GSU Law Scholarship Achieves Records Downloads

All the scholarship in the world doesn’t mean a thing if no one reads it or knows about it. Our institutional repository is designed to help get the word out about the exciting and innovative work of GSU Law’s faculty.

To do that, we’ve collected nearly 10,000 works, many of them made even more accessible by the inclusion of full text. And these works do reach people all over, with readers from over 200 countries downloading them 1.1 million+ times since the repository’s inception in 2010. Our most popular publication is Professor Emeritus Paul S. Milich’s definitive overview of the 2011 overhaul of Georgia’s Evidence Code.

But this may change soon, with our repository recently attracting record-breaking traffic. For example, in March alone, we had over 33,000 downloads, almost double the previous record. During that month, Professor Todres’s Human Trafficking and Film: How Popular Portrayals Influence Law and Public Perception found an especially wide readership, with 268 downloads.

As you can see, the repository is growing in importance as a vehicle for promoting our faculty’s impressive scholarship within the broader public conversation while also ensuring that it remains easy to find and accessible. Have you used this valuable resource or its counterparts at other universities and law schools? If so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments!

Summer Content Suggestions – 2021 Edition

Books, movies, podcasts, music, and game suggestions from your favorite law faculty.

Person reading newspaper while floating in the ocean.
“Dead Sea newspaper” by inju is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Hello everyone.  It has become a Georgia State University College of Law Library tradition to solicit summer leisure reading suggestions from our faculty and provide said suggestions via a well-written and entertaining blog post (typically by yours truly.)  Last year, we decided to open the content suggestions up to more than just books due to our new, more remote existences.  We liked the results from those submissions, so we decided to try asking for a variety of content mediums again. 

So, without further delay, here are some suggestions for books, movies, games, shows, podcasts, and music from GSU College of Law faculty.

Cassandra Patterson

Available in both book and Amazon Prime Video Series

The Underground Railroad by Colston Whitehead

A (somewhat fictional) story about Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When she meets Caesar, also a slave, he urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad. In Colson Whitehead’s conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop.

Jack Williams

Books

Breath by James Nestor

No matter what you eat, how much you exercise, how skinny or young or wise you are, none of it matters if you’re not breathing properly. There is nothing more essential to our health and well-being than breathing: take air in, let it out, repeat twenty-five thousand times a day. Yet, as a species, humans have lost the ability to breathe correctly, with grave consequences.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, they began to be killed off.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four, Osage, the newly created FBI took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations.

Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Dostoevsky’s most revolutionary novel, Notes from Underground, marks the dividing line between nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction and between the visions of self each century embodied

Music

Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

anything by B.E.N. on Spotify

Bill Edmundson[1]

Podcasts

The Bruenigs

They are a couple, Liz and Matt, and they are informative and sure-fire fun.  Liz is a journalist now writing for The Atlantic. Matt is a labor lawyer turned policy wonk.  They have two young girls and mix together parenting advice, cultural commentary, policy analysis, and irreverent humor —all in roughly equal measure.  (Disclosure: Matt blurbed my forthcoming book.)

Chapo Trap House

The Chapos take vulgarity, brilliance, and the mercurial to the bleeding edge.  If you sometimes feel as if events are shoving you to the point of madness, this crew could serve as your guardrails.  Topical, opinionated —even perhaps, biased.  If you know of someone funnier than Felix Biederman, sassier than Amber D’Allee Frost, or more insightful than Matt Christman, please let me know.

Books

The Founders Coup by Michael J. Klarman

…should be on every American’s bookshelf.  No —on every American’s bedside table.  Beginning law students should especially give this book their attention.  Klarman teaches at Harvard Law, and he writes clearly while telling an unforgettably compelling story —the story of the rowdy formation of our basic norm, the U.S. Constitution of 1789.

Lincoln by David H. Donald

…is not to be missed.  “Honest Abe” Lincoln —”with all flaws”— has to be at least the provisional model of every decent lawyer.  Forget Atticus Finch, that “white savior” figment of the Southern literary imagination.  Put aside the estimable Bryan Stevenson, who will never come close to holding political power. Lincoln’s was a life lived by a real, powerful, imperfect human being, who was also a lawyer to his bony marrow.

