Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Presidential Libraries

There are currently 13 presidential libraries, one for every former president since Hoover.  And the site of the 14th presidential library has been revealed:  the Obama Presidential Center will be located in Chicago.

Where did the presidential papers go before the era of presidential libraries?  According to a CRS Report describing the legislative history of the Presidential Libraries Act, the papers were initially thought of as personal property, and many of them were lost or destroyed. 

With the advent of presidential libraries, these papers are much better preserved.  For example, although his time in office was relatively short, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum offers some fascinating digital material, from state dinner menus and programs to National Security Council meeting agendas and minutes – fodder for lawyers and nonlawyers alike.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

One Future Law Student's Summer Plans: Run, Forrest, Run!

Barclay Oudersluys just graduated from college and will be starting law school at UC-Berkeley in the fall. Between now and then, he'll be recreating Forrest Gump's run to raise money "for the Hall STEPS Foundation, a nonprofit founded by professional runners Ryan and Sara Hall to fight global poverty through better health." Mr. Oudersluys  merely has to run 32 miles per day to complete the 3,200 mile journey.

Interested in running, but not, perhaps, 3,200 miles? Consider joining a local training group with Front Runner or Columbus Running Company, the latter of which has free group runs on Saturdays. Embrace the possibility that any residual exam stress and/or job stress may just melt away.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Climate Change Liability

The EPA has been party to many a lawsuit on the topic of climate change.  In the Netherlands, concerned citizens have embraced a new approach -- not just asking for agency action, but rather charging the government with failure to protect Dutch citizens from climate change (see BBC coverage).

The organization bringing suit, the Urgenda Foundation, is posting legal documents from the suit, including the summons, translated into English.  As a result, environmental lawyers, scholars, and students have access to foreign legal proceedings on a topic of global concern.  The Urgenda Foundation relies on UN treaties, the European Convention on Human Rights, and Dutch law, concluding:

It is a grave failure of Dutch politicians that they have not put the issue of climate change front and centre of the political agenda or led and instigated a public debate about what needs to be done to safeguard our future and that of our children, while the seriousness and the nature of the problem are screaming for such a debate. It is the task of politicians to attempt to assess what the future holds, to inform the public of the problems and dangers of climate change that scientists have identified, to lead a public debate about the challenges that these dangers involve, to stimulate the factual basis of this discussion and to alert the public of evidently false information, all so that a truly democratic decision-making process can take place. In this, however, the Dutch State fails in every aspect.

If these issues interest you, consider registering for Professor Carlarne's fall seminar, Disaster Law, or our fall broadcast class with Professor Carlson, of the University of Iowa College of Law, International Environmental Law.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Sports and Taxes

The NFL draft occurred yesterday with two quarterback positions filled first.

Those two young men are probably thrilled, but I have no doubt they were far more excited about the Ohio Supreme Court's ruling that occurred the same day striking down Cleveland's "jock tax." Apparently professional athletes must pay tax in the jurisdiction where it is earned, and athletes play in any number of cities over the course of the season. The way Cleveland has been calculating tax on athlete income earned in Cleveland is apparently disproportionate to the way other cities calculate that tax.

To build your tax expertise, especially if you are considering a career as a business or tax attorney for athletes, consider registering for Professor Susan Azyndar's Business and Tax Legal Research class next spring!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Leaving Valuables Unattended in the Library Can Have Bigger Consequences Than You Think

Please exercise caution with your possessions in the law library, particularly during exam time when you might be more inclined to park your stuff and leave to grab a snack. It's not just the laptop itself that is valuable---it may also be what you have stored on your laptop that exposes you to risk. For a recent, IRL tale, see this article from The Dispatch: Nude-photo Theft Shows Privacy Risk.

