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Law Library News for April 2, 2007

Law Library News Archive

Cheryl Nyberg, editor



Lounge to Be Closed

The law student lounge in the Library, Room L113, will be unavailable to students on Wednesday, April 4 from 3-7:30pm. It will be used for a reception to honor recent donors to the Law Library. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Library Lifesavers

Library Lifesavers continue this quarter. You missed the first installment on Citing Wikipedia and WestCiteLink.

Don’t repeat that mistake this week! Come to Room 119 on Tuesday, April 3d, from 12:45-1:15 to learn about KeyCite and More Word Tips.

In case you missed it, we created a webpage of the Word tips from last quarter

Laptop Stolen

No, it is not a new high-tech tasty German pastry!

It is what can happen to you if you leave your laptop unattended in a study carrel. It happened to a law student last week, in fact.

Gates Hall is a public facility and we cannot control who comes into the building or the Law Library. Please, please don’t leave your laptop alone!

Trials in the Supreme Court

by Nancy McMurrer

It is sometimes easy to forget that the United States Supreme Court may act as a trial court in addition to its more common role as the highest federal appellate court. The U.S. Constitution establishes criteria for the high Court’s “original jurisdiction”:

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls,
and those in which a State shall be a Party,
the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.
U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 2.

This grant of original jurisdiction does not necessarily mean that ONLY the Supreme Court may hear these cases. In fact, under 28 U.S.C. § 1251(a), the Supreme Court has exclusive original jurisdiction only in cases between two or more states. Other cases that would fall within the Court’s original jurisdiction may also be heard by other federal courts, 28 U.S.C. § 1251(b).

The nine Justices, however, do not typically preside over the trial. Instead, the Court appoints a Special Master, who conducts the case and writes a report, which is then submitted to the Court. If one or both parties disagree with the Report, they file exceptions and may argue the issues before the Justices, much as parties argue cases on appeal. The decisions are reported, just like Supreme Court appellate case decisions.

If you would like to find those decisions, remember that the word “original” is part of the docket number. In the LexisNexis Supreme Court cases database, your search would be “number(original and not no number).” In Westlaw’s SCT database, the search is “dn(original).”

If you are interested in reading a Special Master’s Report, there is good news from the Court. Current Special Master Reports are now being added to the Court’s website, and the Court plans to add past Reports as well.

For more on the subject, see Interstate Disputes: The Supreme Court's Original Jurisdiction, by Joseph F. Zimmerman (2006). KF4615.Z56 2006 at Classified Stacks.

Book of the Week: Law as a Means to an End

by Melissa Fung, Law Librarianship Intern

“Instrumentalism” is the notion that various entities (e.g., judges, interest groups, lawyers) use the law primarily as a means to achieve specified ends. In his book Law as a Means to an End, St. John’s Law Professor Brian Tamanaha provides a historical overview of the instrumental view of law and considers the implications of legal instrumentalism in modern America.

Tamanaha divides his work into three sections. First, he tracks the origins of legal instrumentalism movement, gaining strength through the nineteenth century and becoming the dominant view of law in the twentieth century. Second, Tamanaha explores legal instrumentalism’s foothold in contemporary America, providing evidence that instrumentalism dominates legal thought in modern law schools. Tamanaha concludes by “showing the various ways in which seeing law in purely instrumental terms threatens to corrode the rule of law." 

Voted the Best Law Book of 2006 by the Law Librarian Blog, the book is presented in a dynamic yet cogent style, filled with illustrative examples of attempts by individuals and groups to use the law as an instrument to advance their own or their groups’ agendas.  A modest 268 pages, this book is a must read for those interested in legal theory and the history of American jurisprudence. 

According to esteemed blogger and legal theorist, Larry Solum, “[t]his is not just an important book - it is THE important book of legal theory for this decade.” Read more comments like this and check out Tamanaha’s discussion of Law as a Means to an End on Prawfsblawg.

Brian Z. Tamanaha, Law as a Means to an End (2006)
KF382.T36 2006 at Classified Stack