Tuesday, May 19, 2015

RBG to get her own book and movie!

Photo courtesy of  Irin Carmon 

If you have been waiting to learn more about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you will not have to wait much longer. In October 2015, NOTORIOUS RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a book about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will be published. If you have enough to read already, or want to know more, Natalie Portman will be playing Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On the Basis of Sex, a film following RBG's career. Production is scheduled to begin by the end of this year.
Natalie Portman and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Photo courtesy of Breuel-Bild—ABB/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images, Evan Vucci—AP

Monday, May 18, 2015

"POTUS" and "SCOTUS"--Recent Buzzwords

President Obama is now tweeting as @POTUS. This adds to the official @WhiteHouse account, the Vice President's @VP, and the First Lady's @FLOTUS. And you can follow even more White House Twitter accounts.

We might be used to thinking of the President of the United States as POTUS and the First Lady as FLOTUS, but these terms haven't always been in common parlance. As recently as 1999, the pilot of The West Wing could make it a punchline:
Laurie: Tell your friend POTUS he's got a funny name, and he should learn how to ride a bicycle.
Sam Seaborn: I would, but he's not my friend; he's my boss. It's not his name, it's his title.
Laurie: POTUS?
Sam Seaborn: President of the United States. I'll call ya.
And what about SCOTUS, for Supreme Court of the United States? It hasn't always been a common nickname. When I was in law school, back in the last century, we said "Supreme Court" (or, impertinently, "the Supremes") and wrote "SCt" in our notes.

SCOTUSblog, founded in 2002, quickly became a go-to source for information about the Supreme Court and its cases—and its name doubtless influenced the language, along with our texting, tweeting love of textual shortcuts.

In old law review articles in HeinOnline, you can find plenty of instances of "scotus"—but they are mostly references to the medieval philosopher, theologian, and (since 1993) saint, Duns Scotus. In fact, looking at search results in chronological order up through the 1990s, I saw hundreds of references to Duns Scotus and just a few to SCOTUS.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ABA's Silver Gavel Awards

The ABA has announced the winners (and honorable mentions) of its 2015 Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts.


Nell Bernstein, Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison
available in print and online via UW Libraries
publisher's description
book cover Burning Down the House
Honorable mention:
Laurence Tribe & Joshua Matz, Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution
available in print: Gallagher Classified Stacks and Odegaard Stacks (KF4550 .T789 2014)
publisher's description
Uncertain Justice book cover

Pedalers Push WA to Number 1!

Washington State ranks Number 1 in the League of American Bicyclists' 2015 report card on Bike Friendly States.

 Scores are based on rankings in five categories:

  1. Policies and programs
  2. Legislation and enforcement
  3. Infrastructure and funding
  4. Education and encouragement
  5. Evaluation and planning
Keep biking!

Free Legal Research Tune-up

Is your legal research search engine a little rusty? Could you use the help of an experienced "mechanic?"

Then consider attending the free legal research tune-up session on Wednesday, May 20, from 9:30-11:30am at Seattle University School of Law's Sullivan Hall, Room 109.

Please RSVP here.
The workshop will cover state and federal legislative history, regulations, and practice materials using a problem-based approach. Students will have hands-on practice working through research scenarios.  Please bring your laptop.
This program is sponsored by the Seattle University Law Library and Lane Powell.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fair or Foul? New Index Provides Fair Use Case Results

Recently, the United States Copyright Office created a new resource for researching fair use opinions in the federal courts. The U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index provides a list of over 170 U.S. Supreme Court, circuit courts of appeal, and federal district court opinions that have made a ruling relating to the fair use doctrine.  Although the list is not exhaustive, the index includes a broad selection of cases. “The goal of the Index is to make the principles and application of fair use more accessible and understandable to the public by presenting a searchable database of court opinions, including by category and type of use . . .”

