Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Moot Court via Twitter

West Coast Environmental Law, a nonprofit based in Vancouver, BC, hosted an environmental law moot court over Twitter. The student competitors presented their arguments and judges asked them questions in Tweets on Feb. 21.

The issues involved native people's right to hunt a herd of caribou that was threatened by a proposed coal mine and whether the government had complied with its duty to consult. There were five parties and intervenors represented: British Columbia (appellant), First Coal Corporation (appellant), West Moberly First Nations (respondent), Alberta (intervenor), and Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta (intervenor).
You can read all the Tweets here.  Note that the advocates refer and link to their "factums" (short outlines of their arguments) and one-minute video supplements.
See #Legalhistory: law students argue first case via Twitter, Osgoode Hall Law School web page, Feb. 21, 2012, L.J. Jackson, @Mootcourt: First-Ever Twitter Moot Court Competition, ABA Journal Law News Now, March 1, 2012 (odd that the article says it was posted tomorrow).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Initiative or Referendum?

What’s the difference between an initiative and a referendum?

Both are forms of law-making power, given to the people by the Washington State Constitution. (Const.art. II, sec. 1).

“The initiative process is the direct power of the voters to enact new laws or change existing laws. It allows the electorate to petition to place proposed legislation on the ballot.”

A referendum, on the other hand, gives “voters an opportunity to approve or reject laws either proposed or enacted by the Legislature.”

Interested in the process and rules for filing petitions and gathering signatures? See Filing Initiatives and Referenda in Washington State, last updated 1/2012.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Washington HistoryMakers Biographical Database

A new HistoryMakers Biographical Database has appeared as part of the Legacy Project on the Secretary of State's website.
Built by volunteers, the database contains information about:
  • governors and lieutenant governors
  • secretaries of state
  • treasurers
  • U.S. Senators and Representatives
  • and selected other elected officials
The database is a word in progress, so expect its size and scope to increase over time.

Here is an image of the first part of the entry for Washington State's first female governor, Dixy Lee Ray. Additional information includes offices held, awards, and links to other online sources.

Search by first and last name of a known individual or browse by names under Office, Party Affiliation, or Field.

For instance, I chose the Education field and searched "washington law." The search retrieved nine entries, including:
  • former State Senator Frank Atwood, Jr. (UW Law 1951)
  • Court of Appeals Judge Mary Kay Becker (UW Law 1982)
  • King County Superior Court Judge Jeanette Ruth Berleen Burrage (UW Law 1989)
  • Lieutenant Governor "Wee" Coyle (UW Law 1912)
  • Chief Justice James Dolliver (UW Law 1952)
  • Governor Booth Gardner (UW Law 1959)
  • former State Senator Bill Gissberg (UW Law 1948)
  • former State Representative Ann T. O'Donnell (no date)
  • former U.S. Representative Thor Carl Tollefson (UW Law 1930)
Photo credit: Snippet image of Dixy Lee Ray's entry in the HistoryMaker database, visited Feb. 27, 2012.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Academy Awards Research

I love watching movies.

I remember crying hysterically while E.T. tried to phone home (E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial, 1982. Nominated for nine Oscars, won four at the 55th Academy Awards), and laughing hysterically as Forrest ran across the country, inspiring bumper stickers and smiley face t-shirts (Forrest Gump, 1994. Nominated for 13 Oscars, won six at the 67th Academy Awards).

I also like movie research. One of my favorite web sites for movie research (other than IMDB) is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Under the “Research & Preservation” tab, is a link to “Resources & Databases.”

You can conduct research using databases such as:

  • Academy Awards Database
  • Academy Awards Acceptance Speech Database
  • Motion Picture Credits Database
  • Motion Picture Scripts Database

To date, the Academy Awards Database includes 83 years of compiled history and fun film facts.

The Acceptance Speech Database is great for historical research. For example, this year marks the 50th Anniversary of the theatrical release of To Kill A Mockingbird (1962).

Searching for this title in the Academy Awards database, I learn that Gregory Peck received the (best) Actor Oscar for his performance as Atticus Finch. I enter his name in the Acceptance Speech database, and I’m able to watch a clip of Frank Sinatra, introducing Sophia Lauren, who announces the best Actor Oscar winner, Mr. Peck.

Other details, including the date of the telecast (April 8, 1963), location (Santa Monica Civic Auditorium), and a transcript of Peck’s speech also are readily available.

