Legal Research & Research Skills • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

New Research Guide: Law and Society

As I suspect is the case with many academic research librarians, I have several research guides that are “in progress.” Therefore, it is always exciting to finish one!  My latest guide, published today, is on Law and Society research (https://guides.library.harvard.edu/law-and-society).

I really enjoyed working on this guide, because, to me, multidisciplinary research is the ultimate exercise in language and semantics.  Legal scholars and sociology scholars may use completely different vocabulary to refer to and describe what may, in essence, be very similar concepts.  As a librarian, I have to figure out how to bridge those two vocabularies together so that searches for library materials are optimized for relevance.

Librarians spend a lot of time in the social science literature in library school; however, practicing academic law librarians rarely get a chance to look at much beyond legal periodicals and treatises.  This is too bad, because the literature in anthropology, sociology, linguistics, political science, history, philosophy, economics, and other areas can really help a researcher gain an understanding of law in a broader sense.  These disciplines can provide a framework for legal scholars to craft difficult, yet important, questions about law.  How does society benefit from law?  How does law contribute to the development of a community?  How should and do our understandings of history and ethics inform the development of a legal system?  In a societal sense, what does “justice” or “rule of law” mean, both theoretically and practically? What is the linguistic and social significance of legal terms of art?

If you are curious about the ways in which such questions can be addressed, I hope this new research guide can help direct you to library resources that are interesting and informative.  As always, I welcome your feedback.

New Research Guide: Researching “Civil Law” Topics at the HLS Library

Over the last several months, I have been working on a research guide that, hopefully, will help bridge one of the gaps that researchers from civil law jurisdictions face when they do legal research in the United States.  The guide, Researching “Civil Law” Subjects at the Harvard Law School Library, was published today, and can be found at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/civil-law.

I designed this resource to provide suggested searches for topics that are normally covered in the civil code in a civil law jurisdiction:

  • Picture of a paperback copy of the German civil code that features many colorful tabs on the pages on the side.Legal Obligations under Contract and Tort
  • Family Law
  • Property Law
  • Law of Succession
  • Remedies

While I was working on this project, I really tried to channel my civil-law self, and my heavily-used copy of the German Civil Code (pictured at right) came in very handy during this process.

The guide provides links to pre-populated searches, by subject, of the Harvard Library HOLLIS catalog.  Searching by subject keyword is a great way to make sure that you are finding materials across multiple languages during your search.

The challenge, of course, is that there is not one single, all-encompassing controlled vocabulary for subject keywords across all types of materials.

What does that mean?  When cataloging books, our library catalogers generally use the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) controlled vocabulary.  However, library catalogers do not catalog individual periodical articles too, of course.  Unfortunately, there is not a similar controlled vocabulary for all periodical articles across all journals and databases — at least not one that I’ve found.  So “subject” keywords can technically be assigned by anyone — authors, editors, database administrators, etc., which means that multiple subject keywords may be used to represent the same concept.

So what’s the big deal about that?  Since, as of a few years ago, HOLLIS can be used to search for both books AND periodical articles, it can be hard to feel assured that you’ve found everything that is relevant to your research when searching by subject.  This is why I have included both LCSH and non-LCSH subject keyword searches — as many as I could think of that are relevant.  I readily admit that the guide is still a work in progress, and that I will likely find and add many additional subject searches as I discover them.

I hope civil law researchers find the guide to be helpful, and welcome any comments and feedback.

Administrative Law Research: The Department of Education’s Proposed Title IX Rule

On November 16, 2018, a press release was issued by the U.S. Department of Education announcing a proposed new rule related to Title IX.  The press release includes links to the proposed rule in its entirety, as well as a one-page summary and a section-by-section summary.

Title IX is a federal law under which sex-based discrimination is prohibited in educational institutions that receive federal funding.  This law is codified under 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1688.  Any federal agency that “extend(s) Federal financial assistance to any education program or activity” is authorized to promulgate rues and regulations related to Title IX enforcement (20 U.S.C. § 1682).

The new rule has been crafted to incorporate what the Department of Education views as additional due process and fairness protections for parties who are involved in Title IX complaints in schools.  These include the introduction of hearings in which people who testify can be subject to cross-examination.  It also seeks to clarify the definition of sexual harassment in a Title IX context, and to specify when a school is and is not required to investigate alleged incidents of sexual harassment.

