Monday, August 14, 2017

Pleading the Twenty-Fifth

This past February marked 50 years since the ratification of Amendment XXV to the U.S. Constitution. Written to clarify the procedures for presidential and vice-presidential succession in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, the amendment also allows for a U.S. President to be sidelined by either his own declaration of incapacity, or by a declaration of "the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide."

Since Donald Trump's inauguration, the 25th Amendment has been discussed on social media and in op-eds, in response to concerns about erratic presidential behavior. In May, the Atlantic summarized the growing discussion. More recently, UW law professor Hugh Spitzer explored the possibilities last week in the Seattle Times.

In April, freshman U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin introduced H.R. 1987, a bill which would establish an "Oversight Committee on Presidential Capacity," an example of one "such other body" as may be established under section 4 of Amendment XXV. While even Raskin has recently acknowledged to Newsweek that the bill has virtually zero chance of passage, he contends that the committee closes a long-overlooked loophole in the amendment, which Congress never addressed: "[T]he Trump administration underscores the importance of acting, but we need this body for all times."

To learn more about the history and uses of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, check out The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (CONAN) (Ref Doc. Y 1.1/3: 112-9 & online at Congress.gov and GovInfo.gov). Always an excellent place to research the U.S. Constitution, CONAN is a lengthy one-volume treatise published by the government and maintained by the Congressional Research Service. Organized by article, clause, and amendment number, each section describes the background and application of that constitutional language, and also provides summaries of related U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

The CONAN entry for Amendment XXV is brief, but describes the background need for the amendment and its invocation during the Watergate era. It also provides citations to legislative history materials, which can be found in the library's usual sources for Federal Legislative History or in Fordham Law School's Twenty-Fifth Amendment Archive.

You can find additional research materials on the 25th Amendment with a subject heading search in the Duke University Libraries catalog for "United States. Constitution. 25th Amendment". This subject search will retrieve about a dozen books and e-books on the subject, including the latest edition of Fordham Law professor John D. Freerick's The Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Its Complete History and Applications (3d. ed. 2014, available in off-site storage & online). Like CONAN, chapter 8 of this book also includes detailed analysis of each section of the amendment.

For help researching the Twenty-Fifth or any other constitutional amendment, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Research Guides: Don't Reinvent the Wheel

We hope you already know about the Goodson Law Library's research guides. Written and maintained by our reference librarians, these pages provide detailed guidance for researching more than three dozen legal subjects – and are great starting places (if we do say so ourselves!). Some of our recently-updated topics include Federal Legislative History, Court Records & Briefs, and Legal Research for Non-Lawyers.

As proud as we are of our law library research guides, though, we know there will be times when you need to research a subject which they don’t cover. So here are some quick tips for finding a roadmap to your research topic.
  • You could, of course, always use your favorite search engine to locate a research guide for your topic, with a search like international tax law research guide. But you could also use CALI.org's custom Law School Search Engine, which will automatically limit your results to those on the sites of ABA-accredited law schools. This custom search engine is linked on the sidebar of our Research Guides page.
  • Many book-length legal research guides are also available in the Goodson Law Library collection. These research guidebooks may cover a single jurisdiction, or a specific legal subject area. To find them, try a search of the Duke University Libraries' online catalog for your topic and the phrase research guide or legal research (or, if those don’t work, just the word research). For example, cemeteries legal research would retrieve the 2015 book title Disposition of Human Remains: A Legal Research Guide by Wake Forest University law professor Tanya Marsh. This title is just one of a lengthy legal research guidebook series by the publisher W.S. Hein, which are also available electronically within the HeinOnline database.
  • Perhaps you need to get started with researching a non-legal topic. In that case, be on the lookout for an authoritative research guide from a university or public library, such as the Duke University Libraries' new Guides by Subject page, or the New York Public Library's extensive Research Guides list.

For other recommended research guides or starting points for your research topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A History of GPO

Since 1861, federal publications have been issued by the U.S. GPO. Originally known as the Government Printing Office, GPO was renamed the Government Publishing Office in 2014 to reflect the increase in digital publication. The new book Keeping America Informed, The U.S. Government Publishing Office: A Legacy of Service to the Nation, 1861-2016 tells the story of GPO's evolution from massive printing-press operation to modern digital and print publisher, illustrated with beautiful photographs from GPO's history. A copy of Keeping America Informed is available in the Goodson Law Library's Documents collection on level 1. (A free digital edition is also available from – where else? – GPO.)

From Keeping America Informed: "The Monotype keyboard section in 1915. 'The biggest battery of composing machines in the world,' according to the Monotype Co."

In addition to printing and digitizing millions of pages of government information every year, GPO is also responsible for distributing federal government publications to the American public. GovInfo.gov provides free access to materials from all three branches of government. GPO also oversees the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), which distributes government publications to selected libraries which have agreed to provide free public access to them. The Goodson Law Library has been a selective depository since 1978, and receives around 9% of available items from FDLP. The Perkins/Bostock library on campus was designated as a depository in 1890, and receives closer to 80% of available documents.

Keeping America Informed and the long history of government publications by GPO helped inspire the current Riddick Room display, "Graphic Government," by Reference Librarian Cas Laskowski. The Graphic Government display highlights various visual representations of government work – from photo histories to political cartoons. Pages will be turned periodically to display new images, so be sure to check back for later changes.

Part of the current "Graphic Government" display on level 3 of the library.


To learn more about federal government publications, consult the Goodson Law Library research guide to Government Documents, visit the GPO website, or Ask a Librarian.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A New Look for AFJ

The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, a valuable resource for biographical information about federal judges, recently moved to a new online platform. In addition to the usual profiles on current federal judges, the new site now includes an interactive map, links to court websites, and – perhaps most notably – an archive of inactive judge profiles.

