as with all other research resources, a user should verify the charts in National Survey of State Laws by looking at the primary resources, to ensure that their findings are up to date. As one notable example, the "State Lotteries" chart still describes North Carolina as a "Prohibited" lottery state, but its cited code sections now point to Chapter 18C of the General Statutes as an exception to that historical prohibition. (The North Carolina State Lottery and associated Commission were established back in 2005 – and we added Powerball to the mix in 2006.) N.C. Gen. Stat. § 18C-132 describes the process in North Carolina for claiming prizes. As the Charlotte Observer pointed out last week, the North Carolina statute provides for an exception to the public records disclosure law only when lottery winners have an existing protective order in place at the time of their win.

For more help with research lottery laws, check out the 50-state survey publications above or Ask a Librarian.