Friday, May 1, 2015

Law Day 2015: Celebrating 800 years of Magna Carta

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian & College Archivist
This year marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta at Runnymede.  The barons of England forced King John to sign it to address their many grievances (specifically his high taxes and exploitation of feudal rights as he attempted to raise money to wage war in France) in order to avoid civil war.  The Great Charter, however, was promptly nullified by Pope Innocent III.  It therefore failed to resolve any of England’s internal issues and, instead, the country descended into the war that it was supposed to prevent.  King John died in October 1216, allowing for a compromise to be reached with his son and successor, Henry III. Magna Carta was issued several times, but it wasn’t until 1297, during the reign of Edward I, that it was entered into the official Statute Rolls of England.  
Magna Carta is one of the most famous documents in the world. It established for the first time the principle that everyone – king included - was subject to the law. While the 1215 Magna Carta was essentially a failed peace treaty, the 1225 version, issued by Henry III, became the definitive version.  Of the 63 original clauses, only three remain part of English law today: one defends the liberties and rights of the Church of England, one confirms the liberties and customs of London and other towns, and the final one, the most famous, states “no man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send other to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.” (
This is the clause that gives us the right to due process and a fair trial. Magna Carta has a special status as the cornerstone of English liberties and remains a symbol of defense against tyranny. In the United States, Magna Carta inspired and justified action during the American Revolution as the colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen. Those rights were enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The American colonies were founded during a time when Magna Carta was experiencing a legal revival. Sir Edward Coke used it to oppose the Stuart kings, and his commentary on the Great Charter in his second Institute was printed by order of the Long Parliament. The charters for the colonies included the guarantee that the New World occupants would have the same rights as Englishmen. Legal codes developed in the colonies included the liberties provided by Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights. Coke’s Institutes of the Laws of England were widely studied by American law students, including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison. It is not surprising, then, that those same men should look to Coke and his interpretation of Magna Carta when preparing for revolution and the creation of a new nation.

To celebrate Law Day 2015, visit the Fred Parks Law Library to view a display on Magna Carta and its influence on American law from our collection. Also, for a bit of fun, visit the British Library’s webpage to view an animated video on Magna Carta narrated by Monty Python’s Terry Jones.
Sources cited:
The British Library. (Accessed 4/28/2015)
Pound, Roscoe. ,”A Foreward to the Pageant of Magna Carta.” 14 A.B.A.  J. 526 1928.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Collection Spotlight - Exam Study Aids

by Barbara Szalkowski, Senior Catalog Librarian

Now Appearing in the Library!

The Library has many resources
to assist you in preparing for exams.
Many of them can be found in
KF 283 (Reserve and Main4).
There are also online aids -- see
the Study Study Aids Channel on STANLEY.

Good luck!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Texian Edition

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian & College Archivist

On April 21, 1836, the Texian Army, headed by General Sam Houston, engaged in battle with the Mexican Army, led by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Roughly twenty minutes later the phrases "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Goliad!" would take their place in history and the Battle of San Jacinto would be over, with the Texians emerging victorious. This was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution and cemented our independence from Mexico.

Texas law is unique in many ways. When we became our own country we did adopt the Common Law but we kept a few things from our days as a Spanish colony and Mexican state. As a result, lawyers and judges sometimes have  to take a look at land grant maps like this one from John Sayles' Early laws of Texas.  This copy was donated to the library by the late Judge Spurgeon Bell, former Chief Justice of the First Court of Appeals and long-time South Texas Faculty member.
Map of Spanish Texas, 1835, from Early laws of Texas: General laws from 1836 to 1879, relating to public lands, colonial contracts, headrights, pre-emptions, grants of land to railroads and other corporations, conveyances, descent, distribution, marital rights, registration of wills, laws relating to jurisdiction, powers and procedure of courts, and all other laws of general interest... Compiled and arranged by John Sayles and Henry Sayles. St. Louis, Mo: The Gilbert Book Co., 1891. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Collection Spotlight - Terrorism and Crime

by Barbara Szalkowski, Senior Catalog Librarian

Now Appearing in the Library!

Anniversaries of certain terror-related
incidents, including the Oklahoma City
and the Boston Marathon bombings,
fall in mid-April.

Terrorism as crime, national security,
and other related topics have become
significant areas of study in the past few
decades. The Library collection has
a broad spectrum of materials, both
U.S. government documents and
other books and periodicals, that
can help explain or offer insights into
this complex area, as well as
materials dealing with specific
historical events.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Throwback Thursday: National Library Week

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian & College Archivist

To celebrate National Library Week (April 12-18, 2015), we have two photos, both from 1980. The first is of the Fred Parks Law Library. Well, kind of.  Our current library was built in 2000 and opened in 2001. Prior to construction the area was an outdoor terrace.
The library itself was situated on the first and second floors, and occupied the area that currently houses the Treece Courtroom, Career Resources, Development & Alumni Relations, and the Frank Evans Center. If you stood at the library entrance, it looked like this:
Please note the card catalog on the right side and then go thank a librarian for all of the databases and online resources you can access from anywhere in the world. You could also bring flowers and chocolate. We like those.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Collection Spotlight - Immigration Resources

by Barbara Szalkowski, Senior Catalog Librarian

Now Appearing in the Library!

South Texas announced this week that it has 
received a grant from the Houston Endowment
to fund a new immigration clinic.

The Library has an extensive collection
of practical materials to aid in an
Immigration Law practice,
including these three titles.
For more sources, check out print materials
in KF 4800-4849 Main4
or search STELLA or STELLAplus+
for keywords "immigration law"
or for Library of Congress subject
 "Emigration and immigration law United States."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Throwback Thursday: April Fool's Edition

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian & College Archivist

In 1985, our school newspaper, Annotations, published an April Fool’s edition which they called Amutation, proving once again that law students (and lawyers) have a great sense of humor. While the student publication has been discontinued, you can read Amutation along with the complete run of print Annotations online through The Portal of Texas History
To learn more about Annotations or to explore our other digital collections, please visit our Digital Collections LibGuide.