Happy Independence Day 2014!

Independence Day marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. But what exactly is this document?

The Declaration of Independence is printed in Statutes at Large.  It is included in the the United States Code as one of  “The Organic Laws of the United States of America.”  It has been mentioned periodically in Supreme Court decisions. Not surprisingly, the relevance of this document has been the subject of some debate in the legal academy. “Declaration of Independence” as a title search in HeinOnline will yield several articles.

Visit the National Archives website to view images of the Declaration of Independence and to read a brief history of this document. The original is housed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. You can also view a 1998 video of then members of the Supreme Court reading the complete text.

The law library will be closed on July 4th in observance of Independence Day. Enjoy the fireworks!

50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–352, 78 Stat. 241) was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964. The Act prohibits discrimination in public places, bans segregation in schools,and makes employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin illegal. It also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Learn more about the Civil Rights Act:

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

On Thursday, November 26, 1789, the first Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated pursuant to a proclamation issued by President George Washington. A 1863 proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln established the last Thursday of November as the regular date for this celebration.

That tradition continued until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the holiday would be celebrated on the second to last Thursday of November that year (November 23, 1939). Roosevelt was responding to pressure from retailers to expand the Christmas shopping season.This change sparked controversy and angered some football coaches, whose season was scheduled according to the holiday. There was also a  a split among states, 32 issuing proclamations following the President but 16 others refusing to change the date.  See H.R. Rep. No.77-1186, at 1 (1941) (available to GMU patrons on Proquest Congressional)

Two years later, on December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt signed a joint congressional resolution, known as the Thanksgiving Day Act (55 Stat. 862) establishing Thanksgiving as a Federal holiday on the fourth Thursday of November.

In observance of the Thanksgiving Holiday, the law library will have reduced hours:

  • Wed. Nov. 27  9:00 am – 5:00 pm, References Services 9:00 am-12:00 pm
  • Thurs. Nov. 28 Closed
  • Fri. Nov. 29  Closed
  • Sat. Nov. 30 10:00 am - 10:00 pm
  • Sun. Dec. 1  10:00 am -11:00 pm, Reference Services 2:00 pm-9:00 pm

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

Turkey

 

 

President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992

In 1992, sparked by public outcry about the concealment of documents related to President Kennedy’s assassination, Congress passed and President Bush signed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Act of 1992, Public Law 102-526.

The Act appears as a note to 44 U.S.C. § 2107. When enacted the statute required, in part, that the National Archives and Records Administration establish The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection “to consist of record copies of all Government records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”

Today, 50 years after President Kennedy’s death, the collection includes millions of pages of assassination-related records, photographs, motion pictures, sound recordings and artifacts, and continues to grow.

PresidentKennedy

President John F. Kennedy, July 11, 1963 

Cecil Stoughton Photographer, NARA Collection

 

Farewell THOMAS

Effective tomorrow, all searches for Thomas.gov will redirect to Congress.gov, the Library of Congress’ new enhanced legislative information website.

On January 5,1995, the Library of Congress launched THOMAS, named in honor of Thomas Jefferson (the principal founder of the library), at the request of congressional leaders. The website provided unprecedented free public access to legislative documents. When it first became available, THOMAS included full-text of bills from the 103rd Congress and was updated with new bills as they became available.  Here’s how it looked in its early days:

THOMASONe

http://blogs.loc.gov/law/2011/11/the-thomas-starting-point-pic-of-the-week/

Thomas’ user interface changed over time and was expanded to include the Congressional Record as well as bills since the 101st Congress, bill tracking since the 93rd Congress, and committee reports since the 104th Congress.

Thomastwo

THOMAS approximately 10 years ago. Image courtesy of Andrew Weber, Law Library of Congress, Legislative Information Systems Manager.

Here’s how Thomas looks today:

ThomasThree

For more information about the history of Thomas, please see:

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez: It’s the First Monday in October

Since 1916, the Supreme Court’s Term has begun each year on the first Monday in October. 28 U.S.C. § 2.  Supreme Court terms are therefore called the “October Term”  followed by the year (e.g. October Term 2013). Why the first October Monday?

Under the Judiciary Act of 1789 (1 Stat. 73) the Court sat for two sessions, one beginning the “first Monday of August,” the second the “first Monday of February.” Congress subsequently altered the Court’s term a number of times:

  • 1801   Two Terms, began the first Mondays in June and December (2 Stat.89)
  • 1802   One Term, began the first Monday in February (2 Stat.156)
  • 1826   One Term, began the second Monday in January (4 Stat.160)
  • 1844   One Term, began the second Monday in December (5 Stat.676)
  • 1873   One Term, began the second Monday of October (17 Stat.419)

In 1916, Congress passed H.R. 15158 (39 Stat. 726) which amended the judicial code to, in part, fix the start of the Court’s term to the first Monday in October.  According to both the applicable House and Senate Committee Reports, the purpose of changing the term start date was “to shorten the vacation and give the court an extra week when the weather is favorable to work.” H. R. Rep. No. 794 at 1 (1916), S. Rep. No. 775 at 1 (1916).

For more information about the Court’s docket, including oral argument dates, consult the Supreme Court WebsiteScotusblog is another very useful source to keep up to date on cases before the Court.

Will the Federal Register Shut Down?

Nope. The Federal Register has been published every business day since it was first introduced 78 years ago. In the event of a government shutdown it will follow “special procedures” described in—where else—the Federal Register, 77 Fed. Reg. 59974 (September 30, 2013). In brief:

In the event of an appropriations lapse, the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) would be required to publish documents directly related to the performance of governmental functions necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life or protection of property.

As a practical matter:

  • The Federal Register will get pretty skinny.
  • Researchers should use the official version of the Federal Register available on FDsys not FederalRegister.gov, which will not be updated.
  • The e-CFR will not be updated.

For more information, please see the OFR blog here.

 

Constitution Day 2013

Tuesday, September 17 is the 226th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Pursuant to 36 U.S.C. §106, September 17 is designated as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day”, and under 36 U.S.C. §108, the President is requested to “designate the week beginning September 17 and ending September 23 as ‘Constitution Week.’”

Useful resources about the U.S. Constitution include:

  • American Memory (Library of Congress) Find documents from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention (1774-1789), includes images of original documents and related materials. 
  • Founder’s Constitution (University of Chicago Press) Provides links to historical documents related to the development of the Constitution. 
  • LII: CRS Annotated Constitution Prepared by the Congressional Research Service, provides links to Supreme Court opinions, the U.S. Code, and the Code of Federal Regulations.
  • National Archives Images of original documents and historical information. 

Tracking State Legislation

The Sunlight Foundation has launched Open States. This service allows you to track bills and search for upcoming legislation for all states, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and access campaign and contact information for state legislators.

As noted here previously, the Sunlight Foundation also supports Scout—offering free searching and customized alerts for federal and state legislative action (including bills & speeches) and federal regulations.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2013

In observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Law Library will closed on Monday, January 21.

The MLK holiday became federal law fifteen years after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death. The holiday was first observed in 1986, but it took another 17 years for nationwide recognition. In 1994, the holiday was designated a day of service under the direction of the Corporation for National and Community Service. For resources about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visit the King Center Website.