Thursday, February 26, 2015

Heads Up! National Weights and Measures Week March 1-7

How many heads tall is the average man? What on earth kind of measurement is "a head?" Or a bushel? Or a fortnight? You know we love weights and measures here at the Moritz Law Library, and its a more pressing topic as drug laws around the country change.

Well, great news! Franklin County, Ohio, will celebrate National Weights and Measures Week March 1-7 celebrating the 216th anniversary of the first weights and measures law in the United States. The Franklin County Auditor’s Office Weights and Measures Department will be hosting all sorts of cool events to celebrate

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New and Improved Black's Law Dictionary Online

In the past, using Black's Law Dictionary on WestlawNext has been trying.  You look up "constitution" and see a reference to another definition for "penumbra."  But you cannot click on "penumbra."  You must start a new search.

That problem has been solved.  WestlawNext recently added hyperlinks, so you can click through cross-references and find what you need more quickly. 

In other WestlawNext news, users can now save files from WestlawNext directly to DropBox. Clicking the download button offers this choice.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Committee Name Game

The intricacies of legislative history beset many a researcher.  Changes in the legislative process can further complicate an already difficult process.  For example, in 2011, the House of Representatives adopted a new rule requiring a Constitutional Authority Statement linking every bill or joint resolution to specific constitutional bases.  This rule produces a new legislative history document, one which

Another congressional change in the news involves committee names.  Understandably, some committee names evolve with the culture or with technology, as when Committee on Roads and Canals became the Committee on Railways and Canals and now the Transportation Committee.  Of late, Senator Cornyn has removed "civil rights" and "human rights" from the name of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee he chairs, leaving it the Constitution subcommittee.  Tracing multiple attempts at a bill over a series of Congresses may mean researchers will encounter unfamiliar committee names.

If you'd like to know more about the history of legislative committees, the House of Representatives Committee History and the Senate's Origins and Development are good places to start.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Proposed Federal Court Rules - Where to Look

Federal court rules change, and you do not want to be the attorney behind the times who doesn't keep up with those changes. Change is good. Really. Especially when the changes are responsive to modern technologies. For example, back in 2013, the Supreme Court proposed changes to Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, i.e., discovery.

Where the changes adopted? If you looked at the latest version of the FRCP, could you tell? Could you tell what the old language looked like?

Good news for researchers: Georgetown has a comprehensive research guide all about federal court rules! Section XVI is titled “Where to Find the Legislative History of Federal Court Rules;" it refers you to the federal court rulemaking process as described here. The guide also provides extensive details about the process. It’s quite complex and interesting.

The Judicial Conference has a Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure (i.e., the Standing Committee), and there are also five advisory committees on the appellate, bankruptcy, civil, criminal, and evidence rules that make recommendations for rule changes to the Standing Committee. The research guide has extensive information on the “legislative” process involved in court rulemaking.

So how do you actually find the documents that comprise the rulemaking process? You can review meeting minutes of advisory committees and reports of the committees on the U.S. Courts website (Records and Archives of the Rules Committees), and though coverage varies by committee, the records go back to the 1930s.

It appears our collection contains various versions of the rules/proposed rules in print and in e-book form. We also have Reports of the Proceedings of the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Courts: (1991 - 1997) in fiche in Cabinet 23, Drawer 1, down in our Microform Room on the first floor of the law library. Also, Hein has a library called “Congress and the Courts;” in that is a collection called “Federal Rules.” That collection includes “Rules of Civil Procedure for the District Courts of the United States: Documentary History 1934-1938,” as well as other titles, though it appears to me the U.S. Courts site is fairly comprehensive or at least would serve as a good finding tool.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Bart Ska-mpson and Why You'll Never Enjoy TV Again After Taking a Law School IP Class

Portlandia---a television show that depicts Portland, Oregon, in what might find a cringingly accurate (yet lovable) way---had an excellent segment that featured artist/bike messenger Spyke (1) being sued by Matt Groening for copyright infringement because Spyke was screen printing shirts featuring Bart Ska-mpson, and (2) stopping by his local law library (!) to research and prepare for the copyright trial.

The concept is great: "the man" suing the street artist for copyright infringement. But as you'll soon discover after taking an intellectual property class in law school, the accuracy of the law is shunted to the side in favor of the story.

Problem number one: the trial is not necessarily set in federal court. Instead, it's in "Portland Courthouse South-west Portland." Not a big problem, I know, but it sets the tone. And then I spent the rest of the episode analyzing the legal claims.

