Dear 1Ls,

By Christina M. Herd, Reference GRA

Congratulations! You have almost made it through your first semester of law school. I remember how overwhelmed I felt at this point in my first semester. Is my outline sufficient? How do I begin studying for finals? Do I even understand the material? I was able to ask these questions to my peers in person, and I cannot imagine the difficulties of a 1L semester that is mostly online. The Law Library is here to help.

Consider study aids a multi-tool in your law school toolkit. They include hypotheticals of all lengths for exam prep, multiple-choice questions to check your knowledge of concepts, and, most importantly, summaries of cases and concepts. Some of your professors may have included suggested study aids in your syllabus. If not, the Law Library has compiled a list of useful sources for you as you enter exam season.

Resources for Comprehension

You may find yourself struggling to understand the legal concepts you learned back in August, or even last week, as you prepare for exams. Many study aids provide clear and concise summaries of the material. Here are a few of the best resources to help comprehend legal concepts:

Casenote Legal Briefs 

Glannon’s Guide

The Acing Series

Resources for Exam Preparation

Having a thorough outline ready for exams is important, but an outline is most useful when used as a reference and not a crutch. Testing your knowledge as you prepare your outline is a helpful way to ensure your exam time is spent creating a thoughtful analysis as opposed to researching rules. The more hypos you practice, the more prepared you will be for the exam. Here are a few of the best resources to test your knowledge:

Emanuel’s CrunchTime 

Examples & Explanations

Exam Pro Series

Most importantly, as you enter the exam season, don’t forget to take a deep breath and take care of yourself. You’ve got this!

Spotlight: Mindfulness, Stress Management, and Wellbeing Resources

You may have been thinking about it all semester, but after Halloween, the feeling that something spooky lurks in the future lingers…law school exams. This time coincides with the holiday season, which for many means disrupted routines and extra tasks or responsibilities, not to mention economic stress. This year, we have the added bonus of uncertainty associated with the global pandemic.

In light of all that, perhaps you would like to extend your knowledge about mental health resources available on campus?

The College of Law Mindfulness Program may be one resource of interest. A six-week program, the sessions provide basics about mindfulness meditation and opportunities to practice. The program is set to be accessed on your own schedule.

Another obvious place to start is with the resources available through the Counseling & Testing Center. The Center is open, and wellness programs are virtual.

But don’t fear! The Law Library has resources to support you too. It may be that you can minimize your exam stress by consulting tools like those found in our online study aids collection.

You may be happy to learn that we have other books that might be of interest. We have books on mindfulness, such as The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation, program materials from a continuing legal education session about applying mindfulness meditation in law practice, or Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment—And Your Life.

If mindfulness or meditation is not your jam, maybe you would find something like A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress of interest.  Stress Management for Lawyers: How to Increase Personal & Professional Satisfaction in the Law might offer tools and strategies you would find useful.

We have online access to some other titles. For example, Stress at Work Management and Prevention is easily available and offers an overview of stress and how it functions as well as coping strategies. There are a bunch of online books about mindfulness, and you can review the results of this library search to pick the book of your choice. If you’d prefer to change the focus and search for lawyer and anxiety or depression, there are also some books you might find of interest.

If you haven’t heard it before, you can remember that you heard it here: taking care of your mental health will only help you as you work your way through law school and your future career path.

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Bee .. Haunted House Disclosure Law!

Copyright © 2015 Roger H. Goun. Available at http://www.virtualnexus.com/images/beetlejuicegroup2015small.jpg

Imagine this.  You’re a New York City real estate developer.  You just married your second wife, an interior designer, and are looking to get out of the big city and experience some country life.  Your real estate agent finds exactly the perfect house in Wind River, Connecticut (not a real place upon further inspection.) However, the current owners have no interest in selling.  Strangely the day after throwing your agent out of the house, the current owners drove off of a bridge and died.  You immediately swipe in and buy the Connecticut property, and move your daughter, wife, and wife’s interior designer friend Otho into the house.  Your wife immediately starts to remodel the home to give it a more modern esthetic, because, that’s what she does.