Of course, many stories for motion pictures originate from books (including Forrest Gump by Winston Groom, and this year's best picture nominee The Help by Kathryn Stockett). For more on “reel” law, search the library catalog by subject headings such as:

Lawyers in Motion Pictures

Trials in motion pictures

Justice, Administration of, in motion pictures

Enjoy the 84th Academy Awards on February 26!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

PACER Docket Updates by RSS Feed


Many federal district courts now offer RSS feeds to keep users apprised of developments in cases they have selected The Individual Courts PACER Sites page displays the RSS icon next to the name of each court that offers this service.

Don't know much about PACER? See other Gallagher Blogs posts on this subject or the list of questions and answers on the PACER site.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Novel Way to Pay Off Your Debt

Pondering my pesky law school debt the other day, I was reminded of the inspiring tale of Senator Claire McCaskill’s path to financial freedom.

Senator McCaskill graduated from law school at University of Missouri - Columbia in 1978 and, according to her appearance on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, she promptly went to southern California and auditioned for several game shows, ultimately making her way on to the game show High Rollers and earning $35,000—enough to pay off her student loans!

In a story closer to home, Professor Steve Calandrillo had similar success. Professor Calandrillo was a three-time champion on Wheel of Fortune and put his winnings toward his JD at Harvard Law School. I’d say this is the best use of an economics degree I’ve ever heard of!

If you think you have what it takes to be the next Senator McCaskill, Professor Calandrillo, or even Ken Jennings, check out this site or go to the Web site for the game show itself (like this page for Jeopardy!).

But beware! The financial rewards of game show success come with great responsibility.

The good news is that the IRS is happy to provide guidance on how to address your new-found success, whether your winnings come from the lottery, poker, or the game show circuit. So before you hop in the car and head to Hollywood, visit http://www.irs.gov/ and heed the cautionary tale of this infamous game show survivor.

Senator McCaskill's photo courtesy of mccaskill.senate.gov.
Professor Calandrillo's photo courtesy of University of Washington School of Law.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pox: An American History

The smallpox outbreaks between 1895 and 1905 illustrate many important themes. You'd expect medical history, and of course it's there, but in Pox: An American History, historian Michael Willrich gives us much more.
  • Race: Some outbreaks began in the African American community, spread by itinerant workers moving between jobs on the railroad or in turpentine camps. Some whites believed it was only a black disease, and therefore didn't worry about public health measures until the outbreaks  had progressed. And when action was taken, blacks were vaccinated by force or under threat of force, sometime housing was destroyed, and penthouses  for  quarantining the sick were in black neighborhoods. 
  • Immigration: The book also explores the treatment of immigrants in tenements in Northeastern cities. 
  • Imperialism: controlling smallpox was a big concern for  the military occupations of Cuba and the Philippines, and it was accomplished, sometimes at bayonet point. 
  • Industry and regulation: ineffective  and  contaminated vaccines led to a federal statute to regulate vaccine production, a couple of years before the Food and Drug Act.  
  • State Power vs. Individual Autonomy: Should the  state be able to compel an individual to be vaccinated? Should  there be any exceptions for religious beliefs or individual health conditions? In short, you get a lot of history and policy in the course of learning about smallpox. 
I recommend this book for lots of interests. For more detailed reviews, see Michael Specter's review in the New Yorker or this story from Fresh Air

Pox is available in the law library (RA644.S6 W55 2011 at Classified Stacks). The catalog record is here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

This Day in History Belva A. Lockwood

Through the efforts of Belva Ann Lockwood (1830 – 1917), on February 15, 1879, a law (20 Stat. 292 (1879)) was passed that allowed women for the first time to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States:




In her meticulously researched book, Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President (2007), author Jill Norgren shares Lockwood's inspirational story.

Lockwood started her career as a teacher, but was always drawn to law and politics.

Around the age of 40, Lockwood was invited to attend classes at National University Law School in Washington, D.C. (which later merged with George Washington University; see GWU Encyclopedia entry for Belva Ann Lockwood) and shortly thereafter enrolled, earning her degree in 1873. She fought for the right to receive her diploma, and to join the D.C. Bar.

But she wanted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. After many years of persistent lobbying, on February 15, 1879 An Act to Relieve Certain Legal Disabilities of Women was passed by the 45th Congress and signed into law by President Hayes. In March 1879, Lockwood took the oath and became the first woman admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

You can find Norgren’s book, Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would Be President (2007) in the Classified Stacks at KF368 .L58 .N67.

To learn more about Lockwood, see Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Remarks on the Life and Times of Belva Lockwood Supreme Court Fellows Dinner January 24, 2008, 37 Sw. U. L. Rev. 371 (2008).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Evolution in Court

book jacketA student reminded me that yesterday was Charles Darwin's birthday – an apt time to mention some resources about the Scopes trial.