If you see anyone or anything suspicious in the law library, please tell someone at the reference or circulation desks as soon as possible. Also keep in mind you are able to lock your valuables to the metal hooks attached to the carrels as a preventative measure.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Big Google just posted a "fun" article on how you can download your entire Google search history (i.e., searches you ran while logged in to a Google product (e.g. YouTube, Gmail, Blogger)).

Presumably, the searches aren't tied to a specific device; they are tied to your Google log-in credentials. That I haven't quite decided. Would you really want to know how many times you were searching inane stuff during class hours instead of paying attention? It's like calorie counting to really get a picture of your nutritional choices---being in the dark is sometimes preferable than recognizing your patterns.

At any rate, there are at least two valuable takeaways:

(1) Google letting you get that info means Google has and keeps for all time that info. They may not have it aggregated at the moment, but it seems they can just go call it up at will. It's not just the anonymous searching they use to target ads; this is tying searches to a particular person. What kinds of confidential client matters are you researching on Google, and are there any risks of violating confidentiality by conducting these searches on Google?

(2) Because the searches can be tied to a particular person, consider whether and how you could request this information as part of discovery. Conceivably the data has time and date stamps, so they could be used to prove a particular bad act online or to serve in as a defense (e.g., the defendant was shopping online for four hours while a bank robbery was being committed).

For some Google alternatives that may offer more privacy in your searches and just as much search power, try Ixquick, DuckDuckGo, or the free Firefox browser plugin GoogleSharing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Amicus Briefs, or "Why a Love of Reading Must Be a US Supreme Court Clerk Job Requirement"

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the total number of pages of briefs submitted (including Amicus Briefs) in the same-sex marriage cases the US Supreme Court will consider April 28 is over 7,500. That's a lot.

Is this the most number of pages ever? No. "Court observers say the volume of filings in the case, combined under the heading of Obergefell v. Hodges, is second in recent memory only to the 2012 Affordable Care Act case in which President Barack Obama’s health-care plan was eventually upheld by a divided Supreme Court."

Isn't there a page limit on briefs? Sort of. The limit is actually a word limit per Supreme Court Rule 33. Merit briefs are limited to 15,000 words.

Where do you get all of these briefs if you'd like to brush up before arguments next week? SCOTUS Blog has the various briefs. Amicus briefs are limited to 9,000 words. For comparison, a 28-page law review article has around 15,000 words. So, based on the calculation that there are over 7,500 pages to read, it sounds as though there are around 260 briefs.

Didn't I read over 7,500 pages in my first year of law school? Maybe. In the 1L year, students take 31 hours of class over 28 weeks. (Let's say 15 hours are in the first semester and 16 are in the second.) If a professor assigns an average of 20 pages per hour, that means students read approximately 4200 pages in the first semester (300/week*14 weeks) and 4480 pages in the second semester (320/week*14 weeks), you're well on your way to a successful Supreme Court clerkship, if only in terms of the reading requirement.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sixth Circuit Review: A New Conversation

The Ohio State Law Journal has launched a new online publication:  the Sixth Circuit Review.  The Journal aims for this publication to be a “digital public square,” a discussion of important questions arising in the Sixth Circuit.  Scholars, students, practitioners, and judges are all invited to participate.

Afraid your comments will go unseen?  Chief Judge R, Guy Cole assures: “Only through a frank and ongoing dialogue will our court ever achieve its fullest potential. I promise you this: the judges of our circuit and their law clerks will surely read in earnest whatever you write.”

Begin the conversation by reading the inaugural issue and sending your own commentary to the Sixth Circuit Review editorIn the inaugural issue, you will find James M. Hafner, Jr.’s case comment on DeBoer v. Snyder – a good preparation for next week’s oral arguments at the Supreme Court regarding the Sixth Circuit same sex marriage cases.  Other topics include ethics and professionalism, pro se litigation, application of Rule 32.1 in district courts, whistleblower protections, summary dispositions, First Amendment balancing, and scienter pleading standards in securities fraud litigation – many opportunities to join in the conversation.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Marathon Fever - and Why Race Rules Matter

The Boston Marathon takes place today, and you can follow along to track the race leaders along the course.