However, weird things start happening. One day while eating lunch, everyone present, as if they could read each other’s minds, starts in on what seems to be a well-rehearsed and well-coordinated version the Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song (Day-O.)  While it was really well done, and quite a bit of fun, it seemed strange because no one in your family really likes calypso music or is a particularly good singer.  Strange.  Then, you hear your daughter, who admittedly has always been a bit eccentric, having conversations with people in the attic.  Upon inspection, you find a strange model town and an even stranger book titled Handbook for the Recently Deceased.  Interior designer Otho has always been into these types of things, so he tries to have a séance as described in the book.  Before you know it, you have a couple of decaying ghosts floating above your kitchen table, your daughter dressed in an old-timey wedding dress, and this guy Beatleguise transforming into a purple and black snake.  Even though you always preferred Michael Keaton’s batman to all the others, this situation is less than ideal, and you’d really like to get your money back and return this ridiculous house. 

Of course, this is the plot of the cult classic ghost movie Beatlejuice from a different perspective.  But, this is a legitimate legal question that has been addressed by state legislatures and courts alike – are there remedies for homebuyers who buy haunted houses?  There are causes of actions for purposefully hidden defects like plumbing and electrical issues, so why not ghosts?

Unfortunately, in terms of legal remedies, the Deetz family is probably out of luck.  Connecticut has enacted a set of statutes sometimes called the “Ghostbuster Laws[1].”  These laws specifically state that the existence of a nonmaterial fact need not be disclosed in a real estate sale and that “no cause of action shall arise for the failure to disclose a nonmaterial fact[2].” Moreover, the law defines “nonmaterial fact” as the fact that a property has been infected with diseases or was at any time suspected to have been the site of a death or felony[3].  Disclosure must only be made if asked for by the purchaser.[4]  While the statutes do not specifically mention hauntings, Connecticut law seems to focus much more on whether any nondisclosed acts had any physical effects on the house.  So long as the sandworms didn’t smash big holes in the floor (which they ended up doing in the movie), the Deetz family is probably out of luck.

But, what about Georgia? If the Deetz’s house was in, say, Stone Mountain Georgia, they’d probably have a similar result.  Unfortunately, Georgia and the rest of the country handle hauntings disclosure in much the same way.  Similar to the Connecticut law, the Georgia Stigmatized Property Act states that no cause of action shall arise for failure to disclose if the property was occupied by a person with a disease or the site of a homicide unless specifically asked[5].  If states speak on this type of disclosure, this is the majority approach[6]

Hope is not lost, though, for haunted house owners countrywide.  In Stambovsky v. Ackley, the New York Appeals Court did hold that when a house seller failed to disclose her belief that a house was haunted by a poltergeist, the buyer could rescind the contract of sale but not receive money damages[7].     

In conclusion, US law seems to favor a more “Casper the Friendly Ghost” than a “suck you into the tv Poltergeist” approach.  State statutes typically only require physical defect disclosures and typically don’t require sellers to disclose known hauntings, past murders, or diseases. So, if you’re anywhere but New York state, make sure to specifically ask your seller if the house is haunted. If you’re in the right state, they’ll have to disclose.  Otherwise, you had better hope that your ghost is the Casper type, because beyond reselling, you’re probably stuck with your house and all your new paranormal friends.  


[1] So characterized in Robinson v. Parillo, 1999 WL 240735 (Conn. Super. Ct. 1999)

[2] Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 20-329dd

[3] Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 20-329cc

[4] Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 20-329ee

[5] O.C.G.A. § 44-1-16

[6] See 18 A.L.R.7th Art. 2 (Originally published in 2016) for more examples and detail. 

[7] Stambovsky v. Ackley, 572 N.Y.S.2d 672 (1st Dep’t 1991)

PAINT BY US CODE NUMBER : PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

[REBLOG FROM NOV. 2016]

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Waterskiing Uncle Sam by Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

As we near the end of the US Presidential race, elections have taken center stage in the American consciousness. Headlines about recounts and possible non-concession have brought back memories of the Bush-Gore legal battles over Florida and a general re-interest in election law. But, where exactly does election law come from? While the nuts and bolts of the actual elections are left to the states, the United States Code lays out a very particular, partly unknown, and maybe even esoteric set of steps required to elect the President of the United States. So, come with me on an educational and entertaining journey through Title 3, sections 1-20 of the US code. Make sure to hold on to your hats- things might get weird.

