In each annual Term, the first oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court take place on the first Monday in October.
There are very many sources of information to track cases pending before the Court. Some that you may find helpful:
- The Supreme Court Bulletin, a publication of Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, is regular e-newsletter that provides previews of pending cases and reports the syllabus of each new decision on the day it is released
- United States Law Week includes an extensive array of Supreme Court information, including detailed news coverage at all stages of cases, such as the filing of writs of certiorari, oral arguments and analyses of new opinions
- SCOTUSblog provides extensive news about Court developments, including a Merits Briefs section that provides access to briefs filed in pending and recent cases
- Justia’s Opinion Summaries include summaries of new opinions from many courts, including SCOTUS, and weekly topical newsletters with summaries from various courts
You may also find legal blogs, such as Constitutional Law Prof blog, The Volokh Conspiracy and Balkinization, to be excellent sources for commentary and analysis on cases before SCOTUS and recent decisions.
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!
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 .
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.
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:
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: http://lawlibraryguides.bu.edu/cert2014_adminregs
Administrative Law Research
Feb. 14 & 18 | 1 p.m. (Room 334)
David Bachman, instructor; email@example.com
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: http://lawlibraryguides.bu.edu/cert_2014-free
Free Legal Research
Feb. 3, 4, 5 | 1 p.m. (Room 334)
David Bachman, instructor; firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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
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.”