Monday, December 13, 2010

Change in Library Hours This Week.

With finals ending, the Fred Parks Law Library will be closing at 9pm this week, starting on Wednesday. The library will also be closed on Sunday.

Library Closed to public December 23

The Fred Parks Law Library will be closed to the public to allow the library staff to work on special projects. Students, staff, and faculty may still request services and the use of the library if necessary. The front doors will be locked, however if members of the South Texas College of Law community would like to use the library or request a service they may call the Patron Services Desk at 713-646-1711.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The New York Times Graphics Depicting the 2010-2011 United States Supreme Court Session - Tips for Studying Law

By Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian
Students frequently mention their frustration with understanding legal concepts in their assigned cases. I always suggest that they try graphically depicting the facts and legal concepts in their cases. I was gratified Sunday to read the New York Times article, Supreme Court Term Offers Hot Issues and Future Hints, depicting the 2010-2011 United States Supreme Court Term in graphical images. (Click on the image for larger view.)

While briefing cases, a student may want to doodle the factual scenario. Resources are available on the utility of doodling in a learning situation. One web site features an article by Chris Dunmire, called "Exploring the New Wisdom of Doodling."

On a related note, I had a personal experience with the Texas Skinner v. Switzer case, No. 09–9000. It is set for oral argument on October 13, 2010. This case concerns whether a death row inmate has a right to DNA testing of evidence under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, codified at 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Times article mentions that Hank Skinner received a stay of his execution less than an hour before his scheduled execution. I was present at the execution vigil a block away from the execution chamber and was with a close friend of the inmate, the wife of a Pentecostal minister from West Texas, when his lawyer called her and told her of the stay. The news media rushed towards us when it was apparent from my screaming that we had heard good news. The whole scenario of being present at an execution vigil is surreal. For more information on the details of the case I recommend the information at This site includes the full procedural history of the case and clemency applications with background and legal details.

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 26 to October 2 is Banned Books Week!

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

In honor of this important event, an exhibit of banned and challenged books, along with the stated reasons for deeming them objectionable, is on display in The Fred Parks Law Library lobby (Taming Poseidon is on hiatus for the week). Every year hundreds of requests are made to remove books from library shelves because the content is considered objectionable. The list of offensive books includes Judy Blume’s Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell; Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, and Little Red Riding Hood.

Objections to books are typically made because someone judges the content to be inappropriate on social, political or religious grounds, or because it is sexually explicit. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list every year of the top 10 most frequently challenged books. They have also compiled lists of the top 100 most frequently challenged and banned books for the decades of the 1990s and the 2000s. In the 2000s, number 69 on that list was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, a book that is about censorship and the banning and burning of books. Originally published in 1953, the publisher, Ballentine Books, marketed two different versions of the book – the “adult” (i.e. original) version and an expurgated version that was sent to schools. In 1973 it stopped selling the adult version, but continued to publish the edited version in which over 75 passages were changed; offensive words such as ‘hell,’ ‘damn,’ and ‘abortion’ had been removed. The publisher withdrew the edited version in 1980 after Bradbury discovered what they had done (Sova, Dawn B. Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Social Grounds. New York: Facts on File, 2006).

One of the most censored books in America is Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and the list of reasons is quite long: obscenity, vulgar language, violence, inappropriateness, ungodliness, immoral subject matter, cruelty, and an unpatriotic portrayal of war. It has been the subject of several law suits as well: in Michigan, Todd v. Rochester Community Schools (1972), circuit Judge Arthur C. Moore told a high school to ban the book for violating separation of church and state. The Michigan Appellate court overturned this decision. It was also one of the books mentioned in Pico v. Board of Education, the first school censorship case to make it to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that “[l]ocal school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books …” (Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982))

There are many court cases surrounding the right to read; one of the more recent ones is from 2003, Counts v. Cedarville School District (295 F. Supp. 2d 996). The suit was filed in reaction to the school district requiring students to obtain written permission from their parents in order to have access to the Harry Potter books. The Court overturned the board’s decision. In 2000, the court ruled in Sund v. City of Wichita Falls, Texas (121 F. Supp. 2d 530) that a city resolution to remove Heather has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate from the children’s section of the library was discriminatory.

