Friday, December 31, 2010

In Brown's Wake

Everyone knows Brown v. Board of Education is a landmark case, but just how has it affected education and civil rights? Martha Minow explores that question in In Brown's Wake: Legacies of America's Educational Landmark (KF4155 .M56 2010 at Classified Stacks).

Minow looks at a number of educational policies and how they affect communities and children: racial segregation and integration; separate schools for boys and girls; access to education for disabled children; education of immigrant children; school choice, charter schools, vouchers.

In her final chapter, Minow writes this summary:

Inside the United States, Brown may turn out to have more influence on racial justice outside the context of schooling, more influence on schooling outside the context of racial integration, and more significance to law outside of both race and schooling. Brown's rejection of "separate but equal" schools spurred the end of segregation in retail stores, theaters, swimming pools, and employment, though often only after a struggle and legislative or litigated reforms. . . .

Brown's influence inside schools but outside of the context of race has profoundly altered the discussions and treatment of gender, disability, language, ethnicity, and national origin, with further changes in the way educational and life opportunities of students are affected by their sexual orientation, religion, economic class, or status as Native Hawai'ians or Native Americans.

Well beyond schooling, Brown and the efforts surrounding it have created the model for social and legal reforms in the United States -- deploying social science research, and social movement activism -- on behalf of girls and women, persons with disabilities, members of religious minorities, and advocates for economic justice, environmental protection and other issues.

. . . As in the United States, the case and the struggle behind it have served as an evocative reference point for advocates pursuing equal opportunity and social change in Northern Ireland, South Africa, India, and eastern Europe and even for initiatives addressing social hierarchy and exclusion without connection to race or education.

The publisher's page is here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Defending Gary Ridgway

"The Green River Killer" killed dozens of women in South King County in the early 1980s. Despite intensive work by the King County Sheriff's Office, no one had been arrested. Until November 2001, when officers announced that they had him.

Defending Gary* picks up there, as Mark Prothero, a public defender away from his office, hears the rumor that someone has been arrested. One friend says that there's DNA evidence and speculates that Prothero will get the case, since he's "the DNA guy" in his office (Associated Counsel for the Accused).

Prothero became co-lead counsel, along with Tony Savage, a private lawyer whom the family hired. (Once Ridgway's house was sold to pay Savage's retainer, he was indigent and eligible for public defense.) The team eventually included eight lawyers, plus investigators and consultants.

With his client's permission to use confidential communications, Prothero tells a compelling story -- not just about a serial killer, but about how the legal team worked on his defense. Prothero was aided in his writing by Carlton Smith, an experienced journalist who had already written best-selling books about the Jon-Benet Ramsay case and even, years before, the Green River Killer case (The Search for the Green River Killer, 1991). And so the book has that page-turning, hard-to-put-down style of the best true crime writing.

What we don't have is a great courtroom drama. Why? Because this case never went to trial.

The prosecution has such good physical evidence on seven charged murders that the defense thought that the best way to save Ridgway's life would be to plea bargain to avoid the death penalty. And the prosecution had so little evidence on forty-some other murders that solving those crimes with Ridgway's confession would be worth the plea bargain.

And so defense and prosecution spent months observing detectives questioning Ridgway -- and the book gives a lot of detail about those interviews using official transcripts. Unlike the diabolically brilliant serial killers you sometimes see in movies, Ridgway was generally muddle-headed and inarticulate, but the detectives eventually got the details they needed to close a lot of cases and bring some closure to the families of the young women Ridgway had killed.

The handling of this mammoth case -- by prosecution, defense, and presiding judge -- was so good that the King County Bar Association honored all: Outstanding Lawyer: Prosecution and Defense Teams in the Gary Ridgway Trial, Bar Bull., June 2004; Outstanding Judge: Honorable Richard A. Jones, King County Superior Court, Bar Bull., June 2004.

Ridgway was in the news again last week: Auburn skull, bones ID'd as likely Green River victim, Seattle Times, Dec. 23, 2010. The newly discovered victim, Rebecca Marrero, was not among the 48 murders covered by Ridgway's guilty plea.

This book is in our Good Reads collection. As should be obvious, "Good Reads" doesn't mean "happy topics." It does mean interesting, compelling books, often on important issues, and this one fits the bill.

* Defending Gary: Unraveling the Mind of the Green River Killer, by Mark Prothero with Carlton Smith (2006), HV6533.W2 P76 2006 at Good Reads.
The publisher's page for the book includes a free excerpt.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Finding Patents

You may have heard about Amazon's new patent that will help gift recipients avoid unwanted gifts. If not, see the December 27, 2010 Seattle Times article.

Maybe you're curious about reading the patent itself. If so, you can locate the patent online at the United States Patent and Trademark Office's website, which provides full-text patents from 1976 to the present. You can enter keywords like "amazon" and "gift" to retrieve a list of 137 results, but unless you have the patent number, it's not necessarily obvious that "system and method for converting gifts" is the patent you're seeking.

Fortunately, other news reports, like Business Week's, have included the patent number-- 7,831,439-- and its November 9, 2010 issue date. You can now go back to the Patent and Trademark Office's site and find this patent by using the number search.

The University of Washington's Engineering Library is another good resource for patent researchers. The Engineering Library, an official Patent and Trademark Depository Library, receives patent and trademark research tools from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. These resources, meant to be available to the public as well as to the UW community, are listed here. Also available are step-by-step guides to patent and trademark research.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Co-parent Court Helps Unmarried Parents

Minnesota's Hennepin County is piloting a new alternative to family court: co-parent court. According to the StarTribune, co-parent court requires unmarried parents to take classes for six weeks and then create their own parenting plans. The parents then submit the plan to the judge, who reviews it and makes any necessary adjustments, before issuing it as a court order.

The 4th Judicial District serves Hennepin County, Minnesota and is the state's largest trial court.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Resume Don'ts

When describing your strengths in your resume, it is all too tempting to fall back on "tried and true" words and phrases. But stop and first check out this brief ABA Journal article about the ten most over-used descriptions in resumes that you should definitely avoid!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Steps of the Supreme Court are a Non Public Forum

The D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of six protesters who were arrested in 2007 for unfurling a 30 foot anti death penalty banner on the steps of the Supreme Court building. In so holding the court stated that the Supreme Court plaza is a "non public forum for First Amendment purposes." Read the BLT's blog on the case here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

The New Jim Crow book jacketIf this important and powerful book were a car, it would have the bumpersticker that says "IF YOU'RE NOT OUTRAGED, YOU'RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION."

