Constitution Day and Citizenship Day

The United States Constitution
Image by John R Perry from Pixabay

“Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” became a federal observance in 2004. Constitution Day is observed on September 17 to commemorate the day in 1787 when delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution. Prior to the addition of Constitution Day in 2004, September 17 was observed as Citizenship Day, intended to celebrate U.S. citizenship. Naturalization ceremonies may be scheduled to coincide with Constitution Day and Citizenship Day celebrations.

The original 2004 law mandated that public schools and federal agencies observe the day each year by providing opportunities for education about the U.S. Constitution. In 2005, the Department of Education expanded this mandate to include any educational institutions that receive federal funds, including federal student financial aid. GSU is celebrating Constitution Day and Citizenship Day the week of September 13-17, 2021. For a full list of campus events and educational resources see the GSU Civic Engagement website. If you are interested in researching Constitutional issues, University Library has a handy National Constitution Week research guide or browse one of the many Law Library research guides.

Dear My 1L Self – Breathe.

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post this 2nd installment of our all new Blackacre Times Series – “Dear My 1L Self.”  In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Students, and maybe even alumni will write letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law.  We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. So, without further ado, here’s 3LP (& Reference GRA) Meri Elkin…

Dear My 1L Self,

Take a breath. Maybe take a few breaths. Are we consistently breathing yet? Great! Now, go to office hours. Show up to talk to the GRA that aced this class before you. Swing by the Professor’s office that teaches the class. Do not wait until we get our first Lawyering Foundations memo back to ask questions. Do not wait until after our first cold call in Civil Procedure to admit we could possibly be confused. Go now. Ask the questions!

A pic of Meri Elkins

As it turns out, we do not know all of the things. If I am being honest, we don’t even know what we don’t know. We are going to spend a lot of time reading, listening, and trying to formulate coherent responses. Real talk: we do not always formulate coherent responses. We do not always have the right answer. Just remember, it does not do to dwell on missed cold calls. Let it go. Thank me later.

Look around, and find friends who will keep a smile on our face when we are sleep deprived and studying for finals. We will have some truly great days at GSU COL! Though, and this is not to scare you, 1L Self, we will also have some less than great days. All days are better with friends. True story.

Are we doing okay? Breathe! Law school is not a sprint. Fast forward, and it is 3LP year. We still don’t know what we don’t know. We still don’t always have the right answer. Some days are still less than great, but we learned to embrace the journey and get outside of our comfort zone. We built a network of friends, classmates, mentors, and faculty to turn to when we stumble. It may take a minute to find our footing, but take a breath and know that we will hit our stride. Trust me.

Still breathing,

3LP Meri

Dear My 1L Self – DO NOT ‘Fake it Till You Make IT’

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to announce an all new Blackacre Times Series – “Dear My 1L Self.”  In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Students, and maybe even alumni will write letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law.  We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. So, without further ado… 

Dear 1L Patrick, 

DO NOT fake it till you make it.  You are starting law school and are so much less prepared than you actually think.  The things that made you good at high school and college, mainly being really good at remembering lots of information,  are NO LONGER USEFUL. I mean, they’ll always be useful, but if you don’t strip down your intellectual process and rework your approach from the ground up you’re not going to do very well.  Read books about how to succeed in law school and do a ton of practice problems.  Having a really well put together outline will not matter if you don’t spend some time learning how to take law school exams.  In fact, you’ll end up getting a C+ in contracts, the class you basically explained to everyone all semester, because you didn’t really get what the professor wanted in the exam.   

This “clever slacker” persona that you’ve whole heartedly accepted for yourself will no longer work.  You’ll need to learn to ask for help, and give things enough time so asking for help is an option.  Remember when you were an undergrad and took symbolic logic and were terrified you’d fail, so you went to every office hour and ended up getting the best grade in the class?  You need to be that engaged for every. single. class.  I know you are very confident about your ability to do this.  That’s great, but it’s basically unfounded.  Innate ability alone is not going to be enough to do well.  You have a lot of work to do, and it’s better that this gut check comes from me (us?) now than after a whole semester of very inefficient work.  Go see your professors now.  Be engaged in class. Stop asking other 1L’s for advice – they’re more clueless than you.  Instead, bite the bullet and utilize your professors and academic success department.  Do things the right way.  This is the only way you’re going to do as well as you want.   

