The “Nuclear Option” or less dramatically, ending the judicial filibuster

Today the US Senate voted 52-48 to end what has of late become the routine practice of filibustering  high-level Presidential appointments.

Despite the hyperbole—the Huffington Post ran an article with a nuclear cloud detonation under the headlines, “Senate Detonation: Reid Nukes Filibuster“— this move has been considered for a few years now. Clearly, as the chart highlights, the use of the  filibuster to block high-level executive appointments has accelerated under a Republican minority in the Senate.

Opinion is, of course, all over the proverbial map on this issue.  Here are some recent articles to peruse so you can impress the folks back home with your legal prowess at the Holiday table next week:



The 12 Days of Exams

Just in time for the holidays the end of the semester, the Law Library is here with 12 resources to help you prepare for final exams.

12 Days of exams for you, and almost a month of exam tips, and more Hornbooks, Nutshells, Examples & Explanations, and Emanuel’s than you can count from us!

11 1/2 Hours of reference desk availability a day, plus chat reference and email.

10  Circulation staff members ready & waiting to help you find materials on reserve and check them out (actually, there are only 5, but they’re so efficient it’s like having 10 of them!)

9 Years of past exams online, plus print exams from 1967-2005.

8 Group study rooms available for reservation

7 Days a week of library access limited to law students, from 8 AM-11PM (Starting Monday, Dec. 2)

6 Subjects of Law in a Flash flashcards covering all 1L classes

5 Bulletin boards filled with tips, tricks & suggestions on taking law school exams. (hint: our tips change daily, so check back often!)

4 Reference librarians, ready & waiting to answer your questions

3 Recommended websites with additional study resources: Our Guide to Exam PreparationCALI, and Law School Toolbox’s Exam Prep 101

2 Computer labs in which you can type & print final papers

1 Reading Room with group and individual study space


Whether you’re a 1L, 2L, 3L, or LLM, stop by the law library today to see how we can help you prepare for finals!


Self-Care and Exam Season

Studying for exams can be one of the most important, and most stressful, parts of law school. The law school provides information about exams here. Many sources, including those noted in posts on this blog (see here and here), are available to help prepare for your exams.

The personal side of exam season is equally important. In addition to contributing to health and well-being, good self-care can have a big impact on the ability to cope with stress and perform well on exams. While valuable any time, essentials like adequate sleep, nutritious meals, physical activity and drinking enough water are even more important during times of stress. Self-care presents a basic challenge over the next few weeks: it takes time that might seem better spent studying for exams.

Consider this observation from Psychology Today:

Too often basic health care goes down the tubes during exam periods. Lack of sleep and exercise, poor eating habits, abuse of stimulants from caffeine to prescription drugs all take their toll. So often during these past 30 years that I’ve been giving final exams I’m amazed that so many students look like they have been in a train wreak as they go through exam week. While it is tempting to do otherwise, it really is critical to health and performance to attend to exercise, sleep, and eating needs in a thoughtful healthy way. Easier said than done I know for most students but abusing their bodies serves no useful purpose and likely negatively impacts performance. Exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy food help ensure that their bodies and minds are working on all cylinders during exam week. If you know anything about systems and dysregulation theory you know that once you let your body get out of whack you’ll pay for it in many expected and unexpected ways.

Some tips and resource reminders from BU sources that may be helpful:

Student Health Service’s Behavior Medicine staff can be a helpful resource for services and support for students who are experiencing stress, anxiety or depression.


Law Library Search: You Searched, You Spoke, We Listened

Your comments helped us improve the new search tool for BU licensed resources – keep them coming.  What did we change?

  • The Books+ tab allows you to search just for books (along with a few other things), so you get what you want the most.
  • The versions button has moved to a more visible location and the newest edition is listed first.
  • Advanced search now has more options to allow you to further customize your search.
  • Keyword searching for only one word, like an author’s last name, now works.
  • And it looks cooler too.

posner search


Research with Congressional Research Service Reports

Many researchers may be unfamiliar with one of the most useful types of U.S. government documents, the reports prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) for members of Congress on topics relevant to current political issues. CRS defines its mission as serving Congress, rather than the general public. Because there is no comprehensive source providing public access to all CRS reports, identifying reports and locating them is frequently not as easy as running a Google search.

