Archive for the 'Federal Legal' Category

Aug 22 2014

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Tracking the Legal News re Same-Sex Marriage

Since the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, no legal issue in the U.S. has been followed more closely than the question whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to get married.

There are many current awareness tools to monitor the topic. among them, consider these:

The same range of tools can be used to monitor or locate information on other subjects. Whatever you topic, give these tools a try!

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Aug 22 2014

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Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations

Researching executive actions, orders or proclamations used to be a painstaking and at time tedious task…

Thankfully those times have come and gone with the availability of Proquest Congressional’s library entitled: “Proquest Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations 1789-2014.”  This comprehensive collection includes all numbered and unnumbered orders.  (Sidebar–>Did you know that the first numbered order began with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation?)

This exhaustive collection also includes those orders issued in the President’s name by Secretaries of Federal departments, those issued at the request of the Presidents without specific statutory authority and directives, decisions and determinations other than those officially numbered.

Proquest Congressional’s Executive Branch Documents is also a treasure-trove and worth investigating when researching in this area. Find these resources on the A-Z list .



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Feb 21 2014

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Filed under Federal Legal,Free!,Fun!

The great website GPO Access, the home of official U.S. Government documents, has changed its format as well as it’s name.  It’s now called FDsys, but it still has the same great content.  Take a look at the current FDsys “Featured Collections.”

Now that’s what I call official!

The new link is spelled out below.

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Feb 17 2014

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Researching the Law of Indigenous Peoples?

Interested in learning about the Law of Indigenous Peoples? The Library has a class for that: Wednesday, February 19th at 1 PM in room 334. This class is part of our “Hot Topic” series offered through the “Legal Research Skills for Practice” Certification program designed to broaden and hone your research efficiency.

Sign up now at:


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Feb 12 2014

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Certification Class: Administrative Law

Researching the regulations promulgated by administrative agencies is an important component of U.S. legal research. This class will include finding regulations, working with the principal federal publications for locating agency regulations (Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations), and updating research to locate the most current information.

Class page:

Administrative Law Research
Feb. 14 & 18 | 1 p.m. (Room 334)
David Bachman, instructor;

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Feb 02 2014

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Resources for Free Legal Research

The convenience of the major commercial legal databases has made them so popular that many law students rely on them almost exclusively for legal research. This session will highlight free tools available via Internet that are increasingly important for lawyers who need to do cost-effective research in the current economic environment. In some cases, these resources are as good as (or better than) anything provided by commercial publishers. In this class, offered next week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll consider resources for both primary and secondary legal sources, including: federal and state government web sites, Google Scholar (and tips for using Google) and  current awareness tools.

Class page:

Free Legal Research
Feb. 3, 4, 5 | 1 p.m. (Room 334)
David Bachman, instructor;

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Jan 23 2014

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Resources for Monitoring a Case at SCOTUS

The resources that you can use to monitor a case at the Supreme Court include free and subscription services that are available to BU Law students. One of the most high profile cases in the Court’s current Term is NLRB v. Noel Canning, involving the President’s power to make recess appointments without the consent of the Senate.

To learn about the case, including the most current information, consider availability of these, among other sources:

  • the transcript of the oral argument, posted to the Court’s website within hours of the argument on Jan. 13
  • the docket for the case, 12-1281, updated to the present, also from the Court
  • Lyle Denniston’s same-day coverage of the oral argument on SCOTUSBlog
  • from SCOTUSBlog’s Merits Briefs section, more extensive news coverage and links to all the briefs filed in the case
  • coverage of the case on United States Law Week, including a detailed story following the oral argument (Kerberos password required)

When the Court releases its opinion, probably in the Spring, these sources and many others will provide access to the full text. For a same-day announcement of this and other SCOTUS cases, you might consider signing up for the Supreme Court Bulletin, a service of Cornell’s Legal Information Institute.

For more SCOTUS resources, see our research guide on court documents; or check out our guide to current awareness tools for links to other updates and news sources.




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Nov 13 2013

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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

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Nov 07 2013

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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.”

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Oct 30 2013

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Some Tips for Using Hein Online

We often recommend Hein Online (HO) as a great source for locating a wide range of materials–from historical U.S. legal materials to international treaties to articles in hundreds of law reviews. Journal staff members and others discover it can be an especially rich source for locating documents during source coordination. That everything is accessible in PDFs, preferred by editors concerned with following print-based Bluebook citation guidelines, makes HO the single best choice for many projects.

But those who have not used HO very much may be unfamiliar with the tools it provides to locate documents that might otherwise be hard to find. Search techniques vary with content type, but usually they include citation navigators, field searching and proximity searches.

In many cases, a researcher may simply need to retrieve a known document by citation–for example, the article by Robert Bork, Neutral Principles and Some First Amendment Problems, 47 Ind. L.J. 1 (1971). You could do this by browsing the library: select Indiana Law Journal under “I”; then open volume 47 and select the article beginning at page 1. But that’s the hard way: the Law Journal Library provides a Citation Navigator tool, allowing a user to type or paste the citation in a search box; or to begin typing in the abbreviated journal name into the form, and then adding volume and page numbers. Or you can use a simple or advanced search in such fields at article title or author name, as well as searching the full-text of the law journal library.



HO frequently provides a form-based finding aid to facilitate easy retrieval of documents by citation. For example, in treaty research, the first step can be locating a citation; the second, accessing the treaty text. Suppose you were seeking the text of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1967), published at 999 U.N.T.S. 171. HO’s United Nations Law Collection includes a finding tool, “Enter a United Nations Treaty Series Citation,” requiring only that the user enter the volume and page numbers to retrieve the treaty.

Comparable tools can be used to retrieve primary federal documents. For example, to access the original text of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 from HO’s U.S. Statutes at Large Library, you could use either its Public Law number, Pub. L. 93-205, or its Statutes at Large citation, 87 Stat. 884, to access the Act. Similarly, to retrieve Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) within the U.S. Supreme Court Library, the volume and page numbers in U.S. Reports can be added to the Citation Navigator; or the U.S. citation can be pasted in the form; or a search can be run, e.g., for party names in the Case Title field.

More advanced search techniques are also available on HO. While not comparable to searching on Lexis and Westlaw, HO’s search engine can be very effective. Suppose you were seeking statements by President Obama that addressed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy related to gay and lesbian military personnel. One of HO’s libraries is the U.S. Presidential Library, which includes dozens of sources, both historical and contemporary. Using the Advanced Search option after selecting a library, HO allows a user to run a proximity search like this: “sexual orientation military” ~50. The quotation remarks enclose the terms to be searched, and the number following the tilda symbol (~) indicates the size of the block of text within which the terms must be found for a document to be retrieved. That search of the presidential library, restricted to the years 2009-2013, retrieves six documents–including news conferences and campaign speeches–that might have been difficult to retrieve by searching news databases using Lexis, Westlaw or Google.


See HO’s Quick Reference Guide for more techniques, examples and details.

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