3 U.S.C. § 1  – Time of appointing electors

This is straightforward, mostly.  The states appoint their electors, the people who actually elect the president, on the “Tuesday after the next Monday in November” following the presidential election.  Yes, you read that right.  States don’t even pick their electors until after the election. Contrary to popular belief, the citizens of the US do not actually elect the president, electors do.  Each state decides how the vote of their citizens effects the votes of the electors.  Typically, the electors select whichever candidate wins the state.  However, Nebraska and Maine election laws allow the states to split their electoral votes proportionally according to the popular vote.

3 U.S.C. § 2 – Failure to make a choice on proscribed day

If the state fails to choose electors on the proscribed day, the job then falls to the state legislature.

3 U.S.C. § 3 – Number of electors

This is probably the best known of the US election statutes.  The states get a number of electors equal to their number of Senators and Representatives.

3 U.S.C. § 4 (2012) – Vacancies in Electoral College

States can fill any vacancies in their electors when those electors meet to actually vote.

3 U.S.C. § 5  – Determination of controversy as to appointment of electors

This one is strange.  If the states choose, they can create procedures for settling any controversy in the picking of electors.  However, 3 U.S.C. § 5 requires that these procedures make a determination at least six days before the state electors meet to cast their votes. Don’t want to hold up the entire US Presidential election because of a few people fighting over who gets to be their states proxy vote now, do we?

3 U.S.C. § 6  – Credentials of electors; transmission to Archivist of the United States and to Congress; public inspection

Ok, this one is a bit long, and weird.  The executive of each state, typically the Governor, “as soon as practicable” must give “a certificate of ascertainment” , by certified mail, of all the state’s electors to the Archivist of the United States.  If the electors are chosen by votes, the governor has to include the number of votes too.  The governor must also send six duplicates of this certificate to each of the state’s electors.  If there was a controversy, the Governor must also send a certificate stating the outcome of that controversy.  The Archivist must keep all of these certificates for at least one year for public inspection, and give copies to both the house and senate of each and every certificate received.  I’m pretty sure certificate means letter or document in “Old Timey Government English”, and this whole electoral process stems from a time when electors had more power (ie. they were less likely to listen to the state’s voters.)  However, it a nice piece of election tradition as well as a reminder of American history, so, why not? Lets keep going!

3 U.S.C. § 7 (2012) – Meeting and vote of electors

Finally, an easy one.  Electors shall meet and give their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their appointment at such place in each State.  That’s right, again.   The entirety of the nation is well aware of who is going to be the president well before they are actually elected by the electors.

3 U.S.C. § 8 – Manner of Voting

Another easy one.  The electors vote as directed by the constitution.  We’ll save the constitution for another day.

3 U.S.C. § 9 – Certificates of votes for the President and Vice President

The electors must make and sign six certificates, with each certificate containing two lists; one for president and the other for the vice president.  Yes, for each electoral vote they must provide six signed certificates.   They also attach one of the lists of electors given to them by the executive of the state, or Governor, to each certificate.

3 U.S.C. § 10 – Sealing and endorsing certificates

Another easy one- they have to seal and endorse the certificates.  That’s all this law says.  You’d think they could have just rolled that into § 9.

3 U.S.C. § 11 – Disposition of certificates

What do they do with all these new certificates?  § 11 and I are both glad you asked.  The electors deliver the certificates as follows: one to the President of the Senate, one to the Secretary of the State, two to the archivist of the US, and one to the judge of the district where the electors assembled.  The archivist must keep one of the copies in case the president of the senate requests it, and the other for public inspection.

3 U.S.C. § 12– Failure of certificates of electors to reach President of the Senate or Archivist of the United States; demand on State for certificate

This seems to be another section of the law that was much more important before you could pick up a phone and ask the governor; “hey! Governor!  Where are all the certificates?” If the certificates fail to arrive to the President of the Senate or the Archivist by the fourth Wednesday in December, probably a week after the voting, The President of the senate should request the backup certificates from the Secretary of the State.  § 12 also says that the Archivist should serve as back up, and do the requesting if the President of the Senate  is absent.

