All posts by Emma Babler

A Book of Legal Lists: The Best and Worst in American Law with 100 Court and Judge Trivia Questions

By Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian

For ages, people have been putting together books of lists.  Librarians love to catalog books making lists.  Merchant marines make manifests.  In fact, there is probably a list for everything.  In the present book, A Book of Legal Lists (1997), the author Bernard Schwartz tackles the law.  Here there is a list for the “Ten Greatest Supreme Court Justices” and a list for the “Ten Worst Supreme Court Justices.”

It stands to reason then there’d be lists for the “Ten Greatest Supreme Court Decisions” and “Worst Supreme Court Decisions,” as well as, one for the “Ten Greatest Dissenting Opinions.”  While Mr. Schwartz would be the first to admit these lists stem from his personal choices, it is also true each entry is followed by a brief essay explaining how these “are reasoned selections derived from a lifetime’s work in law and legal history.”

It is these little essays that make this a wonderful little history book.  One will also find lists for the “Ten Greatest Non-Supreme Court Judges” and “Ten Greatest Non-Supreme Court Decisions.”  And more lists for the “Ten Greatest Law Books,” lawyers, trials, and legal motion pictures.  All the while there is a bit of history sprinkled in for the reader to take away.

Where it really gets fun is when we play Trivia!  Dealer shuffles the questions.  You have to answer, if you can!  (An answer key follows below, but give it your best bet first.)

Let’s get started:

Q1: Who is the first Justice to hire a law clerk?

Q2: What Justice enjoyed a reputation as a minor poet?

Q3: What Justice was known for playing Trivial Pursuit on the bench?

Q4: What Justice wrote the most opinions while on the Court?

Q5: Who wrote the most opinions of the Court?

Q6: What Justice signed the Declaration of Independence?*

Q7: What Justices served on the Confederate side in the Civil War?

Q8: Where did the Court sit after the British burned Washington in 1814?

Q9: Who was the first former law clerk to become a Justice?

Q10: What Justice was an all-American football player?

Answer Key –

A1: Justice Horace Gray began the practice of employing a young law school graduate to aid him.  At first, he paid the expense of this himself until, in 1886, Congress provided $2000 a year for the purpose.

A2: Justice Joseph Story.  While studying law, he composed a lengthy poem “The Power of Solitude.”  He published it with other poems in 1804.  According to his son’s biography, Justice Story later bought up and burned all copies of the work he could find.

A3: Justice William H. Rehnquist.  When the Burger Court sat, one of Rehnquist’s clerks would every now and then pass notes to the Justice.  These were not legal memos but Trivail Pursuit-style questions.  Justice Rehnquist would answer them and then hand them to Justice Blackmun for that Justice to try his hand.

A4: Justice William O. Douglas authored 1,164 opinions (of these 486 were dissenting opinions).  He also holds the record among Justices for having the most wives (four) and the most divorces (three) while on the bench.

A5: Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who authored 873 opinions of the Court.

A6: Justice Samuel Chase.  He is also the only Justice to be impeached.  The U.S. Senate acquitted him on all counts.  *Upon further research, it has come to light that Justice James Wilson signed the Declaration of Independence as well.

A7: Justices Lucius Q. C. Lamar, Horace Lurton, and Chief Justice Edward D. White.

A8: The burning of the Capitol left the Court without its basement chamber.  During the next two years the Court held its sessions in the house of Elias Boudinot Caldwell, its clerk, on Capitol Hill.

A9: Justice Byron R. White, who had been a law clerk to Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson in 1946.

A10: Justice Byron R. White, popularly known as “Whizzer” White, was an all-star back at the University of Colorado in 1937.  He was also later named to the National Football League Hall of Fame.  Justice White’s Wikipedia entry adds: He was selected in the first round of the 1938 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) and led the National Football League in rushing yards in his rookie season.

A print copy of A Book of Legal Lists is available for your inspection and retrospection in the UW Law Library Reference Collection at: Ref KF387 S39 1997.

This article was inspired by Michael Widener, Rare Book Librarian, at the Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library.  His recent article Legal Literature’s Greatest Hits got the ball rolling in a big way!

New Google Apps Help with Accessibility

Image of basset hound with its ears pulled out
Photo via Unsplash.

Google is working to make communicating easier for those with hearing difficulties, recently releasing two new apps, Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier.

Live Transcribe works as a “live” transcription tool. It uses cloud-based speech recognition to transcribe conversations in real time. This can help those with hearing difficulties to participate in conversations without a time lag or delay, since they can read the conversation as it’s happening, instead of struggling to hear and missing out on what’s being said.

If you have a Pixel 3 device, Live Transcribe is already installed. If not, Google Play is adding it as an option in beta- you can sign up here to be notified when it’s ready. 

Sound Amplifier is like a hearing aid in the form of an app- it functions kind of like noise-cancelling headphones. It can cut out background noise and raise the sound of what you’re trying to hear or listen to. It does require wired headphones to work, and also comes pre-installed on Pixel 3 devices. You can also download it from the Google Play app store here. You can play with the settings in order to tweak it to fit your personal needs.

