Monthly Archives: September 2019

Celebrate Constitution Day with the New Constitution Annotated

Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787.  To celebrate this year’s Constitution Day, the Law Library of Congress is launching the new online Constitution Annotated. Prepared by the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service, it provides a comprehensive overview of how the Constitution has been interpreted over time. The website brings the Constitution Annotated into the 21st century with Boolean search capabilities, case law links, browse navigation and related resources. The new Constitution Annotated is not only a historical record but also an analysis of current constitutional understandings.

The new website is a great example of the Library’s mission to put users first, says Carla Haden, Librarian of Congress. It maximizes public access to the Constitution Annotated and, through it, to the Library’s expansive collections: now people across the country can access and use the same resources that are available to Members of Congress.

Happy Constitution Day!

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Professor Saks and the Psychology of Criminal Law

Picture1In addition to his first-year criminal law class and his upper-level course on empirical, scientific evidence and the law, Professor Michael Saks extensively researches the science behind the law, including social psychology. He has been involved in more than a dozen book projects touching on science and the law.

His most recent book, The Psychological Foundations of Evidence Law, examines how the rules of evidence limit lawyers’ ability to use psychological techniques to influence judges, juries, and witnesses to promote fair, accurate trials. He has also been involved in academic treatises concerning scientific evidence and expert testimony. He has written on social psychology, and the pressures that small groups, such as juries of fewer than twelve people, may exert to force dissenters to join the dominant group.

Professor Saks is prolific in the legal and scientific academic communities. His most recent article Capital and Punishment: Resource Scarcity Increases Endorsement of the Death Penalty, appeared in 2019 in the scientific journal Evolution and Human Behavior and presented findings supporting the hypothesis that areas with heightened concerns about resource scarcity are more likely to endorse putting criminals to death.

He has published extensively in Arizona State University’s scientific-legal journal Jurimetrics, with his most contribution coming in 2018: Granular Patient Control of Personal Health Information: Federal and State Law Considerations. This article concerned the increasing control over health records that patients can control and analyzed Arizona and federal law concerning particularly sensitive medical information. Psychological Aspects of Food Biodesign (with ASU Professor Roselle L Wissler) examined public anxiety regarding genetically modified foods; Jurors and Scientific Causation: What Don’t They Know, and What Can Be Done About It? (suggested ways of improving juries’ ability to evaluate scientific evidence; and Parallels in Law and Statistics: Decision Making Under Uncertainty (with ASU Professor Samantha L. Neufeld) analyzed the parallels between statistics and law in how to make concrete decisions with incomplete information.

He has also published in the Arizona State Law Journal, presenting a model act law students helped produce to prevent erroneous convictions in Model Prevention and Remedy of Erroneous Convictions Act.

His recent works include Improving Judge & Jury Evaluation of Scientific Evidence in which he explores the paradox inherent in the legal system in which judges must evaluate the validity of expert testimony intended to assist judges and juries with matters beyond their understanding; Methodological Triangulation, in which he presents a new, efficient approach to studying jury behavior and how to affirm the validity of certain experiments by comparing their results with other analytical methods; and The Disregarded Necessity: Validity Testing of Forensic Feature-Comparison Techniques, in which he suggests a shift away from the customary acceptance of forensic science evidence despite questionable empirical foundations.

You can read Professor Saks’ scholarship in the Law Library’s Faculty Scholarship Repository. If you have interest in criminal or scientific/legal research, the reference librarians can help you get started on an article of your own. Stop by the third floor reference desk during reference hours or make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian.

Andrea GassLaw Library Research Fellow

Bloomberg Law: In-Focus Content

What is it?
In-Focus pages are intended to be a one-stop-shop for issues that are currently in the headlines.  They have everything from introductory materials, to links to statutes, to news alerts.  They are a curated in-depth analysis so that an attorney could feel competent dealing with a complicated or technical issue.

Think of them like a Wikipedia page on steroids…. but for legal professionals.

Who makes them?
Bloomberg hires prominent attorneys in the subject fields to collect these materials – people who have extensive knowledge of the subject matter and can anticipate what an attorney would want to know.

For example, Laura Jehl, who has years of experience in securities, privacy, and cybersecurity has drafted the In-Focus: Blockchain (she even advises the DOJ and FBI on these issues).

But what is in them?
Let’s take a closer look at the In-Focus: Blockchain page that I’ve linked above.  Here’s a video to lead you through the process of navigating there.

