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  • Founder’s Constitution (University of Chicago Press) Provides links to historical documents related to the development of the Constitution.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.

 

The 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

This month marks the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Signed by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, the document states, in part:

. . . [O]n the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual  freedom . . . .

Lincoln invoked his constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief to institute a necessary war measure against the rebellion of southern states. The “military necessity” was to deprive the rebelling states of labor resources thereby weakening the Confederate Army. (See Act of Justice: Lincoln’s  Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War, by Burrus M. Carnahan, for a detailed discussion of Lincoln’s legal theory).

Some interesting resources about Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation include:

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

On Thursday, November 26, 1789, the first Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated pursuant to a proclamation issued by President George Washington. An 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. 21 9:00am-5:00pm, References Services available 9:00am-2:00pm
  • Thurs. Nov. 22 Closed
  • Fri. Nov. 23 Closed
  • Sat. Nov. 24 Noon-6:00pm
  • Sun. Nov. 26  Regular Hours resume: 11:00am-11:00pm, Reference Services Available 2:00pm-9:00pm

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

Law and the Presidency

Presidential documents most often used for legal research include Executive Orders, Proclamations, and Signing Statements. GMU patrons have access to a number of resources for locating these and other presidential documents, including HeinOnline’s U.S. Presidential Library.  This collection includes:

  • Compilation of Presidential Documents (1965-): Published by the Office of the Federal Register this compilation includes Proclamations, Executive orders, Communications to Congress and Federal agencies, Signing Statements, Appointments and Nominations, Speeches, Press conferences, and Press Releases.  Also available on FDsys(1993-)
  • Public Papers of the Presidents (Hoover 1929-)  Published by the Office of the Federal Register, includes writings, papers, and remarks.  (President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s papers, published separately, are also included in the Presidential Library).  Also available on FDsys (Bush 1991-)
  • CFR Title 3 (1936-) Executive Orders and Proclamations are codified here. Also available on FDsys (1996-)
  • Messages and Papers of the Presidents  (Washington-Hoover)  Includes annual, veto, and special messages.

Other useful resources include the Government Printing Office (FDsys) (coverage noted above) and the American Presidency Project which also provides varied coverage of the documents above as well as election-related documents and video.

 

So How Does That Law Get Codified?

In a nutshell, Congress passes a bill, it’s signed by the President, assigned a Public Law Number by the Office of Federal Register (most laws are “Public Laws” — i.e. they affect all citizens), and then published chronologically in the United States Statutes at Large (a.k.a. Session Laws).

But wait—aren’t Federal Laws found by subject in the United States Code? Indeed they are, but not immediately upon passage. Under 2 U.S.C.§ 285b, the U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Law Revision Counsel (“OLRC”) classifies newly enacted laws (general and permanent laws) by subject matter and publishes the U.S. Code. Often a public law relates to many different Code chapters and titles.

The OLRC website is a useful resource for statutory information. It includes (in Beta Version):

  • U.S. Code:  Browse by title; search by keyword, title, section, and sub-parts
  • Cite-Checker:  Enter title and section to find a law’s catchline (heading), public law numbers, and editorial notes
  • U.S. Preliminary Code Search Code provisions in “an advance posting of the next online version of the United States Code”
  • Statutes at Large Table (“Table III Tool”): Cross reference Public Law numbers with corresponding Code provisions  (1789- )
  • Overview of the U.S. Code Classification:  Find general information about the Code, currency, updating, and the classification process

 

Mass Digitization v. Copyright

There have been two significant developments in the ongoing disputes between copyright holders and information providers.

On October 4, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) settled its longstanding copyright infringement case against Google challenging the Google Books Library Project.  According to an AAP press release, under the parties’ settlement agreement “US publishers can choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its Library Project.” This settlement does not impact the continuing dispute between Google and the Author’s Guild.

Last week, a U.S. District Court Judge dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by writers’ guilds against the Haithi Trust, a digital repository formed by a consortium of university libraries to preserve and enhance access to library materials. Google has done most of the scanning for the project.

The legal issues here involve the right of “Fair Use” (17 U.S.C. § 107), which permits the reproduction of copyrighted works in certain instances. To learn more about fair use and other U.S. Copyright Laws, see the U.S. Copyright Office Website.  For additional resources, please consult the law library’s Intellectual Property Research Guide.

Introducing Congress.gov

The Library of Congress has just announced (see live tweets of the announcement) that a new legislative website will replace Thomas. The new site, currently in beta, is Congress.gov.  Features include the ability to search across content types, faceted searching to refine search results, persistent URLs, multimedia presentations on the legislative process, live video from the House and Senate Chambers when in session, and user friendly interfaces for mobile devices.

More information about this new site is available here.

Happy Constitution Day!

Today is the 225th 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.