The federal Administrative Procedure Act requires, with certain exceptions, that federal agencies use a notice and comment rulemaking process when creating new federal rules and regulations.  This section of that federal statute has been codified at 5 U.S.C. § 553.  In accordance with this requirement, the Department of Education issued a notice in the Federal Register of its intent to promulgate its new Title IX rule, and invited the public to make comments on it.  This notice was published on November 29, 2018, and can be found at 83 Fed. Reg. 61432.

The online venue for submitting public comments for many federal regulations is the government’s regulations.gov website.  Since this proposed rule was posted to this site, under the document number ED-2018-OCR-0064-0001, there have been nearly 100,000 comments submitted.  Today, on the final day of the comment period, three members of the Harvard Law School faculty, Professor Jeannie Suk Gersen, Judge Nancy Gertner, and Professor Janet Halley added their voices to this conversation, and submitted a detailed comment on the proposed rule.  They have made this comment available for public view at https://perma.cc/3F9K-PZSB.

In their comment, these faculty members, “who have researched, taught, and written, on Title IX, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and feminist legal reform,” outline the aspects of the proposed rule with which they agree and those with which they disagree.  Among their concerns are the proposed cross-examination mechanism for Title IX hearings.  They also object the proposed rule’s definition of the “deliberate indifference” standard used to determine a school’s legal obligation to respond to sexual harassment.  Additionally, they believe that the rule should mandate that sexual harassment claim inquiries focus on the “threat of harm” and consider the interests of both complainants and respondents.

As they mentioned, all three authors of this comment have written on the topic before.  Professor Halley published a 2015 article about Title IX in the Harvard Law Review Forum, Trading the Megaphone for the Gavel in Title IX EnforcementProfessor Suk Gersen published “Betsy DeVos, Title IX, and the ‘Both Sides’ Approach to Sexual Assault”  in the New Yorker in 2017.  A piece by Judge Gertner, “Sex, Lies and Justice: Can We Reconcile the Belated Attention to Rape on Campus with Due Process?” appeared in the American Prospect in 2015.

The collections of the Harvard Library include a number of books and journals about topics related to Title IX, such gender discrimination in educational settings (HOLLIS library catalog search) and sexual harassment in educational settings (HOLLIS library catalog search).  For more information about the notice and comment rulemaking process, run this HOLLIS library catalog search to view a list of books that discuss the Administrative Procedure Act.

Researching Dockets and Court Filings

Happy new year!  I hope you had some wonderful, relaxing time off for the holidays and are getting ready to hit the ground running in 2019.

As many legal researchers know, researching court dockets to find criminal complaints and other filings can be frustrating and time-consuming.  While the subscription database BloombergLaw (https://www.bloomberglaw.com/) and its comprehensive docket database (including dockets for many state courts) has made docket research much easier than it used to be, it is always helpful to find a resource where this work has been done on the topic you are interested in already.  After all, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

I recently found a great example of this.  The George Washington University Program on Extremism (https://extremism.gwu.edu) has created an online database of “criminal complaints, indictments, affidavits, and courtroom transcripts detailing Islamic State-related legal proceedings.” The database is available at https://extremism.gwu.edu/cases.

This is a very helpful resource for researching U.S. judicial proceedings in which criminal charges have been filed against suspected terrorists.  This database is organized alphabetically by defendant name, and, as of this writing, it includes entries for 168 cases.  Access to the database and its materials is freely available online.  The browsing interface is very clean and straightforward, and the PDFs of the scanned documents are of good quality and highly legible.

Looking for more information in general about researching court filings?  Check out our Records, Briefs, and Court Filings Research Guide at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/recordsandbriefs.

Also, the Yale Law Library has an excellent Docket Research Guide at https://library.law.yale.edu/guides/docket-research.

 

Spotlight on Research: Looking Up Legal Terms of Art

Picture of a pile of legal dictionaries and encyclopediasLaw is full of legal terms of art that are used to express a specific thing or idea in a legal context.  While some may dismiss legal language as “legalese,” the words that lawyers and legal scholars use when talking about law are important because they communicate specific legal concepts, rather than general ideas.

Take, for example, a word like fraud.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, fraud is an “intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right” or, more generally, “an act of deceiving or misrepresenting.”

A person can also be a fraud (suggested synonym: impostor).

If you look up the word “fraud” in a legal dictionary, the basic definition is largely the same.  However, that is not the end of the story.

The definition of “fraud” in the Bouvier Law Dictionary that sits on my desk is quite a bit longer than the Merriam-Webster definition.  According to Bouvier, a fraud can be “actual” (“affirmative statement of misrepresentation”) or “constructive” (when the actor, knowing that it will be relied upon by someone to his or her detriment, “conceals a fact or is silent regarding it”).  Fraud can be a criminal action, and it can also void a contract.