“Year of the Badger”: A Record Year for UW Law School

Law school admissions have been up almost across the board this year, but Wisconsin law schools have seen even more marked figures.

Marquette Law School has reported record numbers of female law students as well as out-of-state students.

UW Law School boasts its largest group of 1Ls since 2009- 275 students. This is almost twice the size of the 2017 incoming class (151 students).

Both law schools saw more applications this year, with UW seeing 25 percent more applications for the 2018 incoming class.

Check out this Wisconsin Law Journal article for the full scoop.

CRS Reports Now Available to the Public

By Eric Taylor, Evening & Weekend Reference Librarian

Once the exclusive province of Congress, the CRS Reports are now available to everyone.  Thoroughly researched and produced by the Congressional Research Service, the CRS Reports are nonpartisan briefing papers about current and emerging affairs of interest to members of Congress and their staffs.

The core mission of the Congressional Research Service, a legislative branch agency, is to provide “timely, objective, and authoritative research and analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate.”  Their reports support “Congress in its legislative, oversight, and representational duties.”  The wide range of topic areas for which CRS Reports have been produced include: constitutional questions, foreign affairs, agriculture and economic policy, science and technology, intelligence and national security, health care, education, immigration, transportation, and many others.

The year was 1914 when Senator Robert La Follette Sr. and Representative John M. Nelson, both of Wisconsin, championed a provision in the appropriations act establishing a special reference unit within the Library of Congress.  The new reference unit was based on Progressive Era ideas which promoted “the importance of the acquisition of knowledge for an informed and independent legislature.”  The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Library, established in 1901, was built on the same concept that informed knowledge could serve the best interests of the state.

At various times in its history, reports such as the Public Affairs Bulletins (in the late 1940s) and Congressional Research Service Review (1980s) were made available to the public, but until very recently the vast majority of reports produced by the Congressional Research Service were available only to Congress.  The public, researchers, and advocates alike have long asked for these reports be made freely available.  The passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 last March did just that by directing the Library of Congress to make CRS Reports publicly available online.

“The publication directive specifically mandates that the public website is to be “updated contemporaneously, automatically, and electronically, to include each new or updated CRS report released on or after” the date on which the Library makes the website available for public access.”  The complete inventory of CRS Reports will be made available sometime in 2019.

Just click on the “Search” button to see what is available now.

CourtListener Now Offering PACER Docket Alerts

By Eric Taylor, Reference Librarian

The Free Law Project recently announced the availability of PACER Docket Alerts on CourtListener.com.  CourtListener is a free public access website tracking federal and state courts.  The Docket Alert tool will send you an email anytime there is a new court filing in a case you are following in PACER.  Access to PACER documents is provided by the website’s RECAP function.  Clicking on the RECAP Archive link allows users to search for available PACER filings.

Setting up Docket Alerts using CourtListener is simple (quoting the Free Law Project’s press release):

“The best way to get started with Docket Alerts is to just make one. Try loading a popular case like U.S. v. Manafort or The District of Columbia v. Trump. Once the case is open, just press the “Get Alerts” button near the top. Then, just wait for your first alert.”

Give it a try.  I did with U.S. v. Manafort and the Docket Alerts started flowing in the very first day the alert was set, and they just keep coming.

The primary source powering these alerts is RSS data provided by PACER websites.  However, not all courts have RSS feeds yet.  So another very important source is the docket information contributed by RECAP users.  Attorneys and others who download documents from the PACER system using their paid accounts can participate by installing the RECAP Extension to then upload these same documents to CourtListener’s RECAP Archive.  To date, 37M PACER docket entries have been uploaded to the RECAP Archive which includes 6.5M searchable PDFs.  The RECAP Archive continues to grow with the addition of over 100,000 docket entries and 2000 PDFs every day.

The value of CourtListener goes well beyond RECAP and PACER.  CourtListener also provides a free searchable archive of over 4M court opinions with more being added by the day.  They also have one of the largest collections of oral arguments available on the Internet.  Their coverage page breaks down the figures and services in greater detail.

There really is no other legal website like it.  As the courts continue to charge the public fees for access to PACER, the Free Law Project practices what they call PACER Advocacy to bring these documents out into the light for the world to see for free.

Access to free PACER Docket Alerts is not unlimited, however.  Any user can monitor five dockets for free.  Those who install the RECAP Extension will get an additional ten docket alerts.  Users who make monthly contributions to the Free Law Project can make as many alerts as they need (within a reasonable limit).  The current suggested minimum monthly donation is five dollars per month.

 

What if There Were TurboTax, but for Appellate Briefs? (Guess What- There Is!)

Formatting appellate briefs is tough- there’s no getting around it. Brief-writers, be they attorneys or pro se litigants, have to pay very close attention to specific formatting details like margins, font, citations, headings, etc. If briefs are submitted to the court of appeals clerk’s office and they do not meet the stringent requirements, they are rejected.

Luckily, the State Bar of Wisconsin Appellate Practice Section recently created a tool called the Brief Assistant to help out. The Brief Assistant is an app which “allows the user to draft a correctly formatted initial brief, response brief, or reply brief that can be downloaded, saved, edited, and then filed in an appeal.”

