Thursday, February 22, 2024

Fighting Fraud

Last week, the talk of the Internet was an essay called "The Day I Put $50,000 in a Shoe Box and Handed It to a Stranger." The Cut's financial-advice columnist Charlotte Cowles details the elaborate telephone scam that led her to withdraw five figures of savings and surrender the cash to someone she believed to be an undercover CIA agent. Social media chatter debated whether Cowles's predicament was the relatable reaction of a frazzled mom who had been targeted by experienced con artists, or the public admission of a surprising lapse in common sense.

However one may feel about Cowles's particular experience, one thing is certain: she is hardly alone in falling for a scam. Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission estimated that American consumers lost more than $10 billion to fraud in 2023. While almost half of these losses came from investment fraud, imposter scams (like the one Cowles faced) represented nearly $3 billion of this figure. The FTC news release details some of the steps the Commission is taking to combat fraud, including finalizing a proposed rule on increased enforcement mechanisms for impersonation scams. But there are other actions that consumers can take to better understand common scams and avoid being victimized.

Awareness is the consumer's sharpest weapon in this battle. The most common scams can be categorized into general themes, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides a helpful list, alongside guidance about what to do if you encounter one. The FTC's Consumer Advice section provides news alerts and other helpful content on common scams; check out How to Avoid a Scam for a succinct guide to spotting a fraudster. (This page identifies four signs of a scam that are helpful to remember: PRETENDING to be a recognized business or other organization; claiming the target has either a serious legal PROBLEM or a PRIZE to be claimed; PRESSURING the target to act quickly; and demanding PAYMENT in a highly specific way, like cryptocurrency or gift cards. The advice given for avoiding scams – including resisting pressure to act immediately and to tell a trusted person what is happening before you withdraw any money – would most likely have averted disaster in Cowles's situation, as she notes throughout her essay.)

Other government agencies and non-government organizations often maintain info pages about common scams related to their subject areas, such as the IRS's Tax Scams page. The Better Business Bureau similarly provides helpful articles on spotting scams. Individual companies may also provide warnings on their help pages, such as Venmo's guide to common mobile payment scam techniques. Reviewing pages like these in advance, or conducting a quick web search after receiving a suspicious call or email, could help you or a loved one determine the likelihood of a scam.

If you or someone you know does encounter a scammer, reporting is an important step. The FTC maintains an easy-to-use page for Reporting Fraud. At the state level, the attorney general's office is the appropriate place to report consumer complaints. In North Carolina, the AG maintains an info page for Protecting Consumers; for other states, visit the Association of State Attorneys General to locate your local AG office. The Better Business Bureau also offers a ScamTracker reporting option.

Other steps that you can take to cut down on scam attempts include adding your phone number to the Do Not Call Registry and regularly checking your three free annual credit reports at Duke University's Information Technology Security Office also offers security guides designed to help you stay safe online, including Safe Browsing and Phishing.

Scams will continue to evolve with technology, and it's important to stay educated and vigilant. By becoming familiar with these consumer protection resources, and sharing them with friends and family (especially senior citizens, who are frequent targets of scammers), you too can help fight fraud. For help with locating other consumer protection resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Researching U.S. State Commitments with Foreign Governments

Most legal researchers are familiar with the federal government's treaty powers (for an overview, check out the Constitution Annotated discussion of Article II, section 2, clause 2 or the three-part 2023 Congressional Research Service report series on International Agreements). Likely less familiar to many are state-level commitments with foreign governments. After all, the Constitution expressly prohibits states from entering into their own treaties, and requires congressional consent for states to enter into agreements or compacts with foreign governments. However, individual U.S. states can and do enter into memoranda of understanding and other commitments with foreign entities. Due to their more ad hoc nature as compared to the highly formal federal process, locating the text or information about these state-level commitments can be difficult. 