Also, stop going to chicken wing night every Tuesday at the William Penn Tavern.  If you can’t stay in, at least go late and leave early.  You can watch the Pittsburgh Penguins by yourself at home. 

Warmest regards, 

Future Patrick 

1L Patrick in the wild

Welcome (and welcome back)!

Word cloud of welcome in several languages.

Normally, this would be a blog post welcoming new students and welcoming back returning students from the summer. However, like many things over the past 18 months, things are different this year. We are so excited to welcome our new students but we are also looking forward to seeing “returning” students who we may have only seen virtually, if at all, in over a year. On behalf of everyone in the library, WELCOME!

The library offers a wide variety of services and resources that can help you on your law school journey. You can access everything from hefty legal treatises and study aids to books and movies in our leisure collection. Use a study room (2 or more students, please), table, or carrel to find just the right study space on either the 5th floor or 6th floor (our designated quiet floor). Stop by the Circulation desk to check out course reserves, white board markers, USB screens, or pick up some ear plugs to prevent distractions. Swing by the Reference desk (next to Circulation) to chat with a reference librarian about a research question, get some study aids suggestions, or just to say hi to your Research Methods professor.

Not on campus? You can use most of our databases from home, including two large collections of electronic study aids. You can also open a chat with a librarian from the library home page. (Look for the red box on the left.)

If you’re a 1L, you’ll be taking Research Methods from one of the librarian faculty and you’ll be assigned a different librarian as your Personal Librarian. Your Personal Librarian will send you occasional emails (really, we won’t fill your inbox – usually just 3-4 emails a semester) with information and tips that may be helpful as you progress through the semester. You can also always contact your Personal Librarian with any questions. Even if your question isn’t library-related, the librarians can often point you in the right direction.

There are many other services and resources available to you. You can learn more (or brush up if it’s been awhile since you’ve visited the library) at our introductory guide to the library. Want to keep up with the library? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

If you’re new, welcome to the GSU Law family! If you’re returning, we’ve really missed you and can’t wait to see you in the library!

Law Library Summer Updates

Summer seems to be flying by. The law library has been busy this summer, and we’ve had some exciting updates.

The study rooms are open!

Law Library study rooms are available for reservation by law students. The study rooms vary in size and location and can accommodate groups as large as 10. On the fifth floor, there are rooms with monitors that you can use for group work. Some rooms have dry erase boards. To learn how to reserve a room, check out this blog post or the First Year Guide.

Circulation and Remote Reference remain available, with live reference resuming on July 29th.

The library building is open now through Wednesday, July 28th, during the following hours:

  • Monday – Thursday, 8:30 am – 10 pm
  • Friday, 8:30 am – 6 pm
  • Saturday & Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm

Reference remains available by chat (by using the red Chat Reference button in the upper left corner of the Law Library’s home page), by email, and by leaving a phone message at 404-413-9102. For current reference hours, please check out our homepage. Starting July 29th, live reference will resume, and the Reference Desk will be staffed to assist you during reference hours.

We moved the database list.

On Wednesday, May 26th, the Law Library launched a new database list tool titled “Law Library Databases A-Z.” It was initially housed on the main library page and has moved to our research guide platform. This new database list allows you to filter by subject, access platform, and vendor/publisher. It also provides featured popular law student databases. Learn more about this tool in this blog post.

Movie Binge!

If you’re an admitted law student—or a current law student or a recent graduate or a practicing attorney or—well, you may be interested in some law-related entertainment options this summer!