U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index
U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index

Friday, May 8, 2015

Stand-up Desks, Book Stands, and a Flying Disc

The Gallagher Law Library Circulation Desk provides lots of information and services: scanner and printer information, directions to bathrooms and water fountains, identifying book locations, and checking out library materials. As to materials available for loan, here a few items available at the Circulation Desk that you may not have been aware were offered for check out.

 Book stands are a popular item for students to check out. There are two kinds available: a faux wood style stand and a wire frame style. Set up is easy for both. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, proper use of a book stand or document holder "may reduce or eliminate risk factors such as awkward head and neck postures, fatigue, headaches, and eye strain."

Adjustable height laptop / reading stands are the newest addition to items available at circulation. These desks can be raised to a comfortable height allowing you to work on your feet. These stands are not as easy to set up as the book stands, but with a little patience they can be set to the desired height and incline. It is important to ensure that the stand is secure and level. Please test its stability before placing laptops or heavy items on the stands. This Youtube video demonstrates how to use adjustable stands.

Adjustable height reading stand

Circulation is not just about ergonomics! If you are in need of a break after a long period of maintaining a neutral body posture while studying, how about a game of flying disc? The Circulation Desk has a Frisbee brand flying disc available for check out. The flying disc may be the only library item that is available strictly for use outside of the library.

Flying disc
Speaking of discs, a disk drive is also available for check out from the Circulation Desk. Please note that this is a floppy disk drive, and not a flying disc drive.

Floppy disk drive
Hopefully these tools make your time in the library more productive, healthy, and enjoyable!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Data Crunching Justices' Writing Styles

If you've read Supreme Court cases from the early 19th century and the early 21st century, you probably have a sense that writing styles have changed. But can you quantify that?

Three scholars from Dartmouth and UVa (two mathematicians and a law professor) can. They find that opinions have grown longer but easier to read. Justices writing at the same time tend to have more similar styles than those separated by a hundred years. Consistency is probably aided by clerks.

You can read the whole paper on SSRN:
Keith Carlson, Michael A. Livermore, Daniel Rockmore, A Quantitative Analysis of Writing Style on the U.S. Supreme Court, 93 Wash. U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016)
Hear also this interview with coauthor Michael Livermore, focusing on the increase in negative language.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Alternative Legal Research Databases

When you think of online legal research, LexisAdvance, WestlawNext, or BloombergLaw probably spring to mind. With summer fast approaching, it may be worthwhile to explore some alternative legal research databases. As a general rule, no other service provides the depth and breadth of coverage of primary law as the three big names. Additionally, editorial enhancements, like case headnotes or statute annotations, are limited on other services. Similarly, these alternative services have minimal coverage of secondary sources (that means sources like American Jurisprudence 2d or Washington Practice are not available). Nevertheless, you may find that  these services provide sufficient access to primary sources of law in a cost-effective manner. At the very least, it does not hurt to occasionally survey the competition to the industry leaders.

A good starting point in exploring alternative legal research services is the Gallagher Guide to Low-Cost Legal Research Services on the Web. That guide focuses on Casemaker and VersusLaw.

CaseMaker logo
Casemaker partners with bar associations across the country to provide access to their members. The Washington State Bar Association allows students to register for a free account for academic use and the WSBA provides Casemaker to its members for free. Among the services that Casemaker provides is CaseCheck+, a limited citator service, akin to Shepard's or KeyCite, that indicates when case law has received negative treatment. Casemaker also offers a subscription to secondary materials published by the WSBA, which includes a variety of deskbooks on topics like appellate practice, civil procedure, and real property, to new attorneys for $1,200 a year. WSBA deskbooks are available online to students and other library users when accessed through the library's network (a link is provided on the library's website). Students who wish to access the deskbooks remotely should contact a reference librarian for login information.

VersusLaw, which is free to law students for academic use, provides access to state, federal, and tribal court decisions. Additionally, access to state and federal statutes and accompanying regulations is available under various subscription plans.

