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Law Library News for April 23, 2007

Law Library News Archive

Cheryl Nyberg, editor


Save the Date for Bridge the Gap

The 12th Annual Bridge the Legal Research Gap program will be held this summer. Law students have two opportunities to attend this free, educational event:
  • May 18, from 8:30am – 12:30pm, at Seattle University Law School
  • June 13, from 1 – 5pm, at the UW School of Law

Visit the registration page for more information and to register for one of the sessions.

Library Lifesavers

Tuesday’s duet features citation checking tools from LexisNexis and answers to the mysteries of the Washington Courts—what you don’t know!

Join us in Room 119, beginning at 12:45pm. And register for the Lifesavers raft, I mean, raffle!

The Sweatt v. Painter Archive

by Ernesto Longa, Law Librarianship Intern

[Editor's note: case and law review links go to Hein Online, a commercial service to which the Library subscribes. UW Restricted.]

In 1946, Heman Marion Sweatt (Sweatt) applied to the University of Texas School of Law (UT) and was denied admission solely on the basis of his race. A decade earlier, Lloyd Gaines had sought admission to the University of Missouri School of Law (UM) and was similarly denied entrance.

In Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (1938), the United States Supreme Court instructed Missouri to either admit Gaines to UM or provide a “substantially equivalent” black law school within the state’s borders. Rather than admit Gaines, the Missouri General Assembly established Lincoln University School of Law, America’s first Jim Crow law school.

Likewise, in response to efforts by Sweatt to compel UT to admit him, the Texas Legislature voted to establish the Texas State University for Negroes (TSUN) in Houston. In addition, as an interim measure, a black law school was established in the basement of a three-story building in a low-income black neighborhood in Austin. Finally, the Texas Legislature permitted the State Law Library, located in the Capital Building, to be used as the new school’s law library.

In the Gaines case, the question of whether or not the law schools of Lincoln and the University of Missouri were “substantially equivalent” was never litigated due to the mysterious disappearance of Lloyd Gaines. However, in the Sweatt case, the question of “substantial equality” became the central issue. 

The Sweatt v. Painter Archive includes oral histories, newspapers, UT records, state litigation materials (including the trial transcript), and state and federal court opinions.

The trial transcript features testimony from D.A. Simmons, former American Bar Association (ABA) president, and Charles McCormick, former American Association of Law Schools (AALS) and president and dean of the UT School of Law. With straight faces, both take the stand and swear that a 1,060 square foot basement law school, with only part-time faculty and no library of its own, constitutes legal facilities substantially equal to the facilities at UT’s law school. McCormick even suggests that an unaccredited law school currently unable to meet either the ABA or AALS standards could nevertheless provide a legal education substantially equivalent to his own law school.

Central to his testimony is the contention that owning a law library is not a prerequisite to equality so long as access to a substantially equal law library is provided. This contention has growing contemporary relevance as the standard of quality for law libraries increasingly moves from ownership to access.

By the time Sweatt v. Painter reached the U.S. Supreme Court (339 U.S. 629 (1950)), TSUN’s law school had begun to operate in Houston. Still, the Court found substantial inequality between the black and white law schools. The Court concluded that UT had a better faculty, better course offerings, a better library, and a wider range of activities than the law school offered for blacks. More importantly, the Court found that UT possessed “to a far greater degree those qualities which are incapable of objective measurement” but that make a law school great, namely “reputation of faculty, experience of the administration, position and influence of the alumni, standing in the community, traditions and prestige.” Consequently, UT was ordered to admit Sweatt.

This archive is an excellent resource for students of American history and constitutional law and for law librarians. Additional readings include:

  • Thomas I. Emerson et al., Segregation and the Equal Protection Clause: Brief for the Committee of Law Teachers Against Segregation in Legal Education, 34 Minn. L. Rev. 289 (1950). Widely regarded as the most hard-hitting assault against the separate but equal doctrine of the day.
  • Douglas L. Jones, The Sweatt Case and the Development of Legal Education for Negroes in Texas, 47 Tex. L. Rev. 677 (1969). Provides an excellent summary of the the Sweatt case from the 126th District Court of Travis County through to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Vonceil Jones, Texas Southern University School of Law-The Beginning, 4 Tex. S. U. L. Rev. 197 (1977). Argues that when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Sweatt case several issues had already been settled, namely the necessity of having equal educational opportunities, personal nature of the fourteenth amendment guarantees, and the compulsion of a substantially equal facility.  

Book of the Week: The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law

This little book is full of wise, witty, pithy advice for new attorneys.

Mark Herrmann, the curmudgeonly author, has been practicing law since 1983. His insights—humorously expressed—make this book an entertaining read. New associates (and law students who hope for successful law firm careers) should absorb and practice his every suggestion.

Chapter One, on how to write a memorandum, deals with the rules of style, proper ways to describe a case and its holding, and the magic formula for a persuasive brief. “[K]eep the brief as short as humanly possible. Those are the rules.”

In “How to Fail as an Associate,” the curmudgeon identifies “The Ten Most Common Mistaken Assumptions Made by New Lawyers,” which include:

  • “Forget the facts; just research the law.”
  • “Who needs books? This handy computer will give me a case in point.”
  • “Once I get the general idea, I don’t really have to read all of those cases.”
  • “A new lawyer is a potted plant.”

“What They Didn’t Tell You in Law School” (chapter three) makes the connection between cramming irrelevant crap in your head for exams and going though the same experience in preparing to argue a motion, take a deposition, try a case, etc. Other chapters channel the wisdom of the curmudegeonly secretary (“I’ve been a secretary at this firm for longer than you’ve been alive”); describe depositions (“Seven Hours Locked in a Room”); review preparing for oral argument (“I know you’d be more comfortable, you’d feel safer, if you had your argument typed out in front of you. Stuff it. We’re not here to make you comfortable. We’re here to win.”); and enumerate etiquette points for voice mail greetings and messages, email, and BlackBerry/PDA usage in public.

At $35 for a small 135 page-package, this book is ridiculously over-priced. But the value of the advice, if taken: priceless. Plus, it makes a great graduation present!

Mark Herrmann, The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law (ABA, 2006). KF300.H47 2006 at Classified Stacks