In The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2009), Michelle Alexander describes War on Drugs juggernaut that has filled our prisons, mostly with people of color.

The statistics are staggering. In the last 30 years, the U.S. prison population went from about 300,000 to more than 2 million. Although President Reagan was the President who declared the War on Drugs (with the concomitant political and media rhetoric about the "scourge of crack"), the greatest increase in incarceration rates was during the Clinton Administration.

Is this a racial problem just because African Americans are more involved in drugs? No. Alexander cites study after study indicating that the percentage of people who use illegal drugs is about the same in all racial groups. Since drug users tend to get their drugs from dealers of the same race, there are plenty of white dealers. White teenagers are even a little more likely than black teenagers to deal drugs. Emergency room statistics show more whites than blacks with overdoses.

So why are most of the people in prison for drug use black? Alexander exposes the myriad ways the system works against them -- for example, law enforcement stopping people based on race, raiding black neighborhoods, and relying on informants who only know people of their own race; prosecutors exercising their discretion to "load up" charges to get plea bargains; and mandatory minimum sentences and three strikes rules creating incredibly long sentences.

The damage lasts well beyond the prison term. Alexander devotes a chapter to all the ways that a felony record (even for possession of a few ounces of marijuana) can constrain a person's life: employment, housing, voting.

Alexander was at the law school last spring. In the law school's multimedia gallery, you can find a transcript of her presentation, as well as video and audio recordings.

The publisher's page about the book is here. The library's copy is at HV9950 .A437 2010 at Classified Stacks. (It's checked out as of this writing, but won't always be -- and it's available in other libraries, too.)

Update (Feb. 13, 2011): See this interview of Michelle Alexander: Rosette Royale, One Nation, Under Lock and Key, Real Change, Feb. 9-15, 2011.

Little Words Count in Careful Drafting

Two recent blog posts point out the importance of word choice and punctuation in drafting.

school bus

Misworded 'Stop a School Bus' Statute Temporarily Allows Reckless Driving in Virginia, Legal Blog Watch,, Dec. 3, 2010. The statute:
A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.
The defendant argued successfully that the law didn't require him to stop -- it just said the bus should be stopped. The judge thought the statute was missing an "at" and should have read:
A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, at any school bus which is stopped . . .

One of the blog comments suggests a comma fix instead:

A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop when approaching, from any direction, any school bus which is stopped . . .

Delaware Court of Chancery logo

Delaware Chancery Court Addresses Confusion Caused by Indefinite Article, Koncision, Dec. 9, 2010. A contract provided that one of the parties could change the number of shares it converted by giving "a" notice. Is that one or more than one? The contract language:
The "Maximum Number" . . . may be increased upon expiration of a 65-Day Notice period (the “Notice Period”) after Fletcher delivers a notice (a “65-Day Notice”) to the Company designating a greater Maximum Number. A 65-Day Notice may be given at any time.
The Delaware Chancery Court held that "the plain language of § 6(b) unambiguously indicates that the parties intended that Fletcher could issue one or more 65-Day Notices under the Agreement." The blogger disagrees that it was unambiguous -- but also suggests how the drafters could have avoided the dispute.

The moral of these stories? Be really, really careful when drafting. Try to spot potential ambiguities before there's a dispute!

Graphics: School bus image from Federal Citizen Information Center. Delaware Court of Chancery logo from the court.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Audiobooks for the Break

We understand that you still have a few days of finals left, but your break WILL get here. If your plans include a road trip, check out audiobooks on CD from the UW Libraries to keep you company on the road.

(Tip from UW Libraries on Twitter.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's Secretary Clinton up to Today? Use Twitter to Follow Agencies and Officials

Looking for a way to keep up with what’s going on with your favorite federal agencies? Want to see satellite photos of the blizzard that razed the Metrodome’s roof or see what the White House is up to today? Check out The Feed at, a stream of tweets from federal agencies on Twitter. is part of the National Journal Group Inc. and the Atlantic Media Company.

Instead of skimming the agencies chooses to stream, you can visit or follow different agencies' or officials' Twitter posts directly. For example:

Federal Legislative History

What changes was Congress trying to make in a particular law? Did it consider the specific situation in which your client is interested? What does that phrase in the law really mean? Does that section of the law apply to the actions taken by your client?

Compiling a legislative history is a traditional task for new lawyers. A legislative history is a collection of the documents produced by Congress during the enactment of a law. Some legislative histories even include information about prior bills introduced in Congress on the same topic or commentary by outside sources, such as newspaper articles that discuss various provisions.

Locating everything can be a daunting task, but fortunately there are some aids for you. A good first step is to take a look at the Gallagher research guide on Federal Legislative History. It outlines the various documents you may wish to locate and how to find them. With a bit of luck, you may be able to locate a compiled legislative history covering your bill - where someone else has already gathered citations to all those Congressional documents for you! Check here in the Gallagher research guide for the possibilities.

As just one example of the types of documents one could gather on a particular bill, check out this "brief legislative history" on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act (Pub. L. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1326 (2010)), prepared by law librarian Rick McKinney. In this law Congress addresses the problems of the "too-big-to-fail" financial institutions. McKinney's history has handy links to the listed documents and provides background for the provisions that made it into the final version that Congress passed. For a more traditional legislative history of this law, one that focuses on the documents produced during its passage through Congress, check out this compiled legislative history edited by law librarian William H. Manz, which is found in the U.S. Federal Legislative History Library of HeinOnline.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Maori Culture and Intellectual Property Law - New Report from the Law Library of Congress

This week the Law Library of Congress released a new report entitled: "New Zealand: Maori Culture and Intellectual Property Law", which explores the issues that arise from the desire to protect traditional cultural expressions of indigenous people from inappropriate use.

As the executive summary explains,
"in New Zealand, Māori claims regarding rights to “guardianship” of their cultural knowledge have been expressed in the context of the guarantees in the Treaty of Waitangi. Some recognition of these interests can be seen in amendments to intellectual property laws. However, there remain questions regarding the protection of expressions of culture that are considered in the public domain, and that are used commercially and non-commercially in both the domestic and international settings".

Odegaard Undergraduate Library Closure

The Odegaard Undergraduate Library will be closed Dec. 21-Jan. 2 for fire and safety upgrades.

