Austin (if he were still here): What is your name and what do you do?
Cierra: My name is Cierra Cooper. I’m a Library Associate I, and I oversee the circulation desk and fulfillment services at the law library.
A: How long have you been at Georgia State University College of Law Library?
C: I have been at the Georgia State University College of Law Library Since July 2022. (Editor’s note: at the time of writing, this is around a single month, so be sure to welcome Cierra to the GSU Law community!)
A: What books are currently on your nightstand (or Kindle)?
C: The books currently on my nightstand are Cherish Farrah by Bethany Morrow and Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. I’m really a fan of the Science fiction and Mystery/Suspense genres.
A: What is an interesting fact about yourself that you would like to share with our readers?
C: An interesting fact about myself is that I have had blue hair for almost 3 years now. It has also been blonde, pink, orange, purple, a weird greenish color, and red. I think blue is my color, but I’m tempted to try ginger.
A: What is your favorite place in Atlanta (so far)?
C: My favorite place in Atlanta is IPIC Theatre. It is the best dine-in movie theatre that I have been to. The food is amazing and it’s a very comfortable experience. I haven’t been to another theatre since I found it.
A: When you are not saving the world here at GSU Law Library, what do you enjoy doing outside of work?
C: Outside of work, I enjoy going to the movies, writing, reading, and trying new restaurants.
A: Lastly, what is your favorite vacation spot? The place you go to leave it all behind for a few days.
C: I don’t have a favorite vacation spot yet, but I think my favorite place that I have been to so far is Honduras.
There you have it, folks. The complete, unedited, behind-the-scenes interview with Cierra A. Cooper.
Welcome to the first installment of The Law From Here, our globe-trotting new series that gives you a chance to get to know GSU Law’s LLM students. Like many of our LLM students, Alceu Mauricio Junior has a distinctive background that features ample experience practicing law in another country–here, Brazil. However, even amongst this rarified group, Mauricio stands out because he is an experienced judge with several postgraduate degrees. In today’s The Law From Here, he offers his insights into legal research in the Brazilian system, and how it compares to the United States.
Having worked as a judge in Brazil for more than twenty years, I enrolled in the LL.M. Program at Georgia State University (GSU) in 2021. I thought the GSU LL.M. Program would be interesting not only because it opens a door to apply for the Bar Exam in some U.S. jurisdictions, but also because it would widen my perspective on how to view, study, and apply the law, either here in the U.S. or in Brazil.
Alceu Mauricio Junior
While studying the law in a common law country and in a different language, it is almost impossible not to set the mind in a mode of comparison. The whole learning process is triggered by focusing on what is similar and different, and how I would express a legal concept in English versus Portuguese (my native language). My goal in this post is sharing my comparative perspective on legal research, presenting a picture of what Brazilian and U.S. lawyers could expect while researching the law in a country with a different legal tradition
Contextualizing the Brazilian Legal System
Lawyers, being pragmatic professionals, naturally want to draft persuasive arguments and accurately predict outcomes in legal disputes. To do so, they need to find and select the most important authorities, in other words, the authorities that are most likely to guide judges’ and government officials’ decisions. As Brazil and the United States are on different sides of the civil law/common law spectrum, one could expect significant differences in how practitioners research the law in those countries.
The Brazilian legal system follows the civil law tradition, while also adopting some common law doctrines. Brazil has a written Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. The Constitution establishes separation of powers, federalism, and fundamental rights. It addresses several fields of law and has an extensive Bill of Rights. Though Brazil is a federation of relatively autonomous states, as in the United States, Brazilian law is centralized at the federal level. Congress has the exclusive power to legislate about contracts, family, crime, torts, trade, corporations, energy, and many other topics. Constitutional law and statutory law are the basis of the Brazilian legal system.
Case law plays a crucial role in legal reasoning and analysis in Brazil, and recent developments have adopted the stare decisis doctrine for some judicial decisions. However, even though precedent in Brazil may consolidate interpretations of the law, they do not create law, as courts must base their decisions on constitutional or statutory law. Nonetheless, courts have the power of judicial review and may invalidate unconstitutional statutes. Most case law has only persuasive authority, but judges follow decisions from higher courts as a common practice.
Brazil has federal and state courts and specialized independent court systems, such as labor, electoral, and military courts. At the top of the judicial system, the Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal or STF) can hear appeals on constitutional matters, and has original jurisdiction over “direct actions,” challenging the constitutionality of statutes. There is also the Higher Court of Justice (Superior Tribunal de Justiça or STJ), which hears final appeals on the interpretation of federal statutory law.