Pam Brannon

Video Games

  • Breath of the Wild
  • Any and every other Zelda game
  • Psychonauts
  • Mass Effect, especially since the Legendary Edition just came out

TV Shows

  • Haikyuu!! – A shōnen sports anime series based on the manga by Haruichi Furudate, and produced is by Production I.G and Toho in conjunction with Japanese television network MBS. The anime consists of four seasons, four movies, and five OVAs.
  • Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist – A woman starts to hear people’s innermost desires through songs.
  • Pose – A drama spotlighting the legends, icons, and ferocious house mothers of New York’s underground ball culture, a movement that first gained notice in the late 1980s.

Podcasts

  • Archive Atlanta – A weekly history podcast sharing stories about the people, places, and events that shaped the city of Atlanta.
  • Revolutions – A podcast exploring the great revolutions of history
  • Partially Examined Life –  A good reminder of my days as a philosophy undergrad.

Lisa Bliss

Board Games

Poetry for Neanderthals

…in which you have to get your teammate(s) to say the word by describing it to them using only single syllables. It’s pretty hilarious, can be enjoyed by all ages, and a game can be played quickly.

Quiddler

If you like word games, my husband and I have played a round of “Quiddler” every single night since the pandemic started.  It’s a game that uses cards with letters on them, and players use a combination of luck and strategy to create words using their cards and try to outscore the other player(s). I also love the game “Code Names.”

Kris Niedringhaus

Books

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle would last for decades and come at a steep price.

Told through the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold onto its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.

The Great Library Series by Rachel Caine

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon, both heretics and books will burn….

  1. Ink and Bone
  2. Paper and Fire
  3. Ash and Quill
  4. Smoke and Iron
  5. Sword and Pen

Podcast

Buried Truths Podcast –  We can’t change our history, but we can let it guide us to understanding. Buried Truths investigates still-relevant stories of injustice, resilience, and racism in the American South.

Terrance Manion

Books

Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad

This is the never-before-told story of the musical revolution that happened right under the nose of the Reagan Eighties–when a small but sprawling network of bands, labels, fanzines, radio stations, and other subversives reenergized American rock with punk rock’s do-it-yourself credo and created music that was deeply personal, often brilliant, always challenging, and immensely influential.

Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture by Grace Elizabeth Hale

In Athens, in the eighties, if you were young and willing to live without much money, anything seemed possible. Cool Town reveals the passion, vitality, and enduring significance of a bohemian scene that became a model for others to follow. Grace Elizabeth Hale experienced the Athens scene as a student, small-business owner, and band member. Blending personal recollection with a historian’s eye, she reconstructs the networks of bands, artists, and friends that drew on the things at hand to make a new art of the possible, transforming American culture along the way.

American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley

As the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing approaches, the award-winning historian and perennial New York Times bestselling author takes a fresh look at the space program, President John F. Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and America’s race to the moon.

Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night by Julian Sancton

The harrowing true survival story of an early polar expedition that went terribly awry–with the ship frozen in ice and the crew trapped inside for the entire sunless, Antarctic winter–in the tradition of David Grann, Nathaniel Philbrick, and Hampton Sides

Music (all on vinyl)

  • fIREHOSE
  • the Replacements
  • Husker Du
  • Dinosaur Jr (including their brand new album, Sweep It Into Space, which is actually good)
  • B-52’s
  • Pylon

Yaniv Heled

Books

The “Culture” series by Ian Banks

The Culture series or Culture cycle refers to a series of novels and short fiction written by Scottish author Iain Banks. The stories center around the Culture, a post-scarcity semi-anarchist utopia consisting of various humanoid races and managed by very advanced artificial intelligence.

Within the Culture series:

Consider Phlebas by Ian Banks

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died; billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.

Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it and with it their own destruction.

The Algebraist by Ian Banks

It is 4034. Humanity has made it to the stars. Fassin Taak, a Slow Seer at the Court of the Nasqueron Dwellers, will be fortunate if he makes it to the end of the year. The Nasqueron Dwellers inhabit a gas giant on the outskirts of the galaxy, in a system awaiting its wormhole connection to the rest of civilization. In the meantime, they are dismissed as decadents living in a state of highly developed barbarism, hoarding data without order, hunting their own young & fighting pointless formal wars.

Nirej Sekhon

Book

East West Street by Philippe Sands

A renowned international law scholar discovers that this family history is wound up more intimately with international criminal law than he ever might’ve imagined.  This history/memoir/biography recounts Sands’ genealogical journey in gripping detail.      