A new library within the HeinOnline research database called U.S. State Commitments with Foreign Governments, now available to the Duke University community, sheds some light on this practice. The collection was curated by Marquette Law professor Ryan Scoville and his former research assistant Mitchell Knief, now a trademark attorney. Using state Freedom of Information laws, the authors requested "all operative commitments … currently in force between the State…and any foreign government" in all fifty states. The effort generated copies of more than 750 individual state-level documents on a variety of topics, although the authors' introduction cautions that the collection is likely far from comprehensive, and most likely also includes documents that are no longer in force. 

The Hein library permits users to search or browse these documents by country, state, or topic area under the "Commitment Index" section. Some results are largely ceremonial pledges to strengthen relations and understanding between a state and a foreign government. Others are more substantial, such as the agreements between states along the Canadian border and the government of Quebec to share law enforcement information, or climate-related agreements between various states and countries. 

Access the new HeinOnline library via the library catalog or Legal Databases & Links page; from the main HeinOnline database list, select "U.S. State Commitments with Foreign Governments." For help with using the new module or in locating other materials, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Jus Mundi Arbitration Database Now Available

The Goodson Law Library has recently subscribed to Jus Mundi, a research platform containing the full text of treaties, case law, rules, and publications related to international law and arbitration. This database is available to current Duke University students, faculty and staff with NetID and password, and links are available through the Duke Libraries Catalog and Legal Databases & Links page.

Jus Mundi includes thousands of documents on the topics of investment arbitration, commercial arbitration, public international law, law of the sea, and international trade. Decisions from more than 100 commissions and organizations are included. Duke's subscription also includes access to the ICC Dispute Resolution Library and Juris Arbitration Library.

Additional international arbitration databases include Kluwer Arbitration and the Oxford Legal Research Library's International Commercial Arbitration module. For more information about researching international arbitration and the resources available at Duke, consult the research guide to Arbitration or Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Winter Break Reading Recommendations

The end of the semester is almost here! Amid the flurry of final exams and the holiday rush, it might be hard to find time for your perfect winter break book. But a good read can help pass the time on long flights or airport delays, as well as give you a great way to wind down for the night at the end of busy holiday festivities. To help you find something appealing to read before you go, here are seven recommended titles that the Goodson Law Library staff have enjoyed recently.

Book cover of Number Go Up by Zeke Faux
Number Go Up: Inside Crypto's Wild Rise and Staggering Fall, by Zeke Faux (Request a print copy  or put a hold on the e-book!) "In this up-close-and-personal account, Faux reveals the highly entertaining and, frankly, horrifying (for human beings and the environment) worlds behind the current crypto scandals. An investigative reporter for Bloomberg, Faux also manages to make abstruse cryptocurrency concepts digestible here. For my fellow legal news junkies looking for a deep dive beyond the FTX/Binance headlines, this book is a nice complement to the better-known Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon by Michael Lewis (also available in print or e-book).” – Laura Scott, Assistant Director for Reference, Clinics, and Outreach and Senior Lecturing Fellow

Blue and white book cover with a photograph in middle of statue of mother hugging child
Gravesend, by Cole Swensen (Request a print copy or read the e-book!) "In this poetry collection, Swensen uses her mastery of the paced prose poem form to explore ghosts, the ghostly, and liminal grief. I adore Swensen's lyrical descriptions, but what made me unable to put this book down is the way in which she uses white space to weave the descriptions together, to allow the descriptions to work through juxtaposition and gesture: precise language but then, too, precise absence." – Emilie Menzel, Collections Management & Strategies Librarian

Book cover featuring title Annihilation in large text with green vines or leaves growing around it
Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer (Request a print copy!) "This book is a cannot-put-it-down level of good. It is a dystopian novel about a team that enters Area X on a scientific mission. Area X is an environment threatening both physically and psychologically. The characters and environment shift as you read, and the plot twists and additions seem natural as they continue to enthrall the reader. This book is the first of the Area X trilogy, and it was made into a movie starring Natalie Portman in 2018 (available for streaming at Duke, although the book is better and quite different from the movie adaptation). I especially liked the complexity of the characters within the novel and the authenticity of the interwoven story of the narrator's relationship with her husband that adds to the development of the characters." – Chelsey McKimmy, Research Services Librarian and Lecturing Fellow