This is important news if you use the OUGL's media collection for DVDs. The staff there will be retrieving items by request on Monday, Dec. 20, but not for the rest of that week.

So if you had planned to stock up on free entertainment for the interim period, make your requests before Dec. 21.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 10 is Human Rights Day

December 10th is Human Rights Day. This year, Human Rights Day "recognizes the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination." --United Nations.

The UN has more information here. A celebration of International Human Rights Day will take place in Gates Hall tomorrow, Dec. 10, from 4 - 6 p.m. More information about the celebration, sponsored by the UW School of Law and the UW Center for Human Rights, is found here.

Why December 10th? The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on this day in 1948.

What Laws Did WikiLeaks Break?

On December 6th, the Congressional Research Service issued a timely report: Criminal Prohibitions on the Publication of Classified Defense Information.

The 24-page report covers the Espionage Act and other criminal laws. The analysis finds that

there is ample statutory authority for prosecuting individuals who elicit or disseminate most of the documents at issue, as long as the intent element can be satisfied and potential damage to national security can be demonstrated.
It also addresses the extraterritoriality of the Espionage Act and extradition and First Amendment issues. And it briefly reviews Senate bill 4004, introduced on December 2d, the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act, which proposes to deal with situations like that presented by the WikiLeaks dissemination of State Department cables and correspondence.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Access to the Law of India

Need to find an Indian statute or decision? Check out this new, free website: the Legal Information Institute of India (LII of India). Its "official" launch will take place in India in February or March of 2011, but, as of this November, it is already open for research! Here is an overview of its contents, taken from a descriptive brochure at its website:

The initial contents of the LII of India prototype contains 50 databases including legislation (the India Code from 1836, some State legislation, and commentary on legislation), Indian case law (over 300,000 cases in full text from the Supreme Court, most High Courts, and tribunals), treaties (all India treaties to 1975, plus many subsequent bilateral treaties), law reform reports (from the Law Commission), legal scholarship (six law journals to date, with scholarship repositories, books and judicial scholarship still to be developed), cases concerning India in International Courts and Tribunals, and cases concerning India from the pre-1873 English Reports.


The LawCite international citator is also integrated into LII of India, showing the subsequent citation histories (in India and overseas) of Indian cases, law journal articles and treaties.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Short, Practical Law Articles on the Web

I took at look at the National Law Review because a UW student won its writing competition. (See Gareth Lacy, Should Jurors Use the Internet?, Nat'l L. Rev., Dec. 6, 2010 -- congrats, Gareth!). It's not a traditional law review -- that is, a journal published by a law school and crammed to the gills with footnotes. Instead, it's a web-based magazine and collection of articles aimed at consumers as well as the legal community.
The National Law Review (NLR) is a unique Web site featuring a monthly legal magazine paired with a user-friendly database dedicated to providing legal consumers with authoritative legal analysis written by lawyers from many of the nation’s premier firms. We compile timely, well-researched articles submitted to us nationwide from law reviews, law journals, law firm newsletters, and bar association and other professional publications and make them accessible to all in an easy-to-use, searchable database. The NLR also publishes a monthly online magazine that features articles with broad-based appeal to the legal community and to legal consumers, as well as content targeted to specific practice areas such as employment law, insurance, intellectual property, and banking.

The NLR Web site is free to use and requires no log-in or subscription to search our database or review our magazine.
That made me think that it might be useful to list a few other sources where consumers can find articles about the law: There is an amazing amount of legal information for consumers on the web. Is it all equally reliable? Of course not, but some of it is very solid. When using any source -- online or print -- ask quesions about it. Who wrote it? Does it seem credible? How current is it? Is it tailored to my jurisdiction? Could the author be leaving out important qualifiers?

ABA Journal's 4th Annual Blawg List

In the December 2010 issue, the editors of the ABA Journal have announced their list of 100 notable blawgs--and they invite readers to vote for their favorite blawgs.
The 100-blawg lists includes perennial favorites (SCOTUSblog, How Appealing, and the Volokh Conspiracy) and several new-comers. Categories include:

  • Court Watch
  • Criminal Justice
  • IMHO
  • IP Law
  • Labor
  • Law Biz
  • Law Profs
  • Legal Tech
  • News
  • Torts

Check out the list and then vote for your own favorites!

Defending a Federal Death Penalty Case - Cost and Quality

In 1998, the Subcommittee on Federal Death Cases, part of the Judicial Conference Committee on Defender Services, issued the Spencer Report, the result of a study about the costs of providing defense servics in federal capital crime cases. Based on its findings, the Subcommittee made recommendations designed to contain costs while ensuring high quality defense services. These reommendations were adopted by the Judicial Conference in September 1998.

Recently, the issues addressed in the Spencer Report have been revisited and an updated report has been published. Here are a few highlights of trends from 1989 (the year the report sets as the beginning of the modern death penalty era) through the end of 2009, taken from the Executive Summary.
  • The 1994 Federal Death Penalty Act [18 U.S.C. 3591-3598] dramatically increased the number of crimes eligible for capital prosecution. The impact of that act has increased since 1998.
  • The decision to seek the death penalty for a defendant charged in a capital offense (i.e., the "authorization" for capital prosecution for a death-eligible defendant) has become more centralized to the Department of Justice rather than being left to the discretion of the local prosecutor.
  • More authorized cases have gone to trial rather than being settled by a plea agreement.
  • Since 1989, the Attorney General has sought the death penalty against 463 defendants, 262 of whom have stood trial. Of those, 66 have been sentenced to death.

Also from the Executive Summary, here are some of the findings about the costs of death penalty cases:

  • The median cost of a case in which the death penalty was authorized was eight times as much as those in which the death penalty was not authorized.
  • The median cost of cases in which the death penalty was authorized and that proceeded to trial was more than twice the median cost of authorized cases settled by plea agreement.
  • The costs of defending death penalty cases has risen substantially since 1998.

(Other) Government Reports in the News*

Immigration Policy in the United States: An Update. Congressional Budget Office, December 2010.

This document updates the Congressional Budget Office's February 2006 paper Immigration Policy in the United States. It presents data through 2009 on permanent and temporary admissions of foreign nationals to the United States,the number and types of visas issued, the naturalization of residents, and enforcement of immigration laws—and makes comparisons with 2004, which was the most recent year for which most data were reported in the earlier paper.

Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers. Federal Trade Commission preliminary staff report, December 1, 2010.

. . . proposes a framework to balance the privacy interests of consumers with innovation that relies on consumer information to develop beneficial new products and services. The proposed report also suggests implementation of a “Do Not Track” mechanism – likely a persistent setting on consumers’ browsers – so consumers can choose whether to allow the collection of data regarding their online searching and browsing activities....

*see also DOD’s report on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and new working papers from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Examples and Explanations on Google Books

A law librarian at John Marshall discovered:
Examples and Explanations, the popular series of study guides, are available online via Google Books. Aspen Publishers has made extensive previews of the titles available for FREE. The full content of each title is not included in the preview, but you will find that a large majority of the pages are available.
Thanks: Jamie Sommer, via Bonnie Shucha at WisBlawg.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell Report -- and More on the Issue

The Department of Defense has a webpage devoted to Don't Ask Don't Tell, with links to the Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (Nov. 30, 2010) as well as press releases, transcripts, and videos of officials' testimony about the issue.

But wait ... there's more!

The Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford hosts a digital project with a wealth of original sources related to all aspects of the policy (and its predecessor policies). Don't Ask Don't Tell Don't Pursue has

  • statutes and regulations
  • litigation materials (opinions and, sometimes, briefs or pleadings)
  • hearing
  • commentary
  • materials on the Solomon Act
  • links to other web resources
If you're interested in this policy, this is a great resource!

One of the most recent cases is local: Witt v. United States (W.D. Wash. Sept. 24, 2010) (Leighton, J.). The Stanford site has both the memorandum opinion and the findings of fact and conclusion of law, ordering the Air Force to restore Major Margaret Witt to her position as flight nurse, subject to her meeting the qualifications for service. Many more documents (including pleadings and declarations) are available from the ACLU of Washington. See also Lesbian Flight Nurse Gets Ready To Return To Air Force, KUOW, Dec. 1, 2010.

For more on the topic:


Prop 8 Oral Arguments to be Televised

On Monday, December 6, the Ninth Circuit will hear oral arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the federal challenge to California's controversial Proposition 8. Passed by the state's voters in 2008, Proposition 8 amended the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is "valid or recognized." In August of this year the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the amendment violated the 14th Amendment's guarantees of due process and equal protection, and enjoined its enforcement.

Given the high level of interest in the case, the panel judges (Stephen Reinhardt of Los Angeles, Michael Daly Hawkins of Phoenix, and N. Randy Smith of Pocatello, Idaho) have given consent for live broadcast of the arguments. C-SPAN will air the proceedings beginning at 10 a.m. on Monday. (The Ninth Circuit's Public Information Office also reports that some law schools have elected to receive the live audio/video feed directly from the courtroom - among them NYU, Yale, Harvard, the University of Chicago, the University of Arizona, Stanford, UC Hastings, and UCLA.)

You can link to selected documents filed in the appeal here. Some interesting dispatches about the legal battle can also be found at Prop 8 on Trial, a blog authored by two Berkeley law school students who have been monitoring the federal proceedings since their inception.

Hate Crime Statistics

The FBI released its annual Hate Crimes Statistics in November. On the site you can find data about type of offense, categories of victim (African Americans, Hispanics, sexual minorities, etc.), characteristics of offender, jurisdiction, etc.

Last night, NPR ran a story on the statistics that highlighted their limits: Hate Crime Statistics Lack Key Facts, All Things Considered, Dec. 2, 2010. The statistics can provide some points of comparison year to year, but all the people interviewed agreed that there was significant undercounting. 47 cities with populations over 100,000 reported no hate crimes at all. That probably doesn't mean that those cities had no street harassment, vandalism, or attacks on vulnerable minorities. Jack McDevitt, Director, Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern University, explained:
What you can't tell is whether - maybe they're helping the victims and they're not just recording the data and sending it to the feds. That's the hope, but maybe it's that they're ignoring the victims and not sending the data into the feds, and that would be the worst case scenario.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Upcoming CLEs

The University of Washington School of Law is offering two CLEs this month:

Buying and Selling Closely Held Businesses in Dynamic & Uncertain Times, on December 9, 2010, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Click here to register or see the brochure for more information.

Land Use 2011: Law and Practice
Thursday, December 16, 2010, Washington State Convention Center, Seattle 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Click here to register or see the brochure for more information.

Registration costs for both CLEs increase tomorrow, December 2, 2010.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Cyber Crime

What with classes, papers due, and upcoming exams, even those who want to shop in person may find it hard to visit the malls. So, are you planning on shopping online for holiday presents? The federal government's Internet Cyber Complaint Center (IC3), which is a partnership among the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, has some holiday shopping tips designed to protect you from those eager to relieve you of your money or steal your identity. For instance, here is the IC3's warning about buying gift cards online:

Be careful when purchasing gift cards through auction sites or classified ads. It is safest to purchase gift cards directly from the merchant or retail store. If the gift card merchant discovers that your card is fraudulent, the merchant will deactivate the gift card and refuse to honor it for purchases. Victims of this scam lose the money paid for the gift card purchase.

For more information about cyber scams, visit the FBI's E-Scams & Warnings webpage. You can sign up there to recieve email alerts about most recent scams by clicking on the red envelope at the top of the webpage.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NY Times- Justices Are Long on Words but Short on Guidance

In his latest article on the Roberts era Supreme Court, New York Times author Adam Liptak questions whether the Court is trading unanimity and word count for for clarity and guidance. The author suggests that "[i]n decisions on questions great and small, the court often provides only limited or ambiguous guidance to lower courts. And it increasingly does so at enormous length."

To support his premise Liptak states that the Court hears less cases than it has in past terms but the median word count of its opinions has increased dramatically. "The Roberts court set a record last term, issuing majority opinions with a median word length of 4,751 words." The median word length for opinions, including majority and all separate opinions, was 8,265 words. In contrast, the median word length of opinions in the 1950s was only 2,000 words.

For example, the seminal 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education had fewer than 4,000 words while the 2007 Parents Involved v. Seattle decision, which touched on only a portion of the segregation issue, had approximately 47,000 words.

To read the rest of the article or other articles in this series click here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Plain Writing: It's the Law

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-274, 124 Stat. 2861) last month, and now Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has issued a memo giving agencies guidance. Here's a post about it: Alex Howard, Sunstein: Plain writing should be seen as an essential part of open government, Gov 2.0 blog, Nov. 24, 2010.