Lauren Sudeall

Book

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Gifty is a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her.

But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief–a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut.

Patrick Parsons

Podcasts

  • Cocaine and Rhinestones –  a podcast about the history of 20th Century Country Music and the lives of those who gave it to us.
  • Broken Record – a musical artist interview podcast by Rick Rubin, Malcolm Gladwell, and former New York Times editor Bruce Headlam.  Most notably, Rick Rubin is the producer responsible for albums like Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication, Johnny Cash’s The Man Comes Around, and System of a Down’s Toxicity.  He is undoubtedly one of the most influential music producers in American popular music.  This link goes directly to Rick’s interview with Atlanta’s own Andre 3000.

Video Game

  • Dragon Age Inquisition – I hadn’t owned video games since the Playstation 2.  This is still the only game I own, and it took more time to finish it than I’ve spent on anything in the past few years.  I might not buy another video game until the next Drago Age installment comes out. 

TV Show

  • The Last Narc – In 1985, DEA agent Enrique `Kiki” Camarena is kidnapped, tortured and murdered by Mexican drug lords. Special agent Hector Berellez reveals the truth about the conspiracy behind Camarena’s murder that stretches from Mexico to Washington, D.C.

[1] Descriptions by Professor Edmundson himself

New Database List: Looks a little different, but does the same things and then some

On Wednesday, May 26, 2021 (just in time for the start of the summer semester), the Law Library launched its new database list tool aptly titled “Law Library Databases A-Z.”

For the most part, students might not even notice or experience much of a change. The new service should look remarkably familiar for a couple of reasons. Namely, it shares the same platform with the Law Library’s existing Research Guides. Further, the University Library also uses the same tool to host its database list.

As such, we do not expect students to have too many issues accessing the databases they rely on for research. That said, the new platform presents a number of new features and potential integrations with other systems.

The new database list offers a powerful interface to browse, sort, search and share the law library’s licensed databases. Users can still browse databases alphabetically, by subject, access type, and vendor, as well as search the entire collection. We retired the obscure and confusing access codes (GSU, GSR, LL, COL, etc.) for more descriptive access types such as College of Law only, All GSU, and Law Library workstations. Did you really ever know the difference between a GSU and GSR database?

New features include “Popular Law Student Databases” and “New and Trial Databases” lists located on the website’s right rail. These features offer easy access to commonly used law school resources and new library acquisitions, respectively. The new database list also allows for the simple sharing of resources –by this, we mean sharing with yourself for later use or sharing with your fellow students. After each database, there is a share icon that will allow users to email the database name, description, and link to themselves or another user. The “Top Resource” feature allows librarians to tag a database as a preferred or suggested resource and spotlight it in the browsable subject list display. Finally and arguably most important, now that the Law Library’s database list shares a platform with Research Guides, databases can be better leveraged and integrated into the research guides.

This is all good news, but it is somewhat bittersweet sunsetting our old Database List. This was a clever in-house application built by a handful of intelligent people (other than myself). The administrative side of the database list also managed Law Library’s proxy server. Pretty cool, right? While I cannot identify the actual launch date, the Wayback Machine suggests the database list served the College of Law Library and its patrons for at least fifteen years. That is a long life for a web application. So it is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to the old and hello to the new.

The new database list can be found at https://libguides.law.gsu.edu/az.php. All links on the Law Library webpage will direct researchers to the new service. The look of our research guides and Law Library Databases A-Z may change in the coming months as the Law Library moves to a new website presence more in line with the College of Law’s website. That said, the functionality will remain the same.

Do good research.

Celebrating the Class of 2021 & The Library’s Student Advisory Council

Graduation is always an exciting time with much to reflect on: the three-plus years of hard work, the upcoming bar exam (and final part of your journey to becoming a practicing attorney), and many other reflective thoughts. So, as we celebrate in the law library, we want to congratulate all of the graduates on overcoming and achieving an important milestone in your life!

We thank each of you that supported the law library in various ways throughout the years. Whether it was filling out a survey, dropping by the reference desk to check-in, or giving your suggestions to improve student life, it was all appreciated. We also want to especially thank the members of the Law Library Student Advisory Council. The advisory council’s graduating members spent three to four years of their time serving the GSU student community.

