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.

Racial Justice Resources Guide: Incorporating Race Into The Classroom

Law schools across the country have responded to the mass protests of the past year with renewed efforts to better integrate issues of race and racism into the law school curriculum.  To this end, the GSU College of Law Library has published Racial Justice Resources, a new research guide dedicated to furthering discussions of race in the law school classroom.

GSU Law’s Center for Access to Justice worked with the law library to create this valuable resource. It is meant to help law faculty incorporate race into their teaching, filling a major gap in legal education. As A2J Assistant Director Darcy Meals explained, “law faculty are often race-avoidant in teaching, despite the role race has played in the construction and maintenance of the legal system in the United States.” By placing materials that highlight this critical role at their fingertips, the guide encourages faculty to engage students in conversations about race across the law school curriculum.

So far, it appears to be succeeding in this endeavor. In a short period of time, Racial Justice Resources has become one of the law library’s most frequently used research guides. Law faculty across the country have also praised the guide. Writing for the Best Practices for Legal Education blog, Penn State Professor of Clinical Law Jill Engle called it “a true gem” and described how the guide introduced her to materials that facilitated the creation of a popular new course.  

The guide collects a wide range of resources that address race and legal pedagogy. They fit into two overarching categories, one focused on specific courses and the other on anti-racism materials with more general applicability. Within each category, the guide offers a curated list of teaching guides, podcasts, legal scholarship, and more.   And whether it’s a scholarly article that develops a pedagogical framework, an assessment tool that gauges implicit bias, or a seminal essay that shaped the zeitgeist, each resource was specifically chosen for its capacity to help law faculty incorporate issues of race and racism into their courses.

While the guide is primarily designed for law teachers, other audiences will also find that it contains much that is of interest. For some researchers, the guide’s practical orientation will complement other resources dedicated to specific schools, theories, and ideas. For law students, in particular, the materials could broaden their understanding of how race has shaped the legal doctrines they are learning, preparing them for their role in these important classroom conversations.

Searching for Georgia Dockets

If you want to know the story of a case, the best place to start is with the case docket. It is a chronological listing of all the events in a case, including filings and proceedings. E-filing makes it even easier for attorneys and others to access and monitor dockets.

The information in dockets is useful to attorneys for a bunch of reasons. Attorneys may review filings to review underlying documents that other attorneys have filed. These may be helpful in drafting their own filings. They may also help attorneys evaluate the arguments to make before judges.

Georgia is a super special place for docket searching. Dockets are maintained by the courts, which means that each court in Georgia—and remember, we have 159 counties each with their own trial courts—has its own docket system.

* Image from: PeachCourt Home Page

PeachCourt, a portal for civil and criminal e-filing documents, allows for searching multiple Georgia counties at once. Even non-attorneys can search in PeachCourt. You do need to create an account in order to search the dockets for the participating courts.

Unfortunately, not all metro-Atlanta counties participate in PeachCourt. To be sure that you’re checking all the places you mean to check, it’s worth verifying whether PeachCourt coverage includes the court you’re interested in searching by checking the map of courts they serve. If you’re interested in Gwinnett County trial court docket information, for example, you would need to separately check the Clerk of Superior, State, Magistrate, & Juvenile Courts County of Gwinnett website and follow the instructions to search.

The Court of Appeals of Georgia and the Supreme Court of Georgia each make some of their own docket information available. The Court of Appeals provides a search tool that can be searched by party name or by docket number. Their system does not include the Emergency Motions docket. Although the docket information retrieves some cases docketed with the Court of Appeals of Georgia as early as 1999, the final decisions are only available from more recent opinions.

The Supreme Court of Georgia also uses a computerized docketing system, and it can be searched by the Supreme Court case number, attorney name, or party name. Interesting, you can see from the docket number of Supreme Court cases an indication of the type of matter being appealed. If you want to see whether an attorney has had recent cases before the Supreme Court of Georgia, it’s really easy to do an attorney name search.

If you have questions about docket searching, please chat with us from the library home page. We are happy to help!

Expanding Expungement in Georgia is Given a Second Chance

By Gilbert Morales, Reference GRA

On January 1, 2021, Georgia’s “Second Chance” law went into effect. The new law improves an individual’s ability to restrict and seal certain criminal convictions from the general public, a process commonly referred to as expungement. According to the Georgia Justice Project, “Georgia finally joins 41 other states that allow an individual an opportunity to expunge certain convictions after a period of time.”[1] The new law is the latest development in a decade-long push to facilitate rehabilitation for former offenders. Advocates contend that public access to all convictions, even minor offenses, poses a substantial barrier to a former offender’s rehabilitation. Allowing access to an individual’s criminal history can limit job opportunities and housing eligibility, increasing the chances for that individual to re-offend. 

