Friday, November 1, 2019

Celebrate LGBT History Month All Year Long

While yesterday was Halloween, it was also the last day of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) History Month. However, that should not stop you from celebrating LGBT history all year long.

The University of Washington has several resources to help students learn about LGBT history. One is the LGBT Studies database, which contains hundreds of videos and thousands of books. One interesting item is American Experience: Stonewall Uprising, which interviews different members who took part in the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

If midterms and term papers have you avoiding all unnecessary database research, there are plenty of alternatives. Podcasts include Making Gay History Podcast and the PRIDE podcast, hosted by Levi Chambers. If current events are more your speed, try the humorous and irreverent Throwing Shade.

But why just read and listen to histories when you can make your own history! The Human Rights CampaignACLU, and Lambda Legal all advocate and litigate LGBT rights nationally. Gay City and Legal Voice also provide resources and advocacy in the Seattle community. On campus, the UW Q Center, which provides mentorship, educational programming, and resources. What makes the Q Center particularly interesting is the Marsha P. Johnson Memorial Library, with over a thousand books, magazines, and films. All members can access the library by registering in person at the HUB, Room 315, and may check out items with their Husky Card.

Do not let October’s close slow you down from celebrating the rich, vibrant history of the LGBT community year-round!   

person wearing a rainbow flag wearing a hat that says equality
Attendee at the Women's March in January 2018.
photo credit: Elyssa Fahndrich on Unsplash


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

90 Years Since #BlackTuesday

October 29, 1929, became known as Black Tuesday because of the shocking stock market crash that began that day; the market wouldn't reach its lowest point until July 8, 1932. HistoryLink.org, an online encyclopedia of Washington history, gives us includesnotes about the experience in Seattle and King County.

photo of crowds outside Stock Exchange Oct. 29, 2019
Crowd outside the New York Stock Exchange following the crash of 1929.
Library of Congress Item 989471695

One of many consequences of the Crash was increased regulation of the securities markets, via the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which created the Securities and Exchange Commission. Find these two laws and others at Investor.gov, a website aimed at the public.

The Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society is an online museum. I've enjoyed sampling items from the Film, Radio and Television page.

If you'd like to explore legislative histories, government reports, and commentary, visit the Economic Reform section of HeinOnline's collection, Taxation & Economic Reform in America Parts I & II.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

National Day on Writing — #WhyIWrite

On the National Day on Writing, October 20, the National Conference of Teachers of English invites all of us to think about why we write (or, on social media, #WhyIWrite). It's a reminder of how important writing is in everyday life, whether it's making a shopping list, penning a love note, or writing a novel. As you might guess, one reason I write is to share resources and tips with the readers of this blog.

Writing is especially important for lawyers. As Professor Charles Alan Wright wrote:
The only tool of the lawyer is words. We have no marvelous pills to prescribe for our patients. Whether we are trying a case, writing a brief, drafting a contract, or negotiating with an adversary, words are all we have to work with.
We have a slew of books on legal writing (cataloged with the subject heading legal composition).

We also have some books about writing generally. One of our latest is Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style (2019) that's reviewed warmly by an editor of the Michigan Law Review (the review will be published in 2020, but it's already on SSRN).

Especially if you're working on a note or comment, let me recommend one of my favorite writing books: Stylish Academic Writing, by Helen Sword (2012) (also available as an ebook). Through interviews, examples, and solid research, Sword explains that academic writing doesn't have to be dull and stodgy—and she offers great advice for improving your own writing.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day at the Burke

Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day! While the federal government still recognizes Columbus Day (see, e.g., presidential proclamations from 2019 and 2016), or as one Washoe Tribal Member once described it to me, Lost Italian Day, cities like Seattle and Los Angeles have replaced the holiday with a celebration of everything Native.


tall statue of figure holding out arms in welcome
Makah Welcome Figure, on display at Burke Museum.
photo credit: John Miller
This year’s celebration comes at the tail end of the Burke Museum’s grand opening on campus. The museum features a variety of exhibits on biodiversity, the oceans, and fossils. However, the highlight of the new museum for me is its vast coverage of Native and Indigenous cultures from throughout the world. The museum’s Northwest Native Art takes guests on a journey of artistic heritage while exploring totem poles, a canoe, and other works from Suquamish, Wasco, and Tlingit Tribal Members. In Culture is Living, museum patrons dive into vibrancy of Indigenous cultural from North America, Polynesia, as well as Southeast Asia and more. The exhibit explores history and shares the accomplishments and continuing contributions of Native culture to our communities today. After you finish in the Exhibit Hall, make your way to ground level and try Off the Rez, a Native owned and operated café featuring Indian tacos, chili, salads, and full coffee bar for all to enjoy (no museum ticket necessary).

