Author Archives: Alyson Drake

10 Things to Do in Columbia This August

welcomebackAs students start heading back to USC from wherever their summers took them, we want to remind you of all the fun things that are going on in Columbia for you to do!  Check out our list of fun things happening in Columbia this month.

1.  Check out the Summer Sidewalk Sale this weekend (August 7-9) in the Devine Street & Five Points neighborhoods.  There’ll be sales at all of your favorite stores for tax free weekend–as well as deals at some of your favorite local restaurants!  Complimentary trolley rides will even take you around.

columbiafoodtours2.  Take the Main Street Food Tour (2pm on August 8th, $42/person).  You’ll learn about our city while trying local cuisine at 5-7 of our best local restaurants.

3.  Love art?  Check out the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art, From Marilyn to Mao: Andy Warhol’s Famous Faces.” The exhibit runs through September 13th.  Go any day except Mondays. (Admission is free for members, $5 for students!)

4.  Take a guided tour of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home for $1 any Sunday in August (for Richland and Lexington Country residents with valid ID).  Tours start at the top of every hour between 1:00 and 4:00pm from the Gift Shop at Robert Milles, located at 1616 Blanding St.

robertmills5.  Looking for creative ways to cool down?  Have some fun at the Happy Hour History Water Balloon Battle!  It takes places on Friday, August 21st from 5:30-7:00pm.  Attendants will break into teams to learn about military tactics throughout history, and then will relax with drinks and hors d’oeuvres ($15 members, $20 general admission.)

6.  Celebrate clean water and have tons of fun at the Summer Celebration of Water (free).  It takes places on Saturday, August  22nd from 10:00am-2:00pmriverfront at Riverfront Park.  This is a kid-friendly event with hands on educational activities, paddle sports, water slides, and much more!

7.  Participate in the 7th Annual Bar Stool Classic, a 10-hole putt-putt tournament through the bars of Five Points (Friday, August 28, starting at 5:30pm).  Proceeds benefit the Babcock Center Foundation.  For more information, go here.

8.  Head down to Main Street and see at movie at our local gem, The Nickelodeon.nick

9.  Are you a classical music fan?  Check out the Argento Chamber Ensemble, playing for free on Friday, August 28th at 7:30pm, at the USC School of Music Recital Hall in Room 206.

10.  Celebrate Cromer’s P-Nuts 80th Birthday with bouncey houses, music, treats, and much more on Saturday, August 29th from 10:00am-2:00pm at Cromer’s P-Nuts on Huger Street.

Football & the Law

footballIn response to a rejection of Tom Brady’s appeal to his four game suspension following “Deflate-gate”, the National Football League Player’s Association filed a petition in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota yesterday to vacate the suspension.  They argue that there was no evidence to uphold the suspension, that the decision by the  Commissioner violated principles of general fairness, and that collective bargaining policy already established penalize tampering with equipment with fines only.

Read the 54-page petition here.

New Tools: LearnLeo

LearnLeo is an online platform that allows students to categorize case information and organize briefs and outlines easily.  It estimates that it saves law students on average of ten hours of work per week.

LearnLeo allows students to highlight passages and choose colors that correspond with sections of their case (issue, holding, etc.).  Students can also annotate each case.  After students finish reading, highlighting and annotating the case, they can see their notes in a brief format that is both printable and easy to read.

learnleoCurrently, students from the top 20 U.S. law schools have full access to LearnLeo, but students from unaffiliated law schools still have access to 13,000 cases in the LearnLeo library.  And it’s free, so it’s worth at least checking out!

Today in History: US Senate Ratified the United Nations Charter

UNcharterSeventy years ago today, on July 28, 1945, the United Nations Senate ratified the United Nations Charter in an 89 to 2 vote.  It was a significant moment in United States international relations, as the Senate had declined to ratify its predecessor, the League of Nations Covenant.  Delegates from fifty countries had previously signed the treaty at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center on June 25th, 1945.  The treaty would enter into force a few months later, on October 24th, after being ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council.  Today, 193 countries are members of the United Nations.

The United Nations charter is the organization’s founding document and a symbol of global peace and international development.  It sets out the structure and organizations of each organ within the United Nations, including the General Assembly and Security Council.

Go Set a Watchman

To Kill a Mockingbird is often considered one, if not THE, greatest works of legal fiction.  In fact, ABA named it the #1 greatest law novel ever.  With quotes like, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience,” Atticus Finch, the novel’s central character, a lawyer, has been an inspiration to many a law student and lawyer.

According to reviews, the release of Go Set a Watchman brings his character into question.  The Guardian says that the new novel “shatters the traditional reading of Atticus.”  The new novel released today, so you can pick up a copy and decide for yourself.

See the New York Times book review here.