Facade of the Federal Supreme Court. Photo: Dorivan Marinho/SCO/STF
Comparing Legal Research in Brazil and the U.S.
In some respects, researching the law in Brazil and the U.S is similar. When facing a new topic, lawyers first look at secondary sources and then continuously narrow their research looking at applicable codified law and case law. However, two main differences set apart legal research in the U.S. and Brazil: the use of electronic research tools and the relative weight of primary and secondary authority in legal reasoning.
A. Research Tools
In Brazil, practitioners do not have access to comprehensive legal research products such as Lexis+ or Westlaw Edge. Some paid legal research services offer access to databases of primary and secondary authorities, newsletters, and alerts on new statutory or case law. Examples of those services are Plataforma Forum and Revista dos Tribunais Online. As a judge in federal court, I have access to CAJU, a service provided by the Federal Justice Council with subscription to most of Brazilian legal databases of secondary authority, but like many other practitioners, I would mostly research secondary authority in treatises, which are the basis of legal education in Brazil.
In the U.S., after researching a treatises, I would use Lexis or Westlaw to access statutory and case law. In Brazil, I would access the Legislation Portal at the President’s Office website. At this portal, one can research the Constitution, the various codes, federal statutory law, and regulations. Unlike the United States, Brazil does not have a single code encompassing all federal statutory law. Brazil has eighteen different codes, one for each area of law, and thousands of non-codified statutes. Brazilian students devote a reasonable time in law school learning about the different codes and statutes that may apply in a specific area of law. After graduation, a good lawyer will follow the Legislation Portal’s daily newsletter. The Legislation Portal does not generally provide cross-references between statutes. The statutes are organized chronologically and not by area of law, as in the U.S Code. On the other hand, a lawyer can search the Portal using keywords. The Portal displays the legislation on pages searchable on the internet. All legislation on the Portal is up to date, and every document has references to modifying statutes or amendments.
After collecting information on the secondary sources and narrowing the applicable statutory law, a practitioner’s next step is usually researching case law. Once again, this step would be much simpler in the U.S. using Lexis or Westlaw. In Brazil, lawyers usually research case law using court’s individual websites, which offer handy and reliable free tools for researching case law, but not in a comprehensive, unified portal. In my practice, I would generally start at the Supreme Federal Court’s and Higher Court of Justice’s webpages for two primary reasons. First, in Brazil, federal and constitutional laws are often controlling. The Brazilian Constitution is extensive and has provisions related to several fields of law. So, even topics such as patent law or family law often come before the Supreme Court. Second, the higher courts in Brazil do not have discretionary certiorari procedures. Thus, the Brazilian higher courts receive and decide hundreds of cases every year, and there is a considerable chance of finding precedent helping my reasoning.
The courts’ websites offer handy and reliable free tools for researching case law. The Supreme Federal Court (STF), for instance, offers a search engine on which a lawyer can research cases using keywords. A case on that database may have specific references to secondary authority, codified law, and precedents cited in the opinion. However, different than Lexis or Westlaw, there is no yellow or red flags to show a case may have been overruled or received a negative treatment in a subsequent decision.
B. Legal Culture and the Weight of Authority
The second structural difference researching the law in the U.S. and Brazil is the relative weight of primary and secondary authority in legal reasoning. In the U.S., the framework of stare decisis lays a considerable weight on binding precedent. Precedent is also essential in Brazil, and some judicial decisions are binding authority. However, there is no general principle of stare decisis, and judicial decisions are binding only in particular instances, mostly related to Federal Supreme Court’s decisions on constitutional matters. Most of precedent in Brazil has mere persuasive value. Precedent from the Supreme Federal Court or the Higher Court of Justice has a powerful, persuasive force. A decision from an appellate court in the trial court’s jurisdiction also has a relevant persuasive power, but it is not necessarily more persuasive than a decision from a different appellate court. For instance, when I draft a decision in my court, I will research case law from the appellate court in my circuit. However, if the only on-point decision from my circuit is an old one, I could as well use a newer decision from a different circuit that better reflects the current law.
