"Nota Bene" means "note this well" or "take particular notice." We at the O'Quinn Law Library will be posting tips on legal research techniques and resources, developments in the world of legal information, happenings at the Law Library, and legal news reports that deserve your particular attention. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and findings and to hearing from you.

N.B: Make a note to visit "Nota Bene" regularly.

-Spencer L. Simons, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Finding Bloomberg BNA Publications at the O'Quinn Law Library

Did you know that the law library subscribes to over 100 Bloomberg BNA publications? From topics ranging from health care to intellectual property, environmental law, and tax, Bloomberg BNA's publications provide current law and expert analysis. They can serve as a tremendous resource for lawyers and law students seeking to interpret and understand legal principles in their practice areas. If you've ever taken a glance at our list of Bloomberg BNA databases by topic  or the A to Z list on our website, you will notice that for some areas of law, there are numerous resources available.

For example, there are 14 publications related to healthcare law. This includes titles like Health Law Reporter, Health Care Daily Report, and Health Insurance Report. You may wonder how to choose the correct publication for researching your topic. Why not try searching them all (or a few) at once? Now, when you enter any of our Bloomberg BNA publications you will see a link in the upper right-hand corner of the page called "My BNA." When you click on the link, you are taken to a search screen that allows you to choose some or all of the publications in a given subject area to search at once. Then, once you receive your results, you can see the results by type (analysis, profiles, cases, etc.), and see what publication your results came from. This may not make understanding the Affordable Care Act much easier, but it can definitely help you research it more efficiently!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Banned Books and the Law



September 22-28 is the 31st annual banned book week, an awareness campaign that celebrates the freedom to read in America. Though individual books in American are not banned by specific laws,  they are none the less often restricted by other entities. Many of the cases regarding these “banned” books center on a school library restricting access to the material in some way. Historically, in cases where a book is removed or restricted from a school library due to the graphic nature of the content or language, courts have usually sided with the judgment of the school board (see, e.g. Presidents Council, Dist. 25 v. Cmty. Sch. Bd. No. 25, 457 F.2d 289 (2d Cir. 1972)). Yet, when book removals appear from the facts to be motivated by political or religious censorship, courts have typically ruled that this violates the challenging student’s First Amendment rights (see, e.g. . Minarcini v. Strongsville City Sch. Dist., 541 F.2d 577 (6th Cir. 1976)). 

The United States Supreme Court has considered this issue once, in Board of Education,  Island Trees Union Free School District 26 v. Pico (457 U.S. 853 (1982). In this case, the Court considered an incident where a school board “unofficially” directed the superintendent of the district to order the removal of nine books deemed to be objectionable (Pico, 457 U.S. at 857). 

The Court concluded that the Island Trees School District's school board's removal of books from the library violated students' First Amendment rights. The Court held that “local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion,”(Pico, 457 U.S. at 872). But, a school district may remove a book that is “pervasively vulgar,” (Pico, 457 U.S. at 871).

Though this is the only time the Supreme Court has granted certiorari to a case involving a school district’s removal of material from a school library, other cases decided post-Pico by the circuit courts since then have been more favorable to school districts’ discretion than the First Amendment rights of students (see, e.g. Campbell v. St. Tammany Parish Sch. Bd., 64 F.3d 184 (5th Cir. 1995). Courts have begun to look more at the motivation of the school board, a fact specific inquiry that is difficult to prove. 

This week, as we consider banned and challenged books, it is important to consider not just the books themselves, but also the jurisprudence that has shaped the way books are banned in schools across America. But, for those interested in some good restricted reads, try some of the books on this list- the most frequently challenged books of the last two decades.

Friday, September 20, 2013

ABA List of the 25 Greatest Law Novels Ever Written


If any of you are looking for a good book, you might check out the list of the 25 greatest law novels recently compiled by the ABA.  Chosen by a panel of experts, the list contains the best “novels whose storylines revolved around lawyers or legal cases or the moral milieu of the law.”  The top 5 include: 

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
  2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
  3. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1852)
  4. The Trial by Franz Kafka (1925)
  5. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
To see the full list, visit the ABA website.  To find out if a book is available at the law library or any of the other UH libraries, check the library catalog.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

New U.S. Constitution App


Happy Constitution Day everyone!  In celebration of the day, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, the Library of Congress, and the Government Printing Office have teamed up to launch U.S. Constitution: Analysis and Interpretation, a new app providing an annotated version of the Constitution.  It contains discussion of each clause of the Constitution, information about Supreme Court cases relevant to interpreting the Constitution, and lists all federal, state, and local laws struck down by the Supreme Court.

