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Law Library News

Law Library News Archive

Feb. 28, 2005.
Kristy Moon, editor.


The Importance of a Solid Foundation: Real World Application of Basic Legal Skills

--Pegeen Mulhern, Reference Intern

Did you ever feel that law school should be a time to study important legal concepts, investigate social justice, and delve into arcane legal precedents without being bogged down with learning basic legal skills? Well, it turns out that not only will clients and fellow attorneys expect well-crafted and edited written work, but judges can be particularly unforgiving of deficient or careless work. Here are just a couple of cases to consider.

First, consider the attorney in a Utah case Meadowbrook, LLC v. Flower, 959 P.2d 115 (Utah 1998) who was chastised by the judge for failing to check the citations in his brief. In Flower, defendant’s counsel was admonished for failing to ensure the validity of all the cases in his brief. The attorney had cited an appellate case from another jurisdiction which had been reversed by that state’s supreme court. The court noted that counsel had failed to comply with Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure Rule 24(j) requiring that all briefs be “concise, presented with accuracy …and free from burdensome, irrelevant, immaterial or scandalous matters." Flower at 120 n.11. The court further noted that “[t]he process of ‘Shepardizing’ a case is fundamental to legal research and can be completed in a matter of minutes, especially when done with the aid of a computer” id., proving one should know how and when to cite check and never cite to a case that’s no longer good law.

Next, consider that a court may reduce hard-earned award of attorney fees in case of sloppy written work. That is just what happened to the attorney for the prevailing party in Devore v. City of Philadelphia, No. CIV.A.00-3598, 2004 WL 414085 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 20, 2004). In Devore, the magistrate judge reduced the attorney's fee from $300.00 to $150.00 per hour for the hours spent on drafting because the written work was “careless to the point of disrespectful.” Devore, 2004 WL 414085 at *3. Throughout the litigation, the attorney referred to the Eastern District as the “Easter District,” to which the judge quipped, “[c]onsidering the religious persuasion of the presiding officer, the Passover District would have been more appropriate.” Id. at *2. He also got the judge's name wrong, referring to Magistrate Judge Jacob Hart as the “Honorable Jacon Hart” to which the judge responded, “I appreciate the elevation to what sounds like a character of the Lord of the Rings, but alas, I am but a judge.” Id. at *3. The judge concluded by noting, “If these mistakes were purposeful, they would have been brilliant.” Id. So know that the proper application of the basic research and writing skills you learned in BLS will serve you long and well, and may even earn you money.

If you would like to see more cases like this, and even learn how to search for them, take a look at an article by Gallagher Law Library's own Mary Whisner, When Judges Scold Lawyers, 96 Law Libr. J. 557 (2004), available at http://www.aallnet.org/products/2004-34.pdf.

The moral of the story – validate all citations and review your pleadings before filing!

Faster Access to Library Resources

--Cheryl Nyberg

The UW Libraries now offers a faster way to access commercial research databases from your home computer. Installing the proxy bookmarklet, http://www.lib.washington.edu/help/proxyTools.html, on your browser toolbar will let you gain access to restricted resources with just a click of a button. After installing the bookmarklet, whenever you are on a page that links to commercial resources such as LegalTrac, Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, BNA, or other resources, http://lib.law.washington.edu/research/dbind.html, just click on the bookmarklet on your toolbar.

The bookmarklet is a small bit of javascript and works on Internet Explorer, Mozilla, and other popular browsers.

This is one of several ways you can access library resources from home if you have Internet access via a cable or DSL modem, or a wireless network. The other methods are described at Connecting to Online Library Resources, http://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/computing.html.

Crime-Busting Librarians

Kudos to two members of the library staff who reported suspicious activity in the library and helped police apprehend a theft suspect. This occurred at 8:00am on a busy Monday morning which shows that theft can occur at any time that the library is open. Do not leave your backpack or laptop unattended, even for a short time – it takes only seconds for someone to steal your things.

There are anti-theft loops underneath all carrels and tables in the library. We highly recommend that you secure your laptop with a 6-foot Kensington lock cable (available at the University Bookstore for $39.95). Imagine how sad and upset you’d be if your laptop suddenly disappeared with all your class notes and other valuable documents.

If you notice a suspicious person or an activity in the library, please notify a library staff.

Valentine’s Day Trivia – Winners

Congratulations to Danika Adams, David Orange, Scott Holleman, and Hendrianto Hendrianto for answering all the trivia questions correctly and winning a prize.