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Law Library News for January 4, 1999

Law Library News Archive


A Civil Action

A Civil Action, written by Jonathan Harr and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1995, is a non-fiction book that reads like a novel. A brash, well-dressed young attorney in Boston represents families who have been poisoned by contaminated well water in Woburn, Massachusetts. The procedural wranglings are, oddly enough, interesting (complete with a Rule 11 motion!), and the story of the families involved is quite compelling.

The movie (out now) stars John Travolta as the attorney. A documentary chronicling the events in this story will be shown on Court TV on Friday, January 8 at 8:00 pm. You can find more information at:

W.R. Grace, one of the corporations accused of contaminating the well water, has it's own website called Beyond a Civil Action: Woburn Issues and Answers, They include links to some of the research done in relation to the incident, including an article on the Superfund Hazardous Substance Basic Research Program at the Center for Environmental Health Studies at MIT, and a study on the Aberjona-Mystic Watershed Project.

[Web Editor's note: For more information, see the legal research guide on A Civil Action.]

106th Congress

If you'd like to keep up with what's happening when Congress starts up again this month, there are several ways to do that. We've talked before about Congressional Universe, a web based product produced by Congressional Information Service, now owned by LEXIS-NEXIS. Another good website is maintained by the Library of Congress, at:

This site includes lots of basic information about Congress as well as profiles and email addresses for members of Congress. It is also helpful for tracking legislation and has links galore. There is even some historical analysis, such as a Congressional Research Service Report for Congress called Presidential Vetoes, 1789-1996: A Summary Overview and Myths about Senate Art and History: Frequently Heard Errors, Falsehoods and Inaccuracies.