Green and yellow book cover labeled The Fraud: A Novel by Zadie Smith
The Fraud, by Zadie Smith (Request a print copy or access the e-book!) "A tale spanning decades of 19th-century British history, it's not hard to see why this sprawling novel appears on almost every best-of-2023 book list. The Fraud follows a fictionalized version of Eliza Touchet, the widowed housekeeper to her cousin William Harrison Ainsworth, a now-obscure novelist who in his day hobnobbed with the likes of Dickens and Thackeray. Mrs. Touchet and the second Mrs. Ainsworth both develop a fascination with the Tichborne Affair, a sensational legal case in which an Australian butcher claimed to be an English nobleman who had been presumed lost at sea a decade prior. Smith pays meticulous attention to detail, using these real-life historical figures and events to create a vivid novel about justice, freedom, and legacies." – Jennifer Behrens, Associate Director for Administration & Scholarship and Senior Lecturing Fellow

Book cover of chalk-style drawings of despairing people on a black background
Song for the Unraveling of the World: Stories, by Brian Evenson (Request an interlibrary loan!) "Currently reading this book of short stories by Brian Evenson. While this book has been on my list to read for some time, it felt particularly relevant considering its title. Evenson masterfully weaves disturbing narratives that delve deep into the darker aspects of human nature. Each story is beautifully crafted, with haunting imagery that lingers long after you've finished." – Julie Wooldridge, Research Services Librarian and Senior Lecturing Fellow

Cover of book Generation Kill depicting US Marine soldier holding a gun
Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War, by Evan Wright (Request an interlibrary loan!) "The author, then a reporter with Rolling Stone, wrote about his time embedded with First Recon Battalion during the invasion of Iraq. I enjoy the fly-on-the-wall perspective that Wright brings to his writing. He does a remarkable job of placing the reader in the near-death situations that the Marines, and occasionally he himself, were often in. He does an equally great job at capturing the boredom, frustration, and nagging sense of aimlessness felt by many of the young men he was embedded with. I was not expecting this book to be as funny as it is, but it makes sense, as humor was often the only weapon that the Marines had to fight against everything they were coping with." – Elisa Pfau, Acquisitions Assistant Senior

Book cover of antique book
Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, by Isabella Mary Beeton (Request a 2000 print copy or read an e-book of the 1880 edition!) "Initially published as a serial, Beeton started working on this book at the age of 21. In 1861, it was consolidated and published as a complete volume. Shortly after her death in 1865, an expanded version of over 2,000 pages was released, and has been further expanded on since. Because of the time of its publication, many of the 'household' and even some of the 'cookery' (the term used for cooking at that point) suggestions will read as, to be kind, outdated. However, the cultural significance of the book cannot be ignored. The food supervisor on Downton Abbey referred to it as a most important guide, and the later volume of the book was featured on Good Omens held by none other than Jon Hamm playing the angel Gabriel. Isabella Beeton has been described as 'the grandmother of modern domestic goddesses' by some of the most famous women chefs of our time. Personally, I look forward to testing some of the recipes soon." – Wickliffe Shreve, Head of Scholarly Services and Senior Lecturing Fellow

Don’t see your next read on this list? For even more recommendations, check out NPR's 2023 Books We Love and the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2023. The library database NoveList Plus includes "Recommended Reads Lists" such as "Best of 2023," "Book Club Best Bets," or options to curate your own recommendations based on keywords and filters. For more help with identifying and locating your perfect winter break read, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers and Law Students

Regular Goodson Blogson readers know that we have been recommending holiday gift ideas for the law students and lawyers in your life since 2009 (see past entries here). We thought that was a pretty long history, until Assistant Director for Reference, Clinics, and Outreach Laura Scott uncovered an even earlier holiday gift guide from Duke Law in the December 2, 1964 issue of The Devil's Advocate newspaper. In the "Observed Around the Law School" column, student Alex Denson (LL.B.'66) shared a humorous "shopping guide for the law student who has everything" that would have been familiar to law students of the era, including "Delamirie Diamonds, Tubantia life rafts," and "Palsgraf's Fireworks." (OK, modern law students will surely know that last one too.)