The Fred Parks Law Library joins the ALCU student chapter in celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. There will be a reading of banned books in the student lounge on Thursday, September 30, from 11am to 1pm. We hope to see you there, and remember to check out the exhibit in the library lobby.

For more information:
Regarding court cases and banned books click here.
On book banning in schools click here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Texas Code Revision - The Venerable Probate Code Gets a Name Change

Jessica R. Alexander, J.D.,M.L.S., Reference Librarian.
Effective January 2014, the Texas Probate Code will be replaced by the Estates Code. The Probate Code revision project involves a non-substantive revision of the code. Follow the foregoing link for a full explanation of the project. West has issued an interim pamphlet (2009) Pamphlet Vernon's Texas Codes Annotated Estates Code) (KFT1230.5 V4 E88) with the changes approved by the 81st Legislature. This unannotated pamphlet is shelved just after the Elections Code and contains Title 1 - General Provisions and Title 2 - Estates of Decedents. Further revisions will be presented by the Texas Legislative Council to the 82nd Legislature in January 2011. The council is responsible for the Texas code revision project that has been going on for more than forty years. The goal of the project is to simplify Texas law by turning the old statutory alphabetical arrangement into subject matter codes. The Probate Code existed before the revision project, and was placed alphabetically between the statutory arrangement in Vernon's Texas Revised Civil Statutes Annotated. These statutes were last revised in bulk in 1925, and changes and additions to the laws made these "Black Statutes," confusing.

An in depth explanation of Texas statutory history is contained in Chapter 11 of Texas Legal Research: an Essential Lawyering Skill by Lydia M. Brandt. (1995). Some of the material in this book must be brought up to date by the reader.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Library Gets New Color Scanner!

Students and other patrons of the Fred Parks Law Library will be happy to know that the library now officially has a scanner for public use. The new scanner is located near the front entrance of the library by the Patron Services desk. Some features of the new scanner:

  • Scans in color or black and white
  • Document feeder to scan multiple pages at once
  • Scans can be saved to a USB drive or emailed
  • Scans can be saved as Word, PDF, or TIFF files
  • A touchscreen to guide users through simple steps
The library staff hopes the new scanner will help students and visitors have a more enjoyable and helpful library experience.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Student Tim Clark

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian, J.D., M.L.S.

Sometimes I can look at a student and am compelled to ask, "What did you do in your other life?" Tim Clark, a recent graduate of the University of Houston (May, 2010) came to the Reference Desk. I asked him the question and he made my day. Tim never gave up on his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer, despite the detours on his journey. He grew up first in Midland, Texas, then in several other states during his grade school days and finally in League City, Texas. He married his high school sweetheart at 16, postponed college for years and became an oil rig welder. His last job was a supervisor at a chemical plant. He has children and grandchildren. He has been married for thirty years.

On his first day of law school he felt nervous. But his family treated him to the tender care a parent would give a young child on the first day of school. He came into his kitchen to find his lunch with coffee already packed. His grandchild picked up one of his bags. His wife, daughter and grandchild then walked him to the car! His first day at law school was one of the happiest of his life. We are honored to have Tim Clark!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Student - Adriana Lopez

Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian

The big perk of my job is the chance to meet our students. Their varied backgrounds and accomplishments speak to the appeal of law study for individuals from many walks of life.

I just met a new student named Adriana Lopez (Brown, 2004, Anthropology) from the Rio Grand valley whose love is acting and dance. She and her companion, Danny Ortiz, started a band called the Blue Rio Band, consisting of various members of Danny's family. Adriana plans to keep up her dance abilities by taking modern dance classes at the Houston Ballet Academy.

It is not unusual to meet a student with artistic accomplishments. In the past a group of students, led by alum Willie D. Powells, (2004) who was both an engineer and a violinist, even formed a musical group.

Look for more of these short profiles in the future.

Taming Poseidon: The Law of the Sea goes on display in the library lobby.