Head Turning Article on the Criminal Justice System

In his preface to the Georgetown Law Journal’s Annual Review of Criminal Procedure, Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit lays out some harsh truths.  He notes that few criminal defendants go free after trial, and wonders whether it’s because jurors start with a strong presumption that a person wouldn’t be charged with a crime if prosecutors and police officers weren’t convinced of his or her guilt.  He then lists out twelve presumptions about the legal system that have “been undermined by experience, legal scholarship and common sense.”  Those presumptions include the reliability of eyewitnesses and types of forensic evidence; the infallibility of confessions (basically, the idea that innocent people never confess), and many more.  He cites authorities on why these presumptions are flawed.  Later in the preface, Judge Kozinski identifies some potential reforms that would help better the criminal justice system.

You may especially enjoy his conclusion: “‘Nuff said.”

Read Judge Kozinski’s preface here.

New Scholarship: Crimes of Terror, by Prof. Wadie Said

saidbookProfessor Wadie Said’s new book, Crimes of Terror: The Legal and Political Implications of Federal Terrorism Prosecutions, was published in May by Oxford University Press.  The book examines the advantages the U.S. government has over suspects in criminal prosecutions of terrorism, and how the practices in place impede the usual aims of criminal prosecution.

After a brief introduction, the book includes the following chapters: Chapter I: Information, Spies, Radicalization, and Entrapment; Chapter 2: Material Support; Chapter 3: Evidence and the Criminal Terrorist Prosecution; Chapter 4: The Implications and Broad Horizons of the Terrorism Prosecution; and Chapter 5: Sentencing and Confinement–Even When Imprisoned, the Terrorist is Exceptional.

Crimes of Terror is available for checkout in the library at call number KZ 7220 .S235 2015.  Check it out today!

Superheroes and the Law

lawandthemultiverseMy new favorite read (nerd alert!) is the Law and the Multiverse Blog, which contemplates the legal ramifications of events happening in comic books and super hero movies.

Most recently, they’ve been delved into issues like whether Tony Stark and Bruce Banner could be held liable for the damage caused by Ultron and questioned whether Thor is an illegal immigrant.  Previous posts have considered issues stemming from the Walking Dead, Lara Croft, and Orphan Black, among others.

Check it out!

What are 50 State Surveys and How Can They Help You?

Have you ever had a professor to ask you how all fifty states have legislated a particular issue?  Then, 50 State Surveys are the tool for you!  Rather than sifting through fifty state codes trying to find what a state says on a particular issue, see if you can find a 50 State Survey.


50statesurveysWestlaw has them for both state statutes and state regulations.  Once you identify whether you want statutes or regulations, Westlaw takes you to a topical list.  If you were interested in the marriage age requirements in all 50 states, you would select Family Law, and then find the Marriage Age Requirements

Inside, you will find a report providing the citations for each of the state codes, saving you the time you would send browsing an index or trying to formulate a keyword search for each jurisdiction.  There will usually also be a summary at the top of the page.  In Westlaw, keycite flags are also provided to let you know whether the law has been repealed, recently amended, etc.; make sure you check this before going on to the attached State by State Analysis report (a PDF in the top left corner).  This opens up a handy chart summarizing what each state says on the particular issue.

Lexis Advance

To find 50 state surveys in Lexis, start typing “50 state surveys” in the red search bar.  LexisNexis 50 State Surveys, Statutes & Regulations will be an option.  Select the Table of Contents.50statesurveyslexisThis brings up a topical list that you can browse through, or search using the Narrow By feature on the left hand side.  If you want to look up Housing Discrimination Law, you would look under Civil Rights Law and then select Protection of Rights > Housing Discrimination.  In Lexis, there will be an overview, followed by a chart describing state treatment of that legal issue.


Cool Tools: The Constitute Project

ConstituteProject3In the past few years, new constitutions have emerged in a number of countries, including Egypt, South Sudan, and Libya, to name just a few.  Constitutions are very frequently composed based on other countries’ constitutions, and there’s a neat new comparative tool that allows used to see side-by-side comparisons of Constitutions.

The Constitute Project contains English versions of most nation states, as well as a few in Arabic.  You can search by topic for constitutions that include a provision on a certain subject area.   For example, if you were interested in finding those constitutions that guarantee equality regardless of sexual orientation, you would select Rights and Duties from the list of topics, this would open up a number of categories within that broad area.  To find equality regardless of sexual orientation, you would select Equality, Gender, and Minority Rights.  Under that category, there are a list of specific provisions that can be found in some national constitutions.


Then, from the list of results, you can select which constitutions you want to compare.  You can select up to eight countries to compare, and then select two to view side-by-side.  When you pick those countries, it will highlight the sections of the constitutions having to do with the topic you selected.


For those doing international legal research, it’s an invaluable tool for both finding provisions on a specific topic.  For those trying to write a constitution, it would be an extremely helpful aid by allowing the user to compare constitutional provisions on various topics.