3 U.S.C. § 13 –  Same; demand on district judge for certificate

The reason for the six certificates, and the preference by the drafters for multiple contingency plans, is becoming more evident.  If the President of the Senate or the Archivist strike out with the Governor, they then should ask the District Judge.

3 U.S.C. § 14 – Forfeiture for messenger’s neglect of duty

So you were supposed to deliver the certificates to the President of the Senate, or Archivist, and you forgot?  Do not pass go.  Forfeit $1000.  Seriously. If you mess this up, by law, you must forfeit $1000.

3 U.S.C. § 15 – Counting electoral votes in congress

Where: The sixth day of January succeeding every meeting of the electors, The House of Representatives

Who: Congress, both houses, the whole thing.

When? 1:00 pm

What: Counting the votes.  This section lays out, in tedious minutia, the rules for counting the electoral votes.  This whole thing is too long to cover here, but some of the highlights are:  The President of the Senate opens the envelopes.  The state’s votes are counted in alphabetical order, starting with the letter “A.”  As they are opened, the envelopes should be immediately handed to two previously appointed tellers.  The counts are entered into both the House and Senate Journals.  Objections must be made in writing, and be signed by a member of both the House and Senate.  After all objections to a vote are received and read, the Senate leaves the House so each can debate independently.  But, so long as the electors were correctly certified, there’s not much either body can do.

3 U.S.C.A. § 16 –  Same; seats for officers and Members of two Houses in joint meeting

But where  is everyone going to sit?  Thank goodness, the statutes actually tell us.  President of the Senate: Speakers Chair; Speaker – on the Presidents left;  Senators – the hall on the Right; Representatives – anywhere the Senators are not sitting; Tellers, Secretary of Senate, Clerk of The House – at the Clerks Desk;  Other various officers – in front of the Clerk’s desk and upon each side of the Speaker’s platform.  This section also states that they can’t dissolve the meeting until all the votes are counted and the winner declared.  They cannot take a recess unless they have some question about the votes.  Even then, they cannot declare a recess beyond the next calendar day, Sunday excepted, at 10:00 “in the forenoon.”  If they haven’t completed the counting by the fifth calendar day, they cannot take any more recesses.

3 U.S.C.A. § 17- Same; limit of debate in each House

If the two houses separate to decide on an objection, as per § 15, each Senator or Member can only speak for five minutes, and not more than once.  The whole debate cannot go on more than two hours.  Limited filibustering only.

3 U.S.C.A. § 18 –  Same; parliamentary procedure at joint meeting

The president of the senate has the power to preserve order.

3 U.S.C.A. § 19 –  Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act

Like the constitution, we’ll deal with vacancies at another time.

3 U.S.C.A. § 20 – Resignation or Refusal of Office

….must be in writing and delivered to the secretary of state.  Thank goodness, this is over.

Research Smarter Not Harder

By Gilbert Morales, Reference GRA

During my 1L year, researching caselaw triggered instant anxiety. To me, conducting research was an overwhelming experience that was hard to manage. Thankfully, I was wrong. Yes, conducting research is tough, but it is manageable by taking advantage of resources made available by the library. 

An open computer sitting on top of a wooden table

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One invaluable resource is the library’s collection of research guides (also known as LibGuides). LibGuides essentially serve as a one-stop-shop for beginning your research process. They cover many major law school topics, including Georgia Legal Research, Criminal Law, and Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Students will find links to secondary sources like major journals, treatises, and even articles. 

Students will also see links to primary sources like the Georgia Code, the Federal Code, and local ordinances. What is neat about the guides is that they include tips and tricks to make research easier for you. For example, they provide direct links to secondary sources in Westlaw and LexisNexis so that researchers do not waste time trying to navigate those resources. 