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of the sea in the development of civilization. If there is an oldest profession, it may well be that of sailor. There were sailors before there were farmers and boats before there were cities. While written evidence is scarce, artifacts found at archaeological sites tell the story of maritime trade between the earliest civilizations. The Sumerians traded with the people of the Indus Valley Civilization, and goods from Crete, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan all found their way to Egypt thanks to early international trade. “The whole period between the Late Bronze Age and the founding of the Hellenic states saw extensive maritime activity in the Mediterranean area” (Gold 3). The growth of cities increased the need for communication and trade, and as civilization moved west that need increased. By the 5th century BC, the entire coast of the Mediterranean was dotted with cities and it was in the Mediterranean where the Law of the Sea began. Because no one nation or people owned the sea, international trade regulations evolved from customs that date back to the earliest times. “Empires rose and fell, states were in one kind of political or legal chaos after another, but the sea law appeared to continue as a growing, maturing body of law throughout these vicissitudes. It did so because no king or chieftain exercised continuous control” (Gold 4).

While early evidence of maritime laws can be found in the Code of Hammurabi, which included rules on collisions, bottomry and reimbursement for leased watercraft, the “first comprehensive maritime code, which not only regulated Greek commerce for a very long time but also supplied the basis for all sea law for the next 1,000 years was complied by the Rhodians…” (Gold 7). Dating from the 3rd or 2nd century BC, its principles were accepted by the Greeks and Romans and it is widely accepted that the “Rhodian code was actually a codification of very ancient legal principles developed over a long period of time… .” (ibid) Romans accepted the Rhodian law most likely out of practicality: they were an agrarian society whose interest in the sea began for defensive reasons during the Punic Wars. Following Rome’s success in the wars, they developed a “very capable maritime legal system covering all aspects of ocean transportation starting with sea as a medium; then the ship as a vehicle with the crew to operate it; the cargo as the purpose of the whole operation; the responsibilities relating to the operation; and finally, the method to settle disputes arising out of it” (Gold 15). By the 13th century competitive world trading centers with large fleets and wealthy cities had developed, and “Roman law and customary maritime rules were no longer adequate; consequently, maritime law was quickly codified and maritime courts sprang up in most of the cities. We witness here the real beginning of modern maritime shipping law” (Gold 18).

For Europe and England, the most important of these cities was Oleron. Oleron is an island off the coast of France, and in the 12th century it became a major trading center used by Crusaders heading to the Holy Land. It was the first non-Mediterranean city to codify maritime law. The code, known as the Rolls of Oleron, included the judgments of the maritime court and eventually became the canon for Europe, and was adopted by England, probably by Richard the Lionheart, in the late 12th century. The office of the Admiral was established in England in the 13th century and the Admiralty Court was established in the 14th century. When England began to colonize North America vice-admiralty courts were established in the main port cities. Following the American Revolution, the vice-admiralty courts were replaced with state courts, under the Articles of Confederation. Finally, Article III section 2 of the Constitution gives original jurisdiction in admiralty matters to the federal court, and the federal courts have jurisdiction over most admiralty and maritime claims.

On display now in the library lobby is Taming Poseidon: Select Admiralty and Maritime Sources from Special Collections. This exhibit includes works by Hugo Grotius, John Selden, and Charles Molloy. These materials will be on display August 18 through December 3, 2010.

Sources: Gold, Edgar. Maritime Transport: The Evolution of International Marine Policy and Shipping Law. Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1981.

Runyan, Timothy. “The Rolls of Oleron and the Admiralty Court in Fourteenth Century England.” 19 Am. J. Legal Hist. 95 1975

Castro, William. “The Origins of Federal Admiralty Jurisdiction in an Age of Privateers, Smugglers, and Pirates.” 37 Am. J. Legal Hist. 117 1993.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Library Policies on Food

For those of you returning to the Fred Parks Law Library this fall you will probably notice a large sign near the 2nd floor elevators alerting you to a new and, probably, long awaited policy regarding food in the library. Patrons visiting the library are now allowed to bring food in and eat while they study. There are of course some guidelines, which are prominently displayed on the new sign: Covered Drinks, Cold Snacks, Clean up.

