Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Checking Case Treatment with Shepard's

Using citators is important. You want to find out whether something has happened to your case on appeal or whether, years later, it was overruled by another case. And you also want to find how much it's been cited by other cases and how they've used it.

To get a handle on the features of Shepard's (the citator on Lexis), see Be confident in your cases with Shepard's. You can also view short videos:

. . . or get into more depth with the Shepardizing YouTube playlist from LexisNexisLawSchools.

Overruling Risk -- Wrongful Discharge Example

The tort of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy is an exception to the general rule that at-will employees can quit or be fired for any reason. Gardner v. Loomis Armored, Inc., 128 Wash. 2d 931, 935 (1996). In Weiss v. Lonnquist, 173 Wash. App. 344 (2013), the Court of Appeals said that a discharged attorney couldn't claim the tort because she had an effective alternative: filing a bar association complaint about her boss's allegedly improper conduct.

If you're looking at Weiss v. Lonnquist on Westlaw, you'll see a new icon, an exclamation point in an orange circle. This is a new feature of KeyCite that alerts you a case that overruled a case your case relies on.

Overruling Risk icon
(redrawn to make it scale well)

In 2015, the Washington Supreme Court explicitly abrogated a rule that the existence of an "adequate" alternative means a plaintiff can never claim wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Rose v. Anderson Hay & Grain Co., 184 Wash. 2d 268, 286 (2015). The Washington Supreme Court cited three cases that had developed that rule: Hubbard, Cudney, and Korslund. (If this were more formal writing than a blog post, I'd give the full citations, but the nicknames will do for now.)

The court didn't mention Weiss v. Lonnquist. BUT WEISS RELIED ON THE THREE CASES THAT WERE MENTIONED. So before you relied on Weiss for its statement of the rule, you would sure want to know about the newer case.

Westlaw's programmers have created an algorithm that looks for cases that rely on an overruled case, not just any case that cited it. In this example, the algorithm worked very well.

Westlaw's own documentation:

UW Law users have this new feature now because we adopted Westlaw Edge in September. Students from most other law schools will have this feature in January. (Faculty from most schools get it in November.)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Compare Statute Versions with Westlaw Edge

Sometimes it's hard to get a handle on what changes have been made to statutes over time. You can look at the credits at the end to see the citations to amending statutes—but what's the difference between today's statute and the statute that was in effect two, three, or ten years ago?

Westlaw Edge has a new feature that helps us sort out the changes.Suppose you're looking at 26 U.S.C.A. § 164, the part of the Internal Revenue Code that allows taxpayers to deduct some state and local taxes from their federal tax bill. You can see in the credits at the end that the section dates from 1954 and has been amended a couple of dozen times.

Credits for 26 U.S.C.A. § 164

It might take a lot of plodding to figure out the differences between any two versions.

But now there's the Compare Versions feature!

Screen snip showing  Compare Versions button

If you click on the Compare Versions button, you'll get a "redline" version showing what has changed since the last version—in this case the version that was effective between Dec. 18, 2015, and December 21, 2017.

Screen snip showing new subsection, 26 U.S.C.A. § 164 (b)(6)

It leaps out at you that § 164(b) has a new subsection, 164(b)(6), putting a lid on the amount that a taxpayer can deduct for state and local taxes.

That's pretty handy. But what if you wanted to look at older changes?

At the top of the screen, click on History, then Versions. Westlaw has 12 versions of this code section, going back to 1996. You can choose any two of the versions to compare

Screen snip showing "Add to compare" button for 1996 version of 26 U.S.C.A. § 164

If you paste a comparison into Word, you'll find that it's just like Word's compare documents feature. You can omit the redlining by choosing Simple Markup and see it again by choosing All Markup (in the Review tab of Word's ribbon).

Try out this new feature. It's handy!

By the way, in January all law student Westlaw users in the country will have access to this new feature in Westlaw Edge. We are one of the law schools that got the new features in September.

Library now closing at 4:30 on Friday

The library will now be closing at 4:30 on Fridays. Please remember that this now means that the circulation desk will also be closing at 4:15, and the Reference Office will be closing at 4:00. This change will be going into effect immediately.

The Friday before exam week, December 7, we will remain open until 6.

All other hours remain unchanged. Thank you for your understanding.

Reference Office
Monday - Thursday
8am – 8pm
9am – 5pm
8am – 4:30pm
9am – 4pm
11am – 6pm

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Library Closing at 3:00 on Friday

Due to staffing issues, the law library is closing 3 hours early on Friday, Oct. 12th. The library will close at 3:00 pm on that day.