Friday, June 29, 2012

New Database on Federal Criminal Case Processing

The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics has developed a web-based tool to generate statistics on "suspects and defendants processed through the federal criminal justice system."

The Federal Criminal Case Processing Statistics tool contains data from 1998 to 2010. Tables and trends are available for incarceration, law enforcement, and prosecution/courts.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of this service is the U.S. Code option, which allows a user to select one or more provisions of Title 18 and other criminal statutes to find statistics on the number of defendants in cases filed and cases closed; outcomes for defendants in closed cases; sentences given to convicted defendants; and mean prison or probation sentence or fine. Users can select multiple years and multiple offenses.

This tool is just on of the many sources provided by the BJS, a one-stop shop for federal criminal justice statistics.

Upcoming Changes to Library & Reference Office Hours

The Library and the Reference Office will be closed on Wednesday, July 4th. The Library will also close early on Tuesday, July 3d, at 5pm instead of at 7pm.

On Tuesday, July 10th, the Reference Office will be closed over the noon hour. You can expect to find a friendly and helpful librarian on duty in the Office from 9am -12noon and between 1 - 5pm.

On Tuesday, July 17th, the Library and the Reference Office will be closed.

You are welcome to submit a question by email via the Ask Us link near the top right of the Gallagher Law Library website. Your question will be addressed when the Reference Office re-opens.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Google and the Law

Do you Google? Er, do you perform online searches using the GOOGLE® search engine? One issue currently being litigated is whether Google's trademark has lost its punch and become a generic term. And that's just one of the many legal issues affecting Google. For a roundup, see It's Not Easy Being Google, JD Supra, June 22, 2012.

The Supreme Court Releases its Opinion on the Affordable Care Act

Earlier this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court released its long-awaited decision on the constitutionality of President Obama's healthcare legislation.

The opinion for this case, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, can be found on the Supreme Court's website.

Interested in staying up-to-date on recent SCOTUS decisions but don't have the time to read and digest them? The reference librarians of the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas School of Law have you covered. 

Tarlton librarians summarize each decision in a sentence or two, as it is released, and publishes these summaries on the Supreme Court Updates blog. It's a fast and easy way to stay current, and you'll be linked to the full opinion in case you want to read more.

Monday, June 25, 2012

To Knit, or Not

While listening to analysis of this week’s Supreme Court decisions, some of us might pick up a knitting project. But knitting and the law is apparently more tangled than this knitter knew:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Washington State Bar Exam: Some Tips and Comments

The WSBA Logo
Studying for the bar exam is one miserable way to spend the summer. With so much staked on the outcome of one test, studying for the bar can be one of life's most tedious and stressful events. Having taken the bar in Washington last summer, I offer the following list of five helpful tips and some ways that the library can help.

1. Outline- early and often.

Create an outline for each subject that may be tested on the bar. There are around nineteen subjects that may be tested on the Washington State exam and it is a good practice to create an outline for each one of them. In outlining, it may be helpful to review some of the bar preparation materials available in the library. The library has recent materials from the most popular bar exam prep courses, including Rigos and Barbri.

2. Don't give up.

Having enduring three years of law school, you are likely not the kind of person who gives up easily. Like many aspects of law school and legal practice, the bar exam presents a great deal of uncertainty. Studying for the bar is often not a confidence building exercise. Don't let poor scores on the bar review practice exams discourage you. Even if you are not getting passing scores on the practice exams, you can still pass. Devote extra time to outlining and practicing your non-passing subjects.

3. Practice as many questions as you can.

Practicing actual exam questions is an excellent way to help you prepare for the exam. Start off by practicing questions individually and work your way up to sets of three. By the time that I reached the final weeks of preparation, I was writing nine to ten questions per day. Gallagher has nearly thirty years of old Washington bar examinations, available at KF303.W37.
Always have proper supervision!

4. De-stress before the exam.

I destroyed a fence in my back yard during the weekend before the exam. If you don't have anything to break, consider a walk or some other type of stress-relieving exercise. Physical activity is a nice way to break up long periods of concentration and it can be essential to maintaining your sanity during the bar exam preparation process.    

5. Prepare for exam conditions.

Meydenbauer Center during a convention.
Those taking the bar exam in Western Washington will encounter a unique set of exam conditions. Locally, the bar exam will be administered at the Meydenbauer Center. In case you have never visited, expect a cavernous room with the sound of over 500 laptops typing. The rules are strictly enforced. No cell phones are allowed in the exam room. Also, before entering the room, you must take everything out of your pockets and place it in a small plastic bag. It is wise to strictly comply, as the last thing that you want during the bar exam is more stress.

Good luck to all of you who are taking the bar exam this summer. If you study hard, avoid self doubt, and follow the rules, your name is sure to be on the pass list in October!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

2012 Human Trafficking Report

The US State Department has issued the 2012 Trafficking in Persons report.