That said, not everything that people may think is “fraud” actually is.  According to Bouvier, “a statement that is too outlandish to be reasonably believed, one that requires illegal conduct in order to rely upon it, or one that is too general to be the basis for specific reliance may not be fraudulent.”

So, before a (good, responsible) lawyer tosses around a term like “fraud” or “fraudulent” to describe an action or a person, he or she should probably double-check its legal definition, especially since the use of that word may have legal implications in both civil and criminal contexts.  Because language is important to lawyers and legal scholars, we should know where to look up legal terms of art to make sure that we understand and are using them correctly.  The law library has a lot of resources for this type of research.

Legal dictionaries like the Bouvier Law Dictionary described above provide legal definitions of words and phrases.  Both the Westlaw and Lexis Advance subscription databases include legal dictionaries in their collections.  One of the most well-known American legal dictionaries, Black’s Law Dictionary, is available through Westlaw.  To access it, in the Westlaw home screen’s search box, start typing “Black’s Law Dictionary” and select it from the drop-down menu that appears below the search box.

Harvard’s libraries have more than 600 titles that are classified as legal dictionaries that were published in 2000 or later.  To view a list of them, run this HOLLIS search: subject = law AND dictionaries; date limit = 2000-2018; location limit = in library.

You will see, when you run this search, that many of the dictionaries are not in English.  Some of them are exclusively in another language, while others are multilingual legal dictionaries, which provide translations of legal terms.

Tip: Even if you were a  ______ (language) major in college, you might not know what a __________ word means when it is used in a legal context.  It is also not a good idea to blindly trust Google Translate to get it right.  If you want to be sure of its legal meaning, take the time to look it up in a legal dictionary.

While legal dictionaries are great for basic definitions, what if you need just a little bit more information — maybe not as long as a book or an article, but just a few more paragraphs to provide additional context?  This is the role that legal encyclopedias were created to fill.

Two well-known American legal encyclopedias are American Jurisprudence and Corpus Juris Secundum.  The law library has both of these encyclopedia sets in print in the main reading room; however, they have not been updated in a few years.  Fully updated versions of both are available electronically through Westlaw.

Legal encyclopedias can focus on a narrow area of law, or be quite broad.  They are published in many jurisdictions and languages.  Some are multidisciplinary, such as the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law, which is available in the Harvard Divinity School Library’s reference collection.

To view a list of the more than 200 legal encyclopedias in the Harvard libraries’ collections that have been published since 2000, run this HOLLIS search: subject = law AND encyclopedias, date limit = 2000-2018; location limit = in library.

Finally, a little story.  Right before I quit my former job to go to law school, the lawyer I worked for gave me a copy of Black’s Law Dictionary as a gift.  I didn’t know what to make of it at the time.  Now, however, I see the thoughtfulness of that choice.  He knew how important words are to lawyers, and that we must have the tools we need to make sure we’re using those words correctly.

Research at the Law Library

IMPORTANT NOTE:
Right now, it is exam period at the law school, and the law library is filled to capacity with studying law students.  During this time, with very limited exceptions, the law library is only open to current HLS affiliates and an HLS ID card must be shown to gain admission.  For more information, inquire at the circulation desk.  The telephone number is (617) 495-3455.

I recently gave a library tour to a group of conference attendees here at the law school.  Like many visitors of this nature, they asked me about opportunities to come and research at the law library.  So I thought I’d do a quick blog post about it, with links to the relevant websites that provide more information.

For general information about the law library’s admission policy, visit the Admission to the Library page on our website.  This page includes a link to the form that anyone who is not a Harvard student or a member of the Harvard staff or faculty must fill out to be admitted to the library, including HLS alumni.  The form requires you to indicate your affiliation information, and provides information about admission fees, if they are applicable to your situation.

If you have an academic affiliation, and are wondering whether you can access our library for research and how much, if anything, it would cost, this form will likely answer that question for you.  However, if you would like more more information, you may send an email to access@law.harvard.edu.

The HLS Graduate Program has a Visiting Scholar / Visiting Researcher Program, for which admission is competitive and which has admitted law professors and graduate students from all over the world to conduct research related to specified scholarly projects.  Participants in this program are in residence at the law school, which provides them admission to the law library, for either a semester or an academic year.

Finally, in each of the last several years, the law library’s Library Innovation Lab has sponsored a summer fellows program, during which fellows work on their own projects and on other projects in collaboration with Lab members.  The website does not have information yet about the 2019 summer fellows program, but stay tuned!