The Student Advisory Council started in Spring 2011 to give law students a formal voice in library decisions. We met multiple times each semester and discussed ideas involving the library. These are just a few of the ideas implemented based on feedback from the Advisory Council: installing full-length mirrors in the library’s bathrooms, adding a hot water dispenser, and making the 6th floor of the library the “quiet floor” (and including elevator buttons to indicate as much.)

The following Student Advisory Council members are graduating this year:

  • Luke Hoover
  • Ellen Min
  • Valentina Poe
  • Maria Tellez (Graduated in December 2020)
  • Arlissa Williams Jennings

For a list of all of our members, and more information about the council, see our web page.

Graduates, good luck with everything. We wish you much success in the future. Remember that we are always available to assist you, even as practicing members! We’re only a chat or phone call away. 

Summer Lexis & Westlaw Access

WestLexis-holding-hands-on-beach-3727554

Lexis and Westlaw have historically altered their access policy for students and recent graduates during the summer. The Law Library has recently received an update from both Sue Moore at Westlaw and Brittany Conklin at Lexis. They will provide summer access as described below.

Access and Restrictions for Rising 2Ls and 3Ls

Lexis

Law students will automatically have free unlimited use of their law school Lexis ID this summer. No registration is required.

Westlaw

You do not have to do anything to gain access to Westlaw over the summer.  However, there are use restrictions.

You may only use Westlaw over the summer for non-commercial research. You can turn to these resources to gain understanding and build confidence in your research skills, but you cannot use them in situations where you are billing a specific client at a law firm. Examples of permissible uses for your academic password include the following but are not limited to:

  • Summer coursework or any type of academic research
  • Research Assistant assignments
  • Law Review or Journal research
  • Moot Court or any trial competition research
  • Non-Profit work
  • Clinical work
  • Externship/Internship sponsored by the school
  • Practicing your research skills

Access for Graduating 3Ls

Lexis

Graduates may access Lexis for free through December 31st, 2021. No registration is required.

Westlaw

You must register for Graduate access.

May 2021 Graduates will see grad access information when they sign on to lawschool.tr.com – their access is “normal” until May 31st. Starting June 1st – November 30th, they will have 60 hours of usage per month for six months. The direct link to extend for grad access is https://lawschool.westlaw.com/authentication/gradelite.

If you have any questions about Westlaw grad access, please email Sue at sue.moore@tr.com.

Finals Resources and Assistance

Another tough semester almost complete! We wanted to remind you of some of the resources available to help you prepare for exams, get research assistance from the librarians, or take a break from studying! As a reminder, we will be open to the GSU Law community for normal Spring 2021 hours through the end of the exam period, May 12th. Keep an eye out on our Facebook and Twitter pages for exam and graduation-related messages and videos. 

Study Aid Finder LibGuide:

  • The Study Aid Finder guide provides easy access to a compilation of digital, physical, and multimedia study aids grouped according to the traditional GSU College of Law curriculum (with recommended electives being subjects tested on the bar exam but are not required subjects of the J.D. curriculum). The current Spring ’21 classes are displayed towards the top of each respective page.

Stress Buster LibGuide:

  • The Stress Busters guide is available via the private link sent to you in the most recent personal librarian email. We hope that it serves as an outlet during final exams. When you take the time to de-stress, you’ll recharge and be able to focus when you return to your studies. The GSU Law Library has gathered a variety of stress relief activities for you to enjoy. 

Pet Pics Display:

  • Pictures of students, faculty, staff, and their pets are displayed via the private link sent to you in the most recent personal librarian email. Please reach out to us if you need access to it. These images are also being displayed on the law library digital signage. You can still get your pet added to the display by emailing Gerard Fowke at gfowke@gsu.edu

Blog posts with helpful information from the library to help you with finals, including:

Good luck with finals! Reach out to us if you need assistance, research-based or otherwise.

Helpful Study Aids for Spring Courses

As finals approach, study aids are again in high demand. It’s easy to see why. Although study aids make a poor replacement for casebooks and other required materials, they can be a tremendously helpful tool for exam-prep purposes. They provide concise and highly organized reviews of topics covered in the typical law school course on the subject. The best ones also give students some valuable practice for their analytical skills. But with so many study aids out there, featuring differing formats and uses and often featuring very stark differences in quality, how can you know you’re choosing the best one?