It includes country narratives with sections on prosecution, protection, and prevention.

The report describes
  • sex trafficking of children and adults
  • forced labor
  • debt bondage
  • involuntary domestic servitude
  • and the use of child soldiers.
Previous reports, dating back to 2001 are also available at the State Department's website.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy Juneteenth

William Green, ex-slave, San Antonio

Today marks Juneteenth, "the day slavery in the United States effectively ended."

For this reason, Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day) is the perfect occasion to engage in research and reflection. At the University of Washington, the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project is an important resource for civil rights researchers, including those who are interested in studying the African-American experience.  Here one can find oral histories, maps, and other "resources for exploring the civil rights activism of African Americans in the Pacific Northwest.

In honor of Juneteenth, why not also take a look at the African American Heritage Sourcebook: A Tribute to Thurgood Marshall?  Another suggestion in this regard would be to read (or reread) this gem of a letter.

Indeed, however you choose to celebrate it, Happy Juneteenth.

(A hat tip to Trent Hill, who assigned "To My Old Master" for his class, Organization of Information and Resources; Image credit: Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-125171 (b&w film copy neg.), from Portraits of African American ex-slaves from the U.S. Works Progress Administration, Federal Writers' Project slave narratives collections, available at

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Library Closed June 19 Afternoon

The Law Library and the Reference Office will be closed on Tuesday, June 19, from 12noon-5pm.

The Library will be open from 8am - 12noon and the Reference Office will be open from 9am - 12noon.

You may submit a question by email using the Ask Us link on the right side of website navigation bar. We will reply to your question when the Reference Office re-opens on Wednesday morning at 9am.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Food, Glorious Food Law!

Unsurprisingly, legal issues concerning food abound, but the variety of legal issues may surprise you.
There are, of course, tort law issues with food---and I don't mean issues that arise when someone slips on a banana peel.  I'm referring to questions like the following:
  • "Can I sue someone if I get food poisoning from their restaurant?"
  • "Who's liable if the FDA doesn't properly regulate an industry such that the country is plagued by food-borne illness?"
Fortunately, Seattle is home to the country's preeminent litigator of these types of questions, Bill Marler, who got his start with the Jack in the Box E. coli litigation in the early 1990s. So if you have an interest in this area, we've got the expert you might want to get to know.

Other tort law issues include whether you are liable for writing a bad restaurant review or serving non-Kosher food at a Jewish wedding, or, more famously, whether a restaurant is liable for serving you scalding hot coffee. If these issues have piqued your interest, stop by the law library and pick up a copy of The Little Book of Foodie Law for more!
There are also constitutional law questions related to food law, particularly around the question of whether to impose a "fat tax" on food items that may be linked to obesity. And what about banning certain servings sizes all together in the interest of public health? In a previous blog post, law librarian Trinie Thai-Parker pointed readers to the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, which tracks food-related legislation in the U.S., and can help you see who the interested parties are in this debate. But issues of food and constitutionality aren't just U.S. concerns. For more on the international scope of the matter, take a look at Constitutional and Legal Protection of the Right to Food Around the World, produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Another fascinating area of food law relates to advertising guidelines. When can you label your homemade ice cream "organic," "natural," or "local?" How can the company Tillamook claim rights to the name of a region, prohibiting other dairy farmers in the area from using that name? Is Seattle's Best Coffee really Seattle's best? The books The Little Red Book of Wine Law and The Little Book of Coffee Law may have the answers you're looking for and then some.
Bon Appétit!

Images courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art.

Happy Flag Day!

Get ready to wave Old Glory!  Break out the “Stars and Stripes”! 

By presidential proclamation, President Obama has declared June 14th, 2012 National Flag Day. This longstanding tradition began during President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, ninety-six years ago. This June 14th marks the 235th anniversary of the passage of the first Flag Act, wherein the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the national standard.
Annually, it is customary for the president to issue a presidential proclamation to commemorate the occasion.

Three Congressional Acts, collectively referred to as the "Flag Acts," from 1777, 1794 and 1818, shaped the appearance of the modern American flag. Each of the red and white stripes represents one of the thirteen original colonies. There are fifty stars in the upper left corner, one for each state. The physical composition of the flag has been unchanged since the admission of Hawaii as the fiftieth state in 1959.
For an interesting pictorial retrospective, check out the American Flag slide show compiled by Dr. Whitney Smith of the Flag Research Center. These changing physical characteristics of American flag came about through a combination of the Flag Acts and presidential proclamations from 1777 to 1960.