While Casemaker and VersusLaw are prototypical legal databases with functionality that should be familiar to users of BloombergLaw, LexisNexis, or Westlaw, the following services try to deliver legal research in innovative ways.

Casetext logo
Casetext is a free service that provides access to a large variety state and federal decisions; its coverage starts in 1925. Casetext users are encouraged to provide annotations to judicial decisions in order to identify or explain key points in the decision. Another notable feature is ReCite. ReCite examines how other courts have summarized or explained a judicial decision and compiles those descriptions for easy review in a pane alongside the decision. This may be a helpful way to gain a quick sense of a how principles from specific cases have been practically employed.

Mootus is another legal research product that is trying to build its knowledge database through user participation. Unlike the services previously discussed, Mootus does not provide access to case law and other primary law sources. Rather, Mootus allows users to post questions about legal issues, such as whether the First Amendment protects a person from criminal prosecution based on threats made via Twitter, and other users answer the question by providing quotations, citations, and annotations that support their stance. While not offering the resources of a typical legal research database, Mootus allows you to explore novel or unresolved legal issues, either as someone asking questions or providing answers. Gallagher Blogs covered Casetext and Mootus in April 2014.

Ravel Law visualization screenshot
Finally, Ravel Law is a legal research database that uses visualization to present search results in unique ways. Ravel Law tries to show the connections among cases and areas of the law in a way that is appealing and comprehensible. Ravel Law is free for law students, and subscriptions are available for attorneys. Ravel Law's visualization features provide an interesting way to see the impact of a judicial decision over time. See this previous Gallagher Blogs post for an in-depth discussion of Ravel Law.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Oral Arguments in Same-Sex Marriage Cases

On Tuesday April 28th, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in four cases challenging state bans on same-sex marriages and state bans on recognition of existing same-sex marriages. When decided the consolidated cases will have the title Obergefell v. Hodges.

If you would like to preview the arguments the Court will be presented with, the Court's website has posted briefs from the parties and amici. If reading over 1,000 pages of legal briefs doesn't fit into your weekend plans, SCOTUSblog has a four part series analyzing the briefs filed by the couples seeking to over turn the bans, the states defending the bans, the amici supporting the couples-including the federal government, and the amici supporting the states.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Robinson on Race and Criminal Justice

Remember Jeffery Robinson's presentation on Ferguson in December? You might be interested in this 9-minute interview with him on KUOW: Seattle Defense Attorney To Lead ACLU's Center For Justice (April 20, 2015). (The Center for Justice includes the National Prison Project, the Criminal Law Reform Project and the Capital Punishment Project.)

Environmental Law for Earth Day

Mark Earth Day with a quick look at some of the environmental law scholarship that's been produced at UW Law in the last several years:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Legal Milestones in Choral Music

Two upcoming choral concerts honor historic legal events.

1297 copy of Magna Carta on display
in the National Archives
(and the NationalArchives
Featured Documents web exhibit
UW Collegium Musicum presents a musical setting of a medieval poem about the events leading to the Magna Carta in 1215. Magna Carta 800: Music of the British Isles, Sat. April 18, 2015, 7:30 PM, Mary Gates Hall, $10.

Orchestra Seattle and Seattle Chamber Singers present 1954 in America , Sunday, May 17, 3:00 PM, First Free Methodist Church (in West Seattle). One of the works is Breathe, by Stacey Phillips:
Breathe, a work for chorus and orchestra selected as the winning entry in the 2014–2015 OSSCS Composer Competition, features lyrics drawn from the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Paul Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy.” Written during the months following protests in response to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Breathe “raises the continuing question of how this country, founded on the principles of equality, continues to struggle with questions of social justice.”
Thanks to Patty Roberts.

National County Government Month #NCGM

"April is the cruellest month," wrote T. S. Eliot. If you're a fan of Eliot, you might be celebrating April as National Poetry Month.

