Category Archives: Miscellaneous & Odd-ball

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!

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.

Update from 511 Wisconsin to Help You Plan Your Next Trip!

511 Wisconsin is a website with up-to-date information about Wisconsin traffic, travel, road conditions, etc.

According to the website, “We’re updating the 511 Wisconsin website with additional features that will help My 511WI users personalize travel planning needs. These enhancements mean that all My 511WI users will need to re-enroll when the new site goes live on Wednesday, July 12. When you visit www.511wi.gov that morning, you’ll notice a new look with a responsive, mobile-friendly design that’s engineered to maximize the ‘know before you go’ experience.”

Celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and read about his legal career

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, our 16th and arguably greatest president. His legacy as president and leader during the Civil War has been covered in great detail over the past 150 years. Sometimes, his career as a lawyer before his ascension to the presidency is overlooked (though all aspects of Lincoln’s life have been studied in detail!). One great way to get to know Lincoln beyond as president is to read about his experiences riding through the then-wilderness of the Midwest, serving as a lawyer for a variety of frontiersmen, farmers and small town residents.
One great book that the Law Library has in it’s Lincoln Collection is “Lincoln’s Own Stories”, edited by Anthony Gross. Originally published in 1912, the book is a unique collection of stories that were told by Lincoln himself (and those who knew him) ranging from his childhood to his time as Commander-In-Chief. An entire chapter is dedicated to Lincoln’s down-home musing and humorous remembrances of his time as a lawyer. That entire chapter is available online. You truly get a feel for Lincoln’s sense of justice and humor by reading these stories. Here is a short excerpt that tells the story of Lincoln and his contempt for frivolous lawsuits:
It was a common thing for Lincoln to discourage unnecessary lawsuits, and consequently he was continually sacrificing opportunities to make money. One man who asked him to bring suit for two dollars and a half against a debtor who had not a cent with which to pay, would not be put off in his passion for revenge. His counsel therefore gravely demanded ten dollars as a retainer. Half of this he gave to the poor defendant, who thereupon confessed judgment and paid the $2.50. Thus the suit was ended, to the entire satisfaction of the angry creditor.
You can find more great books about Lincoln (and the Civil War) by perusing our Lincoln Collection,located in the Quarles and Brady Reading Room. Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln!

Origin of “Boilerplate” Text

One of my favorite games is called Origins. It’s a trivia game about the origins of customs, cliches, inventions, words and superstitions. Why do we say “break a leg” to wish someone good luck? Or why might we say someone is “mad as a hatter”?
Mental Floss had a post the other day on the origin of the term “boilerplate” as a unit of writing that can be reused over and over without change, often in contracts or computer code.

In dem der olden deys, steam boilers were built from very heavy tough steel sheets. Similar sheets of steel were also used for engraving copy that was intended for widespread reproduction in multiple issues of newspapers–things like ads and syndicated columns. Regular, here today, gone tomorrow copy was set in much softer, durable lead.

Since no source was given, I checked it against the Oxford English Dictionary to see if the etymology was legit and it seems likely. Here’s what appears as an added entry for “boiler”

1860 W. FORDYCE Hist. Coal, &c. 112 Various descriptions of Iron, such as nail-rods, *boiler-plates, hoop and sheet iron. 1875 URE Dict. Arts I. 410 The average resistance of boiler plates is reckoned at 20 tons to the square inch. 1893 Congress. Rec. Aug. 465/1 The country weeklies have been sent tons of ‘boiler plates’ accompanied by..letters asking the editors to use the matter as news. 1905 D. G. PHILLIPS Plum Tree 190 He attended to the subsidizing of news agencies that supplied thousands of country papers with boiler-plate matter to fill their inside pages.

More Creative Uses for Old Books

A while back I did a post on some clever uses for old books. Since I’ve run into a few more, I thought I’d update the list.

  • Kathy Kelly, an Erie law librarian, has developed a business called BookBags in which she makes purses and laptop computer cases from the covers of outdated law books and other volumes. The bags will be on display in the Fayette County Law Library beginning next month.
  • This Into That artist, Jim Rosenau makes some really neat arts from vintage books, including book cases, book shelves, chairs, etc.
  • How to Make a Hollow Book (from wikiHow):A hollow book can be a nifty way to hide something, whether it’s a spare key, a secret note, or even money. Most people wouldn’t think to browse your library for private or personal things. It’s also a great way to pass something to someone discreetly–an unsuspecting onlooker will just think you’re sharing a very good read!
  • How to Turn a Book Into a Picture Frame (from wikiHow): Search the basement, the attic or the back of the bookshelves for an old book that has not been opened for years. Make sure that it isn’t a valuable antique or first edition! Follow the steps to insert a favorite picture into the frame. Place the book on the end table to be enjoyed and shared by everyone.
  • Instructables also has a video tutorial on how to make this cool Recycled Book Lampshade.

How to Make and Do has some other fun ideas, including a literary clock, stacked book table legs, and personalized flap books.
Don’t have the right books for these projects? Then stop by the Friends of the UW Madison Libraries used book sale on April 7-10, 2010. Held at the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this is the largest used book sale in Wisconsin and includes more than 15,000 books covering almost any subject.

Google Offers Free Wifi at Airports and Virgin American Flights During the Holidays

Traveling this holiday season? Then you may be very pleased to learn that Google is providing free WiFi at 47 participating airports and on every Virgin America flight. The service is already available and will run through January 15, 2010.
Milwaukee is one of the airports available. See the Google site for a list others.
No login or email is required, simply select the option for the complimentary WiFi and accept the terms of service. See the FAQ for more info.
Source: Social Media Law Student

Are restaurants in Wisconsin required to put cheese on apple pie?

I’ve seen this posted on a number of dumb laws websites and have always been a little skeptical. Connie Von Der Heide at the Wisconsin State Law Library took the time to check it out. Her answer appears in the Wisconsin State Journal.

“It certainly sounds plausible since after all this is the Dairy State, but the answer is no.
“The 1935 Laws of Wis., ch. 106 came close; it required serving a small amount of cheese and butter with meals in restaurants (effective from June 1935 to March 1937).
“And, by the way, that was the first Wisconsin law with a sunset provision, i.e. a legislated ending time. Interestingly, Vermont just passed a law in 1999 designating the apple as the state fruit and apple pie as the state pie. It also requires a good faith effort to serve either a glass of cold milk, a 1/2 ounce or larger slice of Cheddar cheese, or a large scoop of vanilla ice cream with a slice of apple pie. (Title 1 Vermont Statutes Annotated, secs. 512 & 513, eff. July 1, 1999)”

Although I’ve not tried cheese on apple pie, I do have a recipe for apple crisp with cheddar cheese. It might sound disgusting but it is really yummy. I’d always thought it was a Wisconsin thing, but apparently folks in Vermont like it also.
Source: The Wheeler Report
Image from CakeSpy.com