Let’s try to answer this question while looking at a few of the best study aids for this semester’s 1L offerings. We’ll talk about what makes them worthy and how you might use them. This will also give us a nice opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the various study aid formats and series you’ll encounter.

Examples & Explanations for Property (online/physical)

The E&E series provides an accessible course overview while also foregrounding the important skill of legal analysis. It does this by structuring the entire discussion around the titular examples, a format that proves to be especially well-suited for explaining future estates and other similarly knotty concepts from Property Law. Indeed, this title’s analysis of these hypotheticals evokes the common law methods of legal analysis at the heart of this core doctrinal course. This helps to make the supplement truly feel like an extension of the classroom discussion.

The Glannon Guide to Civil Procedure (online/physical)

The author’s CivPro E&E (online/physical) is an absolute classic, but don’t sleep on this one either. Glannon Guides have a similar focus on analysis and application, but here it’s in the form of multiple-choice questions. After each one, Professor Glannon patiently explains the right (and wrong) answers in conversational prose that helps demystify this oft-convoluted area of law. The overall format works especially well for the more FRCP-driven aspects of Civil Procedure.

Principles of Contract Law (Concise Hornbook Series) (online/physical)

If you’re chiefly after a bird’s eye view of the course, there are many study aids designed with just that in mind. However, in my experience, NutshellsShort & Happy Guides, and the like don’t provide enough detail or nuance to be truly useful. They can help you learn basic concepts and doctrines quickly, but that’s about it.

The Concise Hornbook Series provides a nice (if less concise) alternative. Like other titles in the series, Principles of Contract Law provides an overview of the major course topics. However, it keeps many of the doctrinal subtleties intact. Believe me, those subtleties will come in quite handy when asked to apply those doctrines to a novel fact pattern on an exam.  

Sum & Substance: Criminal Law (online)

Audio study aids like the Sum & Substance series are a convenient resource for busy law students. It’s easy to multitask with these, to simply put them on in the background during a commute or while housekeeping, and efficiently absorb a tidy little overview of one of your law school courses.

Here, Professor Dressler endeavors to be your “tour guide” for Criminal Law, splitting the lectures into a series of audio tracks that are mostly quite short and easy to digest. His overall presentation is a bit dry but always very clear. This study aid is also a solid choice because it makes a great companion for Dressler’s well-regarded hornbook, Understanding Criminal Law (physical).

Summing It Up

My overall advice is to choose study aids that emphasize analysis and application, such as the E&E series and the Glannon Guides. This ensures that you’re practicing the skills that you will be tested on in your exams. Even if you end up opting for a hornbook-style overview, consider supplementing it with some CALI lessons since the included quizzes provide a nice opportunity to test your grasp on the material. There are high-quality lessons covering many of the topics taught in CivProContractsCriminal Law, and Property.

Thanks to your tech fee funds, Study Aids are more accessible than ever, with most of the major series available for use online through the Wolters Kluwer and West Academic platforms. These resources try to recreate the format and the feel of their print counterparts, making them a breeze to use.

What are your favorite study aids? What do you look for when you’re trying to choose one to prep for an exam? Let us know in the comments!

The Basics of Basic Tax Research

Liberty + Tax
“Liberty + Tax” by MTSOfan is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

For C.P.A.’s, accountants, and tax procrastinators of all kinds, April 15 is the anti-holiday of anti-holidays.  While the official tax “due date” was recently moved to May 17, April 15 will probably always exist as one of the more dreaded days for Americans.  In the spirit of tax day, we here at the Georgia State College of Law Library thought it would be fun, relatively speaking, to give the most basic of basic primers on tax law.  Unless you are well versed in tax law, even the lingo can be a little confusing.  So, without further ado, let us begin the non-tax person’s primer on tax law research. 

Where is it?

The tax code is officially codified in Title 26 of the United States Code, or 26 U.S.C. § 1 et. seq.  It spans from 26 U.S.C.  §§ 1-9834.  While it’s not the longest, and doesn’t contain the most words, 9834 sections is quite lengthy for a title containing only one topic.  For comparison, Title 42 – Public Health and Welfare is the longest but includes a number of sub-topics like housing, child welfare, energy, etc[1]

Citation is one point of constant confusion.  While you may cite the codification in the U.S. Code, you can also cite the Internal Revenue Code itself.  For example, 26 U.S.C. § 1 and I.R.C. § 1 cite to the same text, with the latter being favored by practitioners for brevity.

