Monthly Archives: January 2020

Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research

Paper ContestDo you want to win $500?  Do you want something special to add to your resume? How about all the pats on the back you will get from family and friends if you win this prestigious award?  You better get to work!  The deadline to enter the annual Ross-Blakley Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research is March 30th at 9:00am.

The purpose of the award is to encourage students to focus on practical skills and to refine their research abilities beyond ordinary proficiency to achieve their personal best. We are most interested in your research process. Submissions may be, but are not limited to, papers written for a class or as a journal note.

Two award recipients will be selected.  The first place winner will receive $500.00 and a Certificate of Recognition.  The second place winner will receive $250.00 and a Certificate of Recognition.

A panel composed of two Law Librarians and one Legal Writing Instructor will judge submissions based on how well they demonstrate the following:

  • Sophistication, originality, or unusual depth or breadth in the use of research materials, including, but not limited to, online and print resources, search engines and databases, primary and secondary legal resources, interdisciplinary resources, and empirical resources
  • Exceptional innovation in research strategy, including the ability to locate, select, and evaluate research materials with discretion
  • Skillful synthesis of research results into a comprehensive scholarly analysis

To learn more about the award including eligibility, acceptable papers, selection criteria and application procedures, please visit: Ross-Blakley Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research

And remember, if you need help with your research, don’t forget to Meet with a Librarian.

Good Luck!

Cite Check: Just Do It

Cite CheckWhy 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


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


3L Bar Exam Haiku Contest!

Haiku ContestWould you like to win a copy of Prof. Noreuil’s book The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam?  We will be giving away two copies to two 3Ls who write the best haiku about the bar exam.

What is a Haiku?
A traditional Japanese haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Often focusing on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression. We want you to focus on the bar exam. To get you started, here is an example from our very own Prof. Noreuil:

You will pass the bar.
Create your reality.
Breathe… Believe… Repeat.

We are going to share your entries on our social media outlets so get ready for fame and fortune.

Enter here: 3L Bar Exam Haiku Contest Entry Form

The deadline to enter is February 14th.

Good Luck!


(W)rites of Passage: New Library Research Guide for First Year Oral Arguments and Briefs

May You Please the CourtOral arguments force first year law students to look, sound, and act like lawyers, many for the first time. And they’re graded.

Our new law library research guide dedicated to First Year Legal Writing will ensure you’re ready to stand before your academic-judicial panel.

Probably the best way to start planning for your own presentation is to observe the pros in action. We have gathered audio and video recordings of appellate arguments in front of courts including the Arizona Court of Appeals, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of the United States—including all of Professor Paul Bender’s SCOTUS appearances. It will help give a sense of the arguments’ pace. In SCOTUS, the advocates barely have time to introduce themselves before being peppered with judicial questions.

We have gathered many of the books about talking to the judges, some of them smaller than others. Scholarly and professional articles will help you prepare for your specific courtroom tasks. Blog posts break it down even more, with tips, tricks, and just a little welcome reassurance.

Of course, the heart of good oral advocacy (and your Legal Advocacy class) is good writing, so our guide provides more resources to help with all of your briefs and memos in addition to your oral arguments.

We have gathered resources from the American Bar Association and experts such as Bryan Garner and ASU Law Professors Judith Stinson, Charles Calleros, and Kimberly Holst to help you improve your legal analysis, clarity, and structure, whether you are writing for a professor who swears by CREAC, CRuPAC, or even IRAAAPC.

Of course, the best ways to maximize your chances at a beautiful Legal Advocacy grade, graduate writing assignment, and legal career are to practice and seek expert guidance. The reference librarians have experience with these rites of passage at the Ross-Blakley Law Library. Librarian Sean Harrington and Research Fellow Andrea Gass, who work most closely with 1Ls, both have JDs, public speaking experience, and legal research expertise. Click here to make an appointment. It might be the most productive half-hour you can invest for your Legal Advocacy class. Persuasive legal writing for courts and journals requires very different research strategies than objective memos, and we have the expertise to help you shine. May you please the court!

Andrea Gass, Law Library Fellow

Writing an Environmental Paper? We’ll Help You Planet!

EnvironmentalDevastating wildfires, melting glaciers, impending extinctions, polluted oceans, persistent droughts, and greenhouse gases cry out for legal attention, and the challenges can be daunting. Sustainability concerns can arise in nearly everything we do, and the Ross-Blakley Law Library can help you get started by finding your focus area.

