Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Constitution at 230

Sunday, September 17 marks the 230th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. "Constitution Day" was established in 2004, piggybacking on the existing federal recognition of September 17 as "Citizenship Day." See 36 U.S.C. § 106 (2012). Celebrate Constitution Day at the Goodson Law Library by picking up a free pocket Constitution at the library service desk, courtesy of the U.S. Government Publishing Office. (GPO also sent us some government information notecards with QR codes to key federal resources, as well as bookmarks promoting Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government, its educational site for children. These are also available at the service desk giveaway rack, while supplies last.) Throughout the year, the service desk also has free pocket Constitutions courtesy of LexisNexis.

You can also read the text of the Constitution online through the U.S. Senate, the National Archives, and at the start of every print or online version of the United States Code, as part of the "Organic Laws." GPO also provides free access to the Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation (CONAN), a treatise providing historical context and analytical discussion of U.S. Supreme Court interpretations of each article, clause, and amendment of the Constitution. CONAN begins with a "Historical Note on the Formation of the Constitution," which describes briefly the events of September 17:
The Convention met on Monday, September 17, for its final session. Several of the delegates were disappointed in the result. A few deemed the new Constitution a mere makeshift, a series of unfortunate compromises. The advocates of the Constitution, realizing the impending difficulty of obtaining the consent of the States to the new instrument of Government, were anxious to obtain the unanimous support of the delegations from each State. It was feared that many of the delegates would refuse to give their individual assent to the Constitution. Therefore, in order that the action of the Convention would appear to be unanimous, Gouverneur Morris devised the formula "Done in Convention, by the unanimous consent of the States present the 17th of September . . . In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names." Thirty-nine of the forty-two delegates present thereupon "subscribed" to the document.
To learn more about the history of the United States Constitution, try a search of the Duke Libraries Caalog for the subject heading "Constitutional history – United States." You'll find titles like The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution (KF4541 .K53 2016) and Blessings of Liberty: A Concise History of the Constitution of the United States (KF4541.Z9 B463 2016). To find more works about constitutional law or constitutional history, in our print collection or online, just Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

U.S. Code on the Move

Like primary law from the other two branches of government, federal legislation is a living entity, subject to frequent changes. Every legal researcher knows that sections of the U.S. Code can be later amended, repealed, invalidated by a court, or rendered indirectly obsolete by subsequent changes in the law. However, there is another potential fate for federal statutes, less dramatic but no less important: the ability of editors to pick up an existing statute section and relocate it elsewhere in the Code, as part of an editorial reclassification.

Effective September 1, that's what happened inside Title 34 of the U.S. Code, which sat empty for decades after its former subject area (The Navy) was repealed in 1956. Title 34 has finally been repurposed into a new subject area, Crime Control and Law Enforcement, by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel. This editorial reclassification simply moves existing Code sections in force from their previous locations in Title 18 (Crimes and Criminal Procedure), Title 28 (The Judiciary), and Title 42 (Public Health and Welfare). The OLRC announcement of the change includes an outline of the new Title 34 sections as well as a table of which specific Code sections have moved there.

Title 34's text is already updated to reflect these changes at the OLRC's free U.S. Code website, and in the annotated versions of the U.S. Code on Westlaw and Lexis Advance. (Bloomberg Law's U.S. Code text has not yet updated, but likely will soon – a good reminder to always note the currency of your online statute sources.) If you attempt to retrieve an outdated citation to a Code section which has been transferred (such as through a link in case law), the updated U.S.C. or annotated codes online will note the transfer of the old citation to its new home in Title 34.

Should you find yourself researching historical Navy law materials, note that the "new" Title 34 has a completely different numbering scheme than the old, repealed one from before 1956 – so there are no worries about confusion due to overlapping section numbers. However, the "old" Title 34 sections' text is not available in most online research services, as they link readers of case law and secondary sources to only the current version of the U.S. Code. If you need to see the pre-1956 text of Title 34 (Navy), you can access historical versions of the U.S. Code through HeinOnline's U.S. Code Library or free through the Law Library of Congress.