PaperShip: Access Your Zotero-Stored Sources on your Phone

I have spent a lot of time this semester learning and using the Zotero citation management software, which provides researchers with a way to store and organize resources for scholarly writing projects.  Our LLM students often ask us about Zotero, so I decided to learn it myself and offer a class in it.  I gave this class several times, and discussed the following:

  • Installing and Configuring Zotero on Your Computer
  • Using Zotero with Harvard’s HOLLIS Library Catalog
  • Using Zotero to Generate Citations for Your Paper

The last topic was, of course, of the most interest to our LLM students, since many of them are foreign-trained lawyers who are unfamiliar with (and do not really want to learn the fine details of) the Bluebook.  While I get that, I also want them to realistically know what Zotero can and cannot do in terms of Bluebook-proper citation.  Spoiler alert: it handles some types of sources well and some others not so well, and unless you know the Bluebook you won’t be able to fix the automatically-generated citations that are incorrect according to the Bluebook rules.

I have posted the slides for the Zotero class I gave this semester in my Zotero Training for LLM and SJD Students research guide.  You are welcome to check them out if you are interested in learning more about how Zotero works, and the benefits it can provide when writing a work of legal scholarship.  If you are affiliated with Harvard, and use your Harvard email address when you create your Zotero account, you will have free unlimited storage.

On a related note, I just wanted to put in a quick word about a new app that I discovered recently, PaperShip.  You can install this app on your phone to get immediate access to the sources you have stored in your Zotero account.

This is so great!  I was doing some research yesterday for an article that I am working on, found some articles that would be helpful, and saved them to Zotero.  Through PaperShip, I was able to call up the PDF of one of those articles in about 2 seconds, and read it on the train during my commute to work this morning.  When compared to scrolling through political fights on Twitter, what a superior (and less aggravating) use of that time!

The free version of PaperShip provides access to your sources only.  There also appears to be an add-on, available for purchase, that you can use to highlight PDFs and make notes in them.  These annotations, it is claimed, are then synced right back up to your Zotero account.  I am going to test out this add-on and report back on it.  But even add-on free PaperShip is a productivity-enhancing winner as far as I’m concerned, and I recommend it.

New Library Research Guide: Women’s Housing and Shelter Rights

The HLS Library recently published a new online research guide, Researching Women’s Housing and Shelter Rights.

According to the United Nations, housing and human rights are related due to “the significance of a secure place to live for human dignity, physical and mental health, and overall quality of life(.)”  Accordingly, “the right to adequate housing joined the body of international, universally applicable, and universally accepted human rights law” when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted in 1948.  See, in particular, Article 25 of the UDHR:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services(.)

Housing is also a protected right under Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as well as several other international human rights treaties and conventions.

It is understood that the right to housing is comprised of multiple separate rights, including but not limited to (1) the right to shelter, (2) the right to affordable housing, (3) the right to habitable housing, and (4) the right to security of tenure.

The HLS Library’s new research guide on this topic includes a directory of organizations engaged in housing research and advocacy in the U.S. and Europe, such as the National Coalition for the Homeless and FEANTSA.

The guide also provides as a number of pre-populated searches of Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog, using relevant Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) keywords.

Finally, the guide includes a list of recently-published cross-disciplinary books and scholarly articles that discuss demographic and situational factors that are relevant to women’s housing and shelter rights, including:

  • Housing instability of:
    • Poor women
    • Single mothers
    • Women of Color
    • Gay women
    • Transgender women
    • Nonbinary/gender nonconforming people
    • Older women
    • Disabled women
    • Women who have significant health challenges (including drug abuse, cancer, and mental illness)
    • Pregnant women
    • Female victims of intimate partner violence
    • Women with prior evictions
    • Female veterans
    • Female sex workers
    • Women who have been in prison
  • Difficulties experienced by poor women in acquiring government housing benefits
  • The impact of the subprime mortgage crisis on women’s housing stability and wealth accumulation

The guide is freely available online.  Check it out at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/womens_housing_rights.

Spotlight on Recent Titles: ADR Around the World

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has really become a global phenomenon.  The HLS Library has acquired several new titles recently that focus on the practice of ADR (including arbitration, mediation, negotiation, and more) in various jurisdictions around the world.

Below is a list of selected recent English-language titles that may be of interest to comparative ADR researchers, organized alphabetically by geographic area or jurisdiction.