Today (until 5) the Burke has performances and activities honoring Indigenous Peoples' Day. Just cross the parking lot and you're there!

If you are unable to visit the Burke at this time, you can get a taste via its Collection Databases online. Just navigate to the website and click on a collection that interests you. If you are interested in seeing what Native artifacts the Museum has, click on the Archaeology Database. You can conduct a plain language search using keywords or an exact phrase to help find the items in which you are interested. Search results will contain an item’s name, catalogue number, site of discovery, as well as a map showing you were the item came from, and if available, a photo of the item as well. If you are interested in items that fall under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), you will not find them featured in the Collection Databases. Out of respect to Tribes, these items are not featured online or on display in the Exhibit Hall. Rather, feel free to visit the Burke and speak to one of its NAGPRA specialists, who are more than willing to discuss the efforts of the Museum to restore these funerary objects to the Tribes and people with which they belong.

By the way, admission to the Burke is FREE for UW students, faculty, and staff! For more information, visit the Burke Museum’s website.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Wellness, Remember Wellness!

The ABA Law Student Division has named today National Mental Health Day at law schools around the country. It's important!

But it's bigger than the ABA! The World Health Organization (WHO) marks every October 10 as World Mental Health Day, this year emphasizing suicide prevention.


Since petting a dog can relieve stress, we're bringing in teams from Reading with Rover to visit with law students in the L1 lounge at 12:30. (Reading with Rover started out helping kids read, but the teams also visit colleges. You might know how to read, but you still experience stress at school!)

We in the law library like to support mental health and wellness throughout the year, not just on one day. Check out our guide, Wellness & Mindfulness Resources for UW Law Students. It has links for UW resources as well as information on lots of aspects of wellness, such as exercise and sleep. Lots of videos, mostly from TED and TED-Ed, explore topics from how caffeine works to the history of melancholy. There are even some easy yoga videos!


Monday, October 7, 2019

U.S. Supreme Court Term Begins Today

Today marks the start of another term for the Supreme Court of the United States of America. If you have never taken the time to peruse the U.S. Supreme Court website, you should take a moment to look it over today. The site is an information treasure-trove. Some of the highlights include: the 2019-2020 Supreme Court Calendar, the Argument Calendars for October 7, 2019 through December 2, 2019, access to oral argument transcripts and audio files from 2018 to 2010, electronic opinions back to the early 1990s, and interestingly, the Court Journal (or official minutes) dating back to 1889.  

The 2019-2020 term is brimming with potentially landmark cases. Out of "the approximately 7,000 to 8,000 new cases" filed each year, roughly 80 will be heard with plenary review and 100 without. I find Oyez.org to be a particularly helpful resource when I want to get a quick peek at the upcoming cases on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket. Oyez is a project from Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, Justia, and the Chicago-Kent College of Law. From the Oyez homepage, you can search for a list of cases heard in any term of the U.S. Supreme Court back to 1789. From there, you can hover over the case name and follow the link to additional information (parties, docket number, name of the lower court, facts of the case, and question presented). For example, Oyez has a brief summary available for Allen v Cooper, a case that will be heard this term on November 5, 2019.

Another pertinent resource is Georgetown Law Library’s detailed Supreme Court Research Guide which contains an introduction to the Court, Court rules and practice materials, and a wealth of other helpful sources. Additionally, the Gallagher Law Library has several insightful secondary resources about the U.S. Supreme Court available including The Supreme Court A-Z  (contains alphabetical and cross-referenced entries which provide information concerning the Court’s history, organization, dynamics, and traditions), and Supreme Court Practice (a reference source for practitioners handling U.S. Supreme Court cases).