Misdemeanors 

Advocates say the new law is a step forward. Unlike Georgia’s previous “record restriction” law that only allowed court petitions for sealing offenses that did not result in a conviction and made a narrow exception for misdemeanor convictions committed by individuals under 21, the new law allows individuals to seal two misdemeanor convictions with limited age restrictions. So long as an individual has not reoffended and 4 years have passed since completing their sentence, they can petition the court to seal their misdemeanor conviction. The law does not cover all misdemeanors. Notably, misdemeanors involving sex crimes are excluded from consideration. Moreover, all family violence battery convictions are excluded unless the individual was under 21 years old at the time of the arrest. 

Felonies and Pardons

The new law also covers felony convictions that were pardoned by the State Board of Pardons & Paroles. So long as the pardon was not for a serious violent felony or sexual offense, an individual can petition the court to seal the record of that conviction. An individual must wait 5 years after they have completed their sentence before petitioning the court and cannot have re-offended during those 5 years.

The Process 

A petitioner seeking to restrict and seal a misdemeanor conviction must petition the court that handled the case. For felony convictions, individuals must first obtain a pardon and then file a petition in the original sentencing court. In sealing documents, the court will consider the harm to the individual versus the public interest in knowing about the conviction. An important caveat to remember is that although a record may be restricted and sealed from the general public, law enforcement and prosecutors retain access to those records. 

Beyond Expungement

An important wrinkle in the new law is the liability protection for employers hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds. Liability protection addresses the fear by some employers that hiring someone with a criminal background who then commits a workplace offense will lead to a claim against the employer for negligent hiring. Whether this fear is well-founded is up for debate and another blog entry, nevertheless, it is a major feature of the new law.

Going Forward

The Second Chance law is a major opportunity for former offenders to build back their lives. By allowing misdemeanor convictions and felony pardons to be petitioned, the law enlarges the pool of individuals that can have their records restricted and sealed. The hope is that the new law enables these individuals to integrate back into society. That being said, there are always places where the law can expand such as applying record restrictions to felony convictions that are not pardoned. As one advocate from the Georgia Justice Project stated, although the Second Chance law is a step forward in the right direction, “it is only the beginning.”[2]

To Learn More

The Georgia Justice Project is hosting free sessions to help people understand their criminal history and what they can do about it on the first Friday of each month in 2021. For more information and contact information for them, go to https://www.gjp.org/first-fridays/. Also, to locate additional legal aid that may be available for pro se and self-represented litigants the legal services in Atlanta & the Metro-Atlanta Area Legal, check out our Legal Services in Atlanta & the Metro-Atlanta Area Legal Library Guide (LibGuide).

NOTE:  This post is an update to 2017’s post on the same subject https://theblackacretimes.com/2017/10/24/criminal-background-checks-georgia-law/.


[1] https://www.gjp.org/wp-content/uploads/2020.9.21-SB-288-One-pager_Final.pdf

[2] https://www.gpb.org/news/2021/01/01/second-chance-law-takes-effect-offers-hope-georgians-criminal-past

Managing Your Time in Law School

[UPDATED REBLOG FROM JAN. 2019]

By Sara Landeryou, Reference GRA

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 (virtually) 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. Do a movie night with friends or video chat with mom/dad during 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-law school 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 at 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!

ALERT PROGRAM: SPRING 2021 LINEUP

Happy New Year, and welcome back! We are excited to announce the spring 2021 ALERT sessions.

The spring ALERT program topics and dates:

What is the Alert Program?

ALERT (Applied Legal Experience, Research, & Technology) is a non-credit program that provides law students additional opportunities outside of the College of Law’s curriculum to learn legal research and technology skills.

By completing the ALERT Program, students can demonstrate to potential employers that they have obtained practice ready skills. Students will have their entire law school term to complete the program.

Levels of Completion:

With Distinction: Complete 6 Topics
With High Distinction: Complete 8 Topics
With Highest Distinction: Complete 10 Topics

For more information, or to RSVP please see: http://lawlibrary.gsu.edu/services/alert-program/.

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.

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!