Tuesday, March 15, 2022

West Key Number System Keeps Adapting--Newest Renovation: Evidence

graphic of yellow key with lightning bolt through it
Key Numbers are powerful!
The West Key Number System has been helping researchers find relevant cases since the late nineteenth century. Part of what has kept it useful is the editors' ongoing work to keep it up to date (or as up to date as you can keep such a large, complex system).

Some of the changes have responded to changes in technology. When the original outline was created, there wasn't a need for Automobiles (Topic 48A) or Aviation (Topic 48B). 

Some of the changes have reflected societal changes. Topic 223, Intoxicating Liquors, is more palatable (or potable) than the old Drunkards Topic. 

And some changes reflect developments in the law. Maybe the editors find that they've been shoehorning so many headnotes into one Key Number that it should be subdivided. Or maybe the Topic's entire outline needs to be rethought.

I just saw an announcement  that the editors (the company calls them "attorney-editors," to emphasize that they have legal training) have reworked Evidence (Topic 157), and created an entirely new outline. (The announcement was in Thomson Reuters's Information Management Consultant Newsletter—that's a fancy way of saying "Update for Librarians.")

The Key Number editors could have said: "We used to put Evidence into Key Numbers 1-601. Starting now, we'll put new cases into Key Numbers 701-3067. You researchers, you have to look in two places. Deal with it." But they didn't do that. Instead, they went back through all the headnotes about Evidence in all of U.S. caselaw and reclassified approximately 490,000 headnotes. One Key Number will bring together cases from 1822, 1922, and last week.

I'm sure that the editors had a lot more on their minds than just changing technology, but here's one change inspired by tech: there's now a headnote for hearsay issues with respect to emails, text messages, and social media posts (that's 157k1216, if you want to run a search). A while ago, those cases would have been classified in Key Number 318(2), "Writings--Letters and telegrams." 

When you search for Key Numbers in Westlaw, you can still use the old numbers. For example, when I searched for 157k318(2) (the old number), I retrieved headnotes with Key Numbers in the new scheme, parenthetically noting the former number. 

Screen snip shows where headnote falls in outline: 157 Evidence, 157IXk1571X Writings and Other Documentary Evidence, 157IX(A)k157IX(A) In General (1-683 to 1-780), 157k1213 Hearsay Issues in General, 157k1216 Emails, text messages, and social media posts. Small note says "(Formerly 157k318(2))"
Westlaw shows the former Key Number (157k318(2)) as
well as the current one (157k1216)

When I click on the broader heading to skim IX. WRITINGS AND OTHER DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE, k1211-k1560, I see that email turns up a couple of times--under hearsay and under "writings as self-serving statements." If I'm interested in both, I can search for 157k1216 or 157k1229.

screen snip shows 213 Writings as hearsay in general, 1214--In general, 1215--Letters and other correspondence, 1216--Emails, text messages, and social media posts, 1217--Newspapers and periodicals, 1218--Records, 1219--Reports, 1220--Receipts, . . . 1226 Writings as self-serving statements, 1227--Ingeneral, 1228--Letters and other correspondence, 1229--Emails, text messages, and social media posts, 1230--Pleadings, 1231--Affidavits and testimony
Excerpt from Evidence Topic

For more on using the West Key Number System, I recommend the Stanford Law Library's guide, Case Finding and Advanced Searching Strategies and Westlaw's own PowerPoint, The Topic and Key Number System. For more on the changes to the system over time, see Sarah Gotschall, Common Scolds, Drunkards and Embracery: Exploring the Past and Present Through West Digest Topics, RIPS Law Librarian Blog (Nov. 24, 2020). 

And for more on keys and lightning (literally, not just metaphorically, as in my graphic), see Benjamin Franklin and the Kite Experiment, Franklin Inst. (June 12, 2017)

Friday, March 4, 2022

Database of All Article III Judges Through History

With the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the 116th Justice of the United States Supreme Court, news reports have noted that the great majority of Justices through history have been white. Judge Jackson would be only the third African American to serve on the Court (after Justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas) and the sixth woman (after Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Amy Coney Barrett). And she would become the first Justice who is both African American and a woman. 

This seems like a good time to bring up one of my favorite web resources: the Federal Judicial Center's Biographical Directory of Article III Judges 1789-Present

This database makes it easy to find out about any Article III judge in history, not just the headliners on the marquee. And of course the lower court judges do a lot of the work of the judiciary. Most litigation never reaches the Supreme Court.

simple graphic of about thirty "judges" - black robes with blank circles for heads
Basic graphic of black robes and white heads.

(I toyed with the idea of making the heads different shades,
but I didn't have the time. And the fact remains:
if you selected 30 federal judges from history, you
might not have much racial diversity at all.)

The FJC historians have prepared information about Diversity on the Bench, including essays and graphs. Since this is Women's History Month, let's check out the page on Gender. A graph shows how the number of judges has swelled since 1789—as well as the growing number of women in the last couple of decades. If you visit the site, you can use the slider to zoom in on any time period.

graph shows number of judges growing from a few dozen around 1800 to almost 1500 in 2020. Colored portion shows small but growing number of women.
Gender of Article III Judges, 1789-2020
source: Federal Judicial Center

Choose the database's Advanced Search option to pull out different combinations of attributes. Curious about Afro-Latino or Hispanic judges nominated by President Clinton? You can search for that. How about district judges whose professional background includes the word "prosecutor"? You can search for that, too. Asian American judges who took office on or before December 31, 1999? Yep, you can search for that. 

Try searching for "University of Washington School of Law" in the Education field. You'll find 25 UW Law alumni who have been federal judges. (If you search for "University of Washington," you'll find some of these, and you'll also find 5 judges who got their bachelor's degrees at the UW but went elsewhere for law school.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

First Washington Women in Government

To start off your celebration of Women's History Month you might visit the Secretary of State's online exhibit, Moving Forward Looking Back: Washington's First Women in Government.  

There you'll find profiles of the first women to serve as state representatives, state senator, Superintendent of Public Instruction, mayor of Seattle, Washington Secretary of State, U.S. representative, governor, senate majority leader, Washington Supreme Court justice, Commissioner of Public Lands, Insurance Commissioner, Washington State Attorney General, and U.S. Senator.

black & white photo of white woman with broad-brimmed hat with feathers
Bertha Knight Landes, mayor of Seattle, 1926-28,
from Moving Forward Looking Back

Guess which woman in that list was a graduate of UW Law? Hint: it's not Bertha Landes, the first woman to be mayor of Seattle (although Jenny Durkan, the second woman to serve, elected 91 years later, is a UW Law grad).