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The Indiana Law Library Blog

Lawyers Behaving Badly

With the final Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) of the year looming on the horizon, ethics may be at the forefront of your mind.  While the MPRE tests for knowledge of the Model Codes for Professional Responsibility and Judicial conduct, as well as common law principles related to attorney discipline, there are guaranteed to be a nearly infinite number of ethical quandaries that won’t make it onto the exam.  Fortunately, there are resources available to help law students and practitioners navigate these issues.

First, always start with the rules governing professional responsibility.  It is sound advice to familiarize yourself with the Rules of Professional Conduct in your jurisdiction.  The current version of Indiana’s rules can be found on the judiciary’s website.  In addition, attorney disciplinary opinions are available online at the Indiana Judiciary website, with coverage from 2004 to present.  Periodically, the Indiana State Bar Association (ISBA) publishes ethical advisory opinions.  This ethical guidance can be retrieved through the ISBA’s website.  For coverage of other jurisdictions, Bloomberg BNA and the ABA collaborate to produce the Lawyers Manual on Professional Conduct.  This online resource can be accessed by selecting “BNA Premier” from the Online Resources menu and choosing the “ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct” from the BNA “All Resources” list.

Next, keep abreast of changes – in both the legal field and society at large.  The advent of the Information Age, and its resulting technological advances, has added another layer of complexity in legal ethics.  Electronic discovery methods, and even simple email correspondence, can imperil the otherwise well-intended attorney.  Res Gestae, the journal of the Indiana Bar Association, includes a column in each issue devoted to ethics called “Ethics Curbstone.”  The law library keeps recent issues of this publication in the reference collection behind the circulation desk, shelved in the final row closest to the computer bank.  Res Gestae is a great current awareness resource for ethical concerns that are emerging or otherwise newsworthy.

Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend or colleague.  In each state, there is help available to attorneys and judges struggling with mental health and substance issues.  In Indiana, the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (JLAP) provides a variety of services to members of the legal community trying to cope with these types of difficulties.

Remain informed by using the myriad resources and advice available concerning legal ethics.  Be diligent and thoughtful in your professional and personal conduct.  Take care of your mental and physical health.  Lastly, remember that when you are an attorney, or even an aspiring one, what happens in Vegas, doesn’t necessarily stay in Vegas.

Copyright Law in the Digital Age

The law library recently added the Hathi Trust Digital Library to our list of electronic resources.  The Hathi Trust is a cooperative digitization effort by many major research institutions, including Indiana University, with a goal of preserving and providing access to library collections in digital format for use now and in the future.  With so many institutions contributing, collections within the Hathi Trust are vast, including such subjects as nineteenth century German texts, eighteenth century cookbooks, and many historic government documents that can be difficult to locate, such as Patent Indexes going back to the 1800s.

With the natural (and sometimes unnatural) deterioration of print materials, being able to digitize these works helps to ensure their preservation and accessibility for the future.  However, for a little over a year the Hathi Trust has been involved in a copyright lawsuit by the Authors Guild for copyright infringement.  The Authors Guild claimed that creating digital copies of copyrighted works infringed the authors’ copyright, because no permission was sought from the copyright holders, and that such wide-scale distribution (as is afforded by digital access) overstepped the allowances provided for in the Copyright Act’s fair use provisions.

On Wednesday, however, the presiding judge in this case ruled in favor of the Hathi Trust, finding that fair use was met, both because the digitization process was sufficiently transformative (the digital versions of the works in the Hathi Trust are full-text searchable in the database) and because this process provides much-needed access for disabled students (who can now read the digitized works through the help of assistive software).

Copyright law originates in the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, endowing Congress with the power “[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The U.S. Copyright Act can be found in Title 17 of the U.S. Code.  For more information on U.S. copyright law, see this booklet from the U.S. Copyright Office.

If you’re interested in further research into copyright law, try searching the subject heading Copyright–United States in IUCAT, or browse the shelves around the KF 2994′s (second floor of the law library).

LawInfoChina upgrades Web Site

The Library subscribes to several databases of Chinese law. One of them is LawInfoChina, which is produced by the Peking University Legal Information Center. LawInfoChina  has  a variety of collections. Laws & Regulations contains laws, regulations, rules, judicial interpretations, local regulations and local rules in more than ninety subject areas. It includes all laws adopted by the National People’s Congress and the NPC Standing Committee and all regulations issued by the State Council from 1949 onward. Laws & Regulations also includes “important judicial interpretations that substantially influence legal practices and are recognized as an indispensable part of the original Chinese laws and regulations.” LawInfoChina includes a separate Case Law Database, which contains “typical judicial decisions approved and published by the Supreme People’s Court or the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.” These editorially enhanced cases are chosen “to reflect both current and predicted future trends in Chinese legal practice,” but the emphasis is on meeting the needs of companies doing business in China. Finally, there are both a Gazettes database (containing tables of contents of the official gazettes of various government agencies) and a database of Chinese Law Journals.

LawInfoChina has just updated it web site. It is now possible to search (or filter search results) by data facets, such as type of document, subject area, year of adoption, or any combination. The title/keyword search engine now also supports Boolean search syntax, allowing you to “and” and “or” search concepts, as well as search for phrases.

Of course, the single greatest value-added aspect of LawInfoChina is that all material is translated into English. However, those who speak or read Chinese should also keep in mind that the same platform supports a Chinese-language version of the database, ChinaLawInfo, which contains more material than its English-language counterpart. One nice feature is that it is possible to toggle back and forth between the two versions.