Covered Drinks: the policy regarding the types of containers you can use to drink liquids remains the same. All containers must have secure lids to prevent spilling. Examples of appropriate and non-appropriate containers are located in the glass case by the 2nd floor elevators.

Cold Snacks: As a courtesy to other patrons, we ask that you not bring in food that is hot or smelly. Basically, if you have to heat it up, it isn't allowed. Examples of appropriate and non-appropriate foods are also located in the glass case by the 2nd floor elevators.

Clean Up: When you are done eating, please dispose of your trash in the large trash cans that will be located on each floor. There will be one located by the elevators and and another convenient location on each floor, including extras in the lounge area on the 3rd floor.

Please keep in mind, the library has approved this new policy on a trail basis. We are depending on our students, alumni, and other visitors to the library to be responsible and follow the guidelines, in the hopes that everyone can enjoy their experience while visiting.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World Cup Court in South Africa

Heather Waltman, Interlibrary Loan & Reference Librarian

On Day 20 of the World Cup, a bit of news about the World Cup Court...

To combat crime in the nine cities hosting World Cup games, South African officials installed 56 special World Cup courts. Just yesterday, an overzealous fan and London resident went before the court where he was ordered to pay a fine of 75 South African rand (about $98) and admit guilt in breaching security at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. After finding his way to the dressing room of the Manchester United team, the fan, Pavlos Joseph, berated David Beckham for his "disgraceful" performance at the games. Other crimes handled by the courts have been less remarkable and less well-publicized. More examples can be found in this NPR story.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Texas Legal Research Reference Tidbits: Historical Texas Statutory Bulk Revisions

A "bulk revision" of a set of laws is a re-publication of statutes in existence by legislative authority. Texas has had a series of bulk revisions in its existence as a state and now the revisions are available at the website of the Texas State Law Library:

Revised Statutes of Texas, 1879
available in paper in our library at KFT1230 1879.T4 in the Main stacks and Special Collections
available at KFT1230 1895.T4, Main stacks
available at KFT1230 1911.T4, Special Collections onlyavailable at KFT1230 1925.T4, Main stacks

H.P.N. Gammel's Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, is also a very important historical publication. Gammel's compiles the colonization, pre-statehood, and stathood laws of Texas. The University of North Texas Library, Government Documents Department has digitized Gammels. In our library the publication is available at KFT1225.T4 in the Main stacks, Special Collections, and on microfiche. There is also a link to a partial digital collection from the Law Library Microform Consortium (LLMC) from STELLA, our catalogue.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

As one Supreme Court Justice retires and another faces confirmation hearings to fill the vacancy on the bench, you may want to check out these sites:
Thanks to the folks at Secrecy News and the Federation of American Scientists, a series of Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports on the Jurisprudence of Justice John Paul Stevens are now available for download.

The Law Library of Congress has compiled this excellent site, a compilation of resources about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Included are her Supreme Court briefs and the transcripts of cases she argued before the Supreme Court. Her first case, the controversial Citizens United, can be found here. You will also find links to other Web resources as well as videos of Kagan's nomination. Confirmation hearings for Kagan begin on June 28, giving you plenty of time to bone up on her background.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

PACER gets a facelift

The new and improved PACER website -- the digital case tracking service for federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts -- is now up and running. In short, the interface has been completely overhauled. The changes are largely cosmetic, but the site is definitely less cumbersome, more user-friendly and easier on the eyes. As always, PACER provides access to
  • Federal court dockets (excluding U.S. Supreme Court)
  • U.S. District courts including Federal District Courts of Texas
  • Full-text opinions & orders for courts using CM/ECF system
  • Case file documents and reports of case-related information
  • Chronologies of events entered in the case record
And now these documents are easier to access thanks to the new Case Locator feature. This service, which replaces the Case/Party Index, offers more search options and the ability to manipulate your search results. You will still be accessing the same individual court websites, but searching within PACER will be less clunky.