Edward J. Larson won the Pulitzer Prize in history of Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion, KF224.S3 L37 1997 at Good Reads. He gives a thorough account of the trial, followed by chapters looking at its place in literature and film and recent disputes about teaching evolution. (The publisher's page about the book is here.)

For a variety of materials about the trial, see this page in Douglas Linder's Famous Trials site. You'll find excerpts from the trial transcript, H. L. Mencken's newspaper coverage, and even excerpts from the biology textbook that Scopes used.

For more books about the trial and related topics, see this WorldCat list.

Library Hours for Presidents Day

Next Monday, Feb. 20, is the Presidents Day holiday.

The Law Library will be open on an abbreviated schedule, 8am - 5pm. The Reference Office will be open from 1 - 4pm.

All Creatures Great and Small

Seattleites are known for their devotion to their pets. (In fact, one statistic says canine kids outnumber the human variety almost 3-to-1.) And two local news stories have brought municipal ordinances and pet owners' run-ins with the law into the spotlight.

Duke, the ne'er-do-well kitty discussed in this Seattle Times article had a penchant for pooping on his neighbor’s property. This unfortunate habit cost his owners $109 given that Duke's flouting of the law resulted in damage to the neighbor's property apparently sufficient to warrant court action.

Curious about which municipal ordinance could get a small cat into big trouble with the law? SMC 9.25.084 states

"It is unlawful for the owner to...[p]ermit any animal to damage public property or the private property of another."

The question at trial was whether Duke was the kitty offender in question and, unfortunately for Duke, Magistrate Adam Eisenberg ruled that a preponderance of the evidence indicated he was.

In other animal news, Amy, the adorable dog featured in this Seattle Times article fought the law and (presumably) the law won a few years back, with her owner ending up in court to contest the language of Seattle’s dog-scoop law, SMC 18.12.080:

"Any person with a dog or other pet in his or her possession or under his or her control in any park shall...carry equipment for removing feces...."

Amy’s owner argued that “equipment” had no definition and could really mean just about anything, particularly when a person is in a pinch when faced with a $54 ticket. It is unclear whether Amy’s owner prevailed, but the ordinance still stands as-is.

Down in the dumps about the plight of these animal owners? Do yourself a favor and bone up on pet-related municipal ordinances including those related to licensing and picking up after Fido. Gallagher Law Library also has a handy book you might consider, Every Dog's Legal Guide: A Must-Have Book for Your Owner by Mary Randolph (2007), KF390.5.D6 R36 2007 (in the Reference area of the library). And for more on the significance of municipal ordinances and the ways they could impact your daily life, read Mary Whisner’s article, Enact Locally, 102 Law Libr. J. 497 (2010).

Graphics: Microsoft clip art.

Marriage Equality

The recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Proposition 8 released on Tuesday has caused quite a stir. Both sides have hotly debated the issue with emotion and vigor--however an actual constitutional law discussion has been noticeably absent.
















Erwin Chemerinksy, the dean of UC Irvine School of Law and Constitutional Law guru, shared his thoughts on the constitutional law issue of Proposition 8 and forecasted the Supreme Court’s decision in an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times.
Wherever you might fall on the issue, Gallagher Law Library offers many constitutional law resources if you wanted to construct your own opinion on the matter. If you’d like to read some more opinions on the issue, be sure to check out an article in the Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy available via HeinOnline.
Cartoon Credit: The Sacramento Bee

Friday, February 10, 2012

Washington Constitutional Research Online!

Delegates to the Washington Constitutional Convention
When you base an argument on the Washington State constitution, one of the factors you need to address is its history. State v. Gunwall, 106 Wn.2d 54, 61, 720 P.2d 708 (1986). But, lacking a time machine to take to you 1889, how do you find out what went on in the constitutional convention?

Take heart: you won't be the first person to explore this segment of the past. An essential tool for researchers is The Journal of the Washington State Constitutional Convention, 1889, edited by Beverly Paulik Rosenow in 1962 (reprinted in 1999) (KFW 401 1889 .A223 at Reference Area). This volume includes an analytical index, prepared by Quentin Shipley Smith, that examines the constitution, section by section, printing each section, then referring to the Journal (which is chronological) and citing contemporary newspaper articles and later secondary sources about the constitution.

Robert F. Utter & Hugh D. Spitzer, The Washington State Constitution: A Reference Guide (2002) (Catalog record) takes you through, section by section, discussing each provision's history and important cases interpreting it. There are also a number of law review articles about the use of state constitutions generally and our constitution in particular. 