The tax code also creates and enables many Federal Regulations, Agencies (the I.R.S.), and administrative documents.  Title 26 of the Code of Federal Regulations contains most tax regulations.  Moreover, the Internal Revenue Service writes a number of advisory documents.  These non-binding writings try to offer some interpretation of the tax statutes, regulations, and administrative decisions.  While non-binding, they do offer some predictions as to what the I.R.S. might do or how they might interpret certain situations. Most are available on Westlaw, Lexis, or the I.R.S. Website. The I.R.S. website describes them this way:

“For anyone not familiar with the inner workings of tax administration, the array of I.R.S. guidance may seem, well, a little puzzling at first glance. To take a little of the mystery away, here’s a brief look at … the most common forms of guidance.

In its role in administering the tax laws enacted by the Congress, the I.R.S. must take the specifics of these laws and translate them into detailed regulations, rules and procedures. The Office of Chief Counsel fills this crucial role by producing several different kinds of documents and publications that provide guidance to taxpayers, firms and charitable groups.”

Some of the most common guidance documents are: [2]

Revenue RulingAn official interpretation by the I.R.S. of the Internal Revenue Code, related statutes, tax treaties and regulations. It is the conclusion of the I.R.S. on how the law is applied to a specific set of facts.
Revenue Procedure  An official statement of a procedure that affects the rights or duties of taxpayers or other members of the public under the Internal Revenue Code, related statutes, tax treaties and regulations and that should be a matter of public knowledge.  While a revenue ruling generally states an I.R.S. position, a revenue procedure provides return filing or other instructions concerning an I.R.S. position
Private Letter RulingA written statement issued to a taxpayer that interprets and applies tax laws to the taxpayer’s specific set of facts. A PLR is issued to establish with certainty the federal tax consequences of a particular transaction before the transaction is consummated or before the taxpayer’s return is filed.
Technical Advice MemorandumGuidance furnished by the Office of Chief Counsel upon the request of an I.R.S. director or an area director, appeals, in response to technical or procedural questions that develop during a proceeding.  Technical Advice Memoranda are issued only on closed transactions and provide the interpretation of proper application of tax laws, tax treaties, regulations, revenue rulings or other precedents. The advice rendered represents a final determination of the position of the I.R.S., but only with respect to the specific issue in the specific case in which the advice is issued. Technical Advice Memoranda are generally made public after all information has been removed that could identify the taxpayer whose circumstances triggered a specific memorandum.
NoticeA public pronouncement that may contain guidance that involves substantive interpretations of the Internal Revenue Code or other provisions of the law. For example, notices can be used to relate what regulations will say in situations where the regulations may not be published in the immediate future.
AnnouncementAn announcement is a public pronouncement that has only immediate or short-term value. For example, announcements can be used to summarize the law or regulations without making any substantive interpretation; to state what regulations will say when they are certain to be published in the immediate future; or to notify taxpayers of the existence of an approaching deadline.

Quick Federal Tax Research Tips

While navigating the seemingly endless statutes, regulations, cases, and guidance documents may seem impossible, there are sources available here at Georgia State that can help make quick sense of your tax law research question.  In particular, they allow you to do three main tasks: Research by I.R.C. citation, research by tax topic, and quickly pull I.R.S. guidance documents. 

Research by I.R.C. Citation

                This method works exactly like it sounds – If you have an I.R.C. citation, you can find associated secondary material, editorial content, and plain language explanations about the topics contained in this citation.  Historically, several sources have been organized around the I.R.C., but maybe the easiest for GSU students is United States Tax Reporter by R.I.A. in Westlaw.  If you have a citation, say I.R.C. § 1, all you have to do is open the corresponding dropdown menu, find the section, and the reporter will provide you with the text of the section, historical context, legislative history material, and editorial analysis. 

Research by Tax Topic

                If you don’t already know the I.R.C. code section dealing with your issue, you can also research by topic using the Lexis Tax Advisor.  You can search the entire publication, but the most powerful tool is the index. Not only can you find the topic you’re looking for, it will also give you some ideas for other sub-topics.  For instance, if you’re looking for information on accounting standards and look up “accounting,” you’ll see that one of the sub-topics is S Corporations.  A novice researcher may not have known that S corporations have their own unique tax accounting topics, but by using the index, they can discover these types of things. 