Two stories from the marathon world highlight the importance of race rules. First, the St. Louis Marathon has suffered from a young lady cutting the course and placing or winning two years in a row. Kendall Schler has twice been unable to prove through race photos or otherwise that she began and completed the entire marathon under USATF rules. It appears Ms. Schler violated at least two USATF rules in particular:
Runner's identification shall consist of running numbers pinned securely on the front of each runner's uniform and displayed throughout the race. The registration list will contain each runner's name and running number.

Any competitor who has been found by the Referee and/or Jury of Appeal to have gained an unfair advantage by intentionally shortening the route of the race ("cutting the course") shall be immediately disqualified from the competition. See also Rule 163.6.
In less nefarious race news, "Four out of five members of the Snyder family—Steven, age 39, Gabriel, age 12, Elizabeth, age 11, and Belle, age 9—[ran] their first marathon together at the Athens Ohio Marathon on Sunday." Were the three children too young to compete per race rules? According to the race director, "the race does have a minimum age requirement, but a glitch in their system must have allowed the children of the Snyder family to register." How'd the Snyder kids do? Each completed the race around 5:43 beating their dad who finished around 5:54.

What does this have to do with the law? Industry standards, norms, or rules may be critical in torts cases to prove the standard of care or in contracts cases to prove the ordinary course of business practices in the event terms are missing from an alleged breached contract. (Perhaps even sexier than marathon rules is the wild world of dog breeding. When I clerked, we heard a case disputing ownership of a litter of puppies where the breeding contract was unclear and AKC rules were the only objective guidance the court had available.)

Don't think it doesn't matter, either. The first-place finishers of the Boston Marathon received $150,000 and endorsement opportunities in the millions. The 5K winners this year (each of whom set American records) also took home prize money. The winners each took home $7,500 for their victories plus an additional $5,000 bonus each for setting event records.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tax Day Satisfies

You might need a snack of some sort to get you through the Internal Revenue Code, Treasury Regulations, Revenue Rulings, and the like.  So did Aimee Cvancara, who needed a Snickers to get through work one evening.  Cvancara listed the 89 cent Snickers bar as a business deduction, but the tax court disagreed, calling it a personal expense.  A short, but thrilling documentary, dissects Cvancara’s audit and tax court experience, all in under 5 minutes – an excellent study break (without the non-deductible expense of a Snickers).

If you are inspired to learn more about business deductions – or need to because you are completing your taxes today – the IRS offers a helpful publication as well as a Q and A page.  Moritz students also have access to several tax specific databases, in addition to our major legal research databases.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Happy National Library Week

Libraries provide all kinds of things.  Including books, ebooks, databases of journal articles, images, and music.  We also share our research expertise at reference desks and through research guides.  During national library week (April 12 - 18), we're asking you to tell us how libraries have helped you out the past year.  In return, you have a chance to win a gift certificate.

You can celebrate national library week by sharing what you've made with help from your library, including Moritz, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #librarymade.  The American Library Association will award a $100 gift certificate to Maker Shed or Amazon to a lucky winner.  (Promotion details are available here.)

Lexis has decided to celebrate national library week by donating coupons for free study aids.  The first two current Moritz Law students who email me a short description of how Moritz Law Library has helped them will receive a coupon for a free  Lexis Q & A eBook.

The Echo Chamber Redux?