Are your friends and relatives wondering what to give you for Christmas? I've decided to compile a shopping guide for the law student who has everything. (He's a second year man at U.Va.) Sample: Delamirie Diamonds, Tubantia Life Rafts, Cherry Sisters' LP Albums, Palsgraf's Fireworks, Prosser's Toilet Tissue, and Winner Lose Oil Stock (Win or Lose Oil? Winner Lose All?) Any suggested additions? If so, scribble them down and put them in the "D" mailbox with my name on it."

In the following week's column, Denson reprinted additional humorous legal gift ideas from fellow student Don Gardiner (LL.B.'65), including "oil for the springing use" and "a blunt instrument for docking entails." 

Don Gardiner came through with some additions to my Christmas List: oil for the springing use; a gun for protection when feeding the estoppel; a new wousin bag (brief case); glue for mounting a use on a use; and a blunt instrument for docking entails. (re the last item, how about a docket?) Don concludes with modestly noting that "second year students are more ingenious than the stodgy, hardened third year variety." Should anyone else have any additions to the list, put them in my box before Monday.
Sadly, no one else took Denson up on his request to share additional suggestions, and Duke Law gift guides apparently went dormant until our 2009 blog post. These days, the Goodson Blogson's recommendations may focus less on the law and more on the gifts, but we hope you'll still find some useful ideas here for the law students and lawyers in your life.

First, though, we should acknowledge the state of current affairs. From the ongoing war in Ukraine, to the horrifying October terrorist attack in Israel and subsequent violence and devastation in Gaza, to recent natural disasters like the Maui wildfire, Hurricane Otis in Acapulco, and this weekend's earthquake in Nepal, holiday gift shopping might feel somewhat frivolous while there is so much suffering in the world. If you and/or your recipients feel the same, many relief organizations will accept charitable donations in honor of another person and will provide the honoree with notification of your gift. Some organizations that are on site helping people affected by military conflict and natural disasters include Doctors without Borders/Médicins sans Frontières, Project HOPE, and Jose Andres's World Central Kitchen. You can research additional charities and learn more about how their donations are allocated at Charity Navigator.

Other holiday gift choices can help do some good for the world, too. Sustainable chocolate has been in the news a lot recently, from CBS News to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. As explained on these programs, the harsh realities of cocoa production include exploitative and illegal practices, such as child labor and forced servitude, which governments and non-governmental organizations struggle to combat. This holiday season, indulge your loved one's sweet tooth more ethically with the 9-bar "Ultimate Bundle" from Tony's Chocolonely, or one of the gorgeous gift boxes from Ghana's women-owned 57 Chocolate. Both of these companies were recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning as examples of chocolate producers who provide their workers and suppliers with a living income and strive for "exploitation free" products.

Other gift ideas for foodies on your list could include a set of attractive and eco-friendly reusable food storage bags from Stasher, rated best overall by Food & Wine earlier this year. Gift cards to DoorDash, GrubHub, and Instacart may help your recipient stock the fridge and find quick meals during long work days. We've previously written about meal prep delivery kits like HelloFresh and Blue Apron, but you might also consider The Purple Carrot for a plant-based/vegan alternative. If your loved one is far away and missing a hometown delicacy, many local favorites ship cross-country via their Goldbelly shops.

