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.


South Carolina Signers

On July 4, 1776, a delegation of men called the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence.  We all know some of the more famous signees.  These include names like John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.  However, there were also a number of relatively unknown signers, including four delegates from South Carolina.  So, in honor of the recent Independence Day holiday, here are your signees, South Carolina!

Thomas Heyward, Jr.Thomas_Heyward_Jr

Thomas Heyward, Jr. signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation as a representative of South Carolina.  He studied law in England, and returned to South Carolina as a judge.  He commanded a militia force during the Revolutionary War and was taken prisoner during the siege of Charleston.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.Thomas_Lynch_Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr. was born and raised in Georgetown, South Carolina.  He studied at the Indigo Society School in Georgetown until his parents sent him to Cambridge to finish his education. Lynch eventually became a company commander in the 1st South Carolina regiment in 1775 and was elected to the Continental Congress where he signed the Declaration of Independence.  Interestingly enough, in his will Lynch stipulated that heirs of his female relatives must change their surname to Lynch in order to inherit the family estate, Hopsewee, which still stands in South Carolina today.

Arthur Middleton220px-Arthur_Middleton_from_a_painting_by_Benjamin_West

Arthur Middleton was a famous South Carolina politician.  He lead the American Party, who were the key advocates of Rebellion, and was widely known to be ruthless toward British loyalists.   He was elected to succeed his father in the Continental Congress in 1776.  Middleton was also captured during the defense of Charleston.  The US Navy ship, USS Arthur Middleton, was named for him.

Edward RutledgeEdward_Rutledge

Edward Rutledge was born in Charleston, South Carolina.  He was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence and later served as the 39th Governor of South Carolina.  During the American Revolution, he worked to have African Americans expelled from the Continental Army. He was a strong proponent of colonial rights; however, he was instructed by state leaders to oppose Lee’s Resolution of independence.  This resolution would have called for the dissolution not only of ties to Britain, but also to the other colonies as well.


Check Out Our New Home!

As you may or may not know, The University of South Carolina School of Law is getting a new home.  We will be moving from our current location on Main St. to a brand spankin’ new building on Gervais St sometime next year.  We’re all terribly excited for a new place to stash all of our books (We’re librarians, It’s what we do.)

Moreover, you don’t just have to take my word for it.  The Law School has created a Tumblr page to track the progress of the new building.  Check it out here! It even has a webcam so you can watch the construction in real time.  Believe me, there’s nothing more fun than watching someone build you a new house.

What Not To Do Department

There are many things that one can do to invite trouble in any profession, and the legal profession is no different.  Here are some tips for avoiding various sorts of difficulties:

1.  Don’t alter court records.

2.  Don’t ask your paralegal to “friend” a party in a case with which you’re involved.

3.  Don’t let your donkey (or zebra) attack a judge.

4.  Don’t forget to clean out your pockets before going to court.

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!

Check Out RAVEL Law

Do you like pictures more than words in your legal research?  Generally, I’d say you were out of luck. That is, UNTIL RAVEL LAW (cue large auditorium echoes).

Ravel is a newish, alternative legal research platform with a strong focus on pictures (professionally, we call them info-graphics).  It doesn’t have the same extensive coverage of Westlaw or Lexis, most notably lacking statutes and regulations.   Then again, it allows for free Supreme and Circuit Court case searching, and offers an advanced plan for only $175 a month.  You can also score a free student or educational trial version by contacting them.

Here’s a quick example of exactly how Ravel works.  On the front page, it provides a general search bar.  If I start typing in a case name, it will auto-complete likely responses.  In case you were wondering, Community For Creative Non-Violence v. Reid was the seminal case for our spring research problem, so we can all pretty much recite it by memory.

Ravel Front

Once the case loads, you are provided with a lot of information.  The case is printed down the middle of the page.  On the left Ravel gives you information about the where and how often that part of the case is cited.  The footnotes are provided in the right-hand column instead of the bottom, which is convenient.  Ravel also links to the relevant Wikipedia article.Ravel Case

One of the most interesting things about Ravel is its lore visual searching.  For instance, if I search for “work for hire” AND “copyright,”  we get the below result.  If you hover over the case, it will show you your case and all the other cases citing it in visual format. Focusing in on the case gives even more information.Ravel Graph

Ravel can be a cost effective way for  attorneys to research  cases.  Is it Westlaw or Lexis?  Not really.  But, used effectively, especially in concert with a free state bar subscription for Fastcase (another research platform lots of states–including South Carolina–provide for free with bar membership), Ravel can be a pretty powerful tool for doing case-law research.  Best of all, they offer free trials and free educational access at https://www.ravellaw.com/.

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.


This Week In Legal News

The Governor of Kansas has signed a bill that would de-fund state courts if they overturn a 2014 law that governs selection of chief district judges.

A Michigan lawyer has called off his campaign to get his pet pig elected as mayor of the city of Flint.

On Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court recognized the right to be drunk on your own front porch.


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.