Honoring Representative Elijah Cummings

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© AFGE – 2017 AFGE Legislative Conference Sunday  [CC BY 3.0], from Creative Commons – Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/V2uWzD)

You may have heard that Congress suffered a loss this morning, as Maryland Representative Elijah E. Cummings passed away. Before beginning his lengthy public service career, Cummings graduated from Howard University with a degree in political science and later the University of Maryland with his J.D.

His lengthy terms of public service include 14 years in the Maryland House of Delegates. Among his notable accomplishments, he was the first African American in Maryland history to be named as Speaker Pro Tem, according to Congressman Cummings’s official biography. At the time of his death, the Congressman represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. He served in that capacity since 1996, including his current assignment as the Chairman of the powerful Committee on Oversight and Reform.

You might wonder—how do we, as a country, honor our public servants when they pass on? (Note: this might be written slightly differently and described as an issue statement: whether the United States requires particular pageantry, ceremony, or memorial upon the death of a serving Congressman?)

The great news is that the United States Code (U.S.C.) offers some answers!

According to the 4 U.S.C. § 7(m), “The flag shall be flown at half-staff…on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress.”  This code section generally addresses the position and manner of display of the flag.

As we parse statutes, we understand that there are often definitions that are relevant. In this code section, there is a sub-section 4 U.S.C. § 7(m)(3) which offers the following definition: “the term ‘Member of Congress’ means a Senator, a Representative, a Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico.” Clearly, Congressman Cummings is a member of Congress.

As a researcher, parsing the code section, I might also wonder what “half-staff” means. Is that defined anywhere?

Yes! It is! First, 4 U.S.C. § 7(m) explains clearly that a flag flown at half-staff should first be raised to the top of the flag pole and then lowered to half-staff. A bit more reading, and the researcher sees “half-staff” defined! Unsurprisingly, “’Half-staff’ means the position of the flag when it is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff.” 4 U.S.C. § 7(m)(1).

There is a related Presidential Proclamation (No. 3044), issued by President Eisenhower on March 1, 1954 and amended on December 12, 1969 by President Nixon. The proclamation indicates that “the flag…shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia on the day of death and on the following day upon the death of a United States…Representative…, and it shall also be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the State, Congressional District, Territory, or Commonwealth of” the Representative “from the day of death until interment.”

President Trump issued his own Proclamation on the Death of Elijah E. Cummings, and it appears consistent with the requirements mandated in the United States Code. In fact, since 1994, there have been 26 presidential proclamations on the death of various individuals ranging from celebrity Bob Hope who was famous in part for entertaining troops; to United States Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White; to civil rights icons Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks.

In the interest of completeness, it may be worth checking for additional relevant statutes. (Remember, with no statutes there will not be relevant regulation.)

The index to the U.S.C. includes entries for the House of Representatives — Death. A sub-entry under Death is Monuments and Memorials, directing me to 2 U.S.C. § 4110 (formerly 2 U.S.C. § 51).

Upon reviewing the code section, the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives has the duty of having a granite monument inscribed and erected for any deceased member of Congress who is actually interred in the Congressional Cemetery. The cost of the monument is paid from the contingent funds of the House of Representatives.

Search & Browse the U.S. Constitution Online

In celebration of Constitution Day, 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 would 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!

COL Offers Support to Keep Bar Pass Rates High

by law gra Sara Landeryou

We work so hard at law school.  The last thing we want to do is come in on a day when we don’t have class, right?  For a mandatory Bar Prep?  Ugh…..

But what a presentation.  For those of you not in the know yet, the school had a mandatory MBE boot camp  for students graduating in May.  It was actually a great experience.  The speaker was high energy and gave us lots of clues that we may not get in whatever prep course we take.

Over the next few months, we’ll also have MPT and Essay practice.  And we won’t pay an extra penny for it.  It seems that GSU doesn’t have that amazing pass rate just because we are the most amazing law students ever.  The COL is investing in our future!  They are giving us extra tools to help us be successful.  Yes, we’ve paid tuition, but I haven’t heard about those big expensive schools going out of their way to try to ensure that students pass.  Have you?  Oh, and what do their pass rates tell you?