CRS reports can support legal research in several ways. Reports generally identify and discuss primary legal documents, particularly legislation, presidential executive orders and agency regulations that pertain to a topic. They provide historical, statistical and other information that provides context to current issues. And CRS Reports often address varying policy proposals and viewpoints. For law students, CRS reports could be a great resource to help select a Note topic, efficiently conduct background research or seek leads to further sources of information.

A sampling of recent CRS reports suggests the almost unlimited range of topics addressed: the history and recent increases of the debt limit, NSA surveillance leaks, sanctions against Iran, legal issues related to hydraulic fracturing (fracking), U.S.-China Trade Issues, and campaign finance policy.

One subscription database that can be helpful is ProQuest Legislative Insight. During a session, select the “Guided search” options and click the box to search “CRS and Misc. Publications.” A flexible advanced search feature allows searching by title keywords, full text, etc.



Other effective means of locating CRS reports include:

  • Open CRS is a project that seeks to make as many CRS reports as possible available by pointing to reports that have already been released to the public
  • U.S. Department of State provides access to a collection of CRS Reports and Issue Briefs, with a focus on foreign relations and national security (arranged by date, region and topic)
  • Federation of American Scientists (FAS) arranges CRS Reports by topic
  • University of North Texas has created a search engine to locate CRS Reports by keywords

Use CALI interactive tools to augment your exam studies.

CALICALI  offers some great exam studying aids which will breathe a bit of fresh air into your exam studying routine.  The site is password protected so please contact a Reference Librarian if you have lost your password tat came in your Orientation materials.  All of the primary first -year subjects are covered as are many upper-level courses. Every new angle can help you to better synthesize the materials you’ve already covered in class and many find the interactive format of these tutorials can help them see the material in a new light. Good luck!



Trans Fat and the FDA

As noted in articles today in the New York Times, the Boston Globe and other sources, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken action that could lead to a ban of use of trans fatty acids (trans fat) in processed foods sold in the U.S. FDA notes CDC estimates that eliminating trans fats in partially hydrogenated oils in the diet “could prevent up to 20,000 cases of coronary heart disease (CHD) and up to 7,000 deaths annually.”

A statement from Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, explains FDA’s administrative action and next steps:

Because of the evidence linking trans fats to an increase in the risk of heart disease, however, FDA has preliminarily determined that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer GRAS [generally regarded as safe] for any use in food. We are providing a 60-day comment period to ask for additional information. If, after reviewing the comments and scientific information submitted, FDA makes the final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not GRAS and are not otherwise authorized for use in food, such oils become unapproved food additives. That would make their use unlawful unless a company or other petitioner could prove to FDA that one or more specific uses are safe under the “reasonable certainty of no harm” safety standard.

A Notice (request for public comments and scientific data) is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register tomorrow. (See the Notice here.)

Existing FDA regulations require including information on trans fat content in food labels. However, as Taylor’s statement acknowledges, for foods containing less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving, the regulations direct that the label indicate zero (0) grams of trans fat. Thus, consumers purchasing foods with labels indicating no trans fat still may be consuming trans fat in amounts up to .5 grams per serving.

At present, FDA states it has “no plans” to adjust the food labeling regulations; however, the  agency notes that “the preliminary determination [announced today] would result in a lowering of actual [trans fat] levels in foods.”


Explore Legal Issues Through TED Talks

You’ve probably familiar with TED Talks, among other sources of informative video content via Internet. Although TED defines its mission as spreading ideas by bringing together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design, many TED Talks explore or implicate legal and law-related issues–from human rights to intellectual property, from money in politics to international environmental law.

Usually running 15 to 20 minutes, these talks can help to identify an unseen issue, inspire action or even suggest research leads to explore. A few popular examples:

The site’s topical directory and search engine facilitate discovery of other talks. Still more talks are available from TEDx events, which afford the “opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.” These include some 30,000 videos on many topics from events in over 130 countries.



Russia, Greenpeace and the Netherlands

When Russia recently arrested Greenpeace activists protesting drilling in the Arctic Circle it charged them with piracy which carries a possible sentence of 15 years in prison.  The Netherlands has now sued before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) claiming that the Russians illegally detained the “Arctic Sunrise” a ship registered in the Netherlands.  International scholars questioned whether the activists were “pirates” under international law.  Russia eventually backed away from its piracy charge.  Another question is whether Russia had jurisdiction to arrest the activists in the first place.  How would you find out about these international and foreign legal developments?  Use our Foreign Law research guide.