For an entertaining and informative review of how a case gets to the U.S. Supreme Court, see the video below.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

#wrongfulconvictionday

It's International Wrongful Conviction  Day, "a day to raise awareness of the causes and remedies of wrongful conviction and to recognize the tremendous personal, social, and emotional costs of wrongful conviction for innocent people and their families."

Locally, check out the work of the Washington Innocence Project (formerly Innocence Project Northwest). At 5:30 this evening, the Innocense Project and the Northwest Film Forum present the first episode of the Starz series "The Wrong Man."

We have some fascinating books on the topic (some in both print and ebook formats):

Convicting the innocent : where criminal prosecutions go wrong (2011), Brandon Garrett (print)

Convicting the innocent : where criminal prosecutions go wrong (2011), Brandon Garrett (ebook)

Convicting the innocent : death row and America's broken system of justice (2016), Stanley Cohen (print)

Prosecution complex America's race to convict and its impact on the innocent (2012), Daniel S. Medwed (print)

Prosecution complex : America's race to convict and its impact on the innocent (2012), Daniel S. Medwed (ebook)

Rectify : the power of restorative justice after wrongful conviction (2018), Lara Bazelon (print)

Wrongful convictions and the DNA revolution : twenty-five years of freeing the innocent (2017), Daniel S. Medwed, editor (print)

Read for Fun! (It Will Help Your Writing Too!)

The ABA tweeted out a link to How to Regain the Joy of Reading, a 2014 article by Bryan Garner, the author of many books on legal writing as well as the editor in chief of Black's Law Dictionary (did you notice? the new edition is now on the dictionary stands in the Reference Area).
Selfie with The Road to Wigan Pier

Garner presents comments from lawyers, judges, and law professors who value dipping into non-law writing. Their message? Even if you feel numbed by reading way too many judicial opinions and briefs, you can still enjoy other writing. And they say that the practice will improve your writing.

Leisure reading has many other benefits. First, it can be pleasurable, and who can't use some pleasure in their day? It can also help connect you to why you came to law school—say, by reminding you of important social justice issues or an area of law you care about. (I feel so strongly, I even wrote an essay about this in Law Library Journal.)

UW Law students (and faculty and staff) have easy access not only to the law library's books but to books throughout the University Libraries and in almost 40 college and university libraries in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho (Summit libraries). Whether you're a fan of Iris Murdoch, Orson Scott Card, or Toni Morrison, you can find books in the catalog and, with a click or two plus your UW NetID, have them sent here for you. Sweet!

If you prefer browsing, take a stroll past the Good Reads shelves on L1, between the law library entrance and the law-student-only tables.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Oxford Constitutions of the World

International Translation Day is a fitting occasion to explore a source with high-quality translations of constitutions: Oxford Constitutions of the World.

The translations are prepared by scholars at the Max Planck Institutes (e.g., the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law).  

The database includes multiple editions of constitutions. For example, if you search for El Salvador, you'll find versions of the constitution as amended to 1983, 1996, 2003, and 2009.

If you're viewing a constitution, you can click on the orange "Oxford Law Citator" to go to related works—for example, the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law.

These are subscription databases, for UW users.

UW Reads the Constitution

First page of the U.S. Constitution

Every year, the UW Libraries sponsors a read-aloud of the U.S. Constitution and YOU can participate! This year's reading will take place on Friday, October 4, 2019 from 12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m. outside the Suzzallo Library's third floor Reading Room.


Each volunteer reads a short excerpt (around five sentences) and the entire event takes about 75 minutes. You can visit the registration page if you would like to participate as a reader, but note that walk-in readers are also welcome! More information for readers is available here.

Not interested in reading? No problem! All are welcome to come and listen.

If you want to learn more about the Constitution, check out the Gallagher Law Library's Guide to the U.S. Constitution and Related Resources or this page from the National Archives.

Photo of the Constitution from the National Archives

Skilled Translation Makes a Difference

To celebrate International Translation Day, I spent a few minutes with Google Translate, a free online service that uses machine learning to provide quick translations of texts.

