Over the past year, no U.S. legal issue has generated more news coverage and commentary than the legal status of same-sex relationships, particularly the questions whether the Constitution requires states to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize such licenses grated in other states.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court decided United States v. Windsor (2013), which struck down as unconstitutional a provision in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined “marriage” under federal law to exclude same-sex couples. After Windsor, numerous federal and state courts ruled that the Constitution requires states to recognize same-sex marriages. In November 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reached a different result, upholding bans on same-sex marriage under the laws of several states.
By granting certiorari in cases from the four states comprising the Sixth Circuit–Bourke v. Beshear (KY), DeBoer v. Snyder (MI), Obergefell v. Hodges (OH) and Tanco v. Haslam (TN)–the Supreme Court decided to address two questions left unresolved by Windsor. (Click below to expand image.)
The Court has scheduled oral argument for April 28. In the past two weeks, dozens of briefs have been filed. Many of them are amicus curiae (or “friend of the court”) briefs, filed by persons or entities that are not parties to the case but wish to provide their perspectives to the Court. Most of them–including those of The American Psychological Association, The Cato Institute and the United States government–support the right of same-sex couples to marry. The Court’s decision is expected by the end of June, with these cases among the last to be decided in the Court’s October 2014 Term.
For those monitoring the topic, some of the best information sources are organizations that have been involved in the legal battle–e.g., Freedom to Marry and Lambda Legal. Other good sources include The New York Times and SCOTUSblog.
For worldwide information, the Jones Day law firm provides a database of jurisdictions, detailing the degree to which each country recognizes the status of same-sex relationships.
A previous post in this space noted email delivery of weekly or daily updates from Bloomberg BNA.
Another great tool that you can use to keep abreast of new developments is alerts, which you can create on the three big legal database providers: Lexis, Westlaw and Bloomberg Law. Alerts allow you to have a search run regularly (daily, weekly or monthly) and have new results delivered to you according to your specifications. Screen shots are provided below; click an image to increase its size.
After running a search on Lexis Advance, you can click the alarm clock button and fill out the resulting form to save the search to be run at a frequency you choose, with results to be delivered as you designate. As noted below, the saved alert would generate a monthly email message with any new Massachusetts cases that reference Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch. 93A.
Creating an Alert on Westlaw Next is very similar. Simply click on the alarm clock button
One of Bloomberg Law‘s great strengths is its Docket search feature. A user may create an Alert to receive periodic updates about filings in a case, including those accessible through the federal courts’ PACER system. For example, the image below shows a screen where an alert can be created by clicking the Blue button and filling in the form to select frequency of reports, etc. This Alert will provide regular updates about new filings in DeBoer v. Snyder, one of the same-sex marriage cases pending before the Supreme Court.
Alerts such as these are a convenient way to be notified automatically when new results that meet your criteria are discovered with the periodic searches that you request. If you’re not taking advantage of these, you could be missing out on a tool that could save time and effort.
There has been much interest in the Report released in December by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program; this report is highly critical of the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and has been called the Senate “torture report.”
This session of the certification program will explore research into U.S. and international law concerning torture, including U.S. obligations under international human rights treaties, and will include a range of primary legal documents, secondary sources and reports by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Amnesty International.
Sessions of this class are offered in Room 335 on:
Thursday, Feb. 19, 9 a.m. (LLM preferred)
Friday, Feb. 20, 12 p.m
Many of those who registered for the Thursday session were not able to be there at 9am. Space is available for the Friday session. To register, click HERE.
The class page: http://lawlibraryguides.bu.edu/cert2015_CIA
If you’re monitoring a topic for a seminar paper or some other interest, Bloomberg BNA updates are one of the best available tools for law-related current awareness.
It has long been possible to sign up for email delivery of these updates, whether you’re following a weekly update (like U.S. Law Week) or a daily one (such as the Daily Labor Report). You can go to BNA’s Law School Professional Information Center and click “Sign Up for Email Updates.” After a brief registration process, you can select the titles you want to receive.
But it is much easier to manage your BNA email subscriptions with your Bloomberg Law account. During a Bloomberg Law session, click “BNA Law Reports” on the main page.