For caffeine fiends, consider a nice coffee set, like those at Blue Bottle, Red Bay's Holiday Gift Set (one of Oprah's "Favorite Things" this year), or Durham's own Little Waves. If your loved ones prefer tea, consider some attractive gift sets from Tea Forte (we especially like the striking Frank Lloyd Wright box), or the beautifully packaged sets from South Korea's OSULLOC (via Daebak or their Amazon shop, which features some items that are currently out of stock on Daebak).

Both coffee and tea drinkers might also like a little help keeping their beverages warm, too. If the trendy self-warming Ember Mug is out of price range, perhaps a plug-in mug warmer would be a good alternative: Don't Waste Your Money reviewed 11 varieties.

If their beverage tastes run a bit harder, check out Houston attorney Michael J. McCormick's 2022 bartending book Lawyerly Libations: Concoctions for the Counselor, Apéritifs for the Attorney, Elixirs for the Esquire, and Additional Alcoholic Anecdotes: A Cocktail Compilation for the Burgeoning Barrister's Bar (available in hardcover or paperback via Amazon). You could even bundle it with a set of Declaration of Independence rocks glasses or pint glasses from the National Archives, currently available with a 20% discount using the code GIFTGUIDE23 (through 12/20).

The National Archives Store's 20% sale makes it a good place to peruse for others on your holiday shopping list, as the code GIFTGUIDE23 works for anything featured in their own Gift Guide. We’ve previously featured the NARA gift shop's patent prints and authentic government "red tape" offerings, but the Emancipation Proclamation canvas print is new to the Blogson recommendations. If you haven't quite reached the free shipping threshold via the sale items, the rest of the Archives store should help you get there quickly.

Last year, we highlighted various Lego Botanical sets as a potentially fun way to decorate an office. While sets such as the new Tiny Plants may still appeal to many readers, if you'd like to send the real thing to your loved one's home or office instead, a monthly bouquet subscription may keep the holiday cheer going well past the New Year. Taste of Home highlighted several options in September, rating Bouqs the best overall and highlighting BloomsyBox as the most eco-friendly. (Sending just one bouquet? Consider patronizing a local shop at Find a Florist.)

You might also consider helping your loved one with an office upgrade via artwork. Architectural Digest recently featured "Where to Buy Cool Artwork Online," including options for locating affordable but stylish prints and original art. Some sites that provide access to original art by up-and-coming as well as established artists include Artfinder, Minted, and Artsy.

Help with professional wardrobe building or maintenance is a practical idea, especially for recent graduates. A gift subscription or gift card to online styling services like Stitch Fix, Armoire, or Menlo Club can help your recent graduate or newer lawyer fill their closet with stylish pieces. If that idea is not your style, or your recipient already has a well-stocked closet, maybe a handheld clothes steamer to keep their wardrobe wrinkle-free on the go? Real Simple rates the five best clothes steamers, with the Conair Turbo ExtremeSteam coming out on top.

Need practical and affordable ideas for stocking stuffers or office gift exchanges that almost everyone should love? The versatile Geekey multi-tool should appeal to outdoorsy types, fix-it types, and anybody who can never find a bottle opener when they need one. An Apple Air Tag should similarly be appreciated by those who always have trouble finding things – while sets of 4 run close to $100, a single tag is also available for $29, and free engraving service is also available to personalize the gift. Glocuscent neck reading lights come in a variety of colors, and add a convenient boost of light while traveling.

This holiday season will be undeniably difficult for many people who have lost loved ones, are living in unstable conditions, or are experiencing economic hardships. (If you or someone you know in the United States are struggling with mental health or thoughts of self-harm, please call or text 988 or visit for live chat support.) But this time of year is also an opportunity to contribute to charitable relief efforts, support local businesses and artisans, and share precious moments together with friends and family. If you have read this far, we hope that our annual holiday gift guide has given you a few inspiring ideas to spread hope, share happiness, and create memories with your own loved ones. We wish our readers a safe, peaceful, and happy holiday season.