I fed in two English sentences, translating them to Spanish. My knowledge of Spanish is weak, but this looks pretty good:
Many dedicated students prepare for class in the Gallagher Law Library every day. Some of them check out Course Reserve books, phone chargers, and book stands from the Information Desk. 
⇒ 
Muchos estudiantes dedicados se preparan para la clase en la Biblioteca de Derecho de Gallagher todos los días. Algunos de ellos revisan los libros de la Reserva de cursos, los cargadores de teléfono y los puestos de libros en el mostrador de información.
Then I had the system translate that Spanish passage into Japanese, which I don't know at all. (Japanese speakers: how faithful is the translation?) Then I had the system translate the Japanese to Greek. And the Greek to Russian. And finally, from Russian back to English:
多くの献身的な学生が毎日、ギャラガー法律図書館で授業を準備しています。 コース予約の本、電話の充電器、案内台にある本をチェックする人もいます。
⇒ 
Πολλοί αφιερωμένοι μαθητές προετοιμάζουν καθημερινά μαθήματα στη Βιβλιοθήκη του Gallagher Law. Μερικοί βιβλιοπωλούν βιβλία μαθημάτων, φορτιστές τηλεφώνου και βιβλία στο γραφείο πληροφοριών.
⇒ 
Многие преданные студенты готовят ежедневные уроки в юридической библиотеке Галлахер. Некоторые продают учебники, зарядные устройства для телефонов и книги на информационной стойке.
 ⇒ 
Many dedicated students prepare daily classes at the Gallagher Law Library. Some sell textbooks, phone chargers, and books at the information desk.
Obviously there was slippage in the meaning along the way. The lesson? Particularly when you are using Google Translate for languages that you don't know, be aware that it's an imperfect tool. Respect the work of professional translators who actually know the languages!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Four Books Show the Power of Reading in Prison

book covers: The Sun Does Shine, Reading with Patrick, Law Man, A Lesson Before Dying

Our Banned Books Week post mentioned the severe restrictions on reading material in prisons. To show the other side, here are four inspirational books about the tremendous impact that access to books can have on prisoners' lives.

Anthony Ray Hinton, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life, Freedom, and Justice (2019). Publisher's page. The author started a reading group on death row, with the inmates passing around the few books they had. He was exonerated after 30 years on death row.


Michelle Kuo, Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship (2017). Publisher's page (includes audio excerpt). The author taught in the Mississippi Delta before going to Harvard Law School and returned when one of her students, Patrick, was incarcerated. Reading with him changed both of their lives. Follow her on Twitter @kuokuomich

Shon Hopwood, Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption (2012). After serving his prison term, the author eventually went to law school (UW Law '14), clerked for a federal judge, and now teaches at Georgetown Law as well as advocating for criminal justice reform. Follow him on Twitter @shonhopwood.

Ernest J. Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying (1993). Publisher's page. Prize-winning novel about a young teacher's relationship with a black youth condemned to death.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Book Banning Is Still an Issue—Especially in Prisons

Banned Book Week poster - "Censorship Leave Us in the Dark: Keep the Light on!"

Since ancient times, some people have tried to prevent others from reading books that were deemed immoral, revolutionary, or dangerous in some other way. And it still goes on. Take a look at the eleven most challenged books of 2018:



Past lists are interesting to browse. How many of those books have you read? Would you try to prevent others from reading them?

Banned Books Week (Sept. 22-29 this year) celebrates the freedom to read. It's sponsored by a coalition of organizations dedicated to free expression, including: American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, and many more.

PEN America is calling attention to the severe restrictions on reading in prisons.

PEN America banner, "Literature Locked Up"

You might be surprised at what's banned in prisons, such as coloring books, Klingon dictionaries and other books discussed in a Washington Post story earlier this month.
Perhaps the most glaring example of prison censorship has been the rejection of books about criminal justice reform, mass incarceration and inmates’ rights. . . .
Chokehold: Policing Black Men” by Paul Butler was banned in Arizona prisons until June, weeks after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened a lawsuit, and Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” [ebook link] a searing indictment of mass incarceration, was off-limits to prisoners in North Carolina, Florida and New Jersey before bans were lifted amid similar challenges by the ACLU.
(I added links to the books from our catalog, in case you want to read them.)

