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What’s Your Research Resolution?

fireworks-borderWith the New Year speeding towards us, many of us will start out the year with a New Year’s Resolution.  Often these resolutions revolve around one’s health or one’s career, the purpose being to purge oneself of bad habits and poor choices.  Along those lines, I’d like to propose some research resolutions:

In this new year of legal research and scholarly pursuit, resolve:

  1. To conduct your research cost-effectively, through strategy and planning.
  2. To try out terms and connectors searching to refine your search results.
  3. To always run cases through a citator to make sure they’re still good law.
  4. To verify the authenticity of information you find online before relying on it in your research.
  5. To use secondary sources to begin and expand your research.
  6. To learn how to update statutes in print.  Because when the Internet goes down this summer, you’re the only clerk who knows how to use the print, and you’re firm’s up against a deadline, you’ll be the hero of the hour!  (Yes, this does happen!)
  7. To consider whether administrative law might govern your legal topic, in addition to statutory authority and case law.
  8. To interpret the meaning of a statute by compiling a legislative history to discern legislative intent.
  9. To explore legal resources outside of Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law that might benefit your research.
  10. To always come ask a reference librarian for help when you get stuck!

Happy holidays!  Have a great break!

 

Roving the Repository: Alumni News

i-witnessWhile roving the Law Library’s digital repository this month, I came across several law school publications for alumni.  In addition to current scholarship, the repository is growing its retrospective collection, and throughout our history, we have had several publications for alumni.  These can be an excellent resource for learning about the history of the school and how our student body has changed throughout our history.

First up, I-Witness, an alumni publication that ran from 1959-1968.  This 6- to 8-page newsletter primarily highlighted the goings-on at the law school, upcoming class reunions, and promoted membership in the law alumni association.  A couple of gems from this publication really help to put it in the context of American history and culture of the period, such as the article promoting the “Law Wives Club,” a social group formed for the wives of the primarily male student population, or the article discussing how the law school’s enrollment would be affected by the draft.

bill-of-particulars

Next up, Bill of Particulars, an alumni publication that ran from 1968-2006.  With its long run, this publication saw us through more admissions issues with the draft, the expansion of services for veterans, changes in legal education, such as the rise of clinics and overhauls of the first year curriculum, and changes in the legal profession, such as the growing number of women in the field, the emergence of environmental law as a hot area of practice, and the rise of specialty courts, such as juvenile and family law courts.

Others include:

  • IU Law Update, an alumni publication produced in newspaper format that ran from 1991-1997.
  • Alumni Update, an alumni publication that ran from 1998-2001.
  • Indiana Law Update, an alumni publication in electronic format that ran from 2002-2009.
  • Indiana Law, a print alumni publication with a short run, 2007-2008.
  • Alumni News, a print publication that ran from 2007-2009.
  • Ergo, the publication we’re used to today, which has run 2010-present.

If you have a chance, check them out.  You never know what you might find!

 

In Thanks for Your Service – Resources and Benefits for Indiana Veterans

Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs LogoOn Veterans Day, as every day, we thank those who serve and who have served for your steadfast devotion to the fight for freedom and security, domestically and abroad. There are a wealth of resources available to returning service members, from education to healthcare, but finding these services and navigating the application and appeals process can be a challenge.  And while federal veterans benefits are most commonly known, states offer their own host of benefits and services to veterans.

The following is just a sampling of resources and services dedicated to Hoosier Vets:

  • Indiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs – This site provides a wealth of resources on benefits and services available to veterans and their family members.  You can find information here on both federal benefits and state benefits for Hoosier vets.
  • Veterans Home – An Indiana institution since 1896, Veterans’ Home offers a full range of housing services for veterans, from independent living to short-term rehabilitative care. They even offer a memory care unit for vets or their spouse living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia illnesses.
  • Veteran’s Business Enterprise Program
    • This program works to encourage the state of Indiana’s competitive contracts for the purchase of goods and services favor veteran-owned businesses.
  • Veteran Opportunity Partner
    • Perhaps you’re not a veteran, but you’d like to give back to those who’ve served. You may want to read up on becoming a Veteran Opportunity Partner, to provide services or discounts to vets throughout Indiana.
  • Finally, if you are interested legal assistance with your veterans’ benefits claim, here are some resources:

