Friday, May 29, 2015

Obsessed with Serial?

Logo courtesy of

If you were obsessed with the podcast Serial, and want to hear more from a lawyer's perspective, check out the podcast Undisclosed: The State v. Adnan Syed. Three attorneys, Rabia Chaudry, Colin Miller, and Susan Simpson, have been following Adnan's case and ongoing appeal. In the podcast, they explore the case from an investigatory perspective in greater detail. Importantly, they provide us, the listeners, with all of the evidence they are aware of.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Woman in Gold: New Film Focuses on Nazi Art Theft

Woman in Gold is a new film focused on the true story of the famous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt that was stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Adele Bloch-Bauer's niece, Maria Altmann, fought the Austrian government for years to reclaim the portrait, a legal battle that eventually culminated in the United States Supreme Court case Republic of Austria v. Altmann, 541 U.S. 677 (2004). You can find Seattle show times for this film here.

Interested in learning more about Nazi art theft and current repatriation efforts? Check out these great resources online and at the library.

The Lost Art Internet Database is the official German governmental resource for information on looted art. The site also has a news section to keep track of recent case developments.

The Rape of Europa is an award-winning documentary that details the extent of Nazi art looting across Europe.

The Lost Museum : the Nazi conspiracy to steal the world's greatest works of art by Hector Feliciano (Art Library Stacks, N8795.3.F8 F4613 1997) is a book that details the systematic looting of private art collections in Europe during World War II, focusing on the private collections of five families.

The History of Loot and Stolen Art From Antiquity Until the Present Day by Ivan Lindsay is a book about the history of stolen art, from Alexander the Great to the 21st century. This book is available online in eBook format.

Allied Looting in World War II by Kenneth Alford is a book that looks into the oft forgotten history of looting in World War II conducted by Allied forces. This book is available online in eBook format.

Photo Credit:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

RBG to get her own book and movie!

Photo courtesy of  Irin Carmon 

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

Monday, May 18, 2015

"POTUS" and "SCOTUS"--Recent Buzzwords

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ABA's Silver Gavel Awards

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


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

Pedalers Push WA to Number 1!

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

 Scores are based on rankings in five categories:

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

Free Legal Research Tune-up

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

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

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

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fair or Foul? New Index Provides Fair Use Case Results

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

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

Friday, May 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

Adjustable height reading stand

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Data Crunching Justices' Writing Styles

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

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

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

Friday, May 1, 2015

Alternative Legal Research Databases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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