Thursday, October 15, 2020

50-State Voting Resources Guide

Most people associate voting with early November, specifically the first-Tuesday holiday known since 1845 as Election Day. However, the current pandemic as well as expectations of record voter turnout has brought renewed focus onto other methods of voting, including mail-in voting and early in-person voting. In North Carolina, for example, one-stop early in-person voting begins today, October 15th, and will last until October 31st.

Issues surrounding voting this year, especially related to COVID-19, have made finding accurate information about the voting process all the more urgent. In response, the Goodson Law Library's Faculty and Scholarly Services Librarian Wickliffe Shreve has worked with the Government Relations Committee of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) to create a Voting Resources page as part of AALL's Advocacy Toolkit.

The Voting Resources page has information and links to nonpartisan resources on information about state primaries, locating state and local election websites, locating polling places, voter ID requirements, election dates, registering to vote and confirming your registration, sample ballots, absentee and mail-in ballot requests (including those for military and overseas voters), early voting, potential voting hurdles, and information specific to COVID-19 and the 2020 election. Although targeted at the library community, the Advocacy Toolkit contains resources on legislative advocacy that is useful to the entire legal community.

The Voting Resources page's contents will be updated regularly, and will exist as a permanent resource beyond the 2020 election. For more information about resources listed on this guide, or other materials on election law, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

NCLC Digital Library Now Available

The Goodson Law Library has recently subscribed to the National Consumer Law Center's NCLC Digital Library. This campus-wide database includes full-text access to 22 e-book titles on consumer law topics, including: debtor rights, mortgages & foreclosures, credit & banking, deception & warranties, and consumer litigation. A how-to guide for consumers on Surviving Debt is also included in this subscription.

The Quick Start Guide contains tips and tricks for searching and browsing the digital library. Recent updates to online editions as well as significant law changes in the last six months are marked with blue or red flags, respectively. As the guide cautions, the database's search features differ from research services like Lexis and Westlaw, but it is possible to develop proximity searches and exclude unwanted words using the NCLC search syntax. A separate "Advanced Pleadings Search" link is available to limit results only to sample documents included with publications.

For more information about the history of the NCLC, check out the Our Story section of their website. For assistance with using the new NCLC Digital Library database or with locating other consumer law resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, October 2, 2020

The Bar Exam v. Diploma Privilege

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a reckoning nationwide about the administration of bar examinations, usually offered two times a year in each jurisdiction. While about two dozen states did hold a late-July, socially-distanced bar exam in person, other states postponed to a planned September administration, which some jurisdictions postponed again in favor of a remotely-administered online exam to be held on October 5 and 6 (see chart at the National Conference of Bar Examiners). Concerns have grown over the possibility of technical issues with the upcoming online bar exam, with a number of test-takers reporting problems with practice exams and difficulty in obtaining remote support. Michigan's online bar exam, held in late July, experienced widespread technical issues which the State Board of Law Examiners later blamed on a hacking attempt.

Whether or not next week's online examination faces similar technical issues, it seems certain that conversations about alternative paths to law practice will continue for the duration of the pandemic. Last week, the District of Columbia became the fifth jurisdiction to provide for emergency licensure of recent law graduates during the pandemic. Oregon, Washington, Utah, and Louisiana have also provided that recent law school graduates may bypass a bar examination and begin supervised law practice under certain conditions. Some readers might be surprised by the idea of a lawyer skipping the bar exam, but "diploma privilege" is hardly a new concept. (Ask law students in Wisconsin, the only state that still regularly permits graduates of its two ABA-accredited law schools to practice law in the state without taking a bar exam, if they meet certain requirements.) As a bit of library research shows, emergency bar exam waivers have revived a practice that was once incredibly common in American law practice. 

