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The Indiana Law Library Blog

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 ( 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


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.


Found in the Stacks: Medieval Poor Law

The Law Library is the place law students study, faculty members do research, and laypeople come to learn about the law. We have an excellent collection of the basic legal materials of course, but shelf reading can also lead to little research gems. As we find interesting and unexpected books, we will tell you about them on the BLAWg IN Bloom.

Today: Medieval Poor Law by Brian Tierney, University of California Press, 1959. KBG .54

While there are plenty of areas of law that are relatively new, poverty has always been an issue, and thus laws concerning it are relatively old. Tierney was writing in large part for social workers, but he explores the legal issues as well. At the time, the Church was the primary charitable institution, so Tierney explores the theology behind poor law and the actual mechanics of it. If you are looking for something interesting to take your mind off studying for a few minutes, check out Medieval Poor Law.

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

Scottish Independence Vote Today

Polls opened in Scotland this morning for a vote on the recent Scottish Independence Referendum. Scotland is considering leaving the United Kingdom. The referendum has been in the works since 2011. A key step in the process came with the Edinburgh Agreement of 2012, in which the Scottish Government and the UK Government jointly assented to a referendum on independence to be voted on in 2014. The referendum needs a simple majority to pass, and many news sources are predicting a close vote. If you wish to know more about the referendum, the website of the Scottish Government has a page devoted to the referendum and the potential consequences.

Roving the Repository: The US Constitution at IU Law

constitution-150_2If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Law School’s Digital Repository, I would highly  encourage you to do so.  Not only do we house electronic versions of every issue of every law journal that has been hosted at Maurer Law, as well as a great library of our faculty’s publications, I particularly enjoy browsing the Historic Documents collection – you never know what you’re going to find!  In honor of Constitution Day, I decided to see what documents, if any, we might have about the US Constitution.  Lo and behold, in my favorite category I found The Constitution of the United States at the End of One Hundred Fifty Years.  This was a publication of a former IU School of Law professor, Hugh Evander Willis.

As Professor Willis states in the introductory Explanatory Note, “[M]ost people know that the greater part of our United States Constitution is not found in the printed document generally distributed as our United States Constitution, but is found in the Supreme Court Reports and is the work of the United States Supreme Court” (5).  The richness of this publication is evident from its introduction, which provides a brief history of constitutional development in the United States, how the Supreme Court has grown in its own role as “Constitution-Maker,” as well as a breakdown of individual significant contributions by Justice.  The introduction emphasizes that constitutional law far exceeds the written words of the original document and its amendments, and to only familiarize oneself with the text of the document wouldn’t const-150-examplecome close to familiarization with the subject as a whole; therefore, in addition to re-printing the text of the US Constitution, this work incorporates the Supreme Court’s contributions to constitutional law as well.  For each article of the Constitution (some broken into sub-parts), the true text of the Constitution is seen in normal, Roman font, and the Supreme Court’s contributions are added in italics.  These italicized additions are footnoted, with citations to the cases that added these contributions to our wealth of constitutional law.

Published in 1939, this work is clearly not a comprehensive resource for understanding developments in constitutional law today, but for historical constitutional research, this is quite a find.  To grasp comprehensive developments in constitutional law today, we primarily rely on citators in Westlaw and Lexis to provide us with every case that has discussed a constitutional provision.  If only we had a resource like this today!

Welcome New Students

Welcome to the new 1L class, and congratulations on starting orientation today! We hope that you have a wonderful law school experience. All of us at the Law Library will do everything that we can to make your time here both rewarding and comfortable. The Library is a place to study, learn, reflect, and prepare. We hope that you will take advantage of our facilities and many services, and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask anyone on the Library staff. We are excited about working with all our new students over the next three years. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook! We look forward to seeing you on the Library tours this Friday morning.

Good Luck on the Bar Exam!

After a summer of studying, it’s finally here. Today is the first day of the bar exam.   We’ve seen several of you at the Law Library nearly every day this summer, and we know that you’ve worked hard and are prepared. Don’t panic, remember your notes, and the best of luck to all the test takers!