Here in Washington State, check out the work of Books to Prisoners, a nonprofit whose name sums up its mission.  Follow them on Twitter @B2PSeattle.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Annotated Constitution Reborn for Constitution Day

If you want to dig into the United States Constitution and how it has been interpreted by the Supreme Court, take advantage of the annotated constitution prepared by the staff of the Library of Congress.

physical volume of Annotated Constiitution with bug-eyed readerThis has gone through many editions in print (as Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation). It's a huge book (the latest edition is 2,789 pages, plus a pocket part!). As you might guess from its heft, it's packed with information.

Greatly enhancing access (and sparing the backs of researchers), editions since 1992 have been available on GovInfo.gov. HeinOnline has all the editions since 1952

But now it's even better!

The Law Library of Congress has created Constitution Annotated, an attractive web interface that lets you search or browse, as well as linking to other resources. Check out  Beyond the Constitution Annotated: Table of Additional Resources, which links to Congressional Reference Service (CRS) reports on topics as diverse as loan sharking and copyright in music. The table of Laws Held Unconstitutional in Whole or in Part by the Supreme Court allows you to sort in different ways—e.g., by subject matter, by state versus federal, and by opinion author.

Exploring a new resource (or a redesigned old resource) is a great way to celebrate Constitution Day. Take a look!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Library closes early Monday, September 16th

The Library will close at noon on Monday, September 16th for a UW Law Orientation event.

The UW Law community is still allowed to use the library but the following areas will be closed off for the event from 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm.

  • L1 Law student area
  • Library entrance
  • Computer terminals 
  • L1 Law Student Lounge 
  • L2 Student Commons
  • L2 area with the large tables 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Farewell to Justice Stevens

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has died. His latest memoir, The Making of  a Justice,  just came out this year:

book cover - photo of Justice Stevens

Before you dig into the 549-page book, you can read about him in the National Law Journal (thanks to our license for campus-wide access):

Marcia Coyle, Justice John Paul Stevens, Who 'Left Us a Better Nation,' Dies at 99, Nat'l L.J. (July 16, 2019, 9:16 PM)

Marcia Coyle, Former Stevens Clerks Tell Us Their Strongest Memories of 'One of a Kind' Mentor, Nat'l L.J. (July 17, 2019, 10:16 AM)

To see and hear Justice Stevens in interviews and lectures, visit this C-SPAN page.

In addition to the Court and the Constitution, Justice Stevens also loved baseball. As a boy, he saw Babe Ruth play and decades later he saw his favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, win the World Series.



Books by Justice Stevens:

The Making of  a Justice: Reflections on my First 94 Years (2019)

with William N. Eskridge Jr., Interpreting Law: A Primer on How to Read Statutes and the Constitution (2016)

Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution (2014)

Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir (2011)

The Bill of Rights: A Century of Progress (1992)

A 2012 symposium on the legacy of Justice Stevens in the Northwestern University Law Review includes a personal tribute by Professor Kathryn Watts, who was one of his clerks.

To see Justice Stevens's many law review articles (and forewords, tributes, lectures, and so on), go the Law Journal Library in HeinOnline and search for john paul stevens as author.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Summer #BookBingoNW2019 is here!

Many of us are enjoying Adult Book Bingo, from the Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures. You can pick up a bingo card from the display outside our library entrance or download one here.

You have easy access to all the books in Summit (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho college libraries) as well as Seattle Public Library, and your own personal collections. Reading in many subjects and genres is great, for lots of reasons. But if you wanted to, you could make a lot of Bingos with just books from the law library, and I have three examples for you.

Monday, July 1, 2019

International #JokeDay

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Cal.
Cal who?
Calendar says it's International Joke Day!
To celebrate, check out our links to humor about law reviews or our Judicial Humor guide.

Of course, humor isn't always fun for everyone—or appropriate in a judicial setting. See, e.g., Lucas K. Hori, BonsMots, Buffonery, and the Bench: The Role of Humor in Judicial Opinions, 60 UCLA L. Rev. Discourse 16; Steven Lubet, Bullying from the Bench, 5 Green Bag 2d 11 (2001).

Lowering the Bar cover art
Surely you've heard a number of lawyer jokes. (Maybe your cranky uncle tells you a new one every time you mention law school.) To read about the history and sociology of lawyer jokes, check out Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture, by Marc Galanter; it's also available as an ebook from UW Libraries.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Too Many Results? There Are Hacks for That!