As everyone knows, time is of the essence in law school. Research guides include different approaches to accessing resources, including links to research institutes and links to popular blogs that monitor the trends for any given topic. For example, in the Land Use guide, students are directed to the Wayback Machine to uncover website pages that are no longer available online. These tips and tricks are just the tips of the iceberg. Research guides are full of different ways to make the research experience easier and more productive. 

In addition to research material, LibGuides provide links to study materials. From evidence to tax law, students can access study aids, CALI lessons, and exam archives for each topic. The convenience of finding all the essential study aids in one location is truly a time saver. 

So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by the research experience, take a deep breath, and visit the LibGuides on the library website!

Virtual Research Assistance Is Available

By Luke Smith, Reference GRA

Whether you’re a master at using Westlaw or Lexis, or are just starting your journey into legal research, there will come a time when you feel stuck or don’t even know where to begin. Researching can be difficult and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be!

The library has some great online resources that can help you start your research and find what you need faster. As most of our 2L and 3Ls know, whenever you get stuck, you can always come to chat with your Reference Librarian, usually at the reference desk in the library. If you haven’t noticed by the lack of puzzles on the 5th floor, the reference desk is temporarily part of the circulation desk.  Now before you start panicking, thinking your librarians have abandoned you, the reference desk has gone virtual for the semester.

During the law library’s usual reference hours, you’ll be able to chat virtually with one of our reference librarians. You read that correctly. It’s not some automated A.I. response, but an actual human waiting to help you! All you need to do is go to the law library website and click on the red tab on the right side of the homepage. Just type in your question, and one of our librarians will give you an answer just like they would at the reference desk.

You may still be thinking, “I’m glad I can still talk to the librarians if I get stuck, but how do I even start my research on my own?” Thankfully, the Law Library has some great Research Guides on several topics that will help you start your research and become the most efficient researcher you can be.

From the library’s homepage, click on the box that says research guides. It will take you to a page where you can pick a topic and get a terrific guide that’ll help you plan your research strategy.

Learn more about our LibGuides in our next blog post!

Celebrate Constitution Day!

Now is the time to celebrate Constitution Day! We could celebrate with a birthday song, commemorating the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Although that would probably be an interesting party (and awesome since the song is now considered to be public domain), there are other ways to celebrate.

Page 1 of the Constitution, available for viewing at http://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/downloads

The Law Library of Congress and the Library of Congress Center for Learning, Literacy and Engagement are hosting a celebration of the 2020 Constitution and Citizenship Day. “The Bulwark of Freedom”: African-American Members of Congress and the Constitution During Reconstruction will be presented by Michael J. Murphy, a historical publication specialist working in the Office of the Historian for the U.S. House of Representatives. The presentation addresses the lives of those African-American legislators serving during Reconstruction as well as the challenges they faced. Registration for the online event is free.

The National Constitution Center also has a series of special events planned, including a virtual kids town hall discussion including Justice Neil Gorsuch. The Center will also be streaming the 2020 Liberty Medal Ceremony recognizing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “for her efforts to advance liberty and equality for all.”

There are lots of celebrations for our constitution.

This year, as last year, I want to highlight an amazing resource available freely on the web: The Constitution Annotated: Analysis and Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution Annotated includes an explanation of the meaning of the Constitution, broken down Article by Article, Section by Section, and Clause by Clause. The explanation is direct and understandable, and it is heavily footnoted to the resources such as United States Supreme Court opinions that have historically interpreted the Constitution. 

Hosted by congress.gov and prepared by the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service, this is a HUGE resource. In print, it is over 3,000 pages! The online version has functionality that makes it even more useful. For example, you can search using simple keywords. You can filter and refine your results to focus on articles, amendments, topics, and resources.

Researchers who prefer to browse are easily able to do so.

For those who wish to review Constitution adjacent information, that is also available. The site includes a number of Tables—every researcher’s favorite! There is a Table of Laws Held Unconstitutional in Whole or in Part, a Table of Supreme Court Justices, and a Table of Supreme Court Decisions Overruled by Subsequent Decisions.

In addition to being a helpful resource to consider in beginning research on a constitutional law research problem, this website has the potential for helping a researcher identify trends in constitutional law over time. The site includes links to additional U.S. Constitutional Resources that are available through the Library of Congress.