Found in the Stacks: Icons and Aliens

Icons and Aliens: Law, Aesthetics, and Environmental Change by John J. Costonis, University of Illinois, 1989. KF 5692 .C67 1989

Icons and Aliens explores the law of aesthetics. We might not normally think of aesthetics as having its own law, but this book is a reminder that we find legal questions in many places, some of them unexpected. The unusual title refers to the different ways that people can think of landmarks. The Golden Gate Bridge was initially much reviled for being an alien presence in the harbor. Now many years later it has become a celebrated icon of the city.   Costonis examines the legal implications of landmarks, how people react when they are built and when they are torn down.  As aesthetics change, so do our landscapes, and the legal system must respond when these changes cause conflict.  For a look at an unusual way law touches us, check this book out!

Have you found any particularly interesting books lately?  If so, let us know!

Happy Election Day!

Today is Election Day, so get out there and vote! If you are registered to vote in Indiana and would like more information, check out www.indianavoters.in.gov, which will let you look at your ballot, check out the candidates, and find your polling place. For even more information, the local Bloomington Herald-Times offers a page devoted to elections, on which you can find details on your specific district, read about individual races, get photos and bios of all the candidates, and watch videos of many of them.

Research Refresher: What Happened to Miss [Platform] Independent?

platform-ind2It happens to everyone – as you start to develop your research skills, you naturally start to develop preferences for one database over the rest. Everyone will have their own reasons – look and feel, functionality, content, free printing, reward points – but the outcome is always the same.  It’s only natural.

When we teach legal research, we are often confronted with one or both of these questions:

  1. What is your favorite platform?
  2. Is there really a point to researching across the platforms, or can I just stick to the one I like?

As to question number one, let’s be honest – it’s only natural to have a favored research platform. But the more diplomatic answer (and of course, I can only truly speak for myself) is that each platform has its unique strengths, so what platform I use for my research depends on what research task I am trying to accomplish.  But as I said, preferences are unique to the researcher, so my opinion about the platforms should in no way inform yours.

Question number two is a much more important question to answer. While it is true that everyone formulates preferences on where to do their research, while you are in law school, you will benefit yourself most by remaining well-versed in each platform. I say this for several reasons:

Be Prepared – Ordinarily, you will not know what platform you have access to through your summer or post-grad employer until you get there. Your mad Westlaw skills won’t be very handy if your employer only has Lexis.  Further, while Lexis and Bloomberg have started offering summer access to your personal accounts, many employers will prefer that you use their subscriptions, to better track research logged per client, for instance.

Compare and Contrast – While you’re in law school and have access to more than one research platform, it is simply a good exercise to compare research results across the systems. You may find that you retrieve better search results in one system over another; you may discover that one system offers more primary or secondary sources than another; and you will likely discover that each system offers unique tools that can benefit your research in different ways.

Plan for the Future – This goes along with the first reason; you may find yourself hanging out your shingle when you graduate, which will leave you the freedom to choose your research platform.  Your first thought might be that this is a no-brainer – you’ll go with the platform you’ve grown to prefer.  However, these research platforms vary greatly in price and packaging, and you could face the reality that your preferred platform is just too expensive.  Knowing your way around the other platforms will allow you to more easily make another, informed choice.

So try them all out. Will this stop you from having a preference?  No – like I said, that’s only natural.  In fact, if you have one database where you want to do all of your research, go right ahead. But consider following this up by conducting the same research on another platform.  This will not only keep your skills sharp in multiple systems, but it may just yield better research results in the end.

Know Your Court Rules

When it comes to case preparation, we typically think of preparatory aspects like the rules of criminal/civil procedure, evidence, prepping the client, and properly researching the case to make sure all of our statutes and regulations we’re relying on are current and our cases are Shepardized.  However, there’s another, subtler aspect to trial preparation to consider as well, violations of which lately seem to be rather news-worthy.  I’m talking about court rules.

You certainly don’t leave law school without learning about court rules, but compared to other aspects of the law, court rules don’t receive as much emphasis; but don’t be fooled – violating court rules can have serious consequences.  What’s more, court rules vary in subject from proper courtroom attire (don’t forget your socks!) to document formatting (watch those margins!).