Plain writing is concise, simple, meaningful, and well-organized. It avoids jargon, redundancy, ambiguity, and obscurity. It does not contain unnecessary complexity.

Plain writing should be seen as an essential part of open government.

-- Cass Sunstein

Exam Advice from Students

On Crushing Your First-Year Exams: Advice From Some Who Did, Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Dec. 10, 2009.

Tips are from 2Ls and 3Ls from Berkeley, Brooklyn, Iowa, UVa, and Vanderbilt, and include:
  • Take old exams with some classmates and compare what you come up with.
  • Review each course again and again, in progressively shorter times.
  • Get plenty of sleep.

Miss Coming to School? Try Some CALI Lessons at Home

CALI offers hundreds of lessons, covering a wide range of topics for law school classes. If the UW's snow days have you missing the stimulation you usually get from class, now would be a great time to try some out. (Maybe it would be a good time to try out some CALI lessons even if you're tickled not to have class!)

Earlier today 1L tweeting under the name Amy1LSanders wrote:

On a CALI lesson roll! It's helpful to re-explore concepts from the perspective of another #lawschool prof! @CALIorg
Maybe, like Amy, you'd find some CALI lessons helpful too. Give 'em a try.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Exam Tip from a Professor

Law school exams are unlike exams from other fields. (If you haven't seen any before, take a look at the library's exam archive.) What are you supposed to do with the long hypothetical in an exam? A civil procedure professor writes that professors are trying to get students to:
Know the rules. Give a complete and correct statement of the relevant rules. Use the facts. Don’t just repeat the facts. Argue specific facts in the context of specific rules to persuade the reader. Reach a conclusion.
And she adds: "It’s easy to say, and hard to do." She describes a technique she teaches her students to help them sort out the legal rules and the facts they will use. Elizabeth Pendo, Breaking Down the Blank Page: A Technique for Outlining Essay Questions, The Law Teacher, Fall 2010, at 3. She says her technique helps her students -- maybe it will help you too!

Graphic from Clipart ETC (Source: Good Cheer for 1890: Stories for Young Folks (Boston: D. Lothrop Company, 1889) 88). According to the caption, the woman is writing a letter, not an outline of a law school exam answer, but who's to say? Maybe her letter was analyzing competing claims to Blackacre or remedies for a breach of contract.

Internet's Effect on Supreme Court Reporting

Two Supreme Court correspondents highlighted the difference the Internet has made:
Even just two years ago, Linda Greenhouse . . . had an admittedly old-fashioned approach to reporting on the U.S. Supreme Court. When a ruling was issued, typically around 10:30 a.m., Greenhouse would take the written materials and sit alone in a room until she’d read every word. Then she would return to the Washington, D.C., bureau of The New York Times and proceed to write up her story for the 6 p.m. deadline.

Now, when Dahlia Lithwick is writing about a Supreme Court decision, she starts getting e-mails at 11 a.m. asking when the story will be online.
Journalists Greenhouse and Lithwick Discuss How the Internet Has Affected Supreme Court Reporting, Yale Law School press release, Oct. 27, 2010.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Law Reviews Not as Useless to Courts as Some Thought

At the Conference on Empirical Legal Studies 2010 held at Yale earlier this month, two scholars reported their study of courts' use of legal scholarship:

Chief Justice Roberts recently explained that he does not pay much attention to law review articles, reportedly stating that they are not “particularly helpful for practitioners and judges.” Chief Justice Roberts’s criticism echoes that made by other judges, some of whom, like Judge Harry Edwards, have been much more strident in the contention that legal scholarship is largely unhelpful to practitioners and judges. Perhaps inspired by criticisms like those leveled by Chief Justice Roberts and Judge Edwards, legal scholars have sought to investigate the relevance of legal scholarship to courts and practitioners using a variety of means. One avenue of investigation has been empirical, where several studies, using different, and sometimes ambiguous, methodologies have observed a decrease in citation to legal scholarship and interpreted the observation to mean that legal scholarship has lost relevance to courts and practitioners.

The study reported here examines the hypothesis that legal scholarship has lost relevance to courts. Using empirical techniques and an original dataset that is substantially more comprehensive than those used in previous studies, it examines citation to legal scholarship by the United States circuit courts of appeals over the last 59 years. It finds a rather surprising result. Contrary to the claims of Justice Roberts and Judge Edwards, and contrary to the results of prior studies, this study finds that over the last 59 years – and particularly over the last 20 years – there has been a marked increase in the frequency of citation to legal scholarship in the reported opinions of the circuit courts of appeals. Using empirical and theoretical methods, this study also considers explanations for courts’ increased use of legal scholarship.

David L. Schwartz and Lee Petherbridge, The Use of Legal Scholarship by the Federal Courts of Appeals: An Empirical Study (August 17, 2010). Cornell Law Review, Vol. 96, (forthcoming 2011).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice

Informants are an important part of criminal investigations and prosecutions. In exchange for leniency or other benefits, one criminal can provide information that helps to convict others. But the use of informants bears risks for the integrity of the system and the safety of the community. Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola L.A., explores the practice and recommends reforms in Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice (KF9665 .N38 2009 at Classified Stacks).

Rather than summarize, let me refer you to the detailed table of contents, the publisher's summary, and the introduction.
(In Snitching, Natapoff discusses only criminal informants. "Snitching" does not apply to the testimony of victims, bystanders, or other witnesses.)

I enjoyed the whole book, but if you have limited time, just read the recommendations in Chapter 8.

For more, see Natapoff's blog, Snitching.

(I wrote a longer post about this for Trial Ad (and Other) Notes.)

Library Hours for Thanksgiving

Here are the hours for the Thanksgiving holiday:

Wednesday, Nov. 24: 8am - 5pm
Thursday & Friday, Nov. 25 & 26: Closed

Regular hours resume on Saturday, Nov. 27.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

No New Regs!?! Fewer New Regs, Anyway

Yesterday Governor Chris Gregoire issued an executive order (Exec. Order 10-06) suspending and limiting the state rulemaking process through the end of 2011. The Governor explained:

State rules are essential to protecting the health, safety, welfare and quality of life for Washingtonians. However, in these unprecedented economic times, this action will provide businesses with stability and predictability they need to help with our state’s recovery. The time and effort small business owners would put into meeting new requirements would be better spent in improving their bottom line, and adding new employees. This action will also allow local governments to focus their limited resources on the most critical issues in their communities.