National Flag Day kicks off the twenty-one day period of “Honor America Days,” which ends on Independence Day.
  During this period of time, Congress has declared that there shall be public gatherings and celebrations, so that the citizens of America may honor their country in a festive and appropriate manner.  These laws can be found in Title 36, Subtitle I, of the United States Code, concerning “Patriotic and National Observances, Ceremonies, and Organizations.” Additionally, the United States Code prescribes flag etiquette and the procedure for respectful disposal of worn out flags in Title 4, Chapter 1

As a powerful national symbol, the flag, and its presentation and treatment, has long been a source of controversy. 
Contrary to popular lore, the golden fringe often seen in courtrooms and government buildings does not symbolize the imposition of "admiralty" or other martial law upon American citizens. While this type of embellishment began as a military tradition, the fringe is mere adornment and does not hold any special significance.  Per the opinion of the U.S. Attorney General in 1925, such a decorative addition does not "deface" the flag either as it is not an "integral part of the flag." United States Attorney General opinions are available on Lexis, Westlaw, Loislaw, and HeinOnline going back to 1791.

Executive branch documents are an important, but sometimes overlooked, legal resource. While we are all familiar with more standard legal materials – like cases and statutes – these documents comprise another important area of American law.
There are two primary forms of United States Executive Branch records: executive orders and presidential proclamations. Typically, executive orders are used by the President to give operational directives to offices and agencies within the Executive Branch, generally for the purposes of interpreting or implementing a law. Significantly, executive orders have the force of law. In contrast, presidential proclamations tend to concern ceremonial observances and lack the same import.  

For help navigating presidential resources, the Gallagher Law Library has created a comprehensive research guide on finding
Presidential Documents, both in print and electronically. The Compilation of Presidential Documents, which includes the day-to-day documents produced by White House from 1993 to present, can be accessed for free through FDsys.  Another useful resource for locating contemporary presidential materials is the White House website.

The American flag is closely associated with First Amendment issues, particularly symbolic speech.
  In addition to a number of Supreme Court decisions dealing with flag burning, there have also been ongoing (and controversial) efforts by some members of Congress to pass a constitutional amendment banning the desecration of the American flag. The Gallagher Law Library has a number of books on the American flag and its attendant legal issues including: The Flag and the Law: A Documentary History of the Treatment of the American Flag by the Supreme Court and Congress and Flag Burning and Free Speech: The Case of Texas v. Johnson

For more factual information on this patriotic holiday, be sure to check out The National Flag Day Foundation website!  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sunshine News

No, we're not talking about the weather (although it is nice to see some sunshine in June). We're talking about the metaphorical use of "sunshine," as in public access to government information. Two recent stories:

Sunshine Committee

Senator Adam Kline recently resigned from the state's Sunshine Committee (a/k/a the Public Records Accountability Committee), citing concerns about privacy. State Sen. Adam Kline leaves ‘Sunshine’ board, Olympian, June 11, 2012. The committee is reviewing the hundreds of exemptions to disclosure in our states Public Records Act. Kline says that the committee has become dominated by press representatives, which favor disclosure, and doesn't have enough privacy advocates.

The issue that sparked Kline's resignation involved juror questionnaires: The Freedom Foundation seeks access to them to find non-citizens and check whether they are registered to vote. The Freedom Foundation favors increased identification requirements for voters; Kline believes that the organization is trying to impede participation by likely Democratic voters. See Kline's statement; The Freedom Foundation's blog post.

Court Records

According to the state constitution and court rules, the public is supposed to have access to case files, with certain restrictions (e.g., Social Security numbers are kept private; files may be sealed under certain conditions). Reporters from the News Tribune set out to test how it works. They went to district and municipal courts—the courts where misdemeanors and small civil cases are handled—and, without saying they were reporters, asked to see recent misdemeanor files. In some courts, they were shown the files immediately, but in about half the courts in Pierce County they were given the runaround:
Some clerks said the cases were still “open” or “ongoing” and thus barred from public view. Some said only attorneys and defendants could view case records. Some said case files were confidential. Clerks in two courts – Sumner and Fircrest – insisted the only way to view case files was to pay for copies.  
Those answers were wrong. They contradict state rules that govern courts large and small. High-ranking legal leaders, including Barbara Madsen, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, said The News Tribune’s findings paint a picture that calls for correction and training.
Open courts, closed files: Hitting roadblocks in quest for public records, News Tribune (Tacoma), June 10, 2012.