Have you ever run a search and been overwhelmed by the results you got back?

Me too. Here are a couple of my favorite hacks for focusing research to limit the results to more items that are more likely to be useful. Let's suppose we want to find law review articles and news stories about congressional oversight hearings (how do they work? what's the history? when do committees subpoena witnesses?).

Hack 1: Require Term in the Title

In Westlaw's Law Reviews & Journals database, the search "congressional oversight" turns up 4,904 documents. That's far too many to deal with. Searching for "oversight" to be in the title should help focus. And it does! "congressional oversight" & ti(oversight) gets us just 125 articles. And those articles seem highly relevant. E.g.,

  • Former Sen. Carl Levin & Elise J. Bean, Defining Congressional Oversight and Measuring Its Effectiveness, 64 Wayne L. Rev. 1 (2018)
  • Michael A. Livermore, Political Parties and Presidential Oversight, 67 Ala. L. Rev. 45 (2015)

You can do the same thing in Lexis's Law Reviews and Journals database,  "congressional oversight" yields 4,474 articles. But congressional oversight & title(oversight) yields just 116.

Note that in news databases you use "headline" instead of "title: In Major Newspapers in Lexis, "congressional oversight" turns up 7,957 stories. "congressional oversight" and headline(oversight) turns up 277.

Hack 2: Require Term to Appear a Lot

In Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law, you can require that a term appears a certain number of times with the "atleast" operator. For example, in Lexis (staying with law reviews), we can search for "congressional oversight" & atleast7(subpoena) turns up 224 articles.

In Westlaw's journals, "congressional oversight" & atleast20(hearing) brings us 569 articles. Changing it to atleast40(hearing) reduces the harvest to 204 articles. And atleast75(hearing) cuts the list to 64—articles that presumable discuss hearings a lot.

In Bloomberg Law News, "congressional oversight" turns up 408 stories. But when I add and atleast5(trump), the list is down to just 26.


PRACTICE
Try out some searches of your own.

  • Find law review articles about "wrongful convictions" or "exonerations." How does it affect your search results if you require "exonerat!" to be in the title? How about if you require it to appear 10 times?
  • Find news stories about Columbia River dams and salmon. How many have "salmon" in the headline? 




Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Law Librarian Research Hack: Congressional Research Service Reports


Hack #11: Finding CRS Reports (the CRS might as well stand for “Crazy Reliable Sources”)

Within the Library of Congress lives an agency called the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The CRS exists for the sole purpose of providing members of Congress with "comprehensive and reliable legislative research and analysis that are timely, objective, authoritative and confidential." The idea is that in order to make informed decisions, legislators need accurate and unbiased information related to the topics on which they are proposing and passing laws.

CRS' research and analysis often comes in the form of reports, although the researchers also generate several other types of publications. The reports, which are on a wide range of topics, are well-researched and full of useful information. Given the thorough and nonpartisan nature of the CRS reports, they make an excellent starting point for any research project. Perhaps most helpfully, the reports are often heavily footnoted and can point you to other relevant sources (both primary and secondary). If you can find a CRS report (or really any CRS publication) on-point for your research topic, go out and buy a lottery ticket because it's your lucky day!




So where do you go to find these wonderfully useful resources? Well, there's a research guide for that! Specifically, the Gallagher Law Library's guide to Congressional Research Services Reports. The guide includes links to several resources, both free and UW licensed. Note that coverage and search capabilities for each resource varies.

For the most recent CRS materials, check out the relatively new Library of Congress repository available at crsreports.congress.gov. This site was created following passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which directed the Librarian of Congress to make all non-confidential written CRS products freely available to the public online. It includes new publications and an ever-growing backfile of older publications (I was able to locate CRS reports from as far back as October 2008). It also has the added bonus of not only including CRS reports, but other types of publications generated by the CRS (Legal Sidebars, In Focus, and written testimony from CRS experts called before Congress). 

The site is keyword searchable, but you can also just browse through the latest publications on the site by clicking the “SEARCH” button without entering any terms in the search bar. Doing so gives you an idea of the variety of topics that members of Congress are interested in. For example, fourteen new publications were uploaded to the site yesterday (June 18, 2019). A sampling of the titles of those items include:
If you are looking for older CRS reports, you'll want to search one of the other available sources. EveryCRSReport.com in particular is easy to use and has extensive holdings (nearly 15,000 publications) dating back to the 1970s.