We all know that books and movies do not accurately portray lawyers and the practice of law. (Exception: some non-fiction books or documentary films.) That said, that can be what makes it entertaining to read about lawyers in a book or watch lawyers on a screen.

Following are some movies (the focus for today) that feature “lawyers” or “the law” that may be of interest to those who would like to take a vacation by way of the screen. There is little rhyme or reason to this list. I started with Chicago because I think the music is wonderful, and I got to see it performed in the West End with Lynda Carter as Matron “Mama” Morton. I am ending the list with Legally Blond, which I had the pleasure of seeing on Broadway. Don’t worry, there are no musicals in the middle.

*Chicago: This American musical is set in the jazz age, and it is definitely a satire. The lawyer to watch in this is Billy Flynn, whose Press Conference Rag is hilarious.

*I Am Not Your Negro: This documentary film made by Raoul Peck is based on James Baldwin’s notes for a book project about his three assassinated friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  The trailer for the movie raises questions of what freedom means, encouraging us to consider how the law has shaped and continues to shape our country.

*The Lincoln Lawyer: This movie is based on the first book in Michael Connelly’s series. The movie presents an interesting approach to the practice of law—out of the back of a Lincoln. 

*To Kill a Mockingbird: I first read this book in an 8th grade English class, and the number of attorneys I know who have named their dogs after Scout is surprisingly high. Whether you’ve read Harper Lee’s famous book or not, this is a compelling story. Atticus Finch’s closing argument is freely available.

Just Mercy: You may have read Bryan Stevenson’s book. This movie tells Bryan Stevenson’s story as well, focusing particularly on the case of Walter McMillian. Though much of the filming was done in Montgomery, Alabama, some was done in East Point and Conyers, Georgia.

On the Basis of Sex: Ruth Bader Ginsberg is an icon for many, and this film presents the story of her struggle for equal rights. Like other law-related films, it has a compelling courtroom closing argument.

The Trial of the Chicago 7: If you weren’t alive for it (I wasn’t), you may not know that there were big protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Well, seven anti-Vietnam war organizers were accused of trying to incite a riot, and this movie tells that story.

*Legally Blonde: This movie tells the story of Elle Woods and her arc of personal growth as she approached and went through law school.

The Law Library includes in its resources some law-related entertainment that may be of interest. We have some of these movies available in our collection at the Law Library or at GSU Libraries—the * before a title indicates those titles!

Study Rooms Are Back!

Law Library study rooms are available for reservation by law students, we are happy to announce!

Study rooms range in size and location—we have rooms that accommodate groups as large as 10. On the Law Library’s fifth floor, we have study rooms with monitors that you can use to do group work on a big screen. Rooms have dry erase boards that groups can use to share notes, develop outlines, etc.

Reserving a study room is pretty simple, and if you’ve used the booking system before it will be very similar. Start from the library home page and checkout the booking explorer, so your group can find the right time and room that will work for your study plan.

You can book the rooms in 15 minute increments, with each law student in a group eligible for up to three hours of study room time per day.

In the picture below, Room 501 is unavailable, but 503 and the other rooms are each available for a reservation.

image of the room booking system showing the date, a legend of the colors indicating available, unavailable, and your booking, and a table listing the rooms on the y axis and the times on the x axis

When you book your room, you will still need to have (and list) the two or more law students who will be using the room for studying. Remember, when you’re finished using a study room that you need to lock the door and tell the folks at the circulation desk if you are leaving before the end of your reservation, so we can make sure that the room shows up as available to other students who may want to reserve the room. Knowing who is in the group can really help us with this part of reservation management!

Here’s a sample of the booking form:

Screen shot of the room booking form listing the fields for name, email other law students who will be using the room, and asking confirmation that the room reservation requires two or more law students

We look forward to checking the keys out to your groups as you work on your summer classes and prepare for exams!

screen shot of the banner on the room booking page
Screen shot of the Study room policy, including requirmements that there be two or more law students per reservation and that there is a maximum of three hours available for reservation for each person's campus ID.

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