I won’t cover everything but I’ll give you some highlights.  Top Right (1) you can see that they have a few different Primers (of different depths and scopes).  Dead center (2) they have Bloomberg Law Trackers – these are machine algorithms that go out into the web and scrape data related to the topic.  Just below that (3) they have Bloomberg Analysis, which is generally a deeper look at contemporary topics by legal professionals (like a news article but written by an attorney instead of a journalist).  Further down and on the right sidebar (4) they have links to Dockets and Court Opinions about blockchain – you can see the most recent litigation or search within this subject-specific database.  Wayyyyy down at the bottom (5), they have a map that shows how each state is dealing with regulation (you can click-through to see the actual legislation).

What other topics are covered?
They add new topics as trends emerge.  Here’s a random sampling:

Sean Harrington, Reference/Electronic Resources Librarian

Warming Up to Cold Calls or How I Learned to Love the Socratic Method

Facing a yes-or-no question in Civil Procedure, I confidently responded, “no!”

“I’m looking for an alternate answer,” the professor replied, with a sympathetic chuckle.

Each new semester of my three years here brought up a familiar worry: What if the professor is tough on cold calls? Fortunately, there’s not much need to worry. Everyone messes up a few cold calls or gets a wrong answer here or there, and nobody remembers those moments for long! But we are law students and want to do the best we can, so here are some tips to sharpen your Socratic skills:

  • Speed reading: It may be helpful to familiarize yourself with the basics on cases by skimming through, or examining the headnotes on Lexis Advance or Westlaw before a close re-read, and a briefing that neatly summarizes the rule of law and the court’s reasoning. Law case reading is a skill that you can master with practice. Try to recognize your assumptions about the law, and open your mind to the law the courts will apply. For more tips on reading cases, see LexisNexis’ guide: How to Read a Law School Casebook.
  • Find your study aid: The law library’s study skills collection offers a huge variety of guides through Wolters Kluwer, West Academic, and CALI.  But don’t stress about using everything; you get an edge by understanding course material, and some guides may contain information on doctrines that are not on your syllabus, in your reading, or in the class discussion. No need to worry! Just find the study strategy that works for you when you need it, and focus on what your professors want you to know. Learn more about study aids here: 1L Resource Guide: Study Materials and here How Do I Know Which Study Guides are Right for Me?
  • Case briefing: Whether you are highlighting, book briefing by marking the areas of text containing issue statements or the controlling rule, or composing marginalia as you study and write your case brief, focus on identifying the most important facts, rules, and the specific reasons the court ruled the way it did. Are you highlighting all the facts, or more effectively zeroing in on the key details that the court identified as the determining factor? It’s a skill you can learn, and CALI provides a lesson on effective case briefing.
  • Active listening: Even when you don’t get the cold call, try to imagine how you would answer if you were on the hot seat. The professor teaches the whole class through each individual student’s cold calls, and by noticing the right things, you can give yourself an edge for finals week. And you will start to understand better what factors the court considers when deciding points of law if you pay close attention. It’s a skill that will serve you well in the courtroom or a meeting with the partners. Learn more about active listening here, Active Listening and here, Listening Skills in the Law School Classroom.
  • Meet with a Librarian: With JDs and experience instructing students, the Ross-Blakley Law Library’s reference librarians can answer your questions and set you up to succeed with your legal research, writing, and doctrinal studies. Make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian or contact us with questions: Ask a Librarian.

Andrea GassLaw Library Research Fellow

How Do I Know Which Study Guides are Right for Me?

Are you rudderless in a sea of books, guides, and online materials? Do you need help taming an onslaught of resources? Help is here. The Law Library’s Electronic Services Librarian, Sean Harrington has prepared a succinct study skills materials chart to guide you through the semester:  Study Aids Chart

Sean says, primarily the reason we collect such a wide range of study material is because they present (usually similar) material differently – we want to accommodate for different learning styles. To determine which you like the most it is best to skim the content (either in the library or online) to see which sparks your interest.

Secondarily, some of the materials serve different functions: One title may restate class materials in a summary form (Examples & Explanations), while another may give you a boatload of practice multiple choice questions (Q&A), and another may be audio lectures for your commute (Sum & Substance).

We hope the chart helps and remember you can always Meet with a Librarian.

Study Aids Chart