If you want to know more about what CRS does, there is (appropriately) a 2011 CRS report titled The Congressional Research Service and the American Legislative Process.

Practice!

Imagine that a supervisor would like you to do a research project regarding the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) during your summer internship. You know nothing about the FDCPA. See if you can locate a helpful publication from the CRS on this topic. How about net neutrality? Or navy ship naming? Try using both crsreports.congress.gov and EveryCRSReport.com. Do you get the same results?


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Railroads Need Law, Too


You hear a lot about the need for law to address issues raised by new technology like autonomous vehicles, drones, and robots. Folks in the Technology Law & Policy Clinic (UW Law) and the Tech Policy Lab (School of Law, Information School, Computer Science & Engineering, and other units on campus) are among those wrestling with those issues.

photo of steam locomotive in woods
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash
But this isn't the first time the law has had to figure out how to respond to new technology. The coming of the railroads created huge challenges. You might remember from Torts class the cases about liability for fires caused by passing trains and rules about liability for injuries to railway workers. And of course, where would Civil Procedure be without Erie Railroad v. Tompkins? Beyond that one case of a man injured in Pennsylvania suing in New York federal court, think how diversity jurisdiction is shaped by the ease of transportation. If you never traveled further than you could ride a horse, you'd usually be in your home state, dealing with businesses based right there.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of first transcontinental railroad. People noting the occasion include descendants of the Chinese workers who did a lot of the heavy lifting, as reported on NPR yesteerday. See the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association Facebook page. For more on the Chinese immigrant experience during that era, see John R. Wunder, Gold Mountain Turned to Dust: Essays on the Legal History of the Chinese in the Nineteenth-Century American West (2018).

And for more (much more!) on railroads, see our Macfarlane Transportation Collection Guide. Robert S. Macfarlane (UW Law class of 1922) spent several decades as counsel to and then president and chairman of the Northern Pacific Railway and its successor company, Burlington Northern. (That was after serving as chief deputy prosecutor for the King County Prosecutor's Office and being a judge of the King County Superior Court. Busy guy!) In his memory, his family has created a fund that has enabled the law library to buy works in transportation law.  The Macfarlane Lounge on the fourth floor is also named in his honor.

If your summer reading tastes run to railroad history or transportation policy, there's plenty to choose from!

One last bit of railroad-and-the-law trivia: When young William O. Douglas left his family home in Yakima to go to Yale Law School, he saved money by traveling by boxcar, tending 1000 sheep for part of the way and just riding the rails the rest of the way. G. Edward White, The Anti-Judge: William O. Douglas and the Ambiguities of Individuality, 74 Va. L. Rev. 17, 22–24 (1988), HeinOnline.

Law Librarian Writing Hack: Setting Tabs in Microsoft Word

Hack # 10: Set Tabs Using Ruler to Control Formatting

Set Up -- it's best to work with tabs formatting with the ruler showing and the "Show/Hide" feature toggled to "Show." Here's how to do that:

Here’s what the blank page looks like with “Show Ruler” turned off:

Here’s what the blank page looks like with “Show Ruler” turned on. Notice the ruler above and to the left side of the document outlined in red below:
If you don't already have the ruler showing in Microsoft Word, go to the "Search" feature at the top of the ribbon and type "Show Ruler" without the quotes. When the "Show Ruler" prompt appears, click on it and the ruler will appear at the top of the document and along the left side of the document, as shown in the red outlining above.
Having the ruler visible allows you to quickly format paragraph indentations, hanging indents, change the margins, and set left, right, center, and decimal-point aligned tabs which are useful in a variety of ways, including columns, creating a table of contents, and providing other formatting to your document that makes it more reader friendly. Using the ruler allows you to do these tasks without time-consuming browsing through the Tabs to find the controls you need to accomplish these tasks.

If you don't usually work with "Show" of the "Show/Hide" feature on, you'll want to turn "Show" on while working with tabs because it allows you to see that you've only tabbed once between columns which is essential for the columns to align when you set the tabs using the ruler.