Higher Court of Justice (STJ) –Plenary of the 1st Section – Judgment Session. Photo: Sandra Fado, CC BY-ND
In addition, secondary sources may play a much more significant role in legal reasoning in Brazil than they would in the U.S. Treatises and law review articles do not have the same force as on-point precedent. However, they may have a similar if not greater persuasive appeal than judicial decisions that do not cover facts resembling the disputed case. This trend comes from the Brazilian legal culture and its civil law origin. While courts in the U.S. put a distinct value on legal certainty (which lays the foundation for the stare decisis doctrine), Brazilian courts tend to see justice in individual cases as a higher value. In practical terms, Brazilian courts are more willing to find distinguishing factors from precedent if they think justice would be better served, even at the expense of law’s predictability. Thus, when researching the law in Brazil, secondary sources play a role that goes beyond helping a lawyer find a roadmap for statutory and case law.
My experience researching the law in the U.S. is still ripening, so drawing conclusions would be premature at this point. This post’s goal was to give lawyers from Brazil and the U.S. an idea of what they could expect while researching the law in a country with a different legal tradition. Legal research’s purpose does not change when we cross borders. Lawyers and courts need to find authoritative sources to support their arguments and assessments. However, how lawyers and courts research the law may vary from country to country. I noticed two main differences between researching the law in Brazil and the U.S. First, while legal researching in the U.S. predominantly relies on comprehensive paid research tools, in Brazil, research tools mainly used are free, official, non-integrated, online resources. Second, while stare decisis is a core, general principle of U.S. law, giving precedent the spotlight in legal reasoning and researching, precedent and secondary authorities may have similar weight in Brazil when there is no binding, on-point decision.
A question that remains open is whether those differences are independent. Maybe the comprehensive legal tools one can use in the U.S. only reflect a difference of technology and economic capacities, but maybe they exist primarily because the U.S. legal culture demands a precise analysis of precedent that is not required in Brazil. I would be only guessing trying to answer this question, but if I had to guess, I would put my money on legal culture being the most critical factor shaping differences in legal research.
[i] Alceu Mauricio Junior has been a Federal Judge in Brazil since 2001 and is currently an LL.M. candidate at Georgia State University College of Law. He holds a Ph.D. in constitutional law and has a master’s degree in public law. LinkedIn.
With Finals right around the corner, the library has shifted into full-on “Pet Picture” mode. That’s right, instead of informing you about library events and services, the library signs will now beguile you with extremely cute pictures of your own pets! That way, as you pause to to catch your breath before running through the Rule Against Perpetuities one more time, you can look up and see the relaxing, inspiring visage of one of our faithful furry friends. In order to really bring home the sheer cuteness on display, we’ll use this blog post to get to know a few of GSU Law’s pets a little bit better.
Some pets go beyond inspiration and comfort to actually study law right alongside you. That’s the case with the impeccably-named Princess Vanilla Pudding, pictured here helping 2L Nicole Walker Smith get ready for her CivPro exam.
Next up, we have another pet with an amazing name, Kahlua Romeo. She’s also an enthusiastic learner of the law, who likes to jump up and participate during Zoom classes, although 3L Sonny Romeo warns that “Professor Stephens scares her a bit.”
If pets can effectively study law, perhaps they can also execute key governmental functions. As you can see from this picture of 3L Alex Beato’s pup Reagan, our pets have already gotten pretty close to the White House! Alex adopted Reagan from a shelter, and reports that “she has never met a person, squirrel, or really any other living creature she doesn’t love and lives for all the pets and attention she can get.”
Clearly, if the U.S. News & World Report’s rankings included “cuteness of student pets” as a criteria, GSU Law would mount a challenge to Yale and Harvard. Be on the look out for a sequel to this post featuring more of these highly-ranked pets. Until then, if you want to see more of these astoundingly cute animals, you’ll have to make it in to the library. While you’re at it, don’t forget to check out some of our amazing exam-related resources, like our study aid collections and the exam archive. Good luck!
For all of you 1Ls, I am sure you are busy studying for your Criminal Law final. When I took it, the world was turning upside down as COVID-19 had just hit and our classes were going entirely online. Luckily, I had a lot of time on my hands for studying, since there was little else to do in the world. During my Finals prep, I found Examples & Explanations for Criminal Law to be very helpful.
This study aid is immediately useful for its easy-to-understand definitions for key criminal law terms. It does an especially good job of distinguishing the many closely-related terms and concepts studied in the course, such as first-degree murder, second-degree murder, felony murder, and manslaughter. It also explains the often-confusing distinctions between the differing approaches to defining crimes like these, including thorough coverage of the Model Penal Code.