If the bar exam is still a few years away, you can rest easy knowing that the COL has a vested interest in you passing and will help you do it.  If you are graduating in May, things probably got very real for you at the bootcamp.  If you’re like most of us, you’ve stopped grumbling about mandatory boot camp, are a little more comfortable about getting started on studying soon, and have a healthy respect for the subtle difference in multiple choice answers that can be the difference between you passing and trying again.

If you haven’t purchased a prep program, talk to your friends, talk to reps around the school, talk to the Deans and your professors.  It seems like we work so hard in class that we’ve forgotten that it will eventually all come down to this:  THE BAR EXAM!

Thank you COL for helping to get us ready!

Managing Your Time in Law School

By law gra Sara Landeryou

Whether you just survived your first semester, are beginning your last, or are somewhere in between, YOU ARE BUSY.  And no one but other law students or lawyers really gets it.  So how do you make time to do everything you need to do, some of the things you want to do, and the things your family and friends expect of you?  You could stretch yourself so thin that you snap.  You could stop sleeping or eating to gain extra time.  You could let the exercise go.  Or, you can keep reading (if you have the time) and learn some tricks for using your time wisely while in law school.

There is no way to add hours to your day, so we need to learn how to use the time we have more effectively.  The ideas below are geared toward the time that we are in school, but good habits will hopefully spill over into our lives after school and will be helpful as our responsibilities change.

Your future may include working in big law and billing lots of hours for several years, getting married and having children, opening your own firm, you just never know.  Learning how to manage your time effectively now will help with all those things that are coming more quickly than you think!

So what can you do?

Get more and better sleep.  It seems counterintuitive when you are trying to save time, but getting more and better quality sleep will actually save you time in the long run.  When you are well rested, you have more energy, your mind is clearer (for studying), and your body is healthier, so you don’t risk getting sick when finals roll around.

Exercise.  Yes, it takes time, and maybe you can’t carve out an hour a day, but even a little will help you to feel better.  You can add exercise or at least extra movement during the day.  It will keep your body and brain energized and you will feel better for it at the end of the day.  Take the stairs, do your reading while you’re on the treadmill or the elliptical, do a few relaxing yoga poses five minutes before bed.  Even increasing your movement 15 minutes in bits

throughout the day is a win.

Mix your studying and social time.  Really.  Study with your friends.  Have a glass of wine or a beer.  Work through hypos in a more relaxed and social scene.  You can’t study drunk, but you’ll actually learn more by talking through hypos with friends than by rereading a case book.  Yes, you’ve got to practice writing, but the most important part of learning is really “getting” it.  That is done by talking it through and practicing applying the law.  Who better to do that with than the people at school that you like the most.

Give family and non-law friends 100% of your attention.  This is tough.  You’ve got so much on your mind, you really don’t have time to hang out, and now you’re being told to give 100% of your attention?  It can be done.  In fact, one of the reasons they are frustrated is that when you are with them, you aren’t “with” them.  So, you can actually get away with less time as long as the time you give is quality time.  Instead of spending all of Saturday with mom and having to blow off other friends on Sunday, go for a run with friends in the morning and take mom to lunch.  But don’t think about law school at all.  You need the break and so do they!

If you are working….  This is a little harder, but worth a try.  If you are a student that is working and going to law school, try to work in the legal field.  First, your colleagues will understand the struggle better than non-law colleagues and they’ll cut you some slack.  Second, you’ll be learning more about the law while you are at work, and you’ll be learning a lot of the things you don’t learn in law school.  You’ll also be networking to some extent and may work yourself right into a post-lawschool job which will save you a lot of interviewing time.

Turn off your phone.  Not all the time, but for at least an hour of reading/studying time.  It is so easy, especially when you have a boring class and/or terrible reading, to keep peeking at your phone or listening for that little buzz that lets you set the book down and check out something more interesting.  Just shut it down!  Give yourself an hour and power through all of that reading instead of dragging it out and never finishing it all.