To toggle between "Show" and "Hide", go to the Home tab and look for the ¶ icon in the Paragraph section of the toolbar. Click on the ¶ icon to turn on "Show" and the icon will appear highlighted. To turn off show, just click on the ¶ icon again and "Hide" will be on.

Note: The Show/Hide feature is showing or hiding the non-printing formatting marks, such as returns at the end of paragraphs, tabs in tabular materials, manual page breaks, manual line breaks, etc. Being able to see those formatting marks hastens any troubleshooting you need to do while formatting your Word document. With "hide" on you don't see the formatting marks, and for instance, couldn't see that you had inadvertently hit the tab key twice between one row of your columnar material and that's why it's not aligning to the tab you set. With "show" on, you would quickly spot the errant extra tab.

Here, for instance is how tabs and returns appear when Show is turned on:
This is a tab formatting mark  à  and this    is the return formatting mark.

Now that you have your Ruler showing and Show turned on, we're ready to set some tabs using the Ruler. Here is a description of some of the features in the tab/indent ruler box in the upper left above the left-side vertical ruler. For today's hack, were focusing on the tab features rather than the indent features:

Tab Types:
To set the tabs you click on the tab icon to pick your tab type (left, centered, right, decimal or bar) and then point your cursor on the ruler and click where you want to set that tab. The column for that tab will align in the manner you specify by the tab in the ruler. Below is a sample of columnar material before the tabs are set. There is one tab between each column but the tabs haven't been set yet.



Day        Time      Location

Monday               8:30 AM               Room 1422
Monday               9:45 AM               Room 124
Tuesday               10:00 AM            Room 755
Wednesday        8:30 AM               Room 1422
Thursday             12:30 PM             Room 444
Friday 2:30 PM  Room 297

Use your cursor to highlight the lines of the columns above, anchoring on "Day" and highlighting through "Room 297".  Then click on the tab block (the square at the left ruler edge) until the “Center Tab” icon appears to specify that you are setting a centered tab. Then click on the ruler to insert the center tab.
The centered tab is circled in the ruler above, and you notice that the times are all centered in the column after the tab symbol in the text.
With the columns still highlighted, now click on the tab block until the “Right Tab” icon appears. Then click on the ruler to insert the right tab. Now the Room numbers are right aligned to that tab.

I want to even out the spacing between columns two (Time) and three (Location), and I want to add a bar tab between the columns two and three.

The first step evens out the spacing between columns (sliding the centered tab over on the ruler); the second step inserts the line between columns as below:

Step 1, moving the centered tab over in the ruler:
Highlight the columns and using the cursor, drag the centered tab in the Ruler you'd previously set to the right until you are satisfied with the new location of the column. Note: If you don't highlight all columns you want to move, only the rows highlighted will move.
Step 2, adding the bar tab between the columns:
With the columns still highlighted, click on the tab block at the left edge of the ruler until the “Bar Tab” icon appears. Then click on the ruler to insert the bar tab, once between column one (Day) and column two (Time) and again to insert the bar tab between column 2 (Time) and column 3 (Location).

And this is what the printed tabbed material will look like (or what it will look like if you toggle the Show/Hide icon to Hide):

Why does using set tabs matter? Setting tabs allows you easy control of what your columnar material looks like for the reader.  Word uses a default tab setting of five spaces between tabs, and people using Word who don’t know how to use tabs correctly often put multiple tabs in between columns to get the columns to line up, or they may use a combination of multiple tabs and spaces to get the alignment they want. This can lead to jumbled copy if the end-user has changed the default setting for tabs on their version of Word.

Setting the tabs with the Ruler controls the alignment despite any default settings a user might have in place and allows you to use just one tab and no spaces between columns of material. It’s faster for the writer and gives a guaranteed alignment of the tabbed material.

Practice Time:  Type three columns of material, with one tab between each column.  Include one column that has numbers with a decimal point. Use the Ruler to set tabs for each column, using the "Decimal Tab" for the column that has the numbers.

Do you have questions about features in Microsoft Word for future Law Library Writing Hacks? Send your questions to csfester@uw.edu. For more guidance with Microsoft Word, see the Gallagher Law Library Guide Word Tips for Legal Writers.