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.

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.

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!