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Law Library News for February 19, 2001

Ann Hemmens, editor

Law Library News Archive


Book of the Week: Simple Justice

In honor of Black History Month.

Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality, by Richard Kluger (KF4155 K55 at Classified Stacks

The author, a journalist and editor, researched this book for seven years interviewing more than one hundred people on both sides of the issue and reviewing voluminous numbers of books, articles, and documents relating to the case and previous decades of slavery and segregation. According to the author, this book is more than a history of the Brown case, it is �designed to suggest how law and men interact, how social forces of the past collide with those of the present, and how the men selected as America�s ultimate arbiters of justice have chosen to define that quality with widely varying regard for the emotional content of life itself.�

After Simple Justice was published in 1976, there were fourteen book reviews in journals such as the Harvard Civil Rights Law Review and Harvard Law Review. According to one such review, �Kluger�s scholarship of this era is painstakingly researched and energetically divulged.� At just under 800 pages of text, it is a thorough rendition of the history of the important Brown decision and its impact on America.

For other book reviews, visit the Book of the Week Archive.

Lost Your Coat?

Did you know we have a Lost & Found in the Library that contains materials found all over Condon Hall? We have coats, books, computer disks and more. So if you have lost something this Quarter, please stop by the Circulation Desk to pick it up. Our box is very full and we will take everything that is not claimed by March 1st over to the HUB (Husky Union Building � located in the center of campus). So if you�ve lost something, please stop by the Circulation Desk soon.

How Complete & Current Is Thomas?

by John Dethman, Reference Intern

The Thomas website,, named after our third President, contains current legislative information from the Congress of the United States. Created by the Library of Congress at the beginning of the 104th Congress in 1995, it is intended to make Federal legislative information freely available to the Internet public. For very current information, it is a success. For historical information it is less so. But getting better. It is at the mercy of the Government Printing Office (GPO) for its files. For the current 107th Congress, nine out of the first ten House Bills and the first five Senate Bills submitted are not yet available. And adding history will take time.

Thomas attempts to be very timely for current matters before Congress. Bill text files are updated several times a day as they become available from the GPO. The Congressional Record is updated daily, usually in the morning. Current calendars of scheduled Senate and House floor actions are available. Committee reports are added as available from the GPO, which may mean quite a period of time can pass before they are added. Files for actions by earlier Congresses are also available. However, what is available for earlier Congresses is neither consistent nor complete. The various databases cover different periods. For example, the Bill Summary and Status information goes back to the 93rd Congress (1973), the Bill Text to the 101st Congress (1989), and the Index to the Congressional Record to the 104th Congress (1995).

One of the difficulties with Thomas is that you must search within a specific Congress. You cannot search across Congresses, across databases. If you are looking for information on a bill you know has been introduced, on which hearings were held, which appeared in any regard in the Congressional Record, for which committee reports were issued, or became law, you need to know in which Congress any of these possible actions may have occurred. It is possible that a bill (or versions of a bill) may appear in several Congresses at various points in the legislative process, having been introduced but gone nowhere, reintroduced and progressed somewhere, and finally, passed in some form as altered by the political process. A bill that has not been enacted into law �dies� at the end of a Congress, and must be reintroduced in a subsequent Congress and given a new number and possibly a new name.

Thomas is Congress specific regarding legislation and other information. But, once you are in the correct Congress, there are multiple access points including keyword/subject searching, bill number, committee(s) and sponsor(s). Thomas also provides access to numerous legislative sites and directories and links with other Federal government sites, including the White House. Benefiting from its Library of Congress creators, Thomas provides historical documents and information going back to 1774 through a tab somewhat buried at the bottom of the left hand menu.

The timeliness problems of Thomas may be shown with one non-legislative fact. Searching Thomas is done through a proprietary engine, InQuery. According to the �About THOMAS� webpage, this product is available from Sovereign Hill Software. The link provided to Sovereign Hill Software's homepage, products, and InQuery information does not work, even though the THOMAS webpage was last updated on January 3, 2001. Broken links may be a part of Internet searching, but it is always important to evaluate the reliability and currency of websites consulted in your legal research.