Welcome New Students!

photoThe faculty and staff of the Coleman Karesh welcomed the 220+ new students to the library for the Library/IT Orientation this morning, August 19th.  The law students received their WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law password registration instructions, got a tour of the library, and learned about a lot of the great services available in the library and IT department.

Students who want a refresher on what they heard this morning should visit Cocky’s Guide to the Law Library & IT.  All the important information they heard this morning can be found there, along with some other helpful tidbits!

Stop by with questions any time!

Legal Research Tip: Lexis Advance Adds Popular Names Tables

It’s here! The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Lexis Advance has now added Popular Names Tables to its collection for federal and some state statutory resources.

To access the Popular Name Table for the U.S. Code, simply type “USCS Popular Names Table” in the red search bar at the top of the screen and click the link on the right to “View the Table of Contents.” You can then browse through the Table of Contents by letter or type search terms to locate a statute’s popular name by keyword.

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Happy researching!

SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments in Greenhouse Gas Cases

Supreme CourtOn Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the federal government’s ability to regulate green house cases.  In United Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, which was consolidated with six other cases, the Court considered “[w]hether the EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources.”

See SCOTUSblog’s argument preview to understand what’s at stake in the case and argument recap to see what went down in oral arguments.

Legal News of the Day: AZ Bill Allows Refusal of Service for Religious Reasons

restaurantsignOn Thursday, Arizona lawmakers approved a bill allowing state business owners to refuse to serve individuals for “religious reasons.”  Critics denounce the law as a state-approved discrimination against LGBT individuals.

The bill will now go to Governor Jan Brewer, who has five days to sign the law.  The voting for the bill took place largely along party lines, and the Arizona House Minority Leader has already released a statement urging Brewer to veto the bill, arguing that it targets the LGBT community and promotes discrimination.

Legal News of the Day: Federal District Court Strikes Down Virginia Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

virginiaOn Thursday, a judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia struck down Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, made law in 2006 after Virginia voters ratified Article I, Section 15-A to the constitution, defining marriage as a union between a man and woman only.  The opinion states that the ban was a violation of a “fundamental freedom”, as well as a violation of due process and equal protection rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

Legal News of the Day: Same-Sex Couples to Receive Federal Benefits

On Saturday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government will begin giving same-sex couples the same benefits as heterosexual couples when filing for bankruptcy and when visiting family members in court.  The benefits include allowing same-sex couples to be covered by spousal privilege in criminal investigations.  The federal government will also recognize same-sex couple for programs such as the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Legal News of the Day: FDA Declines to Define Natural

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration declined to define “natural” in the realm of food labeling in a published response letter.  The letter, a response to three cases considering whether food products containing bioengineered ingredients can be labeled as “natural”, explains that it would take a public process to come up with a definition and the creation of such a definition would involve the interests of other agencies.

Currently, existing policy states that the term “natural” on food labels means that “nothing artificial synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food.”  58 Fed. Reg. 2302, 2407 (Jan. 6, 1993).

Chief Justice Jean Toal Retains Her Seat

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Jean Toal was re-elected as the chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court in a joint session of the General Assembly.  She was challenged by Associate Justice Costa Pleicones in a 95-74 vote.

South Carolina is one of only two states where the lawmakers elect the judges that interpret the laws they pass.  The Judicial Merit Selection Commission, a 10-person panel of appointees selected by legislators vet candidates’ qualifications for the seat and nominate up to three people to fill the position.

Toal, the first woman to serve on the state Supreme Court, has already said that she will step down at the end of next year when she reaches the mandatory age of retirement for state judges–72.

Why is a legal action called a suit?

The law has many strange and esoteric terms.  Have you ever wondered where the term suit, as it refers to a legal proceeding, came from?  Black’s Law Dictionary defines suit as “[a]ny proceeding by a party or parties against another in a court of law; case.”  It adds “lawsuit” and “suit at law” as synonyms.1  The use of the term suit originated in 14th century England, before there were organized court systems.  Disputes were settled in open-air communal meetings.2  The goal was not a reasoned decision, but an amicable settlement.  If that could not be achieved, the next resort was proof by oath, backed up by a physical challenge of some sort.
“In order to put the defendant to this hazard [physical challenge], the plaintiff was required to establish a prima facie case; and this was the purpose of his ‘suit’ (secta), the group of followers whom he had brought with him to back him up on oath. The suit had some affinity with witnesses, and they may have been subject to examination as to competence, but their testimony was only part of the interlocutory process and did not dispose of the matter.”3
“This sort of ‘witness,’ …, might have nothing to do with the trial; he belonged to the stage of the preliminary allegations, the pleading, where belonged profert (sic) of the deed upon which an action or a plea was grounded.” In time, the suit was absorbed into common-law procedure, mostly serving as transaction witnesses when written contracts were rare.5  Eventually, “they were not even produced, and only the formula in the pleadings was kept up.”6   Today, the allegations in a complaint filed to initiate a lawsuit serve the same function – of presenting a prima facie case – as the 14th century suit.  In the practice of adjudicating a motion to dismiss a lawsuit for failure to state a claim by taking the plaintiff’s allegations as true,7 we hear the echo of the medieval principle that the suit cannot be examined.

1. Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009).
2. J.H. Baker, An Introduction to English Legal History 5 (3rd ed. 1990).
3. Id. (emphasis added).
4. James B. Thayer, The Older Modes of Trial, 5 Harv. L. Rev. 45, 48 (1891).
5. Baker at 362.
6. Thayer at 48.
7. “The question is whether, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and with every doubt resolved in his behalf, the complaint states any valid claim for relief.” Gentry v. Yonce, 522 S.E.2d 137, 139 (1999).

Legal News of the Day: SCOTUS Will Hear Cell Phone Privacy Cases

Two_Cell_Phones_2Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court granted review for two cases on the issue of whether policy have authority to search the contents of an arrested person’s cell phone:  Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie.  Riley involves a cell phone that was described as being more like a hand-held computer, while Wurie involves a flip-phone.  Both searches took place without an arrest.

For more on the cases, see SCOTUSblog’s coverage.