Plan.  Set a plan for yourself.  This doesn’t mean that you have to make an hourly calendar of what you are going to do, but it does mean taking 5 now to look ahead.  If you’ve read your syllabus and you know that you’re going to have a project due in the end of February, right about the same time that your best friend has her annual birthday party that leaves you in bed for three days after, start working on it as soon as possible.  Outline as you go instead of waiting until the end of the semester, set monthly goals for that big paper so that you can turn it in before it is due instead of cranking it out at the end.

Reflect.  At least for a few minutes, each day, week, or month.  Look at what has been working for you, and what hasn’t, and change it.  .

Have any other ideas for saving time?  Share them with your friends!

Welcome back!

Georgia State Capitol--Atlanta Georgia Photo by atlexplorer on flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/atlexplorer/3491664639

Georgia State Capitol–Atlanta Georgia

You might think this post is about welcoming students back for the semester! Ha!

(Seriously, we are happy to have you all back in the library. It is great to see the library and its resources in full swing.)

In fact, it is time to welcome our state legislators back to session! The Georgia General Assembly convened Monday, January 14, at 10 AM, and our representatives in the State Senate and House of Representatives are already hard at work.

If you visit the Georgia General Assembly site, you will find access to all the goings-on. If you want to review any of the 19 pre-filed (filed prior to the kickoff of the legislative session) bills in the house, go right ahead. Subject matter of prefiled bills ranges from tampon education and taxes to exempting retirement benefits from military service from income tax to repealing the 18th Amendment regarding prohibition from the Constitution of the United States.

Of course, there is plenty of other information to be found on the site as well. It is possible to follow the committee meeting schedules, and live stream the Senate chamber and the House of Representatives chamber.

If you are curious about what has happened in prior sessions, not only can you read a bit about the history of the General Assembly, which started operation in 1777 and has followed its schedule since then. It has met in all of the locations for the state capital, Savannah, Augusta, Louisville, Milledgeville, and Atlanta. You can also search for prior proposed and enacted legislation from earlier legislative sessions.

Celebrate Constitution Day

Alexander Hamilton is a trending founding father–joining the ranks of George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison. Today is the day to celebrate the fruits of founding fathers. It’s Constitution Day!

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

The United States celebrates Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17. See 36 U.S.C. 106.  The observance is to “commemorate the formation and signing on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution.” 36 U.S.C. 106(b). Prior to the official celebration, Constitution Day, Inc., promoted the commemoration.

Not only can you use your legal research tools to locate the law–either the codified statute or the Public Law–that contains the observance and information about its subsequent amendments, but you can also find cases that mention Constitution Day.

If you would like to learn more about the history of Constitution Day, consider consulting Professor Garfield’s article, “What Should We Celebrate on Constitution Day?”

One of my favorite resources for researching the constitution is provided by the U.S. Government Publishing Office: The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation. A comprehensive treatise–covering the Constitution from start to finish–includes references to almost 6000 cases. If you are researching a constitutional issue and are looking for a great starting place, this is a very helpful research tool.

Of course, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) also provides excellent information about the founding documents–the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, which are available for viewing in the Rotunda at the National Archives Museum.

Study Room Booking Improvement

I am happy to share an improvement we have made to the law library study room booking system.

The actual process of making a reservation will be simpler. Simply select the start time for your reservation and use the drop down menu that will appear at the bottom of the screen to set the end time!

Screen capture of updated study room booking system.

We encourage you to try out the system and see for yourself just how easy it is to make your own booking. It will be faster for you, also, when you want to pick up your key.

Other policies remain the same:

The rooms are for two or more law students. Rooms can be checked out for up to 3 hours per day per Campus ID.

At least two members of the group must be present within the first 10 minutes of the reservation to check out the door key. A group that is more than 10 minutes late forfeits the reservation.

Reservations can be made in person or online up to one week in advance of the reservation date.