Also, as part of a pilot project, PACER now offers digital audio recordings of trial proceedings in six district courts (Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Alabama, New York, Rhode Island and Maine) and one bankruptcy court (North Carolina). Until now, these recordings were only available on CD at a cost of $26. Digital files available through PACER cost just $2.40.

Finally, the new PACER site provides a directory of telephone contacts for automated case information. The U.S. Supreme Court Clerk's Automated Response Systems (CARS) "permits callers using a standard touch-tone telephone to obtain the status of cases on the U.S. Supreme Court automated docket from an automated voice synthesizer response system." The VCIS (Voice Case Information System) and AVIS (Appellate Voice Information System) "use an automated voice response system to read a limited amount of bankruptcy or appellate case information directly from the court's database in response to Touch-Tone telephone inquiries." Currently, these services are offered at no charge.

To learn more about PACER, check out the PACER User Manual for ECF Courts.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Houston's Legal History

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

The city of Houston was founded in 1836 and was so named in an attempt to convince the Texas Congress to designate it the capital of the Republic. As of January 1, 1837, the town boasted a population of 12. By the time the first legislature of the newly formed Republic of Texas met in the capital ‘city’ of Houston on May 1, 1837, there were over 1500 residents, including 15 to 20 lawyers. (Handbook of Texas Online, “Houston, Texas”; and Chapman, Betty T. “Lawyers created bar association to clean up professional image.” Houston Business Journal 31 Mar. 2000: 32A) One such lawyer was George C. Childress, author of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Perhaps because Houston was the first capital of the Republic, area lawyers have been instrumental in the development of legal proceedings in Texas. Peter W. Gray, the first president of the Houston Bar Association, was in the Texas House of Representatives in the First Legislature and the Senate in the Fourth Legislature. He authored the first bill regulating Texas court proceedings (Chapman, 2000: 32A). Gray formed a partnership with his cousin Walter Browne Botts in 1865, and their firm survives today as Baker & Botts.

Lawyers have been instrumental in the development of the city: Frank Andrews, founder of Andrews & Kurth, was one of the developers of the Houston Ship Channel and Montrose. Two attorneys for Fulbright & Jaworski were trustees of the MD Anderson Foundation and helped establish the Texas Medical Center. Area lawyers and judges have also been instrumental in the development and promulgation of legal education in Houston. The growth of the oil industry in the 1920s created a need for lawyers trained in Texas law to handle all aspect of the oil business (Anglim, Chris. “South Texas College of Law: Houston’s Gateway to Opportunity in Law.” 369 S. Tex. L. Rev 922.). To answer this need and to further legal education in general, several prominent lawyers and judges joined with the YMCA in 1923 to open the finest law school in Texas, known today as South Texas College of Law.

On display now in the lobby of the Fred Parks Law Library is Exhibit A: Houston’s legal history. Containing materials from the Special Collections Department, this exhibit will be up through August 13th.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Celebrate Law Day, May 1st

Law Day is a national day of celebration, created to recognize the role of law in American society and its contributions to our democratic way of life. The Joint Resolution that established Law Day (Pub. L. 87-20, 75 Stat. 43) was passed on April 7, 1961, and codified at 36 U.S.C. § 113. The full text of the law can be read here.

President Obama's proclamation in recognition of Law Day 2010 was issued just yesterday, and it can be read here.

The Library of Congress has created a bibliography of resources related to Law Day, including a list of Law Review articles and speeches written to commemorate the occasion.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Extended Hours for Library During Finals

Fred Parks Law Library will extend hours April 29-May 14 2010. We will be open until 2:00am during this period (no library services from midnight until 2:00am).

The Fred Parks Law Library provides a variety of spaces for study and meetings by currently enrolled South Texas students. Room capacity varies from 2-8 persons. Rooms are available on a first come, first serve basis. Rooms left unattended for more than 20 minutes will result in loss of room.

Group size has to be appropriate for room capacity.

Serveal areas of the library are reserved specifically for quiet study during finals. During finals the 1st floor, 4th floor, and 5th floor are ultra quiet areas. Cell phones, beepers, and coversations are not allowed as a courtesy to other patrons.

