Monthly Archives: October 2020

Cite Check: Just Do It

Why do law librarians and legal writing professors make such a big deal about the cite-checking process? In this blog post I will give some examples of legal research and cite-checking (or Shepardizing) gone horribly wrong.  Imagine that you’re standing before your legal writing professor and arguing your appellate brief, or that you’re being shadowed by your supervising attorney during your first court appearance, or that you’re presenting your brief to a senior partner that you greatly admire.  Now imagine that you didn’t take the time to properly check your work and missed a crucial piece of information.  As a law librarian, these terrifying scenarios cause me to break out in a flop-sweat.

Example 1: The classic, often-cited example of a failing to Shepardize comes during the biggest pop-culture trial of the last 50 years – the OJ Simpson trial.

Marcia Clark was center-stage during a trial where around 95 million people across the world tuned in daily to see if OJ Simpson would be convicted of murder.  To give some context, that’s nearly how many people watched the Superbowl last year (this was before streaming services when most people had basic cable).  The stakes were high and the pressure was incredible for Ms. Clark.  During this clip we see Judge Ito probe Ms. Clark about a law that (he knows) has been applied in a criminal context, despite her claim that it has not.  Ms. Clark’s claims end up being wrong because it turns out that she’s relying on second-hand information from one of her junior associates – and that associate has not performed thorough research.  To be fair to Ms. Clark, this trial was enormously stressful for her for a number of reasons.  Regardless, this is a situation that could have been avoided if a proper research plan had been executed.

Example 2: Court clerk’s failure to Shepardize results in defendant’s conviction being reversed.

[The case was subsequently recalled and vacated… but I bet this clerk got an ear-full.]

Example 3:  Attorney is sanctioned and later sued for malpractice because they did not adequately research the law.

McCandless v. Great Atl. & Pac. Tea Co., Inc., 697 F.2d 198 (7th Cir. 1983)
(Westlaw password required.)

“Before filing suit, it would seem to be a reasonable expectation that the attorney do some basic research on the applicable law.”  – Judge Pell

Ouch.

Example 4:  Ostrich-syndrome related to subsequent rulings results in sanctions.

Precision Specialty Metals, Inc. v. US, 315 F.3d 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2003)

“Counsel’s ‘ostrich-like tactic of pretending that potentially dispositive authority against [his] contention does not exist[] [is] precisely the type of behavior that would justify imposing Rule 11 sanctions.’”

CaseText provides a useful analysis of various automated cite-checking resources (to double check your work).  Keep in mind that CaseText is a software company that is trying to sell their product.  If you want a more neutral take, please refer to our Legal Citation  research guide.  This guide is in progress and is likely to see substantive updates and the semester continues so make sure to check back in once we get close to the end of the semester (and your papers are due).

Sean Harrington, Electronic Resources Librarian

Reference Services Survey – Win a Prize!

We need your help. We are assessing the Law Library’s reference services during these unprecedented times. We want to ensure you are receiving the help you need, whether it is finding a resource, using databases, citation help, or anything else. Your feedback on this short survey will enable us to serve you better. 

Take the survey here: Reference Services Survey

If you take the survey and provide us with your email address, you will be entered into a drawing for the prize of your choice. 

The deadline to complete the survey is November 3rd.

Thank you for your help and have a great rest of your semester. 

The Law Library is Here for You Over Fall Break

The reference librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library are happy to help you find or navigate research resources. You can connect with us via Zoom, Chat, and Meet with a Librarian. You can also send us an email or give us a call.

Zoom Reference
Meet with a Librarian
Chat with a Librarian
Email a Librarian
Call Us: 480-965-6144

Have a great fall break!

Five Reasons Why You Should Make CALI Your Study Partner

CALI Lessons are online interactive tutorials that cover narrow topics of law. CALI publishes over 1,000 lessons covering 40 different legal subject areas. These lessons have been used over 10 million times by law students over the years. To access CALI, click here.

#1- CALI Lessons are another way to learn the law.
CALI Lessons are another way to learn the law. They are interactive web-based tutorials that both teach and apply your understanding of what you just read. You learn the law from casebook readings, faculty instruction, and from supplements. Many commercial supplements are not written by law faculty and are simplified and watered down versions of the law. CALI Lessons are not. CALI Lessons present hypothetical situations and then quiz you on your understanding using follow-up questions and branching to make sure you got the right answer for the right reasons.

#2- CALI Lessons are a formative assessment for you.
Do you want to make sure you are understanding what you study? The only way to be sure is to assess and CALI lessons provide a form of self-assessment. You get feedback on every question – whether you get it right or wrong – and you get a final score that tells you how you are doing on a specific legal topic.

#3- CALI Lessons are interactive and engaging.
CALI Lessons are not videos that you passively watch. The material is modeled on Socratic Dialogue where a question is asked, you answer the question, and then various aspects of the topic are explored. CALI Lessons are written by tenured law faculty with many years of teaching experience (law librarians author the legal research lessons). The lessons purposefully steer you into thinking about the topic in a nuanced way.

#4- CALI Lessons are rigorous.
It is difficult to get a perfect score on most CALI Lessons the first time through. Law is complex and CALI lessons dive into that complexity. Each lesson covers a specific topic without getting too broad in scope. The questions are tough and require serious thought from the student. A typical lesson takes 20 to 40 minutes for a student to complete. You can take lessons multiple times to improve your understanding.

#5- CALI Lessons are a good learning appetizer or an excellent learning dessert.
CALI Lessons are an excellent learning experience as a first bite at the material. They prepare you for class or subsequent readings. The material is brief and rigorous exposing you to the concepts and nomenclature of a topic without being drilled and practiced to death. In addition, CALI Lessons are excellent for study after class (alone or in a study group), after the casebook readings, or for studying for the final exam. They provide immediate and substantive feedback that can direct you to the places where further study is required.