Like others in the E&E series, this study aid also includes a variety of illustrative practice problems, each coupled with a thorough explanation of its answer. This format helps you to become more familiar with applying the law to a variety of hypotheticals. The practice problems in the Criminal Law E&E were also shorter than others I’ve encountered, which makes them easier to incorporate into your study routine. You are able to practice issue-spotting and analysis without being forced to read through a hypo that drags on for multiple pages. While it is important to do full-length practice problems and write out full answers, the shorter hypos in this study aid are a great resource for quick analysis, and a good way to quickly see whether you are on the right track.
Whether you just need to brush up on some key concepts or run through some questions in an exam-like format, Examples & Explanations for Criminal Law is a good choice. You can find the most up-to-date version of this study aid in print. We also have the previous edition available online through the Aspen Learning Library, where it can be used in your browser, or with the associated app.
By Ross Crowell, Law Library Sports Law Correspondent
As the men’s NCAA Tournament just wrapped up with Kansas taking down North Carolina in the National Championship, one interesting legal issue that often arises around the tournament is the NCAA’s trademark on the term “March Madness”.
The NCAA has “aggressively protected” its trademarked marketing programs, including “March Madness”. The first time the phrase was first used as a reference to the NCAA Tournament was in 1982 by announcer Brent Musberger. The NCAA attempted to trademark the term in the 1990s, but the term was already trademarked by the Illinois High School Association, which previously purchased the term’s trademark rights from a Chicago television company.
The Illinois High School Association ended up suing an NCAA licensee to enjoin it from the use of the term. However, the NCAA won, as the Seventh Circuit found that “March Madness” had become a dual-use term, as it could reference both the Illinois High School Association and NCAA basketball tournaments. While both associations used the term for a period of time, the NCAA ended up buying out the Illinois High School Association’s ownership of the trademark.
Along with “March Madness”, there are several other basketball tournament terms that the NCAA has trademark protection over, such as “Elite Eight”, “Final Four”, “68 Teams, One Dream”, “March Mayhem”, “March to the Madness”, “Road to the Final Four”, “Selection Sunday”, “The Big Dance”, and even “Read to the Final Four”, among many other terms. Thus, the use of the term “March Madness” or any of these other NCAA trademarked terms requires NCAA approval.
As the NCAA has trademark rights to this term, that means the term cannot be used as a catchphrase by anyone else, even in an unrelated industry. For example, a local country club could not promote a golf tournament under the name “March Madness”, despite the event being completely unrelated to the NCAA basketball tournament.
While it is impossible for the NCAA to find every commercial use of the term in violation of its trademark protection, the NCAA often sends cease-and-desist letters to owners of bars, restaurants, and other companies that are using the trademark without a license.
The NCAA strictly enforces potential trademark infringements in order to maintain the rights to their trademarks. If the NCAA does not enforce protection of their trademarked terms, they could lose the rights to their protected use of the terms. For example, the terms “thermos”, “yo-yo”, “laundromat”, and “hacky sack” were once trademarked, but became revoked once the terms became generic due to not being protected by the terms’ owners.
Thus, while the NCAA may appear aggressive for vigorously protecting the use of “March Madness” and other trademarked terms, they police the use of the term in order to maintain their trademark privileges. The NCAA likely does not want “March Madness” to become a generic term, so it must enforce the use of the term, even if the use by other parties does not impact the NCAA’s business interests.
Grab your pencils, your pens, and your thinking caps and join the Law Library in celebrating National Poetry Month!
We have several events we are including as part of the celebration. Today, I am highlighting a couple of ways you can join us. Keep your eyes here for more about our celebration as the month continues!
We invite you to craft poems that are law- or law school-related, submitting no more than one poem each day between now and April 15, 2022, at 11:59 PM. We have a talented pool of students, faculty, and staff who will assist us in recognizing the best in category (student, faculty, and staff), as well as a best in show poem.
The Law Library will host poetry slams on April 25 at noon and 5 PM. To encourage participation, we are inviting our poets (if you’re reading your own poem) and performers (if you’re reading a poem by another) to participate in person or submit a video of their performance for screening during the event. Please keep performance length to 3 minutes.
You may submit your video files to me (at mbutler at gsu . edu) using the Georgia State Send a File tool. To be included, please submit your files no later than 9 AM on April 25.