Some rulemaking will continue. The Office of Financial Management issued a memo to state agencies with guidelines. For instance, rulemaking should go forward if it is required by state or federal law or a court order; necessary to manage budget shortfalls; necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare or necessary to avoid an immediate threat to the state’s natural resources. Rulemaking should also go forward if it is beneficial to or requested or supported by the regulated entities, local governments or small businesses that it affects.

On its face, the executive order only applies to agencies that report to the Governor. But the Governor "invite[s] all other elected officials, institutions of higher education, agencies, boards, commissions and other entities with rule making authority to follow the requirements of this Order."

We'll have to see how much difference this makes. There's a lot of room in the exceptions for continued rulemaking -- but this is still quite extraordinary.

UPDATE (2:45 pm)
Some reaction and news coverage:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Federal Courts Offering Digital Audio Recordings Online

The Third Branch, a newsletter from the Administrative Office of the US Courts, notes that 30 bankruptcy and district courts are planning to post digital audio recordings of proceedings via PACER.

The fee for downloading these files is $2.40 each.

Courts that are currently posting these files are:
  • District courts of Nebraska and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Bankruptcy courts of the Northern District of Alabama, Maine, the Eastern District of North Carolina, Rhode Island, the Middle District of Florida, and the Eastern District of Washington
Courts that are preparing to implement recording include:
  • the Southern District Court of Alabama
  • Bankruptcy courts of Alaska, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, the Eastern District of Michigan, the Middle District of North Carolina, the Middle District of Tennessee, the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and Vermont
Courts that will be participating in the near future are the bankruptcy courts in:
  • Northern District of California
  • the District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Southern District of Indiana
  • Western District of Louisiana
  • Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Western District of Michigan
  • Eastern District of Missouri
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Southern District of West Virginia

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BP Oil Spill Financial Risks and Exposures – A Report from the GAO

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Preliminary Assessment of Federal Financial Risks and Cost Reimbursement and Notification Policies and Procedures, GAO-11-90R November 12, 2010.

The objectives of this study were to provide a preliminary assessment of (1) financial risks and exposures to the Fund and the federal government as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and (2) Coast Guard’s NPFC cost reimbursement policies and procedures for Deepwater Horizon oil spill costs. In addition, we provide a description of the framework for federal monitoring and oversight efforts over the Responsible Parties for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including federal efforts to oversee BP’s and GCCF’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill claims payments. This product is the first of a planned body of work to evaluate and assess the federal risks and exposures resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

You can find the 57 page report to Congressional requesters here. Or read the summary and recommendations here. Or listen to “Managing Costs Resulting from the Gulf Oil Spill,” a 5 minute audio interview by GAO staff with Susan Ragland, Director, Financial Management and Assurance here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

November Is National Adoption Month

National Adoption Month (November) and National Adoption Day (Nov. 20) are meant to raise awareness about the adoption of children and youth from foster care. President Obama's proclamation for this year's observance is here.

Prof. Lisa Kelly is coauthor of Adoption Law: Theory, Policy and Practice (2006), KF545.A7 .M33 2006 at Classified Stacks. A new edition of this important casebook is due out soon. (I have only found one other adoption casebook, a much shorter work that also covers assisted reproduction.)

On National Adoption Day (Nov. 20), courts in 19 Washington counties will "host adopting families as they welcome new members and remove more children from the foster care rolls." The Washington State Courts and the Department of Social and Health Services report in a joint press release:
As of Aug. 1, 2010, there were 9,114 children living in foster care in Washington, with 1,323 of those available for adoption — meaning the courts had permanently terminated their biological parents’ rights to raise them. By comparison, when Washington state courts first began celebrating National Adoption Day in 2005, more than 9,500 children lived in foster care and far fewer (about 1,080) were available for adoption.
DSHS has a page with information about adoption in Washington here.

Government Information on Air Travel

Airport security policies, ticket prices, on-time arrivals, and baggage fees have been featured in the news as holiday air travels near.

The Air Travel link on provides "Official information and services from the U.S. government," including links to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Transportation Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The links take you directly to the air travel-related information provided by each agency, saving you from wondering which agency provides the information you're seeking. also provides a lot of other information for citizens here.

New Faculty Publication: Anderson on Indian Water Rights

Robert T. Anderson, Indian Water Rights, Practical Reasoning, and Negotiated Settlements, 98 Calif. L. Rev. 1133-63 (2010), available at

In this new article, Prof. Anderson reviews Indian water rights cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and the trend toward government-to-government negotiations.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Law Libraries Are Good for Attorneys

Edward Elkins, a lawyer who offers advice about law school, writes Your Law School's Law Library Is Your Best Friend...Really, Nov. 8, 2010. He begins:
Your law school's law library may be a place where you have spent numeours hours studying for a class, but did you know that it can save you thousands of dollars even after you graduate? Here are some great reasons to get acquanted with your law library while in law school in preparation for your many visits after graduation.
He goes on to explain that a law library's collection of practice manuals, CLEs, and treatises can help a new lawyer figure out how to practice, save money on online services, and prepare for interviews.

All of this is no surprise to us law librarians, but it is something that law students and lawyers can sometimes overlook. Several years ago, Carolyn Elefant, the author of the solo-practice blog, asked me to write about why solo practitioners should use law libraries. I came up with Eight Reasons Solo Lawyers Should Use Law Libraries, April 25, 2006.

By the way, Carolyn's blog is a great source of commentary and tips if you're interested in solo or small firm practice. She also wrote a book on the subject: Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be, KF300.Z9 E44 2007 at Classified Stacks. She's also the coauthor (with Nicole Black) of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, published by the ABA Law Practice Management Section this year, KF320.A9 E44 2010 at Classified Stacks.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tabs for Your Research Convenience on Lexis and Westlaw

Both LexisNexis and Westlaw offer tabs to help you customize your interface. It can put the sources you use most often at your fingertips.

Westlaw tabs look like this:

You can add a tab. Just look for the "Add a Tab" link on the right:

Then you can choose from sets of resources the West editors have put together for different jurisdictions, research tasks, and topics.

For instance, if you choose GLBT Practice, you find a list of relevant law journals, news sources, and sources for family law, employment law, and civil rights.