Retrieving Advisory Documents

Finally, the Westlaw Tax Find and Keycite page will allow you to retrieve the guidance documents listed above.  Just visit the page, select “rulings and releases,” choose the document you’re looking for, and enter the numeric part of the citation. It’s as easy as that. 

Conclusion

While tax is often seen as one of the more challenging law school classes, tax research is surprisingly accessible because of the powerful research tools made available to tax students and practitioners alike.  So long as you have a topic, I.R.C. section, or guidance document citation, you should be able to quickly and efficiently use the tools above to get started on your research.  Also, remember, if you run into difficulties, never hesitate to reach out to the librarians here at the Georgia State College of Law Library. We’re available by our individual emails, the reference email address  lawreference@gsu.edu, or by our reference chat available at http://lawlibrary.gsu.edu .


[1] https://bommaritollc.com/2013/08/19/is-the-tax-code-the-longest-title/

[2] https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/understanding-irs-guidance-a-brief-primer

Personal Librarian: Meg Butler

During the spring and fall semesters of this year, we are highlighting our Personal Librarian program by featuring one of our Law Librarians.

The Personal Librarian program is another way that the GSU Law Library connects to students. In this program, students are paired with a Librarian, and through communications, they stay up to date on library services and ask questions that they may have during their time at the Georgia State University College of Law.

This month we are featuring Meg Butler, our Associate Director for Public Services. She has been at the GSU Law Library for 10 years!

The following is a little Q&A from Meg:

  • What do you do? In the library, I am the Associate Director for Public Services, and that means that I work to make sure that the library is doing what it needs to do to fulfill the needs of our patrons–faculty, students, and citizens.
  • Did you always want to be a librarian? Sometimes.  When I was little, in elementary school, I “worked” in the library.  And middle school.  And high school.  And somehow I didn’t manage to become a professional librarian until later.
  • Favorite movie? This is a very difficult question to answer.  I have enjoyed a bunch of serious movies.  But the movies that I love to watch over and over again are Addams Family Values and The Pirate Movie.  I like them because they make me laugh.
  • Favorite legal resource? The Bluebook.  Who doesn’t love something so easy to complain about?
  • Favorite place in Atlanta? I enjoy working in my front yard. So maybe my front yard? I can chat with neighbors, enjoy the weather, and watch my kids ride bikes or scooters.

You can learn more things about Meg, like her favorite class and lunch spot near the law school, as well as about the personal librarian program at this link.

Recommended Reading from Necessity of Unparalleled Unity CLE

Friday, March 19, the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism presented The Necessity of Unparalleled Unity, a program focusing on the ways that attorneys can serve the public and the common good by using the tools of professionalism and “lead our fellow Americans in bridging our divisions despite our differences” (Program Materials, p. 1).

The panelists represented a variety of perspectives and experiences, including judges and practicing attorneys with significant leadership experience. The panelists shared their thoughts and suggestions for attorneys to build bridges. Several panelists commented upon the need to build connection by developing relationships—talking and listening (not just waiting to talk again) with each other.

If you missed the program—moderated by Professor Tanya Washington—and wish to learn more, you may visit the website and read the speakers’ prepared materials, related articles from the August 2020 Georgia Bar Journal issue addressing the subject, and also review materials related to the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism.

Several speakers recommended books that are available in the law library. Here are their suggestions. Books may be available as ebooks through GSU Libraries, as indicated below. Some are available for delivery to the College of Law to GSU students, faculty, and staff who log in to their library accounts and request the items, as described below.

Several panelists recommended some books to the attendees. These books are available for GSU students, faculty, and staff through the library. Mr. Bell recommended The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (available as an ebook too), and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson (available as an ebook too).

Judge Dax Lopez recommended Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States by Felipe Fernandez-Arnesto. Ms. Patrise Perkins-Hooker recommended the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War by Douglas A. Blackmon (also available as an ebook). There  is also a DVD called Slavery by Another Name, which is based on the book and was an Official Selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

If you want to read any of these books, you can sign in to your library account (there is a link on the upper right). If you want to request delivery of the print version, you can select delivery to the library of your choice and either pick it up in person from the law library or arrange for curbside Express Pickup from one of the other university libraries.