Come by the library and visit our print copy—for today it is at the reference desk, regularly it’s located in the Reference Collection—or check it out online!

Meet Your Peers Virtually Using WebEx

While, currently, you are unable to make use of our study rooms due to the pandemic, you can still have a virtual study room of your own via Webex – an online platform provided to you by GSU. It’s very similar to Zoom and allows you to meet with people virtually and share your desktop, files, etc.

To access WebEx, you can host virtual meetings at GSU Technology’s WebEx page. You will have to log in with your CampusID and Password. This link provides the steps you can use to secure the WebEx session on Windows and Mac desktops, as well as information on updates and usage tips. You can also download WebEx on your iOS or Android device – It is very accessible!

WebEx has a “personal room” that allows you to meet instantly and schedule meetings. You can start the room and allow people to pop in and out as they like. I think it’s an excellent option for a study group.

Once all of your group members are in, you can lock the meeting so no one else can intrude!

You can also share your screen and documents with your peers!

Additionally, you can assign roles to people within the group. For example, you may want to designate someone as the note taker. Or, maybe you want to “pass the ball” to someone else to present.

Similar to Zoom, WebEx also allows the user to change or blur their background image. These options may differ depending on what type of device or desktop you use.

Law IT has prepared three short tutorials on using WebEx, each under 3 minutes: Technology WebEx Related Resources. Included are tutorials on scheduling and launching WebEx meetings, as well as an audio tutorial. You can be up and ready to go with your study group session in just over two minutes!

Featured Database – Proquest Congressional

Looking for government documents is an important part of Legal Research.  Whether you’re sourcing for a journal, trying to find an old committee report, or looking for some legislative history, most law students don’t escape the clutches of legal education without having to look through some federal government publications. 

While there are free sources that provide access to government documents, coverage, availability, and location can be challenging to navigate.  Publications can be spread across several different sites, each containing different coverage and search interfaces.  This is why, when a student swings by the reference desk to ask about researching federal government documents, I send them to Proquest Congressional. 

Proquest Congressional is an expansive collection of government documents.  It includes historic congressional bills, member records, hearings, debates, executive orders, and much much more.  Typically the coverage goes back to the 1700’s to the initial publications of the United States and sometimes even before.  If it is a government document cited in a brief, article, or case, I would bet that Proquest Congressional has it.

Beyond containing a lot of information, it also has simple, intuitive navigation.  The advanced search allows you to pick which collection to search without presenting an overwhelming number of options.  It also provides several fields which are incredibly useful if you’re looking for a particular person, date, or piece of legislation.  The “search by number” function, available in the Legislative and Executive Publications dropdown menu, makes searching for a citation a breeze.  Search by number provides prompts for almost any congressional document with fields designed to change with the selected publication.  This way, there is never a question about how to enter a citation, where to put a dash, or how to abbreviate a publication.

Proquest Congressional makes finding citations easy.

Proquest Congressional is something everyone should explore.  While you might not need it on a day to day basis, knowing the navigational basics makes you a much more powerful researcher.  The day that a government publication question comes, and trust me it will, a basic knowledge will let you find what you’re looking for in minutes instead of hours.  You’ll look like a gov docs whiz and impress the boots off of your editor, professor, or boss. 

Welcome Back!

The library staff and librarians want to extend a warm welcome back to returning students. Now that you’ve made it through the spring (and summer) semester, you’re now trying to prepare yourself for the unknowns of fall. We in the library wanted to send you some helpful information and let you know what fall will look like for us.

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We have a lot of helpful information on the Reopening Guide that the Law Librarians prepared for you. It will provide you up to date information about Circulation (including library hours), Reference, Study Aids, Accessing the Library’s Databases, Using the Library’s Catalog, and Other Student Services. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide study rooms for the fall semester due to the pandemic. We hope to be able to reopen them soon!

Law school can be challenging under normal circumstances. Below are some helpful links and information about library resources for the upcoming semester.

Good luck! If there is anything that we can do to help you, please let us know! You will hear from your Personal Librarian soon!