The "Bar Examinations" section of Kermit Hall's Oxford Companion to American Law (available online to the Duke community) outlines the history and development of the bar examination in the United States. Up until the 1870s, a bar examinee would be questioned orally by a judge or lawyer, following the end of an apprenticeship period. In the 1870s, a movement grew to develop more consistent standards for examinations; around the same time, "diploma privilege" became more commonplace, as states and law schools sought to entice would-be lawyers to attend their programs. Lawrence Friedman's A History of American Law (4th ed. 2019 available online) notes the growth in diploma privilege practices: "Between 1855 and 1870, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, New York, Tennessee, Michigan, and Wisconsin gave the privilege to graduates of home-state law schools. In 1870, Oregon, which had no law school of its own, went so far as to give the privilege to graduates of any school that had the diploma privilege in its home state" (p. 604). By 1890, as the Oxford Companion noted, 16 states provided diploma privilege for graduates from 26 law schools. The decline of the diploma privilege coincided with the establishment of the National Conference of Bar Examiners in 1931 - by the end of the decade, standardized written bar examinations had overtaken the diploma privilege. By 1974, when a history of diploma privilege was published in the Tulsa Law Journal, only four states still honored the privilege; once West Virginia abolished the option in 1988, Wisconsin stood alone in regularly offering its state's graduates diploma privilege.

As the pandemic continues into the indefinite future, thousands of recent law school graduates have struggled to prepare for ever-changing bar exam dates and formats. Commentators have raised questions about the safe and accessible administration of bar exams under emergency conditions, and even the necessity of the bar examination at all. Critics have highlighted the bar examination's history as a gatekeeping mechanism that was designed in part to restrict access to the bar for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, and questioned the relevance of the test's content to the skills needed for successful law practice. Whatever happens with next week's online bar examination (and best of luck to our Duke Law alumni and other examinees), these debates are likely to continue for the duration of the pandemic, and beyond.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

First Monday in October

The Friday night announcement of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death prompted national mourning. Over the weekend, hundreds gathered on the steps of the United States Supreme Court, and at courthouses around the country, to celebrate the life of this trailblazing jurist. This week, the Justice will lie in repose at first the Court steps, and then at the U.S. Capitol.

To learn more about Justice Ginsburg's remarkable life and career, the Duke University community can access the 2018 documentary film RBG online. Additional biographical resources can be found in the Duke Libraries catalog with a subject search for "Ginsburg, Ruth Bader". The "Available Online" filter will limit your results to e-books and video links; the Duke community may also request circulating print materials via Takeout service.

Justice Ginsburg's death has prompted not only an important national conversation about filling a vacant Court seat during a presidential election, but legal analysis about the potential impact of her absence on the Court's upcoming term, which is scheduled to begin on Monday, October 5. Although the date has fluctuated in the Court's history, the "first Monday in October" has marked the opening arguments for a new term since 1917. (For historical background on the Court's opening session dates, check out section 1.2(f) of the treatise Supreme Court Practice: For Practice in the Supreme Court of the United States, 11th ed. 2019, online to the Law School community in Bloomberg Law).

In a press release, the Court announced that all October oral arguments will take place via teleconference, a practice that began in May due to the coronavirus pandemic. The remote teleconference will include a live audio broadcast for media and the public, once again allowing real-time access to Court proceedings. The Court has not yet decided how November and December oral arguments will be conducted.

SCOTUSblog provides summaries and filing links for cases on the October Term 2020 docket, sorted by argument date. The Court's own website also includes links to argument calendars and docket filings at Calendars and Lists. Up first this Term is Carney v. Adams, a First Amendment case involving Delaware's state constitutional provision limiting the number of state high court judges affiliated with particular political parties. For additional case analysis throughout the Term, the American Bar Association's Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases (via HeinOnline) publishes seven issues that analyze upcoming cases and an eighth summary issue following the end of the Term.

SCOTUSblog will undoubtedly provide ongoing analysis of not only the Court's OT20 term, but the developing nomination and confirmation process ahead. For additional resources on the operations of the U.S. Supreme Court or biographies of justices, check out the library research guide or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Constitution Day 2020

This Thursday marks the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Constitution Day and Citizenship Day are recognized together, as described in 36 U.S.C. § 106(b) to "commemorate the formation and signing on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution and recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens."