Our new Environmental Law and Sustainability research guide includes information on federal and state efforts to control land, air, and water pollution, including statutes, regulations, caselaw, news, and commentary. Beyond that, it provides focused materials for areas of the law involving consumption and preservation of resources while meeting the needs of industries and society. It is geared toward many of the courses included in ASU’s Law and Sustainability Certificate program.

The Energy and Public Utilities section discusses power, including the materials used to generate electricity, the regulatory systems overseeing the industries, and the systems in place to regulate power markets. It highlights the pros and cons of various energy strategies, such as low-emission wind farms that can threaten wildlife, low-emission nuclear plants that create toxic waste, and traditional fossil fuel plants and their climate impacts. Natural Resources and Public Land Management concerns not only the materials we extract, such as timber and mined minerals, but the protection of nature itself, including regulations of public land use. This area of law concerns preservation of wildlife and protection against wildfires in forested areas.

In contrast, Land Use and Urban Planning concerns governance of the built environment. It discusses zoning laws that compartmentalize incompatible land uses such as residential homes and industrial facilities, management of development “sprawl,” historic preservation efforts, and transportation planning. The guide includes information on Phoenix and Maricopa County agencies, as local governments usually address these issues.

Turning from the cities to the countryside, the Agriculture and Food Safety section explores the intersections between the living world and human needs. Farming and food production are complex legal processes involving real estate planning, tax law, environmental compliance, and labor law. Hot topics in the field include marijuana and the complexity of its inconsistent legal status, and bioethical concerns involving issues such as pesticides and genetic engineering. The guide also includes information on regulation of food to prevent illnesses.

Agriculture would not survive without irrigation, so the guide then pours on the Water Law. Hot topics in this field, particularly in the Western U.S., involve tensions between competing claims and governmental efforts to fairly apportion a scarce and vital resource. Tensions abound in discussions of a human right to water, in the cost of water infrastructure, and the environmental effects of human water use.

Finally, our Animal Law guide explores the law regarding animals, both domestic and wild. We have gathered resources concerning animal welfare, wildlife management, pest control, preservation of endangered species, and issues involving farm animals.

For state-focused scholarship, each of the sustainability law topics represented includes a section on Arizona law, including links to government agencies, statutes, and regulations.

We are here to help you find resources for your papers about sustainability or any other area of the law. We can even help you with your BluebookingMeet with a Librarian today!

Andrea Gass is a Law Library Research Fellow at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

Topical Swarm: Law Library Introduces New Guides for Student Scholarship

TOPICAL SWARMOur law has roots that stretch back ages to Medieval England, and at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, students break new ground each year with seminar papers, law journal comments, and graduate writing requirements.

The Ross-Blakley Law Library has an enormous collection of texts and treatises in its catalog, access to countless law reviews and journals, and more than a dozen legal research databases beyond Westlaw and Lexis Advance.

It might seem difficult to get a good start, particularly with casebooks to read. But our research guides can help you dive in to the hot-button legal issues ripe for new perspectives. In particular, we have recently added entries for the Spring 2020 semester to our Topical Seminar Research Guides to help students who will be writing about legal developments in a variety of areas of law.

Our Artificial Intelligence guide, for example, includes publications dedicated to advancing knowledge of “thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines.” Education and the Law links students to several blogs and news services capturing the latest trends in school policy. Global Approaches to Immigration and Citizenship opens reveals foreign legal materials that may not be readily available on some legal research services. And Law and Social Change incorporates dozens of resources involving a variety of social concerns, from racial and gender discrimination to mass incarceration.

We have topical library guides available to you if you’re enrolled in the following classes:

Arbitration: Alternative Dispute Resolution
Advanced First Amendment
Artificial Intelligence
Criminal Sentencing Seminar
Cults and Alternative Religions
“Dangers” of the Modern Administrative State
Education and the Law
Genetics and the Law
Global Approaches to Immigration and Citizenship
Indian Energy
International Law of Armed Conflict
International Environmental Law
International Human Rights
Law and Psychology
Law and Social Change
Medical Error
National Security Law
Neuroscience, Law & Ethics
Privacy, Big Data & Emerging Technologies
Professional Sports Law
Race and the Law
Reproduction, Reproductive Technologies, and the Law
Special Topics in Water Law
Sustainability and Law Research Seminar

For further help with choosing a topic or starting your research, feel free to Meet with a Librarian. We have extensive experience retrieving information on all manner of legal topics, and can help set you on a productive research trail.

Andrea Gass, Law Library Fellow