Food and beverages in unapproved containers are not allowed in the library.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Empathy, Nostalgia, and "Playa Hating"

By Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S. Reference Librarian

Academic law librarians are an underpaid lot. However, there is a huge "happiness return" in mingling and providing service to law students. I admit to being nostalgic about my age, weight and naive outlook on life as a law student in the mid-seventies. I also admit to being a "Playa Hater." During law school I could not imagine having twenty-four hour access to subscription databases which may have aided my study.

Observing the tension overcoming law students as exams approach I surely empathize with their plight. I also know from my interaction with students that they need to be reminded about study aids they can access through our databases:

CALI Lessons:

One of the study aids that law students either forget or never knew about are interactive lessons from the Center for Computer Aided Legal Instruction, It is a consortium of law schools and features lessons for almost all subjects and levels for law students. I started a character evidence lesson for the purposes of this blog piece. I am definitely a "player hater" for students who have access to this study aid. This would have been so great on the Saturday that I took my evidence exam from Professor McElhaney at SMU, and had to dress, feed and get my son to the baby sitter before I could study.

The SMU Law Review Annual Survey of Texas Law

According to its website the SMU Law Review Annual Survey of Texas Law, "provides an overview of recent Texas case law and legislation. This edition features articles on 31 specialized areas of law, written by practitioners and experts in each field. In addition to the practice areas traditionally covered by the Survey, this year's edition includes articles on attorney's fees, business torts, conflict of laws, energy regulation, family law: parent and child, real property, Texas securities law, wills and trusts, and zoning and land use." Note that each annual survey comes out in the Summer edition of the journal.

From our web page follow the Database List in Alphabetical Order to access the InfoTracLegalTrac advanced search feature. Use the pull-down menu to search the SMU Law Review as a title, "annual" and "survey" as keywords. Refine the search with an additional keyword for your desired subject, i.e. bankruptcy. You will then have citations to specific full-text articles. Follow the link in InfoTracLegalTrac called "see if this journal is at South Texas College of Law." That link will pull up the journal in HeinOnline. Notice that the link takes you through our STELLA catalog to HeinOnline.

There are two other ways to access the full-text: (1) Go directly to HeinOnline and access the journal database.; (2) Go to Stella and title-search for the SMU Law Review; or (3) use E-Journal Portal and title-search for the journal.

The BNA Databases

The library has invested in many of the subject matter BNA databases (employment, labor, professional ethics, intellectual property, family, securities, etc.). These databases provide useful commentary on past decisions, statutory law and developing trends. BNA's USA Law Week has federal, Supreme Court, and criminal divisions. The paper version is a gold-standard publication for constitutional law research. For example, there is specific information on conflicts between the federal circuits in substantive law areas.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blog posts now viewable on Facebook

If you are not already a fan of the library's official Facebook page,South Texas College of Law | The Fred Parks Law Library, this is a good time to sign up. With the help of a tool called TwitterFeed, all entries posted to our blog will now be sent directly to our Facebook page. In fact, you may be reading this on Facebook now! You can easily keep up with our library blog simply by visiting the page. It's one-stop shopping!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

C-SPAN Video Archives Now Available Online

From the Government Documents Department...

For some people, C-SPAN is a cure for insomnia, but this cable network provides a wonderful service by recording the public proceedings of our government for all posterity. Now, you can access all every C-SPAN program aired since 1987, totalling over 160,000 hours of video on the newly created C-SPAN Video Library. The site is comprehensive and easily searchable . From the site:

"Programs are extensively indexed making the database of C-SPAN programming an unparalleled chronological resource. Programs are indexed by subject, speaker names, titles, affiliations, sponsors, committees, categories, formats, policy groups, keywords, and location. The congressional sessions and committee hearings are indexed by person with full-text."

Take some time to check out the site and you'll find video of the Iran-Contra Hearings, President Clinton's impeachment trial, and even the 2006 Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner featuring Stephen Colbert's humorous look at politics and the media. Practically speaking, you may find a video of the Congressional hearing you need to trace the legislative history of a particular statute -- a much more dynamic approach to research than poring over endless pages of text.