National County Government Month logo
But April is also National County Government Month (declared by the National Association of Counties (NACo)), and as lawyers you're more likely to deal with county government or even be a part of it than you are to be a professional poet, so let's take a minute to think about county government.

This year's theme is "Counties Moving America Forward: The Keys are Transportation and Infrastructure."

Washington County Profiles (from the Municipal Research and Services Center) offers quick access to county websites, codes, and comprehensive plans.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Working at the IRS; Pew on Taxes

Bloomberg News has a long story looking at life inside the IRS: Devin Leonard & Richard Rubin, IRS Workers Are Miserable and Overwhelmed, April 8, 2015. The headline conveys the gist of it, but read the article to learn more about budget cuts, hiring freezes, reorganizations, and other constraints that make the lives of these public servants challenging. 

screen snip showing headline from story

Think of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NASA, or the Department of Defense: that agency can't do its work unless the folks at the IRS do their work. 

I listed those three agencies because they get very high approval ratings (65-70% favorable) while the IRS got more unfavorable (48%) than favorable (45%) responses. That's from the Bloomberg News article, crediting Pew Research Center. For more on that survey of attitudes toward agencies, see Most View the CDC Favorably: VA's Image Slips, Pew Research Center, Jan. 22, 2015. The complete report is here.

Speaking of reports from Pew, see 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Growth of Incarceration

The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (2014), packed with research and analysis from social scientists and policy experts, is available as a free PDF from the National Academies Press.

This animated video summarizes the findings:

And this video summarizes it without the graphics:


Other National Academies publications in Law and Justice address topics such as:
  • eyewitness identification
  • the illicit tobacco market
  • juvenile justice reform
  • sex trafficking
  • forensic evidence

Friday, April 10, 2015

Prohibition comes to Seattle!

Don't worry–you can still have your evening cocktail! MOHAI (the Museum of History & Industry) is presenting the exhibit American Spirits the Rise and Fall of Prohibition April 2 through August 23. Along with this exhibit on June 6, 2015, "MOHAI will present 21st Century Speakeasy - a chance for visitors to discover how our region has pushed boundaries and led national conversations about legislating morality, including, most recently, the legalization of marijuana in Washington State."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Poetry! Get Your Poetry!

April is National Poetry Month. Whether you like your poetry funny or serious, romantic or modern, one nice feature of most poems is that you can enjoy one or two even while keeping up with your law school reading assignments. (I know: you can't get through the Aeneid or Paradise Lost in a half hour. I said most poems.)

You can find free poetry and other resources on www.poetryfoundation.org and poets.org (the website of the Academy of American Poets).

If you like your poetry on paper, go to the University Bookstore on Friday, April 10, when all poetry books in stock are 25% off.

University Book Store sale ad

A poetry book is a bargain!
And gives a break from legal jargon!
Get prepared for April 30, Poem in Your Pocket Day.

Help Make LEGO Legal Justice Team a Reality!

Remember the Legal Justice League: Women of the Supreme Court in LEGO??

Well, they're back, but in a slightly different form. LEGO initially rejected Maia Weinstock's original proposal, featuring actual female justices from the U.S. Supreme Court, under its policy against creating political minifigures based on real individuals. Weinstock and LEGO have now reached a compromise and a proposed set including three generic female justices has now been submitted to LEGO Ideas (LEGO's crowdsourced incubator for potential sets).

photocredit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pixbymaia/16320141884/

photocredit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pixbymaia/16320141884/

The project requires 10,000 votes before it's qualified for LEGO Review. Help show your support by voting for the project here.

You can also find more details about Maia Weinstock's chronicle of events leading to the creation of the Legal Justice Team here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

You've Been Served.. via Facebook?

Traditionally, when commencing a lawsuit a person must be served in-person, or if not in person, through alternative service such as by publication. However, recently a New York State Judge ordered that the Defendant could be served via Facebook private messenger. What do you think of this new, alternative service? Is it constitutional? Read the Court's full opinion here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tips for Better To-Do Lists

Is it still early enough in the quarter that you aren't behind? or not too far behind?