Now you can do a lot of state constitutional research online, starting from our web page, Washington State Constitution: History. You'll find the Journal, links to contemporary newspaper articles, links to other states' constitutions that influenced the Washington drafters, law review articles, and more. A separate page lists the constitutional amendments (we've had 106 so far). Because it was so influential in Washington, we even have a page for the Oregon constitution.


If you have suggestions for developing this site, please let us know.


Graphic: Composite photo of the delegates for the Constitutional Convention in Washington State, July 4, 1889. Item Number AR-28001001-ph00278, General Subjects Photograph Collection, 1845-2005, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives (accessed Sept. 12, 2011). Original images held at the Washington State Archives, Olympia, WA. Same image,credited to photographer Merle Junk, available as Item Number AR-25501080-ph004713, Susan Parish Photograph Collection, 1889-1990.







Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Online Colloquium About Mothering

The editors of the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender are using an article in their current issue to spark discussion, via an online colloquium and a live conference.

In Unsex Mothering: Toward a New Culture of Parenting, Darren Rosenblum critiques the way society strongly ties aspects of child care to biological sex and he argues for breaking apart those ties. The live conference is next Monday evening, in Cambridge, MA.

Whether or not you can drop by Harvard, you can read the online colloquium, which includes essays by 16 authors responding to Rosenblum's piece. The authors are from around the country, including three from Seattle: Dean Kellye Testy (UW), Prof. Julie Shapiro (Seattle U), and Mary Whisner (UW reference librarian).

If you'd like to read thoughtful blog posts on the themes of family, biology, and culture, be sure to check out Related Matters (by Prof. Shapiro) and Speaking of Women's Rights (by the staff of Legal Voice).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TRACfed – Online Service for Fed Enforcement Data

The University Libraries recently subscribed to TRACfed, an online service that enables you to mine lots of fascinating data about federal enforcement activity (criminal, civil, and administrative). It's UW restricted, so if you aren't on a UW computer you'll need to log in to off-campus access (upper right corner of library web pages) to get going. To generate some reports, you'll be prompted to register, choosing a user name and password.

Suppose that, like Prof. Scott Schumacher, you are interested in civil and criminal tax controversy and litigation. Wouldn't it be great to be able to find out how many people and corporations get audited and whether it varies by region of the country? Wouldn't you like to know how many cases the IRS refers to U.S. attorneys and the prosecution success rate? TRACfed lets you do all that and more!

From the main page, choose Admin (for Administrative Enforcement), then choose IRS. A menu on the left gives you some options (criminal enforcement, corporate audits, etc.):



For example, choose Criminal Enforcement. Right away, you see a graph showing you the rate of referrals from the IRS to federal prosecutors since 1992. You see it was a little over 20 per million in 1992, sloped down to a low of 7 or 8 per million in 2001 and has nudged up to 10 per million in 2010.



Click another link and you see a map illustrating which districts are the hottest for tax prosecutions.

Why is Western Washington yellow and Eastern Washington red?

Below the graphics, you'll see a spreadsheet that you can sort in different ways. Sorting by district shows that the IRS made 24 referrals to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, and 19 in the Eastern District. That would seem pretty close – but the Eastern District has a lot fewer people. So the odds of referral in 2010 were 5 per million in W.D. Wash. and 13 per million in E.D. Wash. The Western District ranked 79th among the 90 districts, while the Eastern District ranked 18th. (That's just for Fiscal Year 2010. In FY 2004, they were very close: 84th and 89th.)


This is just a taste of TRACfed. There are also datasets for Social Security and immigration, as well as criminal and civil actions. I'll have more examples in future posts.


Dickens Turns 200!

Dickens blowing out birthday candlesOf course literary types care, but why would a law library note that today is Charles Dickens's 200th birthday? Because the prolific 19th-Century novelist had a lot to say about law and lawyers, that's why. (Also we like literature.) Contested inheritances, debtors' prison, property settlements – these are often as important to the story as any human character.

The Guardian has a rich website, Dickens at 200, that has a variety of articles, a video and audio tour of Dickens's London and other sites.

Consider yourself a Dickens buff? Then take the Guardian's "fiendishly difficult" birthday quiz.

If you're daunted by the hugeness of Bleak House, read Rules of Reading, which remind us that this book, like the other novels, came out in pieces, month by month – and it was hot:
The problem for Charles Dickens's original audience wasn't that they had more book than they could manage – but that they couldn't get enough of it.
Think of this:
When we sit down to watch "Season 1" on DVD or Netflix, we wouldn't demand the same rhythm or technique for The Sopranos or Battlestar Galactica that we would for a 92-minute theatrical release.
For an assortment of books and articles about Dickens and the law, see this list.