Graphic by mw.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lawyers Scammed Over Email

Lately I've seen a lot of messages like these:
I need your legal help over a Settlement Agreement funds against me and my ex husband who resides in your jurisdiction.
$ $ $
I am Mrs. Sabah Halif a citizen of Kuwait but currently residing in the United Kingdom. I was married to late Mamuod Halif of blessed memory who was an Oil Explorer in Kuwait & Russia for twelve years before he died in the year 2000.reply for details
$ $ $
Dear Counsel, My name is Jennifer Wong. I am contacting your law firm with regards to a divorce settlement with my ex-husband Richard Wong who reside in you jurisdiction. We had an out of court agreement for him to pay me the amount of 550,450.00 at this time have only received the amount of 44,000.00. I am seeking the help of your law firm to collect the balance from him as he has agreed to pay me the money, but have been inconsistent with the date. I believe that with the help of your law firm he will be willing to pay in order to avoid litigation. I look forward to your response on this matter.Jennifer Wong.
I delete these quickly. Of course, I'm not practicing law, so I don't have to weigh whether there might really be a client opportunity wrapped up in a package that smells like a scam.

Why do the scammers keep blasting out these messages?

Because they get enough takers to make a lot of money.

Legal Technology News reports:
Despite repeated warnings from the FBI, law firms continue to fall for an old internet scam.
In the scam, the firm gets an e-mail requesting assistance with some form of debt collection, financial settlement, or real estate transaction. In some instances, the purported client negotiates with the law firm to take the matter to court. Before any lawsuits are filed, however, the law firm receives a large check from the alleged debtor, and the purported client instructs the firm to deposit the check, deduct its fee, and send the rest of the money to the client. The check turns out to be counterfeit and the firm is left holding the bag, usually for $100,000 or more.
According to the 2011 Internet Crime Report, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received more than over 600 attorney collection scam complaints totaling more than $16 million in losses. The complaints started in 2007, rose to an annual high of 250 in 2010 and subsided to 167 in 2011, according to FBI spokesperson Jennifer Shearer. The IC3 report notes that in August 2011 a Nigerian court granted extradition to the U.S. of Emmanuel Ekhator, who allegedly defrauded U.S. law firms of more than $29 million. Ekhator will stand trial on the charges in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
Law Firm Flimflam Scam Continues, June 8, 2012.

The 2011 Internet Crime Report mentioned in the article is about all Internet crimes, not just the attorney scam, which is discussed on p. 16. The most common crimes (p. 10) are:
  • FBI-related Scams – Scams in which a criminal poses as the FBI to defraud victims.
  • Identity Theft – Unauthorized use of a victim’s personal identifying information to commit fraud or other crimes.
  • Advance Fee Fraud – Criminals convince victims to pay a fee to receive something of value, but do not deliver anything of value to the victim.
  • Non-Auction/Non-Delivery of Merchandise – Purchaser does not receive items purchased.
  • Overpayment Fraud – An incident in which the complainant receives an invalid monetary instrument with instructions to deposit it in a bank account and send excess funds or a percentage of the deposited money back to the sender.
One interesting stat: Washington is the tenth highest state in complaints per capita.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Student Access to Lexis & Westlaw

Continuing and graduating students may wonder about their access to the Lexis and Westlaw services after exams and graduation.

In case you missed it, the May 7th Weekly Announcement provides the answers. Scroll to the bottom of page 2 and read the information under the Law Library News heading.

Have a great summer and congratulations to our Graduates!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Upcoming Library Hours Changes

When School of Law exams end this Friday, June 8, the Library will open on an abbreviated schedule.
The Law Library will be closed:
Saturday - Tuesday, June 9 - 12
Saturday & Sunday, June 16 & 17

The Law Library will be open:
Wednesday - Friday, June 13-15 from 8am - 5pm.

The Reference Office will be open from 9am -12noon and 1 - 5pm.

On Monday, June 18, when the School of Law's Summer A term begins, the Law Library will begin operating on its summer schedule. You can view the summer schedule hours on the Library Hours page.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Advice for Big Firms, Bar Prep

A recent (2010) graduate of Harvard Law School offers advice Law School & Bar Exam Success Tips in his blog. His most recent two posts:
There's not a magic formula, but sometimes it's good to get some practical tips.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Need legal research help this summer?

Summer Legal Research Refresher at Gallagher Law Library

It’s your first few weeks at your summer employer, and you’re tasked with a challenging legal research assignment. You’ve identified a few areas where you could use a refresher on how to (fill in your legal research question here!).

To help you refine your on-the-job legal research skills, Gallagher Law Library is hosting a Summer Legal Research Refresher workshop for all law students working in Seattle this summer. Reference librarians will be on hand to meet with you, suggest research strategies, and recommend useful resources, specifically tailored to your topics of interest.

Choose a date that is most convenient for you, and submit your questions and the topics of interest that you would like to discuss using the registration form link below.

Snacks and summer refreshments will be provided.
Monday, June 18, 2012, 5:00—7:00 p.m., Room 118
Monday, July 2, 2012, 5:00—7:00 p.m., Room 119

William H. Gates Hall, University of Washington School of Law. Directions and parking information

Please use this form to register.

We hope to see you there!