LexisNexis tabs look like this:

Well, that's what they probably look like for you right now. But LexisNexis is rolling out a new interface and soon they will look like this:

(We librarians got the new interface a little before students.) Either way, it's the same idea: a tab brings together relevant sources in one place to save you time wading through the menus. If you click on Add/Edit tabs, you can customize your account.

Try out the tabs LexisNexis and Westlaw offer -- you can make your research a little smoother.

What Are Legal Scholars Talking About?

Around the world, law professors and others who study law are getting together at conferences and symposiums to talk about their fields of study. Climate change, legal history in the renaissance, artificial intelligence and the law, how to teach legal writing, foreign state immunity, the new restatement of resititution, race and sovereignty, antitrust economics ... the variety of topics is dazzling.

How can you find out what's going on in this vibrant intellectual community? Visit the Legal Scholarship Blog. This blog posts announcements of upcoming conferences and symposiums. Calls for papers let you know when a journal or conference organizing committee is seeking submissions on a given theme. Each day, the blog also has a post listing colloquia and in-house workshops at law schools around the U.S.

There are lots of ways to use the site. You can browse the posts in the order they appear. You can use the calendar to find events by date. You can use the subjects in the sidebar to see just the posts about, say, environmental law or law and religion. You can also search the site.

Are you interested in becoming a law professor? Take a look at the Teaching page. It links to articles about becoming a law professor plus resources for current professors.

You might notice a familiar big W:
That's because this blog is a joint project of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and the UW. We started tracking conferences to serve people right here at the UW and through this blog we can provide information to thousands of others as well.

Monday, November 8, 2010

International Law and Sharia in Oklahoma (and Elsewhere)

On Tuesday, Oklahoma voters passed a constitutional amendment to ban state courts from applying international law or sharia. Here's the summary from the state:

This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia

International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons. The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also nclude international agreements, as well as treaties.

Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.
The full text of the measure is here.

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the certification of the measure pending a hearing, scheduled for Nov. 22. Oklahoma Shariah Ban Is Blocked, Wall St. J., Nov. 9, 2010.

News accounts don't indicate a wave of sharia claims in Oklahoma courts. But how might it come up?
  • What if a dying man writes a will that says he'd like his estate distributed according to sharia? In Pennsylvania a court enforced it, since the will was also consistent with the state law. Alkhafaji v. TIAA-CREF Individual and Instit. Services LLC, 2010 WL 1435056 (Pa.Com.Pl.), 10 Pa. D. & C. 5th 449 (2010).

  • A U.S. court used Saudi Arabian law (sharia) in interpreting a contract because the contract at issue specified that the law of Saudi Arabia would apply. National Group for Communications and Computers, Ltd. v. Lucent, 331 F.Supp.2d 290 (D.N.J. 2004).
Why ban sharia and not canon law or Jewish law or the law of any foreign jurisdiction? We'll probably be hearing more about this in the next couple of weeks.

Research tip: because "sharia" is an Arabic word, it's wise to try different transliterations when you are searching online: sharia, shari'a (or shari`a), shariah, shari'ah. And watch for people named "Sharia." I'm using "sharia" here because it's the easier of the two spellings in Prof. Lombardi's list of publications; the other he uses is shari`a.
Using international law in United States courts has excited some controversy for a while. For a recent essay see Martha Minow, The Controversial Status of International and Comparative Law in the United States, 52 Harv. Int'l L.J. Online 1 (2010).
Here is the puzzle: no one disagrees that United States judges have long consulted and referred to materials from other countries as well as international sources; yet for the past nine or so years, citing foreign and international sources has provoked intense controversy.
* * *
[S]ince 2003, a serious political as well as theoretical fight over judicial reference by U.S. judges to non-U.S. sources has broken out in the opinions of Supreme Court Justices, on the lecture circuit, in law reviews, and in Congress. Intensity of feeling around these debates should not be underestimated. Justice Ginsburg reported a death threat was posted on a website in 2005 against both her and Justice O’Connor in reference to their discussions of international law in the context of judicial decision-making.[48] Justice Ginsburg cautioned that the congressional debates seemed to “fuel the irrational fringe.”

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Avvo Adds Doctors

Avvo launched its directory of lawyers in June 2007. On Nov. 1, it went live with a directory of doctors.

Avvo's short career hasn't been without controversy: early on, the Seattle company was sued by lawyers who did not like having ratings posted. Judge Lasnik (W.D. Wash.) dismissed their suit. (See this blog post.) The DC Bar opposed Avvo's use of its data. See Web Directory Of Attorneys Upsets D.C. Bar, Wash. Post, March 9, 2009. (I'm not sure what the upshot of that was. The Avvo Blog had this comment the same day.)

The lawyer directory lists licensed attorneys, notes disciplinary history and certain local awards (e.g., being named a "Superlawyer" by a magazine), and offers an opportunity for clients and colleagues to rate and comment on lawyers. An individual lawyer may also claim his or her profile and add information -- e.g., a picture, practice areas, and experience. The listings have become quite robust.

Avvo also has a forum where anyone can ask legal questions which are answered by licensed attorneys. And you can browse or search past questions and answers.

Now Avvo is extending this model to doctors. It says that it has listings for 90% of licensed physicians.
The Avvo Rating is our effort to evaluate a doctor's background, based on the information we know about the doctor. The rating is calculated using a mathematical model that considers the information shown in a doctor's profile, including a doctor's years in practice, advanced training, disciplinary history, professional and academic achievements and industry recognition - all factors that, in our opinion, are relevant to assessing a doctor's qualifications.
Since the doctor directory is so new, few doctors have comments or ratings by patients or colleagues, but those will come.

A couple of years ago, I met some people who worked for Avvo. One said that lawyers had been nervous about being rated, but that it turns out that most clients rate their own lawyers pretty high. People might grumble about lawyers in general, but they like their lawyers. A lawyer said that when Avvo came out, he told a few of his clients about it and said they could comment on him -- and he was pleasantly surprised at what they said.

For links to other lawyer directories on the web, see this guide.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Celebrate Washington State's Birthday

On November 11, 1889, Washington State was admitted to the Union by Presidential proclamation, concluding with:

How might you celebrate our State's birthday? You might take a virtual tour through materials describing life, law, and government in Washington Territory., Washington State's online history encyclopedia, is a great place to start. Milestones in Washington history is a guided tour through significant events in the State's history. Or just browse the FAQ page for a quick review.