Friday, September 29, 2023

First Monday in October

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will open its annual October Term, with its first oral argument scheduled for 10 am. The "First Monday in October" has marked the start of the Supreme Court's year since 1916. The Court recently confirmed plans to continue live-streaming oral arguments on its website; the first case of the new Term, Pulsifer v. United States, concerns the "safety valve" provision in federal criminal sentencing laws.

To learn more about individual cases on the Court's docket this year, SCOTUSblog offers quick access to case information and filings on its October Term 2023 page, organized by argument date. The ABA also publishes a regular Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases (available in HeinOnline; Duke NetID required) that provides an overview as well as legal analysis of each featured case. (Pulsifer is featured in the latest Preview issue, along with other cases from the October sitting.)

A looming federal government shutdown puts the October operations of many federal agencies and offices in jeopardy. Reuters has reported that the lower federal courts likely can remain operational for two weeks should Congress fail to agree on either the annual appropriations or a short-term deal to avert shutdown. However, the Supreme Court expects to continue operations beyond that time if a shutdown continues beyond that point, with an official spokesperson adding that the Court "will rely on permanent funds not subject to annual approval, as it has in the past, to maintain operations through the duration of short-term lapses of annual appropriations."

For more information on the history and practices of the U.S. Supreme Court, check out the resources linked in the library's research guide or Ask a Librarian. Visitors to the Goodson Law Library should also plan to stop by the service desk during the month of October to view a display of items in the collection related to the Supreme Court in history, pop culture and society, featuring a mix of nonfiction and fiction titles related to the highest Court in the land.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

BNA Law Reports Archives Now Available Online

If you’ve ever ventured to the Superseded Looseleaf collection on Level 1 on a cite-checking quest, you know that locating archived issues of BNA Law Reports and similar titles can be challenging. Bloomberg Law, which acquired BNA more than a decade ago, has long offered access to the full text of various Law Reports back to the 1990s, but many titles have had a much longer history in print than that. Thanks to an inquiry from Indiana University Maurer School of Law Library Director Susan deMaine this summer, Bloomberg Law has now activated a fuller archive of Law Reports publications for its users. 

Cover page of BNA Patent, Trademark, and Copyright Weekly Reports from 1958, with visible looseleaf holes on left side of scan

The BNA Current Reports Archive is accessible from the Practice Centers & Tools home page. To reach it, click on "Practice Centers & Tools" under "Popular Links" on the Bloomberg home page, then scroll down to News & Analysis > "Bloomberg BNA Law Reports (Archive)" to view available titles.

Once you've selected a title, you can search or browse for particular topics or issues. Note that historical archive titles don’t currently seem to be included in search results from either the main Bloomberg < GO > bar or from the relevant Practice Centers and Law Reports pages, so you’ll need to be sure to access the Bloomberg BNA Law Reports (Archive) section in order to locate and select this historical content for searching. (Archives for each title are also accessible under the "All Legal Content" search menu.)

The extra effort to locate is well worth it, as these archives provide a fascinating contemporary account of major cases and legal news of the day. United States Law Week, with issues back to 1934, includes news and opinions from nearly a century of the U.S. Supreme Court's history. Specialized titles offer similar glimpses into history: The Criminal Law Reporter, available here back to 1967, followed the Court's invalidation and later reinstatement of capital punishment in America. The Daily Labor Report issues of the mid-1970s described investigative efforts to unravel the mysterious disappearance of former Teamsters union president Jimmy Hoffa. Environmental law titles tracked the growth of the EPA and federal efforts to contain ecological disasters like Love Canal.

The archived Law Reports also sometimes printed unreported case law from various courts, or administrative agency memoranda and other executive branch materials. Searching key words and then limiting results by date is generally an effective way to locate results in the Law Reports Archives, although note that some of the OCR text can be garbled. For help with locating historical Law Reports, either in Bloomberg Law or in the print Superseded Looseleaf collection on Level 1, be sure to Ask a Librarian.