If you're always scrambling to keep track of what's going on, you might find these tips helpful: What Happened When Fast Company Staff Created Better To-Do Lists (Sept. 22, 2014).

The article is from the blog How To Be a Success at Everything: "From big ideas like balancing work and life to small, everyday choices, we discover how talented people are so effective at what they do."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Federal Appellate Briefs to Get Shorter?

A proposed change to Rule 32 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure would put appellate briefs on an enforced diet:
  • a principal brief would max out at 12,500 words (rather than the current 14,000 words)
  • a reply brief would have half that.
Because the Judicial Conference uses Regulations.gov, you can read the comments that have been submitted.

Some of the comments are from individuals. Many are from organizations, for example
  • Seth Waxman submitted a letter on behalf of the appellate practice groups of several large law firms (including his own firm, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP).
  • EarthJustice, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and Western Environmental Law Center submitted joint comments.
  • The American Academy of Appellate Lawyers also weighed in, approving changes to other rules but not Rule 32.
  • Judge Frank Easterbrook (7th Cir.) wrote supporting the current, 14,000-word limit, and also explaining its origin. 
Most of the comments are against the change, but some support it. See Mark Wilson, FRAP 32: Do Federal Appellate Briefs Need to Be Shorter?, Strategist (Feb. 17, 2015).

By the way, the corresponding rule in Washington (RAP 10.4) limits brief length in terms of pages, not words. Its limit is 50 pages for a principal brief, which might work out to be about the same as 14,000 words. Judge Easterbrook says that the old federal rule was 50 pages; to change to a word count, he calculated the number of words in 50-page briefs and found an average of just under 40,000 words.

Autism Awareness

Today is World Autism Awareness Day (see the UN General Assembly resolution and President Obama's proclamation) and April is National Autism Awareness Month.

For an essay criticizing the rhetoric of "celebrating" autism, see this essay on the Washington Post website by the mother of three adult daughters with autism.

Prof. Steve Calandrillo
To sample some of the legal issues, visit SSRN and search for "autism." When I did, the top article (in a ranking by number of downloads) was by UW Law's Prof. Steve CalandrilloVanishing Vaccinations: Why Are So Many Americans Opting Out of Vaccinating their Children?, 37 U. Mich. J. L. Reform 353 (2004). (It's been downloaded 1336 times.) Other papers address special education, criminal law, bullying, trial practice (children with autism as witnesses), and more.

Last year, the Autism CARES Act tweaked autism-related provisions of the Public Health Service Act. (The full title is a mouthful: Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act of 2014, Pub. L. 113-157, 128 Stat. 1831.) Because autism issues are within the domains of different agencies (e.g., Health and Human Services and Education), the federal government has an Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. Among other thing, the committee provides a range of publications. For less technical, more accessible information, see HHS's Autism Information page.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Group Study Rooms to Be Remodeled

Associate Dean Hazel Pennington announced today that over spring break the law library had plumbing installed to accommodate hot tubs in three of the group study rooms rooms on L2. "I think this will increase usage of the study rooms, while improving student morale and well being."

Students enjoying a relaxing study session.

An extension of the chair yoga offered during Wellness Wednesdays, the availability of whirlpool hot tubs should contribute to the mellow vibe in the law school. "We are cooperating with a cognitive psychologist on campus who is interested in the performance enhancing effects of regular hot tubbing by law students," said Dean Pennington. "As well as making our students' lives more pleasant, we might be improving their performance. And if not, well, at least the students will be relaxed."

Dean Pennington reported that the location of the study rooms on the lowest level of the building is ideal. The increased weight from the hot tubs would unduly stress upper floors. "While we want to relieve students' stress, we don't want to increase the building's structural stress!"

Graphic: mashup by Mary Whisner of her own photo of a study room and a hot tub photo by Travis Rigel Lukas Hornung. Hot tub photo used under Creative Commons license