Category Archives: Law/Library Interesting Item w/Research Tip

Controversy divides the nation: Is it better to salt or to brine your Thanksgiving turkey?

There is a controversy in our nation that goes to the very heart of what it means to celebrate Thanksgiving – is salting (also known as a dry brine) the best way to prepare your Thanksgiving bird? Or does soaking the turkey in a wet brine yield the best results?

Researching this issue is easy in one important way – the researcher is very unlikely to find material with a hidden agenda. There are no forces of “Big Brine,” abroad in the land, posting misleading websites on “objective” studies of the salting vs. brining variety. Any material found in a simple internet search is likely to be the honest opinion of cooks.

Here is a link to a set of search results from Dogpile, a metasearch engine. Here you will find many links to sites that examine this important questions and come to a conclusion. However, they do not come to the same conclusion. The controversy rages on.

Wikipedia and Research

I’m sure you’ve all heard the warnings about Wikipedia: Don’t use it! Steer clear of Wikipedia! It can be edited by anyone!

You can use Wikipedia, just use it responsibly. And how do you do that? Here are a few examples on how to use Wikipedia responsibly.

When I lived in Pittsburgh, I read an article about jitneys being held up. What’s a jitney? I went to Wikipedia and got the disambiguation page. Ah, that was enough for me to understand what the article was about. If I was writing about jitneys in my ALWR, I would not cite Wikipedia. Nope. Wikipedia’s just a starting point. The first option, Share Taxi, has few citations and is disputed. So I’d go back to the disambiguation page and go the next option, Dollar van. Again, this one is suggested to be merged with another, but does have a few citations I would check out from government agencies. This is a good starting point for something I knew nothing about a few minutes ago!

Now, how can we tell whether a Wikipedia entry is a good source of information or not? Consider the entry about Hurricane Sandy. On it’s face, it looks to be a good entry. Lots of citations to reliable outside sources. But who actually wrote it and edited it? At the top of the entry, select the “View History” tab. This is the actual history of what was written on the Hurricane Sandy entry. Here’s where things get rather interesting. There is no mention of global warming or climate change. Every mention is “scrubbed” from the entry by Ken Marmpel, who refers to himself as just a contributor, “I have no title, I’m just a Joe Blow.” Yes indeed, this is where the danger of relying solely on Wikipedia lies. Anyone can edit an entry, and can direct the tone and message of the entry.

In summary, the value of Wikipedia lies in the sources it can lead you to, not in the entry itself.

Bluebook, Never Again! Oh Wait, Citation Matters!

As many of you are working to finish your papers for various classes. The editing and citations seem to take forever to complete. Many law students have felt the strong desire to use colorful explicatives and throw their Bluebook. If you are one of these students, you are not alone. It may be a little comforting to know that citation is important in the “real world.” Legal citation is used so the reader can quickly find the material indicated and determine the level of relevance (ex. jurisdiction, case, statute, how recent , etc.).

In 2009, the ABA reported a story about a Wisconsin lawyer was fined by the court due to his horrendous citation of a case. The bad citation wasted the court’s time and created frustration. While no Coastal student will ever be this lawyer, it is important to know that every jurisdiction has its own standard of citation. Most often, the standard is based on the Bluebook. But, how do you discover the specific standard and rules? The first place to start is Table 2 in the front blue section of the Bluebook. This section lists where to find the actual jurisdictional rule or statute governing citation. As citation rules can be scattered among several rules or statutes, it is important search the court rules or statutes for the applicable jurisdiction. Court rules can be located in books, Westlaw, Lexis, and the open internet. Most courts provide their rules on the internet. But, as their websites are often hard to search, the information provided in the table in the Bluebook can provide the edge needed to find the information. For example, Bluepages Table 2 indicates that Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.800 governs most citation in Florida and is flushed out in the Florida Style Manual.

Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute (LII)  also provides a great starting place for state specific citation.

Trick or Treat or Where is Your Permit?

Are you planning to wear a mask with your Halloween costume?  Be sure you don’t need a permit!  At the Stupid Laws & Dumb Laws blog they have a list of Halloween specific laws that might affect you depending on where you plan to celebrate.  Click the link and see if they found a law that might affect you.

Note the disclaimer at the bottom of their page.  ”The laws listed here are for entertainment purposes only. We have tried to cite specific references when available but, we make no guarantees on the validity of these laws and as such: the laws and regulations including the interpretation and commentary we have provided are for entertainment only.”  If you really want to see if your town or city has a law that might restrict your candy-collecting fun you should check out Municode.  A helpful tip: Start with the index if you can.  Happy Halloween! 

You can find out what articles are cited the most using HeinOnline.

As the semester begins to wind down, many students are working hard to finish their ALWR papers. During this time, students often come to me for help with properly citing articles discussed in their paper. Often, the students have multiple articles that discuss the same topic and issue, and they want to know how to find out which article has been cited the most.  How can they find out? When using HeinOnline, students can simply enter both article citations in the search box, and when the PDF of the article appears, there is a HeinOnline ScholarCheck icon that appears at the top center of the page if the article has been cited. The ScholarCheck icon has a number beside it that indicates the number of times the article has been cited. Find out more about HeinOnline’s ScholarCheck by viewing their Wikipage-HeinOnline:ScholarCheck. You can also find out information about ScholarCheck on HeinOnline’s blog. You can get to HeinOnline by selecting the HeinOnline link from the Library’s subscription database page-remember if you are off-campus you must log-in to access HeinOnline.

Have you read the fine print on your Westlaw contract?

If you haven’t, you are not using the skills you are using in law school to the fullest extent.  Misuse of your Westlaw (or Lexis) account can result in serious consequences.  Can’t read the full article?  If you don’t want to sign up (or if there is a fee for an article) remember that Westlaw and Lexis often have journal articles regarding legal issues.  For this article, log on to Lexis, use “Find a Source,” type in National Law Journal.  Once you choose the National Law Journal from the list of results, copy and paste the title in and you can access the whole article.  You should always check Lexis and Westlaw for journal articles – at least for now, while you have authorized access.

Swim With the Dolphins, But Leave the Manatees Be!

Manatees – or sea cows – have a rich history in mythology, often “tricking” sailors into confusing them with mermaids (Manatee 101 video). It’s only natural then, that people want to swim with the manatees, just as they do the dolphins. Alas, Florida law prohibits this – but not everyone is aware of that!

Consider this Please Do Not Ride the Manatees blog story (FYI: It includes some colorful language) from loweringthebar. It describes a woman in Florida who was swimming in the warm water with the manatees and now finds herself in hot water with the law!

Reliable blogs can be a good source for news stories, but they must be evaluated like any other secondary source. Some of the better news blogs will even provide specific citations to primary law or link out to primary sources on the open web. The loweringthebar blog does just that, linking out to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act on Online Sunshine.

What next though? What if you are interested in more information about manatee protection in Florida? Where should you look?

Well, armed with a statute citation, a great place to look is a set of Florida statutes with annotations.

We have two of those in the library – LexisNexis Florida Annotated Statutes and West’s Florida Statutes Annotated - located on the third floor in the Regional Collection. After the text of the statute itself, the annotations will provide you with references to cases related to that legislation, as well as cross references to other resources.

Now you are well on your way to understanding Manatee Law in Florida!