Editorial reclassifications within the U.S. Code are common – in fact, internal reorganizations of Title 7 (Agriculture) and Title 43 (Public Lands) happened on July 1 of this year. The Office of the Law Revision Counsel maintains information pages on these Editorial Reclassification projects.

Editorial reclassification should not be confused with the more complex process of positive law codification, which requires Congress to enact an entire U.S. Code title as a single federal statute, thus rendering it legal evidence of the law's text. (Non-positive law Code titles, assembled by editors, are considered to be only prima facie evidence of the law, and the text of the individual session laws in the U.S. Statutes at Large would be the controlling wording of the law in the event of a discrepancy.) About half of the U.S. Code's 54 titles have been enacted into positive law, including Title 10 (Armed Forces) – which resulted in the repeal of the original Title 34 (Navy) when Title 10 was enacted into positive law in 1956. Information about completed and pending positive law codification projects can be found at the Office of the Law Revision Counsel – if all pending projects are ultimately enacted, the U.S. Code would eventually expand to 57 titles.

For help with using the U.S. Code in its current or historical versions, visit our research guide to Federal Legislative History or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Oxford Bibliographies in International Law

The Duke University community now has access to Oxford Bibliographies in International Law, a peer-reviewed, encyclopedic collection of annotated bibliographies on international law topics. The database (which can be found on our Legal Databases & Links page) contains more than 150 entries by respected international law scholars, each with references to texts, commentaries, encyclopedias, databases, journals, case law, treaties, and other research resources. These bibliographies are excellent starting places to learn basic concepts and to find additional resources on a particular international law topic.

Individual bibliographies can be searched, browsed alphabetically by title, or sorted by Date Added to view the most recent additions. The database is updated on an ongoing basis. One of the most recent additions, Fair and Equitable Treatment in International Investment Agreements (updated August 23), illustrates the typical bibliography style: an introduction and overview of the topic, followed by an annotated list of useful resources.

Note that the GetIt@Duke button under "Find This Resource" for each listed title is somewhat unreliable within this database, particularly for book titles (journal articles tend to connect without issue). If the database indicates that a listed book title is unavailable at Duke University, try a separate search of the Duke Libraries Catalog to double-check.

The International Law module is just one of the many Oxford Bibliographies which are available across campus. To view other available Oxford Bibliographies databases (including Environmental Science and International Relations), search the Duke Libraries Catalog or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Legal Research for Non-Lawyers

The Goodson Law Library research guide to Legal Research for Non-Lawyers was updated this summer with several new resources in our collection. The library maintains a small print reference collection of legal books written for a general audience, many published by the self-help law publisher Nolo Press.

Some newly-added or updated titles in the guide (and the library Reference collection) include:
  • Emily Doskow & Frederick Hertz, Making It Legal: A Guide to Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnership & Civil Unions, 4th ed. (Ref. KF539.A23 .M25 2016). Updated Nolo Press title on same-sex marriage and other legal unions.
  • Cora Jordan, Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise, 9th ed. (Ref. KF639.Z9J67 2017). Updated Nolo Press title dealing with all aspects of neighbor disputes.
  • Deanne Morgan, Become an Informed Caregiver: What You Should Know When Caring for an Aging Loved One (Ref .RA645.3 .M68 2016). Written by a Duke Law legal research instructor, this is an accessible guide to the legal concerns of elder care.
  • Richard Stim, Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off, 6th ed. (Ref. KF3002 .S75 2016). Answers common questions about determining fair use of copyrighted materials, and obtaining permission or "clearance" for other use (such as for commercial purposes).
Online sources are also listed in the guide, including free law-related websites as well as electronic versions of the listed books. Many of the electronic versions are restricted to current Duke University or Duke Law students, faculty, and staff, such as the North Carolina Bar Foundation publication The ABCs of Traffic Law: Do's and Don'ts of Traffic Court – which is available in print in the library's North Carolina Alcove, but also electronically to the Law School community via Lexis Advance. Organized alphabetically by topic (e.g., Buses, Speeding, and Texting While Driving), this is an accessible handbook for attorneys on common NC traffic court issues, but is helpful for non-lawyers as well.

For help with using these or other legal guides for the layperson, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

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.