When it debuted in 1984, the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary was a looseleaf notebook of active federal judges, updated periodically with new pages as judges joined the bench or retired from it. Each judge received a basic biographical profile, along with selected notable opinions, and anonymous comments from a survey of attorneys who have appeared before the judge. The lawyers' evaluations assess such topics as legal ability, courtroom demeanor, leanings and impartiality, and provide valuable (sometimes scathing) insight for attorneys who may appear before the judge in the future.

The new platform on Wolters Kluwer provides current profiles of active judges as well as an archive preserving profiles of past federal judges. For example, current Duke Law Dean David F. Levi's profile from his time as a District Court judge in the Eastern District of California is available in the archive, but has been removed from the print looseleaf since he left the bench to join Duke Law School.

A historical print edition of AFJ, updated through 2012, is in the Goodson Law Library collection at KF8700 .A19 A4. Westlaw's AFJ database includes the text of the current print edition (i.e., active federal judges only).

For more resources on researching current or past judges, check out the library's recently-updated research guide to Directories of Courts and Judges or Ask a Librarian.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Duke DVD Delivery Developments

Late last week, the Lilly Library announced that its extensive collection of videos and DVDs can now be requested by faculty, graduate students, and library staff for delivery and pickup at staffed library service points across campus, including the Goodson Law Library. (Previously, Duke users needed to visit the East Campus library in person to borrow these items.)

Lilly videos and DVDs may be borrowed for one week at a time, with a one-week renewal possible for items without a recall or hold list. Up to 3 DVDs from the regular collection, as well as 1 devilDVD (a collection of recently released popular titles) may be borrowed at one time.

This new option to pick up Lilly videos and DVDs at the Law Library is in addition to the Goodson Law Library's own DVD collection in the Leisure Reading area on Level 3, featuring law-related movies and TV shows. Items in the Law Library DVD collection may be borrowed for 3 days at a time by bringing the empty case to the Circulation/Reserve desk.

Search the Duke University Libraries catalog for more than 30,000 DVDs across campus, and find your perfect movie break from the Law Library or Lilly!

Friday, June 30, 2017

What's New with Court Records & Briefs

Our research guide to Court Records and Briefs has just been updated with some new resources. What's changed over the last year?
  • Increased access to oral argument recordings: Effective April 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit joined the majority of federal appellate courts in providing audio recordings of oral arguments on its website. As Law360 noted in December, this change leaves the 10th Circuit as the lone holdout of federal appellate courts which do not provide some free access to audio.
    In addition, the research guide now includes a link to the Free Law Project's Court Listener Oral Argument Audio, which allows users to search more than 20,000 federal and state oral argument recordings by case name, keyword, docket number, and/or judge.
  • A new source for U.S. Supreme Court records and briefs: A link to the ProQuest Supreme Court Insight database was added to the section on compiled U.S. Supreme Court records and briefs. Although the database is not yet complete, it should include records and briefs dating back to 1975 by the end of the calendar year.
  • An old favorite for locating historical trial pamphlets and books: While the guide has long included catalog search instructions for locating publications containing accounts of historical trials, we've just added a classic bibliography source which can help identify the existence of these materials: The Annals of Murder: A Bibliography of Books and Pamphlets on American Murders from Colonial Times to 1900 (Thomas M. McDade ed. 1961). This thorough bibliography contains entries for historical murder trial accounts, with an index allowing users to look up defendant names, trial locations, and even the occasional cause of death (such as "Poisoning cases"). While many of the pamphlets and books themselves have been digitized, this valuable finding aid has not.
We're always happy to help researchers locate court documents, whether current or historical. Begin your searches at the Court Records and Briefs research guide; if you don't find what you’re looking for, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

History of Capital Punishment in America

On June 29, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Furman v. Georgia, which held that imposing death sentences on three inmates would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Expressing concerns about "arbitrary and discriminatory" imposition of capital punishment, the Court's per curiam opinion effectively suspended death sentences in the U.S. (Just four years later, the Court would reinstate the death penalty with its 7-2 opinion in Gregg v. Georgia, which reviewed amended Georgia statutes concerning capital punishment.)

As discussed in both Supreme Court opinions, and in countless articles and books, capital punishment in America has a long and controversial history. While the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited "cruel and unusual punishment," the death penalty was common in every state, and the federal Crimes Act of 1790 (1 Stat. 112, c. 9) included death as the punishment for treason against the United States, willful murder, piracy, forgery or counterfeiting, or rescuing any prisoners who had been found guilty in capital cases. However, the concerns expressed in Furman about arbitrary and discriminatory application of the death penalty continue, as well as fears of sending the wrongfully-accused to their deaths: the University of Michigan's National Registry of Exonerations lists 117 death-row inmates convicted in the last fifty years who were subsequently exonerated.

HeinOnline has recently released a new library of resources related to the History of Capital Punishment, available to all researchers within the Duke University campus and also available off-campus with a current Duke University NetID and password. The collection includes the Eugene G. Wanger and Marilyn M. Wanger Death Penalty Collection: A Descriptive Bibliography, a three-volume reference work providing information about relevant books, articles, congressional hearings, and other materials. Bibliography entries link to full text if it is available within HeinOnline's large collection of research resources. (The full Wanger Death Penalty Collection is an archival set housed by the Special Collections & Archives at SUNY Albany).

For additional resources on the history of capital punishment, try a search of the Duke University Libraries catalog for the subject heading "Capital punishment -- United States – History" or "Capital punishment – United States" for more general titles. For help using the new Hein library or locating other resources on the topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.