Check out the territorial timeline provided by the Secretary of State's office. Washington's Digital Archives displays images of its Top 10 Treasures, including
  • returns from the Territory's first election in 1854
  • the first case heard by the territorial Supreme Court and
  • the 1889 telegram from the U.S. Secretary of State to the territorial Governor announcing the Presidential proclamation on statehood.
For information on the legal sources produced by the territorial government, consult Washington Territorial Legal Materials, in 2 Prestatehood Legal Materials: A Fifty-State Research Guide 1323 (2005). KF240.P688 2005 at Reference Office.

Or, perhaps like the co-author of that chapter and writer of this blog post, you will enjoy having the day off because coincidentally, Nov. 11 is your birthday!

As a child I was impressed by the parades that took place in my honor. It was only later that I understood that I shared my special day with a national holiday. I loved watching the men in uniforms ride big, beautiful horses--finally the phrase "veterinarians' day" made sense!

Still later, I got my facts straight--veterans were being honored for their military service. My accomplishments and those of the thousands of animal doctors around the county pale in comparison.

So celebrate Nov. 11 for any and/or all of these occasions!

Contested Elections

Today the Seattle Times reports that Patty Murray and Dino Rossi are prepared to keep Washington voters in suspense long after election day passes.

Relive one of the most intensely contested elections with titles about Bush v. Gore from the Gallagher Law Library.

National American Indian Heritage Month

November is National American Indian Heritage Month. (A list of legislative and executive documents is in this blog post from the Law Library of Congress.)

Our Indian law research guide gives you leads to all sorts of resources, from the very basic (American Indian Law in a Nutshell, KF8205.Z9 C36 2009 at Reference Area) to treaties, federal administrative materials, and tribal codes. Looking for tribal court decisions? See this chart.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Play it Safe:Tips for Protecting Your Personal Belongings

Law students are busy people. With reading, briefing, writing papers, mock trials, finals looming and the holidays fast approaching, a law student's life can be hectic. Add the loss of your laptop, iPad, cell phone or other personal item and your life could get just a little bit worse. No one wants to worry about the theft or loss of personal items, and although it is not a common occurrence in the law library, it can happen. Here are some tips so it won't happen to you.

The UW police department has crime prevention and safety tips on its website. You can learn everything from parking lot safety tips to preventing laptop theft.

You can protect your electronic devices by registering them with the UW police department. It only takes a few minutes and can save you time and worry in the case of loss or theft.

Additionally, if you don't want to pack up your laptop every time you have to run to the copy alcove or bathroom, you can purchase a laptop security cable from the University Bookstore. Call the Tech Center for more information at (206) 545-4382.

Play it safe so you don't have to worry.

Positive law codification - U.S. Code

The United States Code (U.S.C.) is a codification of the federal laws in force. Some of the titles (e.g., title 17) have been enacted as positive law by Congress. When Congress amends these, it amends the U.S.C. directly. Other titles (e.g., title 42) are compiled from individual statutes and have not been enacted as a whole. When Congress amends these, it amends the original public law.
The U.S.C. titles that are not positive law are prima facie evidence of the law, but the official real-deal law is the original enactment in United States Statutes at Large. That's why you sometimes see citations to § 202 of the Social Security Act, rather than 42 U.S.C. § 402, where it's codified. Congress currently is working on enacting two more titles as positive law: H.R. 1107 (title 41, Public Contracts) and has H.R. 3237 (title 51, national and commercial space programs) have both passed the House and are pending in the Senate. The Law Revision Counsel -- the official in charge of codification -- explains why this project is important: Peter Lefevre, Positive law codification will modernize U.S. Code, The Hill's Congress Blog, Sept. 28, 2010. For more (if you think the inner workings of codification are as interesting as I do), see my short article: Mary Whisner, The United States Code, Prima Facie Evidence, and Positive Law, 101 Law Libr. J. 545-56 (2009), available at

Drop Your Ballot in the University District

If you don't want to mail your ballot, King County Elections has set up eleven ballot drop boxes. Three are in Seattle - and the good news is that one is in the University District on the corner of NE 50th St. and University Way NE. The list of other King County locations is here. Ballot drop boxes will remain open until 8 pm, Tuesday, November 2.
Don't live in King County? Snohomish County also offers ballot drop boxes. Pierce County is the only county (out of 39) that still maintains polls, but drop off sites are an option.

New Faculty Publication: Prof. Helen Anderson on Brief-Writing Advice

Helen A. Anderson, Changing Fashions in Advocacy: 100 Years of Brief-Writing Advice, 11 J. APP. PRAC. & PROCESS 1-17 (2010).

Prof. Anderson's latest article examines
the changing nature of the brief during the early twentieth century and the transition from an abstract or outline to a fully fleshed prose argument.

She reviews what a brief is or has been and advice on brief-writing proferred by judges, textbook authors, and others. Her research indicates that the modern appellate brief is a "relatively recent invention" and she concludes by observing "that the wisest advisors have always urged appellate lawyers to use both logic and narrative as they attempt to persuade the judges before whom they appear."

CRS Report: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": A Legal Analysis

The Congressional Research Service issued a 16-page report in September analyzing the constitutional challenges to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The report is now available on OpenCRS. In March 2010, CRS issued “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:” The Law and Military Policy on Same-Sex Behavior.

Previous versions of both reports are also available.

For other sources of CRS reports, see the Gallagher Law Library guide.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Honoring Those Who Served: Commemorating Veterans Day in Seattle and Beyond

Veterans Day, November 11, honors the men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces. Several area events commemorate the day:

The UW's Veterans Day 2010 Ceremony will take place on Thursday, Nov. 11, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The event will honor the men and women in this region "for their dedication and service in our Armed Forces." Advance registration is requested. Click here for details.
  • The city of Auburn is hosting the Vietnam Veterans Traveling Wall from Nov. 4-7 in Auburn's Veterans Memorial Park. The wall, a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., will be open to visitors 24 hours a day. See here for more information.
  • The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs has a list of events and observances taking place state-wide.

Upcoming CLE: Advocating for Immigrant Survivors of Domestic Violence

The Immigrant Families Advocacy Project (IFAP), the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project (NWIRP), and the University of Washington School of Law are presenting a Continuing Legal Education program on Friday, November 5, 2010, in downtown Seattle.

Find more information about the program, "Immigration Options for Immigrant Survivors of Domestic Violence: U-Visa under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act," including registration information, here.