So if a career in copyright law doesn't pan out, consider being a consultant for television and movies. You too can help improve stories by enhancing their legal accuracy!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Keeping Current: PinHawk

If you're still exploring the legal profession, trying to decide on a career path, consider subscribing to one of PinHawk's free Daily Digests to get the latest news headlines usually related to the business or practice of law. If the headlines pique your interest, they may suggest to you some viable direction to head with your legal interests.

Three of the free digests are Legal Administrator Daily, Librarian News Digest, Law Technology Daily Digest. Here are a few highlights from the most recent edition of Law Technology Daily Digest:
  1. Succeeding in an anti-lawyer corporate culture, Inside Counsel, February 12, 2015
  2. Taking the pulse of digital health: Key legal issues surrounding wearable technology, Inside Counsel, February 12, 2015
  3. The hackers we know... Ethical hacking and how it can help your client, Inside Counsel, February 12, 2015
  4. The evolving role of the GC: What influences the many hats you wear, Inside Counsel, February 12, 2015
  5. Cloud Computing: Best Practices in Implementing SAAS solutions, Legal Suite, February 12, 2015
  6. The Internet of Things: What All Companies Need To Know About the FTC Report, Above the Law - Legal Technology, February 12, 2015

Monday, February 09, 2015

How do Librarians Feel about Wikipedia?

The blog post title isn't intended as click bait, but it is a bit of a misdirect as I am just a librarian, so I can't speak for all librarians. So what does this librarian think about Wikipedia? It's a useful tool like all databases and websites, but it is only useful if you know how the site is organized and where it gets its content so that you can make an educated assessment of your search results.

Which is why a recent article, The Wikipedia Ourboros, is so interesting. If you're trying to get a little traction on your research so you have a basic framework to understand what you're looking for, Google and Wikipedia aren't the worst places to start. But they're not remotely where your research should stop. The lead of the article says it all: "The online encyclopedia chews up and spits out bad facts and its own policies are letting it happen."

Here's the critical quote:
The rule of Wikipedia is that authority trumps accuracy. Editors are not allowed to contradict what established “reliable” sources like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Guardian say, lest editors be accused of dreaded “original research” (a big no-no on Wikipedia). Philip Roth found this out when he tried to correct an error about one of his own books, only to be told by a Wikipedia administrator, “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work, but we require secondary sources.” Wikipedia has a policy of “Verifiability, not truth,” which means that citations, even wrong citations, trump all else.
So, if The New York Times gets a fact wrong, that fact must continue to exist on Wikipedia. Editors can't correct The New York Times's mistake!

That's helpful to know. It gives you one more piece of information for evaluating what you find online, and that's the essential skill (evaluation) all good researchers need.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Beanie Babies and Valentine's Day

Perhaps if you are a law student now, you don't have strong memories of Beanie Babies, which were popular in the 1990s. That's a shame because the novelty plush toys made Americans pretty frenzied in a way that I still can't fathom. Maybe it's because I was in my late teens when they hit the market. In other words, I was "too cool" to be impressed by much. But still, people paying $5,000 for a small stuffed animal simply because of economic conditions driving demand leaves me without words. It's inexplicable has a great article on the subject, Plush Life: Why did people lose their minds over Beanie Babies? The article posits that in a nutshell, people wanted them because they were hard to get.

But what's the legal angle? The article includes a photo of a divorcing couple divvying up Beanie Babies in a courtroom with a judge overseeing the process. Seriously. The collection was valued at between $2,500-$5,000. Conceivably legal fees to compel the in-court division cost more than the value of the collection. And the Las Vegas Sun ran a great story that led with the line "Divorce is often hardest on the babies." Later the writer penned this gem: "The collection was still in Frances' possession Thursday when Hardcastle heard Harold's motion to get his share of the litter." (I'd have said "pick of the litter," but that's just me.)

This story is not intended to convey how out of control this couple was. It's more about the difficulty of divorce. Family law is tough---perhaps not for the legal issues but for the emotional complications involved. For thoughts on how to approach divorce, especially as we enter into the most romantic season of the year, check out these books in our collection (some of which are available online):

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Coolest Librarians

The New York Times featured "information sleuths" at the New York Public Library in yesterday's edition. My favorite quote from the story: "In a certain sense, the work I do begins where the Internet ends,” Mr. Boylan said. “Certain things you can’t find with Google.”

The New York Public Library features nine full-time researchers. The takeaway from the story? You can call them. You don't have to be in New York. Just like when you graduate from law school, you're welcome to get in touch with us here in the law library.

