Law Library News
May 8, 2006.
Borrowing Through AccessLaw
Your Husky card barcode gives you borrowing privileges at the Gallagher Law Library, UW Libraries, and 30+ academic libraries in the Pacific Northwest that are part of a consortium called SUMMIT.
Now, you can add four more prominent libraries to that list. The law libraries of Yale, Penn, Texas (at Austin), UC Berkeley, and UW are a part of an alliance called AccessLaw, which recently launched a similar borrowing service. You can search the holdings of these five law libraries in one step through the AccessLaw catalog and request materials by simply clicking on the “Request this item” link in the catalog record. Then you’ll be prompted to enter your name and Husky card barcode number.
To search AccessLaw or SUMMIT catalogs, go to the MARIAN page and look under "Other Library Catalogs."
--Tom Kimbrough, Law Library Intern
An interesting job option for UW law students to keep in mind (in case that first downtown corporate law firm job turns out not to be as much fun as one had hoped) is to work as a “Foreign Law Consultant” at a law firm in Asia. Local law firms in Korea and Taiwan, in particular, have traditionally been eager to hire young U.S. lawyers who have two to five years of experience working as a corporate or tax lawyer at an American law firm.
I have heard that, more recently, local law firms in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and other Asian countries are also hiring Foreign Law Consultants. Language abilities may be a plus, but they are not a prerequisite as the work involves primarily drafting documents and communicating with clients and local attorneys in English. To apply for one of these jobs, I suggest simply mailing your cover letter and resume to some of the law firms listed in the Martindale-Hubbell International Law Directory (KF190 .M32 at Reference Area) that seem interesting to you and taking a trip to Asia. Many law firms will be delighted to meet with you if you make arrangements for an interview during your travels, and some have been known to hire candidates on the spot.
In my own case, I worked for about five years as a Foreign Law Consultant at the Kim & Chang law firm in Seoul, Korea after having started my career at a mid-sized firm in Washington, D.C. From there I joined the Beijing office of a U.S. law firm as my next job. If you think that you may be interested in this kind of career path, I would be glad to tell you about my experiences. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Chris O’Byrne, Law Library Intern
If you read the Seattle Times, you probably noticed the ongoing special report series entitled “Your Courts, Their Secrets” http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/yourcourtstheirsecrets/. Consequently, you may wonder what kinds of state and federal court records are available to you online, at the courthouses, and in the Gallagher Law Library. But first, what is a “court record?” In Washington State:
Court records include any document, information, exhibit, or other thing that is maintained by a court in connection with a judicial proceeding and any information in a case management system created or prepared by the court that is related to a judicial proceeding. Examples of court records are: an index, calendar, docket, order, decree, judgment, or minute entry in a courtroom proceeding. (Washington State Courts website)
All state and federal court records are available to the public unless access to them is restricted by federal law, state law, court rule, court order, or case law. Access to court records is usually restricted on the basis of privacy (e.g., adoption or Social Security disability claims), or safety and law enforcement risks (e.g., records that could be used to jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation or harm victims, defendants, and witnesses).
Reviewing another attorney’s successful argument, and the supporting law, is a great way to help formulate your own legal research plan and to develop your own winning legal argument. When you must write a brief to support or oppose a motion, complaint, answer, reply, or other pleadings, always remember that someone else has probably already done so for an analogous situation. Thus, the question that you should be asking yourself is not, “Why should I access court records?” but, “How do I access court records?”
If you work at a law firm, government agency, or public interest group, your employer likely has its own searchable brief bank specifically tailored to its practice areas. There are also a variety of commercial legal document retrieval services such as briefreports.com and briefserve.com. But what resources are available to you while you’re a law student at UW?
On Westlaw, you may already have noticed that when you view a case, sometimes there is a link to “Briefs and Other Related Documents” on the right frame or “Petitions, Briefs, & Filings” link on the left frame. Currently, Westlaw has selected briefs and petitions for federal courts (Supreme Court, Courts of Appeals, Tax Court) and state courts (Supreme Courts and Courts of Appeal for 37 states including Washington). You can also access briefs on Westlaw by searching the briefs databases which are available by jurisdiction, court, or topic. To get started, click on the Directory, select U.S. Federal Materials, U.S. State Materials, or Litigation, and then the Briefs folder.
In a similar fashion, when you pull up a case on LexisNexis, sometimes you’ll see links that say, “Go to Supreme Court Brief(s)” or “Go to Oral Argument Transcript” at the end of the case. On LexisNexis, selected briefs and motions are available for selected federal and state courts. To get started, sign on and go to the Legal tab, and click on the “Briefs, Motions & Pleadings” folder.
Although the easiest way to find briefs is to pull up a controlling case on Westlaw or LexisNexis and see what briefs are available for that case, note that the briefs databases also include briefs for cases for which there is no written opinion.
The Gallagher Law Library collects federal and state court briefs in print and microform. For a detailed description of the Law Library’s holding, see the Briefs and Oral Arguments guide.
Westlaw recently added dockets (a chronological timeline of the proceedings and a table of contents for the documents filed in a case) to its system and now you can retrieve docket sheets for legal proceedings in almost all federal courts and state courts for 29 states. To access docket sheets on Westlaw, pull up a case and see if the docket sheet is available for that case, or run a search by going to the Directory > Litigation > Dockets. The actual documents filed in those cases, however, are not available to holders of academic passwords and must be ordered from Westlaw CourtExpress for an additional fee.
On LexisNexis, brief docket summaries are available for cases pending in the U.S. District Courts for 48 states and some state courts. To access them, go to Legal tab > Areas of Law – By Topic > Litigation > Filings > Court Filings. However, a complete docket information or access to documents filed in those cases are available only through LexisNexis CourtLink which is not accessible with academic passwords.
Another way to access federal court dockets is through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). PACER is a web-based portal to the federal judiciary’s CM/ECF (Case Management and Electronic Case Files) system. Currently, PACER offers both more up-to-date and more extensive access to dockets than either Westlaw or LexisNexis. “CM/ECF systems are now in use in 89% of federal courts: 88 district courts, 92 bankruptcy courts, the Court of International Trade, and the Court of Federal Claims.” (About CM/ECF.) And by the end of 2006, CM/ECF will be implemented in nearly all federal courts. If you need information from a federal court docket for your academic work, come to the Reference Office, and a reference librarian will search PACER for you.
Lastly, remember that just because you found a court brief does not mean that you can rely upon it without critical evaluation. While you are likely to find many helpful briefs, you may also find ones that cause you to question the drafter’s understanding of basic legal concepts, English grammar, or both. Briefs should always be used as a guide and not as a substitute for your own examination of the relevant primary and secondary authorities.