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The Indiana Law Library Blog

Justice Thomas’ Silence

Thanks to Law.com today, we know that today marks the four year anniversary of the last time the Justice Clarence Thomas spoke during oral argument.  This is not the first time there has been speculation about his silence (this two year old article, for example), but how much does it actually affect the legal process?  The reasons that he gives for his silence are many, but one of the most compelling is simply that he wants the advocates to have a chance to speak.  A relatively recent note by David A. Karp in the Florida Law Review ($) explores the possible results of his silence. Karp argues that Justice Thomas does more harm than good with his silence.  For one thing, lawyers do not have a chance to address arguments that he raises only in the decision. After all, the brief has already given the lawyer a chance to present her best arguments, and the oral argument offers a chance to get new and different perspectives on the issue.  Karp says that Justice Thomas’ opinions are beautifully written and argued—but that not allowing his ideas to be vetted in oral argument makes him more of a constitutional commentator than an active part of the judicial process. 

What do you think is the effect of Justice Thomas’ silence?  Does it make him look respectful, or disinterested?  Is it more important to give the lawyers a chance to present their case in their own words, or is give and take an essential part of the process?  At the very least, it means that Justice Thomas does not score very well in D.C. Dicta’s Funniest Justice tally.  Let us know what you think.

Super Bowl Lawsuits

One of the most popular legal blog posts pre-game day was the Bitter Lawyer’s top six Super Bowl related lawsuits.  (Be warned, it seems that he was a Saints fan.)  There are any number of sports related lawsuits, however.  There is a nice, though older, list of ten from CALA.  The 10 Spot Blog has another list of ten that is a year newer than the CALA list.  Go take a look!

Changes in Legal Research

There are several changes in the legal research world, either taking place now or on the horizon.  Maybe the biggest is that Westlaw is now touting a new interface, WestlawNext.  It hasn’t been released to law schools yet, but there is talk that next school year students will have access to it.  It claims to be more “Google-like,” with one search box to do everything.  You can even do combinations of terms and connectors and natural language searches in the same box. 

Lexis is also making some changes.  LexisNexis Academic already looks pretty different, and there is word that Lexis is teaming with Microsoft to add legal research functionality to Microsoft products like your word processor, browser, etc.  There are also rumors that Lexis is revamping its main interface.

In addition to these changes in the major products, there have been changes to several smaller products, and according to the ABA Journal we can also look forward to the entrance of Bloomberg on the scene, and Google offering more legal research oriented tools.  The world of legal research is changing rapidly!  The Law Library will, of course, be on top of all these changes, and we will be happy to tell you what we know about proposed changes, or to help you navigate new interfaces.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Considers Prof. Johnsen

Last year Prof. Dawn Johnsen made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee with flying colors.  With her second nomination, she must pass that test again.  Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are running editorials on her, one for and the other against.  If you’d like to follow the Committee’s discussion of her nomination, you can watch it live on the official website of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Good luck, Prof. Johnsen!

ALR International

The American Law Reports (A.L.R.) series has recently added a new title, ALR International.  This new title is intended to collect and analyze U.S. and foreign cases from both English and non-English-language jurisdictions on topics of international importance.  So far one volume has been published, and is available in Westlaw in its own file (i.e., not in the A.L.R. file).  For the most part, annotations involve the construction and application of various important multilateral treaties, such as the U.N. Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCP), and the Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters, to name several. Full Story »

Black History Month

Today kicks off Black History Month. Each year February is a month to focus on the history and achievements of African Americans.  This year one good place to do that is on the website of this History Channel, which offers an interactive timeline of black history milestones.  This is also a time to take a look at the website of the N.A.A.C.P.  You can also find information about the official theme of this year’s Black History Month—The History of Black Economic Empowerment—from site of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.  Happy Black History Month!