And if you're interested in work that requires you to learn something new every day, consider librarianship---law librarianship in particular if you're at Moritz getting your J.D.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Google Book Scanning Project begins at the Moritz Law Library

Did you know that Ohio State is among a select group of “Big 10” and other major research universities participating with Google in a major book scanning project that first launched nearly a decade ago?   The Google Books Library Project is the largest project of its kind ever undertaken to digitize printed materials in academic research libraries.  OSU began pulling and sending books from campus libraries two years ago and now it’s the Law Library’s turn to participate.  Out-of-copyright books in the public domain (published pre-1923) have been identified for the project.   Books will be unavailable to patrons for a period of about eight weeks, while they are in transit and being scanned at a facility out-of-state.  If you have a question or need an item right away, please contact the Circulation staff who can assist with locating a copy through interlibrary loan.
Digital copies of the scanned books eventually will be made available to users through a digital archive known as the HathiTrust that currently stores some 10.6 million volumes.  The Ohio State University Moritz Law Library will be credited as the source of the original for all scanned items.  For further information on the Google Books Library Project involving OSU and other universities that are part of the CIC (Committee on Institutional Cooperation) consortium, go to:


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fugitives from Justice! The Shipwreck King of Ohio!

The idea of fugitives seems old fashioned to me: I can't fathom committing a crime and somehow hiding out to avoid prosecution. It just seems like a lot of work. And also, U.S. Marshals on the hunt for a guy on the lam? That sounds like a TV show to me rather than a modern-day reality. So how intriguing is it that Columbus is home to its very own fugitive from justice, Tommy Thompson the Shipwreck King of Ohio?

Well, he is a fugitive no more. Mr. Thompson raised $55 million in equity and debt financing in an effort to salvage gold from a sunken ship. Investors did not see the return they thought they would and have filed suit. When he disappeared after skipping out on a warrant, he became a fugitive. For some time, he's been living in a Hilton in Florida.

Mr. Thompson's latest case (a criminal complaint for failure to appear) was filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida. Check out Bloomberg Law's docket (case 9-mj-080499-DLB) for more information.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Feathered Profs - A List of Law Professors Who Use Twitter

We've written here fairly extensively about Twitter, and it's no wonder. Twitter presents a fascinating opportunity for librarians to learn new systems for organizing data. Hashtags are really just like the subject headings in a library catalog and can give a person insight into collective consciousness.

Now you have at your fingertips a resource for learning about the collective consciousness of faculty. The Faculty Lounge has an informal, mostly accurate census of law faculty around the country who are on Twitter.

Not on the list yet is our newest professor tweeting: Ric Simmons! Follow him @4thAmdBlog to read the latest on search and seizure law.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Exhibits on Civil Rights: Online and Nearby

In continuing recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, here are several exhibitions which might be of interest:

  • Also at the Library of Congress website is Voices of Civil Rights, a solely online exhibition focusing on oral histories of individuals of the Civil Rights Movement.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Silk Road and Search and Seizure

Professor Ric Simmons recently posted on his new blog about Fourth Amendment issues related to the Silk Road. The Silk Road is part of the dark web/deep web/dark Internet---that part of the Internet that isn’t searched by Google. Though many used the Silk Road purely to avoid prying eyes, others use it to conduct illegal transactions without prying eyes. The person who ran the site, Ross Ulbricht, is currently on trial, and one of the pre-trial issues, which Professor Simmons addresses, is whether an illegal hack is an illegal search. For more information, check out Professor Simmons's blog Search and Seizure, "exploring the reach and the limits of the Fourth Amendment in the modern world."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Library Exhibit Features Congressman William McCulloch's Career and Legislative Accomplishments

The career and legislative accomplishments of Congressman William M. McCulloch (R-Piqua), who represented Ohio’s 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives (1947-1973), are currently featured in a new library exhibit curated by Jeffrey Thomas, Archivist of the University Libraries’ Ohio Congressional Archives. The exhibit includes facsimile reproductions of papers, correspondence, photos and other items included in the Archives’ collection of McCulloch’s papers. An alumnus of the OSU College of Law (Class of 1925), McCulloch had a distinguished career as a lawyer, politician and member of Congress during a turbulent era. He is receiving renewed attention today for playing a pivotal role in ensuring passage of key civil rights legislation during the 1960’s, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and later legislation to end housing discrimination. The exhibit highlights McCulloch’s legislative accomplishments, service on crime commissions and work on constitutional amendments, and includes awards as well as letters of commendation from Congressional leaders at the time of his retirement.

For further information on the William M. McCulloch Papers in the Ohio Congressional Archives, go to:  A brief biography of McCulloch is also available here. As part of the College’s series of events recognizing the 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, author Todd S. Purdum will be speaking in Saxbe Auditorium on Thursday, January 22nd at 12 noon, discussing McCulloch’s role and his book, An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.