In order to use Brief Assistant, the user simply creates a free account, selects which type of brief to create, then answers basic questions asked by the app (similar to how TurboTax works), which populates the brief. Brief Assistant will also provide users with tips for writing the required sections of the brief.

Brief Assistant can be a useful tool for lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries, and pro se litigants- it even has two different tracks- one for legal professionals, and one for pro se litigants- the one for pro se litigants provides sample model briefs so that the user can see what the finished project should look like.

You can read more about Brief Assistant here.

News on the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau

A recent article from Madison’s local newspaper, The Isthmus, outlines some significant cuts to the staff and services of the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, particularly in the LRB research and library services department.

For example, the article cites a reduction in the number of “plain language” reviews of laws or court cases from 27 in 2014 to 11 last year. The number of reports produced by the LRB has also fallen in recent years from 22 in 2014, 16 in 2015, 5 in 2016, 1 in 2017, and none so far in 2018.

See the article for more information about the cuts as well as a bit of history of the LRB in Wisconsin.

Book Review- Table for 9: Supreme Court Food Traditions & Recipes

Brand new for your reading leisure!  This delightful book takes you way behind the scenes of the Supreme Court, and spotlights the culinary traditions that have been a part of the institution since its first session in 1790.

From cover to cover readers will be rewarded with recipes, wonderful photos, and stories brimming with history.  The author Clare Cushman, who is the Supreme Court Historical Society’s publication director, chronicles a very human side of the Justices.  Admittedly, not all their recipes or dietary habits are exactly appetizing, but there’s no accounting for taste.  The First Chief Justice, John Jay (1789-1795), liked oysters for breakfast, and there’s a recipe for scrambled eggs and oysters if that’s your thing (p.97).  Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson (1941-1954) enjoyed cowslip sandwiches for lunch (p.124).  Who knew?  Now you do.

Many of the Justices brought their lunches to work.  For Samuel A. Alito Jr. (2006-) it’s leftovers from home.  Word has it his wife is a wonderful cook.  Benjamin Cardozo (1932-1938) brought a slice of cake every day for lunch, but the other Justices teased him and he stopped bringing it (p.16).

This next one is sure to bring a laugh.  There was a time in the late nineteenth century when oral arguments were heard five days a week from noon to 4:00 p.m.  With no break for lunch, it was not uncommon for one or two of the Justices to leave their seats and slip behind the bench to take a bite.  The audience could not see them, but they could distinctly hear “the rattle of knives and forks.”  One day an advocate complained to Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller (1888-1910) that there was no quorum present.  The Chief Justice reassured him: “Although you may not see them…there are two Justices present who can hear the argument, and you may proceed.”  After many complaints, a formal lunch break was instituted from 2:00-2:30 p.m. (pp.13-15).

And how about this “A dietitian, Maryan Stevens has been credited with her husband John Paul Stevens’ longevity on the bench: he sat from 1975-2010 and was the third-longest serving Justice in history when he retired at age 90” (p.106).  His preferred lunch happens to be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crusts cut off (p.16).

There’s an entire chapter on Birthday Traditions, and does that pineapple coconut cake ever look good!  This would be Bill’s Birthday Cake by Natalie “Nan” Cornell Rehnquist (pp.54-55).  Another delightful chapter features Justices in the Kitchen.  Thurgood Marshall’s (1967-1991) grandmother taught him to cook although he tended not to follow recipes.  Sandra Day O’Connor (1981-2006) loved to cook and entertain.  She worked hard to revive the tradition of the Justices eating lunch together which had waned over the years.

There is so much to appreciate about this book, but you must really see it for yourself to take in its full impact.  Many of the photographs look good enough to eat, while others present the Justices as regular people enjoying the company of good food and friends.  The stories and captions that go along with them make for a wonderful hearty stew.  Bon Appétit!

This book is located in our library stacks, call number KF8742. C875 2017.

This post was written by our Evening Reference Librarian, Eric Taylor.

In Memory of Margo Melli

The Wisconsin Lawyer recently published a wonderful article celebrating the life and career of UW Law School Professor Emerita Margo Melli, who passed away on January 6, 2018.

Prof. Melli graduated at the top of her UW law class in 1949, and eventually became the first female tenure-track law professor in the history of the UW Law School.

As the article states, she was a “trailblazer” for women lawyers in Wisconsin and will certainly be missed.

WI Legislature Recently Introduced Two Bills Related to CCAP

CCAP, or the Consolidated Court Automation Program, is the Wisconsin electronic circuit court case management system. Recently, several bills were introduced in the Wisconsin legislature regarding CCAP.

 

Both of these bills, Assembly Bill 723 and Senate Bill 612, list what categories of information should be provided and searchable on CCAP, including:

 

  • County where charges were filed
  • Judge assigned to the case
  • All cases adjudicated by the judge
  • The criminal charge filed
  • Whether the case resulted in a conviction
  • The penalty that was imposed, if any, in the case

 

This is certainly something we’ll be keeping our eyes on in the near future!