Law Library News for Feb. 26, 2007
Cheryl Nyberg, editor
12:45-1:00pm – Litigation “How To” Tools
1:00-1:15pm – Effective Natural Language Searching on Lexis & Westlaw
While the Web has provided us with considerably greater access to information, it has exposed people to substantially more misinformation. Sometimes this comes as websites of dubious lineage; sometimes it shows up in a chain email, sometimes it even sneaks into Wikipedia. Your status as a law student or attorney can make you the “go to” person for friends and family who wish to verify strange or questionable things they have read involving legal topics.
Many of these items amount to legal urban legends that don’t pass the “smell” test, but it can be hard to find information that directly contradicts them. Fortunately, while it provides a fertile ground for myths and rumors, the Internet also offers several sites aimed at directly debunking the false stories.
Snopes.com is the most comprehensive website for checking out the authenticity and origins of urban legends. From the Snopes homepage, select “Legal Affairs” to find a range of legends concerning laws and litigation incidents.
Not all the stories listed are myths: Snopes classifies each as either true, false, “of undetermined or ambiguous veracity,” or of uncertain origin. By clicking on the hyperlink embedded within each statement, you can read about its origin. Most of these explanations cite sources or have links to additional information. Does federal law prohibit American citizens from having contact with extraterrestrial beings? Go to Snopes.com to find out.
As the name suggests, Hoaxbusters specializes in tracking Internet hoaxes and scams. If your Uncle Barney is wondering whether Bill Gates will really send him $1000 for passing on an email message to everyone he knows, send him to this site. Hoaxbusters also has information on other types of urban myths and legends, although it does not group law-related stories in a specific category.
As we get closer to April, you may be more likely to encounter a hopeful friend who has heard about some sort of marvelous and watertight justification for not paying income taxes. Professor Jonathan R. Siegel (George Washington University Law School) has collected the arguments of people and organizations who assert that there is no obligation to pay income tax. Income Tax: Voluntary or Mandatory? systematically debunks each of these arguments in a way that is designed to provide clarity for taxpayers who may be tempted or confused by them.
You can find similar sites that address other areas of the law. A good approach in Google is to search by combining a term for the field you’re focusing on (for example, “copyright” or “copyright law”) with “misconception or myth.” If you want to hone in on results that are more likely to be authoritative, go into the Advanced Search screen and try limiting your search to “.edu” and/or “.gov” domains.
It’s often more difficult to demonstrate that something is not true than to show that it is. Use these resources the next time you want to get to the bottom of a modern myth or legend.
Reference librarian Ann Hemmens recently created a new research guide on the topic of U.S. Admiralty and Maritime Law in support of a class on the same topic taught by Professor Nancy Harriss (A585).
No matter what your research project, it is likely that we have a research guide on our website that may help point you in the right direction. Browse our research guides from our homepage under the heading “Conduct Research” or view the complete list of guides.
Book of the Week: Sexual Orientation and the Law: A Research Bibliography Selectively Annotating Legal Literature Through 2005
by Ann Hemmens
The title of this book says it all – almost. This one-volume resource (400+ page) contains citations and annotations or brief descriptions of law review articles and books written on the topic of sexual orientation and the law between 1969 and 2005. It was compiled by law librarians who are members of the Standing Committee on Lesbian and Gay Issues within the Social Responsibilities Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries.
The volume has two parts. The first is a reprint of the original Sexual Orientation Bibliography (covering 1969-1993) first published in 1994 (this is an organized list of citations, but does not include annotations). The second part is the update, including annotations to articles published between 1993 and 2005. The citations and annotations are organized by subject – many of the subjects are the same in both parts (e.g., legal status, discrimination, family issues) but there are some new topics in part two (e.g., gender identity, GLBT youth/students, domestic violence).
In the Introduction, “The Scholarship of the Possible: Sexual Orientation Law Scholarship 1994-2005,” Brad Sears states, “[i]n a word, this is the most significant development in the field of sexual orientation law during the past twelve years.” (p. xxiii). Mr. Sears is the Executive Director of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, dedicated to “advancing critical thought in the field of sexual orientation law and public policy."
How can you quickly use this resource for your research?
And what about future articles and books? The authors will provide updates online via the Social Responsibilities webpage.
Sexual Orientation and the Law: A Research Bibliography Selectively Annotating Legal Literature Through 2005. KF4754.5.A1S498 2006 at Classified Stacks