In a previous post, we highlighted the curious statistics that suggest it's not so hard to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court . . . if you've done it before. From that post,
Reuters news service did a little research and produced The Echo Chamber, which concluded that in the last nine years, "66 of the 17,000 lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court succeeded at getting their clients’ appeals heard at a remarkable rate. Their appeals were at least six times more likely to be accepted by the court than were all others filed by private lawyers during that period."
But there may be more to the story when it comes to some legal issues. From the New York Times, The Case Against Gay Marriage: Top Law Firms Won’t Touch It

That doesn't mean those arguing against gay marriage (or, possibly, in favor of states' rights) are from tiny mom-and-pop firms that have never stood before the Court before. In one case coming up on April 28, "the main lawyer opposing same-sex marriage will be John J. Bursch, who practices at a medium-size firm in Michigan," who has argued eight other cases before the Supreme Court. But he is arguing the case on his own, i.e., without his law firm's backing.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Baseball Season and Moneyball

Perhaps the best way to nurse the sorrow of a failed NCAA bracket is to embrace the start of baseball season. For a legal angle on the sport, take a look at one of our books on baseball law or on what it means to be a sports agent:
And for fun, take a look at Malcolm Gladwell's 2010 article Talent Grab: Why Do We Pay Our Stars So Much Money? Some interesting data from the article (with meaning for baseball players and lawyers alike):
In baseball, between the mid-nineteen-forties and the mid-nineteen-sixties, the game’s minimum and highest salaries both fell by more than a third, in constant dollars. In 1935, lawyers in the United States made, on average, four times the country’s per-capita income. By 1958, that number was 2.4.

"Stars", "titans of industry," and the like were not top earners. "The truly rich in the nineteen-fifties and sixties were people who had inherited money—the heirs of the great fortunes of the Gilded Age. Entrepreneurs who sold their own businesses could also become wealthy, because capital-gains taxes were relatively low. But the marketplace chose not to pay salaried professionals and managers a lot of money, and society chose not to let them keep much of what they made."
In 1956, Roswell Magill, a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, spoke for a generation of professionals when he wrote that law firms “can no longer honestly assure promising young men that if they become partners they can save money in substantial amounts, build country homes and gardens for themselves like their fathers and grandfathers did, and plan extensive European holidays.”
And then things changed.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

New Design for has a newly-designed website intended to increase usability. "That's great!" you might be thinking, "but what on earth is" The answer, "It's the website for the Department of Commerce," may still leave you scratching your head a bit because what on earth does the Department of Commerce do?

"The mission of the Department is to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity. As part of the Obama administration’s economic team, the Secretary of Commerce serves as the voice of U.S. business within the President’s Cabinet.  The Strategic Plan is how the Department maintains its focus on achieving its Open for Business Agenda."

And so...?

Well, the Department was established in 1903 with the goal of promoting economic growth, create jobs, and encourage sustainable development. From 1903-1913, the Department included commerce and labor until the Department of Labor was established in 1913.

The Department of Commerce has some of the most critical, diverse, data-based divisions in all the Executive Branch, including the following:

  • Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)
  • Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) [Twitter: @ESAstats]
  • Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) [Twitter: @BEA_News]
  • Census Bureau [Twitter: @uscensusbureau]
  • Economic Development Administration (EDA) [Twitter: @US_EDA]
  • International Trade Administration (ITA) [Twitter: @ESAstats]
  • Minority Business Development Administration (MBDA) [Twitter: @USMBDA]
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) [Twitter: @NOAA]
  • National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) [Twitter: @NTIAgov]
  • Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) [Twitter: @USPTO]
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) [Twitter: @usnistgov]
  • National Technical Information Service (NTIS) [Twitter: @NTISinfo]

  • My personal favorites on the list are the Census Bureau, the USPTO, and NOAA.

    So give the new site a try, and let your Department of Commerce know what you think!

    h/t: beSpacific

    Wednesday, April 01, 2015

    Winner of Moritz Law Library and Technology Survey Prize!

    Thanks to the many Moritz students who completed the Moritz Law Library and Technology survey. The Library and IT Department are reviewing responses as part of the planning process already underway. Your input is much-appreciated. Congratulations to 2L Allison Haugen who won the Barnes & Noble gift card! Look for a comment box coming soon to the circulation desk for passing on any additional input.