Court rules vary by court, and can be found printed in statutory codes as well as on court websites.  For instance, the Indiana government website (IN.gov) includes electronic access to court rules for the Indiana Supreme Court, Tax Court, and Appellate Court.  Rules at the trial court level vary by court as well, and can be found on their courts’ websites; fortunately the state government website includes a page for easy access to local court websites by county.

Because court rules cover such a vast array of topics and vary by court, no one is expected to have them memorized.  But you are expected to follow them, so it is important to know that they exist and where to find them.  If you have any questions about researching court rules, stop by the Law Library.  The Reference Librarians are happy to help!

Found in the Stacks: Revenuers and Moonshiners

Revenuers and Moonshiners: Enforcing Federal Liquor Law in the Mountain South, 1865-1900 by Wilbur R. Miller, UNC Press, 1991. HJ 5021 .M55 1991

A little slice of history, this book looks at moonshiners in the Reconstruction Era. Moonshiners are often portrayed as fairly romantic figures, but this book is actually looking at federal enforcement of tax laws against said moonshiners. While the setting may be historical, some of the issues are still in question today—like the difficulties inherent in enforcing unpopular laws. If you need a study break, take a look!

Have you found any particularly interesting books lately? If so, let us know!

Found in the Stacks: Banned Films

Banned Films: Movies, Censors and the First Amendment, by Edward de Grazia and Roger K. Newman, R.R. Bowker Company, 1982. KF 4300 .D43

Are you a movie buff? Perhaps you are a little bit of a rebel too? If so you might want to take a look at Banned Films by de Grazia and Newman. The first part of the book is devoted to a history of movie censorship and its run-ins with the law. After that, the authors take a decade or two at a time and mention notable movies that were banned at that time. Interested in knowing which movies were banned in the ’60s, why, and what the legal importance of the ban was? Then this book is for you!

Have you found any particularly interesting books lately? If so, let us know!

Introducing Title 52 of the United States Code

olrc

Most of us at some point in our early education had a Civics class that taught us about the branches of government and the laws we are all bound to follow.  When learning about statutes passed by Congress (usually in conjunction with a screening of Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill”), we learned about the 50 Titles of the US Code.  No more!  After decades of the standard 50 titles we’ve come to know, the Office of the Law Revision Counsel recently began adding new titles to our federal codification of laws.  Ordinarily, reorganizations of the code involve moving existing laws to other (existing) titles, or renumbering sections within existing titles.  However, recently the OLRC has determined that, to best organize statutes within the code, creating a few new titles is in order.  Changes began in 2010 with Title 51 – National and Commercial Space Programs.  On September 1st, 2014, the second new title came into effect: Title 52 – Voting & Elections.  And they’re not stopping there!  There are even more new titles in the works: Title 53 – Small Business, Title 54 – National Park System, and Title 55 – Environment.  It’s important to understand that, even when new titles are created, this does not mean they are filled with new laws; instead, the OLRC is reorganizing the code by pulling existing laws on a subject and placing them together for easier reference; laws on the same topic are often spread among different titles, so by creating a new title, it becomes much easier for researchers to access all the laws on a subject.

Even more interesting is the process of approving the creation of these two recent title additions to the U.S.C.  Title 51 is a positive law title, meaning that the title itself was statutorily enacted.  This follows the same process as any other statute traveling through Congress: the OLRC presents the proposed title to the House Judiciary Committee, there’s a notice and comment period, the House approves the bill, and the Senate must approve the bill.  For more information on the positive law codification process for new titles, the OLRC has created a helpful brochure.  In contrast, Title 52 is not a positive law title.  The OLRC has editorial reclassification privileges when parts of the Code outgrow their existing titles.  In this case, the volume of statutes pertaining to voting and elections has vastly grown over the years, and the OLRC determined that a new title was required to make room.  The difference between positive and non-positive law is subtle.  Essentially, statutes within a positive law title are reorganized verbatim – they constitute legal evidence in a court of law; in contrast, statutes that have been reorganized into a non-positive law title are only considered prima facie evidence of the law.

You can learn more about the OLRC (and browse the U.S.C. online) by visiting their website.