It may be a little too late in the semester to start working on your legal research paper this semester, but maybe you could get an early start for next semester. Maybe you are interested in writing a paper for publication. Bloomberg BNA’s United States Law Week is a great resource for getting ideas for scholarly legal writing. The United States Law Week has a Key Features section that lists the current United States Circuit Court splits. Circuit Court splits provide great opportunities to write about unsettled legal issues. Bloomberg BNA United States Law Week is available on the library’s website on the Subscription Databases webpage, and access is available to faculty and students. Here are a couple more websites that also contain information on circuit splits Circuit Splits: A blog about cases ripe for review and Split Circuits: A blog dedicated to tracking developments concerning splits among the federal circuit courts.
As a Librarian, I try to keep up with new research tools. It has been hard before to see how cases are treated across jurisdictions, which can often be very helpful if arguing for a change in law. But not anymore! Lexis Advance has a great feature that lets you see how cases have been treated by other courts across jurisdictions and across years. Once you log into Lexis Advance (if you are having trouble with that, please contact any of the Librarians) just Shepardize a case. Go to Citing Decisions and choose Grid. Especially if you like to visualize what has happened to a case, this is a perfect resource.
Lexis has a great explanation of this feature, and other features of their Shepard’s service, in their information.
If your response is, “What is sunshine week?” you are probably not alone. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know. This is an important topic because access to the law is really important to lawyers, law students, and law librarians. Check out all the great FREE legal information available on FDSys. The Library of Congress makes finding legislative and congressional information a breeze with Thomas. Here is an example of how an open government can force a public figure to answer for their use of public funds. The list of reasons supporting open government and freedom of information is huge. What reasons can you think of?
The Jenkins Law Library located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is over 200 years old, but don’t let its age cause you to think that it is just a relic of the past. The Jenkins Law Library is still going strong and makes available a wealth of legal research tools and resources. Students, solo-practitioners, and law firms can become members of the law library and take advantage of the many databases and resources available. Even if you are not a member of the Jenkins Law Library, the law library offers services that may be useful to attorneys, such as legal research, copying, Shepardizing or Keyciting cases, and document delivery. The Jenkins Law Library is a great low cost alternative to other well-known legal information providers.
I like to follow blogs about libraries and research. One of my favorites is Lisa Gold: Research Maven. Lisa is a professional researcher, who explains research concepts well. Check out her colorful post, “The CRAP test for evaluating sources,” for a good explanation of how to decide if a source you have found can be relied upon. If you click the “Highlights” link at the top of her page, you can see a list of her most notable posts. My favorites are, “Spell-check is evil, but funny: The Cupertino Effect,” “Let’s talk about search,” and “In praise of browsing.”
Have you seen the recent article about a Miami area drug possession bond hearing? The video clip and article can be found here. We can all agree that it is not a good idea to disrespect a judge. And of course, every lawyer and law student knows to show respect to a judge in her own courtroom. We may have to rethink this assumption after watching this clip from the People’s Court with a University of Miami law student. Wow!
Ethical opinions are often not easily found in the typical law student’s first choice for legal research (i.e. Westlaw or Lexis). However, most ethical opinions can be found on the open Internet. The recent ABA ethical opinions are on the ABA website. The archive of older ethical opinions is available for ABA members. (Law student dues are only $25 or three years for $60).
State ethical opinions are often available from the state bar website or the state supreme court website. Often an Internet search of the state name and “ethical opinions” will quickly find ethical opinions. Once located the search function within the websites vary. In Florida, ethical opinions are available on the Florida Bar website which is searchable by opinion number or keyword. The results produced from the search include a brief summary of the subject matter. In California, the ethical opinions can only be searched along with the rest of the Bar website. In Illinois the voluntary bar association has advisory opinions that can be browsed and searched by subject or full-text, while the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission provide both basic and advanced search functions of the official ethical rules and opinions.
So know your duties and obligations as a lawyer – and don’t make the judge angry!
Have you seen the recent development in Florida concerning funeral protests? There was an article in the Jacksonville Times Union describing a bill that has been passed in the Florida Senate that would affect those protests. If you notice they give you a citation to that bill: SB 118. If you want to keep track of how that bill makes its way through our legislature you can head over to the Florida Senate’s website at http://www.flsenate.gov/. Once you are there just put the bill number (118) in the search box at the top of the screen and you can see all the exciting things that have happened as the bill makes its way through the senate. One of the options allows you to view the staff analyses of the bill which can often give you some insight into the legislative intent. This is a great way to get comfortable with Florida legislative history research. (This can be very tough) If you want to be notified any time there is activity concerning this or any other bill just sign up for Senate Tracker account. With a Senate Tracker account you can track items throughout the website, view the latest updates on the Tracker tab, and receive email notifications when those items are updated. You can create an account here. All you need is an email address. Did I mention this is all free? It is!
If you are writing an ALWR this semester, there may be new developments on your ALWR topic before the due date. Your professor will expect that you research your topic diligently throughout the semester, and deal with any new developments appropriately in your paper.
If your ALWR paper concerns doping in sports, you probably heard about Lance Armstrong’s confession as it happened. But what if your paper concerns proposed SEC regulations, or the activity of the Senate Banking Committee? You can’t count on this material being big news, and you do not have the time or inclination to repeat the same searches in the same search engines every day. You might be thinking, “If only I could arrange for news on my topic to be delivered to me automatically!”
Congratulations. You can set up alerts to do exactly that. Go to the Google Altert page here: http://www.google.com/alerts, and fill out the simple form. Lexis and Westlaw also provide this service. See instructions on how to set up alerts in Westlaw here, and in Lexis here.
It’s not baseball season yet (almost though!), but it is never too early to think about potential baseball related lawsuits. A spectator filed suit against the Royals because Sluggerrr [sic], the mascot, threw hot dogs into the crowd, hitting him in the face and injuring his eye. Although a jury found against him, he still has hope, as the case was reversed and remanded.
How can you find interesting cases like this to read? Well, you can comb state court sites. Many, like Missouri, have a site dedicated to the courts. Here is Florida’s, for example. Once you are in a court site, though, you may have to dig for opinions. The best way in Missouri is to click on Opinions and Minutes from the Legal Resources drop down menu, then choose a court at the bottom (like the Western Appellate District), but you will have to explore in other court webpages. Once you do that in Missouri, there is a search function, and you can enter fun things like baseball hot dog. That gets you the opinion from above and the fun quote: “the risk of being hit in the face by a hot dog is not a well-known incidental risk of attending a baseball game.” I wonder about peanuts…
By now, most of you have probably used Encore – our library’s catalog. More efficient (though no less magical) than the card catalogs of old, Encore allows you to see all the library resources you have access to as a member of the Coastal Community.
But what about when you are off site? Maybe you want to do some light ConLaw reading over holiday break? Or maybe that last minute preparation for Moot Court oral argument has to be done out of town?
Fear not, just as Encore is a catalog that shows you what we have here at Coastal, WorldCat.org is a catalog that can show you what is available wherever you are around the world.
Simply type in your preferred search using title/author/keyword terms and then you can narrow by facets on the left, similar to Encore. Once you locate a particular record, you can see which libraries hold that resource and how far they are from your location.
Take Legal Research in a Nutshell, for example, since we all know how important it is to keep your legal research skills sharp.The WorldCat.org record for this resource can he found here. Follow that link and you’ll have the chance to Enter your location – zip code, city/state (or province), or country.
Enter 32256, for example, and you’ll see that the closest library to hold that resource is… the Florida Coastal School of Law Library & Technology Center! What library closest to you has it?