While the restricted library building access and quarantine protocols mean we can't provide our usual pocket Constitutions to visitors for the time being, the Government Publishing Office's Constitution of the United States with Index and the Declaration of Independence, Pocket Edition is available as House Doc. 112-129 (be sure to select "Booklet" if printing!). The text of the Constitution is also available in the Organic Laws of every print or electronic version of the U.S. Code, in the Library of Congress's Constitution Annotated site, and as a high-quality scan at the National Archives.

To learn more about the history behind the drafting and signing of the U.S. Constitution, try a search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject heading "United States. Constitution -- Signers -- Biography." Although print materials are available for contactless Takeout requests, you can also use the "Available Online" filter to limit to electronically available texts. E-books containing biographical sketches of the Framers include John R. Vile's The Men Who Made the Constitution: Lives of the Delegates to the Constitutional Convention and the 1986 NARA publication Framers of the Constitution. An electronic version of Janice McKenney's Women of the Constitution: The Wives of the Signers is also available. This title expands upon a classic 1912 text "The Wives of the Signers," which can be found in Volume 3 of Pioneer Mothers of America (in HeinOnline).

For help with locating other U.S. constitutional law resources or with navigating print or online collections, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The State of State Bar Association Benefits

Members of the state bars or bar associations in all fifty states enjoy free access to at least one online legal research service as a benefit of membership. Generally, these membership benefits provide access to either Fastcase or Casemaker; a few states offer access to both. These services each include state and federal case law, statutes, and regulations; each also offer some unique content courtesy of partnerships (law reviews through Fastcase's partnership with HeinOnline; foreign and international content on Casemaker via vLex).

Both services have been in the bar benefit market for many years, and occasionally jurisdictions will switch platforms. Today marks the first day of Fastcase's partnership with the Alabama State Bar, announced back in May. Members had previously received access to Casemaker.

The Goodson Law Library has tracked these changes to the landscape on our page Legal Research Via State Bar Associations. Current partnership lists for each research service are also posted at Fastcase and Casemaker, respectively. The services listed on these sites may also include county and local bar association benefits, which are not tracked on the Law Library's table.

Curious to check out the bar research benefit in your planned jurisdiction of law practice? The Duke University community has access to an educational version of Fastcase with a NetID and password (and can already test the new Fastcase interface, which will become the default later in September). You may also wish to investigate student membership options for bar associations in the locations where you plan to practice; they may provide student members with free or deeply discounted registration and access to member benefits, including legal research tools.

For help with navigating Fastcase or with other legal research tools that are available to the University and Law School communities, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Study Aids for Semester Success

Yesterday, attorney Andrew S. Fleischman observed on Twitter: "Law schools teach you how to write briefs by having you read opinions. Which is a bit like learning to cook by reading restaurant reviews." Many law students would likely agree with this sentiment for just about any legal subject, as they work to piece together disparate holdings from their casebooks in order to form a bigger picture of the law.

Enter study aids, which can provide an overview and introduction that presents the law more clearly than a casebook. These titles range from basic introductions or casebook-keyed outlines to more in-depth discussions of a particular subject. The Goodson Law Library provides electronic access to several law-related study aid collections, accessible to current members of the Duke University community.

  • West Academic Study Aids Library includes more than 500 study aid titles. Available series include Nutshells, Hornbooks (and Concise Hornbooks), Sum & Substance, and Black Letter Outlines. Users may search or read online, or create an account that allows for offline reading and annotation.
  • Wolters Kluwer Study Aids includes full-text access to nearly 200 study aids. Available series include Examples & Explanations, Glannon Guides, Emanuel Law Outlines, and more. Users may search or read online, or create an individual account that allows for offline reading and annotation.
  • Elgar Advanced Introductions to Law currently includes 17 titles, although more will be added during the coming year. These accessible, concise overviews tend to focus on comparative and international law topics.

With the Reserve Collection unavailable for the indefinite future due to coronavirus quarantine protocols, electronic study aids should help fill any gaps in your class outlines. For help with locating a study aid for a particular topic, or with using these databases, be sure to Ask a Librarian.