Users have the ability to search the entire text or browse by section.  The app also contains other helpful features including a table of contents, table of cases, and an index.  Currently, the app is available for free on iOS devices such as iPads and iPhones.  An Android version is also being developed.  For more information on the app, see the GPO press release.  To download the app, visit the iTunes App Store.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Law Library Brown Bag Series

Each semester the law library presents a series of presentations on legal research topics. These presentations are held at 12 noon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Room 4 BLB. We will be offering the following sessions during the Fall 2013 semester:

1. Power Searching on Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law
Tuesday, 10/1, Wednesday, 10/2, 12:00-12:45 P.M.
Katy Stein Badeaux, Reference and Research Librarian

2. Federal Legislative History Research
Tuesday, 10/8, Wednesday, 10/9, 12:00-12:45 P.M.
Dan Donahue, International and Foreign Law Librarian

3. Researching Federal Income Tax Law
Tuesday, 10/15, Wednesday, 10/16, 12:00-12:45 P.M.
Chris Dykes, Reference and Research Librarian

4. Federal Administrative Law Research
Tuesday, 10/22, Wednesday, 10/23, 12:00-12:45 P.M.
Mon Yin Lung, Associate Director of the Law Library

5. Advanced Databases Search Strategies
Tuesday, 10/29, Wednesday, 10/30, 12:00-12:45 P.M.
Emily Lawson, Reference and Research Librarian

Friday, September 6, 2013

International Law and the Use of Force in Syria


A major topic in current events is the questionable legality of any potential move by the United States to intervene in the ongoing Syrian civil war.  For those interested in better understanding this issue by reviewing the state of the laws governing the use of force, here are some resources that may be useful:
Article 2(4) of the United Nations (UN) Charter pledges member states to refrain from the threat or use of force against other states.  However, there are two exceptions: Articles 34 and 51 permit the use of force when authorized by the UN Security Council or in self-defense, respectively.  Although these articles constitute the law on the international use of force, many modern legal theorists have nonetheless developed justifications for humanitarian intervention when the UN refrains from authorizing the use of force for political or procedural reasons rather than declining to do so on the merits of a given case.
These justifications were used in 1999 when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervened in Serbia to put an end to attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.  In the case of Kosovo, the UN Security Council vetoed the use of force, but NATO’s actions were condoned by the international community despite the fact that the intervention did not accord with international law.  The case of Kosovo is seen by some as a precedent for similar intervention in Syria: both situations involve similar accusations of domestic war crimes, and both are in a legal grey area created by objections on one side that the use of force without UN authorization would be illegal, and objections on the other side that the Security Council veto has broken the process that could result in UN authorization.
A legal analysis of this issue is beyond the scope of this posting; fortunately, legal scholars elsewhere have already done an excellent job.  Anyone looking for an informed consideration of international law regarding the unauthorized use of force may be interested in essays posted here, here or here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"How to Practice in Fort Bend County"

Seminar from the Fort Bend County Bar Association

The Fort Bend County Bar Association will host a unique seminar on September 13, 2013, 11:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., titled How to Practice in Fort Bend County. The speakers slated for the event include judges from all district courts and county courts at law. Judges are expected to cover a variety of topics related to practice in their respective courtrooms, which will include discussion of local rules and office management procedures as appropriate. Anyone who currently practices in Fort Bend County, or who plans to in the future, is likely to benefit from such a practical and comprehensive CLE.

The seminar is available to both members and non-members of the Fort Bend County Bar Association. The deadline to register is September 10, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. For registration and membership information, visit the event webpage.

If you are unable to attend the seminar in person, the Fort Bend County Bar Association plans to record each presentation and make a DVD available for attorneys to view in the Fort Bend County Law Library. For more information about the seminar on DVD, contact the Fort Bend County Law Library.

Joseph Lawson is a guest blogger for Nota Bene and the law librarian at the Fort Bend County Law Library. Please note that the views expressed in this post do not represent an official position or opinion of Fort Bend County, Texas.