The Guardian even has something for those who are not Dickens nuts: Enough with the Charles Dickens Hero Worship.

Graphic: mw, using Dickens portrait from The Guardian.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Stat. vs. U.S.C.

We all use the United States Code (U.S.C.) (or the annotated versions, U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S.) when we're looking for laws on a given topic. It's convenient to have laws grouped together by subject, and it's great to have amendments incorporated into one text. But it's important to remember that the United States Statutes at Large (Stat.) matters, especially if there's a conflict.

When might this make a difference? One example is found in a case the Seventh Circuit decided last week, Gonzalez v. Village of West Milwaukee, No. 10-2356 (7th Cir. Feb. 2, 2012). This came to my attention because it cited an article I wrote about codification, Mary Whisner, The United States Code, Prima Facie Evidence, and Positive Law, 101 Law Libr. J. 545 (2009). (Nice to know that someone read it and found it useful!)

Gonzalez asserted a Privacy Act claim against a municipality. One defense was that that the Privacy Act only applies to federal agencies. Bear with me here: I have to quote several provisions of both Stat. and U.S.C. to show how the two versions clashed.

Section 3 of the Privacy Act of 1974, Pub. L. 93-579, 88 Stat. 1896, added a new section to the United States Code: 5 U.S.C. §552a. Since title 5 is one of the titles that has been enacted into positive law, Congress explicitly provided where the new section should be codified.

But that wasn't the only section of the Privacy Act. Section 7 provided:
(a)(1) It shall be unlawful for any Federal, State or local government agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual’s refusal to disclose his social security account number.
The act didn't say where to codify § 7, so the Office of Law Revision Counsel (the people who codify laws) put it into a note to 5 U.S.C. § 552a. (The Law Revision Counsel couldn't just make up a new section number: everything that has a section number of its own in a title that's been enacted as positive law was put there by Congress.)

5 U.S.C. § 552a says:
(a) DEFINITIONS.—For purposes of this section—
(1) the term "agency" means agency as defined in section 552(e) [now 552(f)] of this title;
And 5 U.S.C. § 552(f) says:
(f) For purposes of this section, the term—
(1) ‘"agency" as defined in section 551(1) of this title includes any executive department, military department, Government corporation, Government controlled corporation, or other establishment in the executive branch of the Government (including the Executive Office of the President), or any independent regulatory agency;
In 2005, the Sixth Circuit found that  § 7 didn't apply to a local government because § 7 was codified with § 552 and it didn't fit within § 552's definition of "agency."

The defendant in Gonzalez made that argument, too, but the Seventh Circuit went back to Statutes at Large, where § 7 very clearly does apply to local governments. It doesn't matter that § 7 was codified in a note to § 552. The language "for purposes of this section" meant the section of the original Privacy Act (§ 3), not 5 U.S.C. § 552 and whatever was tucked into a note.

Gonzalez lost his Privacy Act claim on other grounds, but § 7 does apply to local governments. The moral of the story: the text in Statutes at Large is the law.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Guide to the SCOTUS Health Reform Case

The Kaiser Family Foundation has published a 10-page Guide to the Supreme Court's Review of the 2010 Health Care Reform Law.

It addresses the background and nine key questions:

  1. Who are the parties in the cases accepted by the Supreme Court, and what do they want?
  2. What have the lower federal appellate courts decided about the constitutionality of the ACA?
  3. What issues will the Supreme Court consider in its review of the ACA?
  4. What are the main arguments about the constitutionality of the individual mandate?
  5. What are the implications of a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the individual mandate?
  6. If the Court invalidates the individual mandate, how could the issue of severability affect the ACA?
  7. What is the Anti-Injunction Act, and how could it affect the case?
  8. What are the main arguments about the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion?
  9. What are the implications of a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion?


Wednesday, February 1, 2012


The Supreme Court and the Press: The Indispensable Conflict, by Joe Mathewson, traces tussles between those two institutions going back to the nation's beginning. You can read it at KF4772 .M38 2011 at Classified Stacks (catalog record). Or, for a sample, listen to Mathewson's 25-minute talk here. The publisher's page about the book is here.

One tidbit I hadn't known: frustrated by coverage of the Court, Felix Frankfurter asked someone at the New York Times: "Would you send someone to cover the Yankees who knew nothing about sports? So why do you send someone to cover the Supreme Court who knows nothing about law?" The Times then hired Anthony Lewis (who had already won a Pulitzer Prize), sent him to Harvard Law School for a year to learn about law, and assigned him to cover the Court.

Mathewson used to cover the Court for the Wall Street Journal. He now teaches journalism at Northwestern University and contributes to chicagohistoryjournal.com.