Supreme Court Press Event

The law library staff had two attendees at today’s terrific D.C. Bar event, The Supreme Court: The View from the Press Gallery. The all-star panel included:  Robert Barnes (Washington Post), Joan Biskupic (Reuters), Jesse Holland (Associated Press), Adam Liptak (New York Times), Tony Mauro (Gannett), David Savage (Los Angeles Times), and moderator Arthur Spitzer (ACLU).


In addition to the anticipated discussion of some of the major Supreme Court decisions of the October 2012 term, the panel offered some interesting tidbits/quips about the Court, including:

  • Lawyers arguing a conservative position especially worry about questions from Justice Kagan, those arguing a liberal position get some of the toughest questions from Justice Alito.
  • The press views Justice Kagan as one of the Court’s best writers.
  • Each year Justice Scalia dissents at least once from the bench.  He spoke for 13 minutes about the DOMA case.
  • Justice Alito can’t keep a poker face. Reminiscent of the 2010 State of the Union Address, he shook his head and rolled his eyes while Justice Ginsburg gave an oral dissent in the voting rights case.
  • Successful Supreme Court litigators need to field many questions at once and answer them in order of seniority.
  • There are 36 possible pairs of justices who can vote together. The three female justices vote with each other 93 percent of the time.
  • No technology is permitted in the courtroom, so Tom Goldstein from SCOTUSbllog has to write in the Court cafeteria.
  • The running of the interns onto the Court plaza with copies of opinions for the press was new this year.
  • While it appears from the news reports that protesters are often at the Court, in fact they are currently prohibited from protesting on the Supreme Court Plaza.

C-Span’s recording of this event will be available in the C-Span Library (“Reporters Weigh in on Supreme Court Decisions”).

A Response to The Donkey

Dear The Donkey,

Yesterday you made your annual April Fools’ Day appearance. While we readily acknowledge that all was intended as lighthearted jest, it was difficult not to feel one’s gander rise when confronted with the arbitrary mocking of a venerated colleague, friend, and trusted ally. We speak here, of course, of the lead headline titled, “Mysterious Artifacts Found Near Computer Labs” and its wanton denigration of The Book.

While readily acknowledging the virtues of the digital medium, we would be remiss in not reminding our loyal readers that The Book is far from an “artifact.” These bound instruments remain a vital tool for the best researchers—not mere luddites. Seasoned and resourceful information seekers know the belief that “everything is online” is mere popular mythology promulgated by naive digital natives. Just think tenure people.

To be sure, no one would wish to pull the Shepard’s volumes out of the dumpster or abandon the opportunity of performing standard legal research with a few deliberate clicks. But do not forget that The Book is a technology that has survived for more than six centuries. The iPad has some catching up to do.

Respectfully yours etc……

Gideon v. Wainwright: 50th Anniversary

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), in which the Court held that a state criminal defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The opinion states, in part:

The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours. From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him.

Andrew Lewis tells Gideon’s story case in the legal classic, Gideon’s Trumpet—widely considered a must-read for law students.


Law and All Hallows’ Eve

Halloween can be a catalyst for unique lawsuits.  A 2011 article in the New York State Bar Association Journal, titled Case Law from the Crypt: The Law of Halloween summarizes some of these strange cases.

In one case, the plaintiff alleged that a neighbor’s holiday decorations—which included an “‘Insane Asylum’ directional sign pointed towards the plaintiff’s house” and a tombstone referencing the plaintiff— were “defamatory, harassing, and caused emotional distress.” In addition to claims involving Halloween decorations, other cases have involved injury to persons or property and provocative costumes in the workplace.

In her new book, Halloween Law, Law Professor Victoria Sutton calls Justice Scalia the “father of Halloween Law.”  During oral argument in Central Virginia Community College v. Katz, 546 U.S. 356 (2006), held on October 31, 2005, a light bulb exploded loudly.  This led to the following exchange:

Justice Scalia: Light bulb went out.

Chief Justice Roberts: It’s a trick they play on new justices all the time.

Justice Scalia:  Happy Halloween.

Justice Ginsburg:  That’s the idea

Justice Roberts:  Take your time.

Justice Scalia:  We’re even more in the dark now than before.

Listen to the Oral Argument on here (explosion at 42:59).

Happy Halloween!!

“Like” the Law Library!

While it’s hard to like all the hours spent in the law library during law school, “Liking” the library Facebook page will help make some of those hours a little easier.  Our page provides:

  • Research tips
  • Information about training
  • Announcements related to library services
  • Updates on hot topics in law, legal education and practice that are most relevant to law students

And, if you are a GMU Law Student and “Like” the library on Facebook, you are eligible for a free insulated lunch bag or water bottle courtesy of Bloomberg Law, Westlaw, or LexisNexis.  Come get yours in the Library Reference Office, Monday – Friday 9:00am-5:00pm. Supplies are limited!

Summer Semester Library Hours

Regular Summer Hours, May 20-July 4:

  • Sunday  11:00am -11:00pm
  • Monday – Thursday  9:00am – 11:00pm
  • Friday  9:00am – 6:00pm
  • Saturday  10:00am – 6:00pm

Reference Librarians will be available Monday – Thursday 9:00am – 9:00pm, Fridays 9:00am – 5:00pm.  Sunday reference services will resume in August.  

Survey Response: Why Don’t I Always Receive Email Reminders About Overdue Books?

Courtesy emails about overdue books are sent from an automated system. Normally, the reminders are sent one week before a book is due and one day after the due date. But occasionally the system goes down, and a reminder is not sent.

So, please make a note of due dates to avoid fines. If you need to check due dates for library materials, the circulation staff is happy to help in person or by phone (703.993.8120).  Items may be renewed online via the library catalog if they are not overdue and do not have any holds or other renewal restrictions.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game . . .

In honor of the start of the 2012 MLB season take a step back in baseball history by viewing the Library of Congress American Memory Project collection of digitized vintage baseball cards.  The cards, from 1887-1914,  feature notable players including:  Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, King Kelly, Connie Mack, Christy Mathewson, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, and Cy Young.

The Amercian Memory Project also contains many valuable legal documents in the A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation collection from the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and United States Congress.

Westlaw v. WestlawNext – the Showdown

Rob Willey and Melanie Oberlin are recruiting GMU law students to participate in our study comparing Westlaw and WestlawNext. If you complete our study in which you answer 10 questions using Westlaw and 10 using WestlawNext, we will give you a $5 gift card to Starbucks and enter you in a drawing to win a Kindle Fire E-reader. The study will take about 1 hour to complete. Our next sessions are at the following times:

  • Wednesday, February 22 at Noon in Computer Lab 342.
  • Wednesday, March 7 at Noon in Computer Lab 342.
  • Thursday, March 8 at 5:00 in Computer Lab 342.

If you’re interested in completing the study but you prefer to do it on your own time, please contact Melanie or Rob for more information.