Brackets, brackets, and more brackets. The GSU College of Law Library is doing its part to add to March’s bracket noise. This year we are hosting a battle of legal resources by putting our favorite ones (including print, online, and Georgia resources) in a seeded, knock-out bracket and allowing the internet (via our Twitter account @GSULawLib) to decide who advances. A PDF printable bracket can be downloaded to fill out and follow along.
Resources have been selected and ranked by a mysterious committee that neither has to define its criteria nor is accountable to anyone for mistakes and down-right bias. The committee is working under the fiction that it is infallible, so they do not want to hear any whining about ranking or who got snubbed. They also seem to have a predisposition for the established, larger programs. See, we are making this almost exactly like another March event.
Legal resources will face off against one another and based on Twitter polls, advance in the tournament. In the improbable event of a tie, our copy of Randomness by Deborah J. Bennett will be tossed in the air. If it lands front-cover up, the first resource wins. If it lands back-cover up, the second resource wins, and if it lands open on a page, we will apply the example of randomness discussed therein.
Round one voting will begin Monday, March 21, 2022. Unfortunately, GSU’s spring break is this week (the week of March 14), so our students are not around. Subsequently, we’ll wait for them to get back and start the week of March 21. That said, everyone out there is welcome and encouraged to join in the Mania-Ness. All voting will take place via the law library’s Twitter account, @gsulawlib. We encourage you to follow the law library on Twitter to not miss any of the “games”.
Each “game” will last one day, and voting will open around 8:30 AM. The tournament schedule is:
Monday, March 21, 2022, First Round (Online 1 Section)
Tuesday, March 22, 2022, First Round (Online 2 Section)
Wednesday, March 23, 2022, First Round (Georgia Section)
Thursday, March 24, 2022, First Round (Print Section)
Monday, March 28, 2022, Second Round (Sweet Sixteen, Online 1 & 2 Sections)
Tuesday, March 29, 2022, Second Round (Sweet Sixteen, Georgia & Print Sections)
Wednesday, March 30, 2022, Third Round (Elite Eight, All Sections)
Thursday, March 31, 2022, Fourth Round ( Final Four, All Sections)
Monday, April 4, 2022, Fifth Round (Finals)
The legal resources that are competing in our March Mania-Ness, their sections, and seeding are as follows:
Researching a paper can be intimidating. In my experience, this emphatically applies to many situations where the paper in question is for a law school course. Most law students have only just recently become familiar with the fundamental sources and strategies of legal research, and applying them to a lengthier treatment of a multidimensional (and often interdisciplinary) topic adds another layer of complexity.
Fortunately, your friendly neighborhood librarian is here to help, in the form of a research consultation. We are available to meet with you one-on-one to give you highly individualized advice on researching your paper. This includes help with many different aspects of the paper-writing process, including refining your thesis, checking for preemption, developing a research plan, identifying relevant resources, finding authorities that support your arguments, and more.
Efficient, high-quality research can make a big difference with any paper. Research can be very path-dependent, and the strategies you choose earlier in the process will lead you to different sources, and those sources will inevitably shape your arguments and ideas in the final product. Impeccable research isn’t just something you do to build an impressive footnote count! (Although a consultation will undoubtedly help you with that as well.)
Research consultations are not only extremely helpful, they are also very easy to schedule. To do so, you can hit us up at email@example.com, email your personal librarian, or simply stop by the reference desk. With that high degree of convenience in mind, I’m going to close out this blog post by stridently demanding that you stop whatever you’re doing and schedule a research consultation right now. I mean, don’t you want to write a better paper?
The biggest shift relates to increased importance of streaming rights. Amazon has shaken things up being a new player in this business, as they now have the exclusive rights to stream 15 Thursday Night Football games for the 2022 season on Amazon Prime.
In addition to current broadcasters, some big-name former players are also in consideration for these roles. Recently retired 7-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady reportedly will be contacted by Amazon and Fox to gauge his interest in broadcasting. Drew Brees, who led the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl, was on television last season for NBC and could be poached by one of the competing networks.
However, Brees only has one year of experience on television and Brady has not broadcasted any games, as he retired just over a month ago. As these contracts for broadcasters rival what the top players in the NFL are paid, it is a bit of a risk to hire someone with inexperience. However, the names of Brees and Brady likely will draw in many fans that would want to tune in to their broadcasts. The networks will have to carefully weigh these various considerations when negotiating these complex employment contracts.