From there, you can browse titles or topics to select the updates that interest you. To subscribe, just click the MANAGE EMAIL NOTIFICATIONS button; then, click the blue “Set Notification” button next to that title. (To unsubscribe, click the red “X” next to the title in the “Current Notifications” column on the right side of the screen.)
There are many other legal news updates available to BU Law users, including Law360 and the “News Trackers” available through the IntelliConnect (formerly CCH) database. And you can create customized Alerts on Lexis, Westlaw or Bloomberg Law. (Check this space for a future post for more details.)
For more information about your particular needs, contact a reference librarian.
All attorneys need to stay current with legal news–in particular, with developments in their areas of practice. This certification class will expand your knowledge of (and get you actively involved with) current awareness resources for legal information, including subscription services, blogs and social media tools.
Sessions of this class are offered on:
Monday, Feb. 2, 1 p.m. [cancelled: snow day]
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 9 a.m. (LLM preferred)
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 1 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 9, 1 p.m. (Room 336) [new class]
To register, go to: http://lawlibraryguides.bu.edu/certification/register
Class page: http://lawlibraryguides.bu.edu/cert2015_keepingup
Each year, reporter Jeffrey Toobin from the New Yorker puts forth a list of legal predictions for the upcoming year. The list for 2015 has recently been published, and may be accessed HERE. According to Toobin, these stories will include a renewed focus on same sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act, as well as major changes to collegiate sports policies.
There has been much controversy over the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. That Report is now available via the Federal Digital System web site as Senate Report 113-288. This PDF is 700+ pages and includes the Report as well as minority and other views.
Suppose you’re researching an international legal issue for the first time. What are some good places to start?
If you begin with the library’s research guide on International Law (IL), you will find definitions of IL and related concepts, video discussions on the scope of IL and a frequently cited summary of the IL sources (listed in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice). To get started with your topic, starting places include secondary sources, such as the major treatises listed in the guide, the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, and journal articles that explore international legal topics.
Research guides, including our guides on sources of IL (e.g., Treaties) and topical issues (such as International Trade or Human Rights research), can be helpful in locating and working with primary sources and specialized tools. Other research guides include those provided by NYU’s GlobaLex, the American Society of International Law (ASIL), and ASIL’s Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL).
Current awareness resources include blogs, subscription news updates and the news bureaus of the United Nations and other international organizations. These can be great tools for picking a paper topic, gathering information on recent developments and monitoring your topic as you work.
This graphic (International Law Visualized) provides a basic overview of some IL bodies and concepts that may assist in your research.
If you need help or have questions about resources, contact a reference librarian.
Among the many ways to stay current with news and information, those available to BU Law students include: searching and receiving legal news updates from such premium sources as Bloomberg/BNA and Law 360; reading legal blogs, which you can access through a newsreader by subscribing to RSS feeds; and creating Alerts through Lexis, Westlaw and Google, among others.
Another current awareness tool–and a great one for up-to-the-minute topical information–is Twitter. A few of the ways you can use Twitter:
Like other tools, Twitter can contribute to a sense of overwhelm, being inundated with too much information. That’s a good reason for being selective, setting time limits and letting go of what is no longer helpful.
Few topics get more attention around the world than human rights, but many students are uncertain about the source and scope of those rights.
If you are researching the topic, the library’s research guide is one starting place. As with most international law topics, consulting a good secondary source, such as a leading treatise or the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, is often a great way to identify primary documents and learn about enforcement mechanisms.
The most prominent arena for international human rights law is the United Nations apparatus, which includes:
A relatively new UN process is called Universal Periodic Review, which provides a regular assessment of every UN member state’s human rights record.
Other human rights systems include the regional systems in Europe, the Americas and Africa–each with its own conventions, commissions and tribunals.
Many sources provide ongoing coverage of human rights developments around the world, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; blogs, such as Human Trafficking Search and Immigration Prof Blog; news agencies of the UN and U.S. State Department (and the Department’s Human Rights Reports); and international news sources, such as the BBC and Reuters.
Other research guides that may provide relevant guidance include our guides to Treaty Research, Refugee & Asylum Law and International Courts & Tribunals.