Conflict Resolution in Asia: Mediation and Other Cultural Models
Stephanie P. Stobbe (ed.)
Lexington Books, 2018
ISBN: 9781498566438
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990152797880203941/catalog

International Arbitration Discourse and Practices in Asia
Vijay K. Bhatia et al. (eds.)
Routledge, 2018
ISBN: 9781138282216
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990152056910203941/catalog

Australian Dispute Resolution: Law and Practice
Laurence Boulle and Rachael Field
LexisNexis Butterworths, 2017
ISBN: 9780409341850
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990148269920203941/catalog 

Domesticating Democracy: The Politics of Conflict Resolution in Bolivia
Susan Helen Ellison
Duke University Press, 2018
ISBN: 9780822370932
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990152739690203941/catalog

The Law of ADR in Canada: An Introductory Guide (2nd ed.)
Duncan Glaholt
LexisNexis Canada, 2018
ISBN: 9780433496724
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/99153687273303941/catalog

Mediation in Contemporary China: Continuity and Change
FU Hualing and Michael Palmer (eds.)
Wildy, Simmonds & Hill Publishing, 2017
ISBN: 9780854902248
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990150330400203941/catalog

The Challenge of Legal Pluralism: Local Dispute Settlement and the Indian-State Relationship in Ecuador
Marc Simon Thomas
Routledge, 2017
ISBN: 9781472480576
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990148170510203941/catalog

The Three Paths of Justice: Court Proceedings, Arbitration, and Mediation in England (2nd ed.)
Neil Andrews
Springer, 2018
ISBN: 9783319748313
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/99153683619903941/catalog

EU Mediation Law Handbook
Nadja Alexander et al. (eds.)
Wolters Kluwer, 2017
ISBN: 9789041158598
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990151195950203941/catalog

The European Union and International Dispute Settlement
Marise Cremona et al. (eds.)
Hart Publishing, 2017
ISBN: 9781509903238
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990151423810203941/catalog

Alternative Dispute Resolution of Shareholder Disputes in Hong Kong: Institutionalizing its Effective Use
Ida Kwan Lun Mak
Cambridge University Press (2017)
ISBN: 9781107194199
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990152438490203941/catalog

Alternative Dispute Resolution: The Indian Perspective
Shashank Garg (ed.)
Oxford University Press, 2018
ISBN:  9780199483617
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/99153700419403941/catalog

Alternative Dispute Resolution & Arbitration in Nigeria: Law, Theory, and Practice
Abdulsalam O. Ajetunmobi
Princeton & Associates Publishing Co. Ltd., 2017
ISBN: 9789789602216
HOLLIS:  http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990152599260203941/catalog

Resolving Environmental Disputes in Pakistan: The Role of Judicial Commissions
Parvez Hassan
Pakistan Law House, 2018
ISBN: 9789698372361
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/99153696515303941/catalog

Nordic Mediation Research (Scandinavia)
Anna Nylund et al. (eds.)
Springer, 2018
ISBN: 9783319730189
Available as an open-access eBook at https://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319730189.

 

Library Research Guides for LLMs (and Everyone Else!)

A graduation requirement for each Harvard Law School LLM student is to research and write a paper on a legal topic, of at least 25 pages (short paper) or at least 50 pages (long paper) in length, under the supervision of an HLS faculty member.

Our LLM students are currently deep in the process of finding faculty supervisors and preparing their LLM paper proposals, which are due October 22.

The HLS Graduate Program has created LLM paper writing groups, organized by topic and led by experienced and knowledgeable SJD students, to provide the LLMs with a supportive and encouraging workshop-like environment for the process of completing this rigorous academic requirement.

Each LLM paper writing group has an assigned research librarian.  I have been assigned to help out three groups this year:

(1) Constitutional & Administrative Law (generally known as “public law” and also includes people writing about legal theory and philosophy)

(2) Private Law (includes contractual obligations, legal remedies, law and technology, and health law/bioethics)

(3) Trade and Private International Law (includes international investment law, international trade law, antitrust, and arbitration)

This year, I decided to create extensive research guides for each of my groups.  These guides include pre-populated searches of Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog, using specialized subject terms.  They also include information about using the HLS Library’s subscription databases for law journal research.

The good news is that these research guides are freely available online and can be used by anyone!  Feel free to check them out and let me know what you think:

I also completely overhauled our International Arbitration Research Guide this fall.  Several members of the Trade and Private International Law Group have found to be especially helpful.  It includes information about the many arbitration-related databases to which the HLS Library subscribes.

TIP:
Did you know that the HLS Library has published more than 150 research guides?  You can access them online at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/law.

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