For more, take a look at this New York Times article: C-SPAN Puts Its Full Archives on the Web

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Government Tweets?

Would you be surprised to find out your government officials were tweeting? Would you approve? Well let the surprise end here, your government officials are in fact tweeting. After a presidential campaign in which social networking stole the show, there should be no wonder that over 2500 agencies and individuals in the public sector currently have a Twitter account.

What is Twitter? According to Twitter's website it is a " real-time information network powered by people all around the world that lets you share and discover what’s happening now." Tweeters can alert their followers to bits information in a timely manner.

GovTwit is a website that provides a directory of all government agencies, public officials, and other individuals or organizations that report on the government. You can access the website at: The site also keeps statistics about these Twitter accounts, like which are most active, which have the most followers, and which are the newest. The site also has a blog which discusses new information about government tweeting at

Do you want to know what your Senator is up to right now? Chances are, they have a twitter account you can follow to find out. Do you want to know what the CDC is working on? Become a follower of one of their Twitter accounts. Everyone from the President of the United States to the local Houston fire department has a tweeting stream that you can follow.

Whether you approve of it or not, social networking activities like tweeting seem to be a permanent part of government today. What better way to keep up with the people you elect?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Informational Professional (Librarian) and Proud of It

By Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

I am attending the South by Southwest Interactive Conference. I am fascinated with the breadth of knowlege of the panel presenters. I am in a presentation about the semantics called Beyond Algorithms: Search and the Semantic Web. This is heady talk. These guys and the one woman panelist are the best thinkers on search engine algorithms. But I keep thinking about targeted legal information and the ability of a law librarian to take a patron's question and provide them with one or several sources leading to an answer. The web is a real add on to our tools. But for hundreds of years scholars, especially librarians, have invented ways to organize and search for information.

For example, despite Google and the other big players, it is not possible for the casual user to determine what the operative case law is on a specific legal issue in a specified jurisdiction for a specific point in time. In paper research achieving this result takes the expertise of someone who understands the structure of the legal system. In United States jurisdictions it is the common law case precedent system interfacing with statutory law. This kind of search on the web requires a subscription to very expensive databases of legal information. When a patron comes into the law library she gets the benefit of both online and paper research tools.

More later...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Google Scholar

By Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

I am just beginning to use Google Scholar to perform legal research. My first impression is: wow! I was using the search engine to locate the source of the famous quote by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes using the word "penumbra." Using 'Oliver Wendell Holmes and penumbra as terms, I found an article in a law journal. When I clicked on the article the search engine opened up the article from our subscription database HEINONLINE. More on Google Scholar later.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Recent Acquisitions

Defiant Dads: Father's Rights Activists in America, Jocelyn Elise Crowley , (Cornell University, 2008) and Courting Change: Queer Parents, Judges and the Transformation of American Family Law, Kimberly D. Richman, (New York University Press, 2009).

By Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

When I saw the book cover for Defiant Dads, I thought of a quiet library patron with hurt in his eyes who has spent years trying to gain custody of his son in South America. After a divorce, his wife took his young son home to South America. When this dad visits his son, the wife's relatives demand that he hand over his passport during the visit.

In her informative book, Crowley gives a political face to the many non-custodial fathers who have formed or joined father's rights groups in the United States. She provides the reader with an overview of the legal and economic forces that have catalyzed the movement: family breakdown and the states role in determining issues of custody and child support. Numerous statistical information is provided about societal changes that have affected the movement.

I highly recommend this book to family law professors and students who plan to represent families in divorce, child custody and support matters.

Richman's, Courting Change, taught me the term "gayby boom." This term is used to describe a revolution in the exposure of the problem of gay and lesbian people and parental rights issues. The book is written from a critical legal and legal realism viewpoint. Richman begins the book with tragic illustrations of the absurdity of laws that automatically curb the parental options of gay and lesbian individuals and families. She goes on to give an overview of the case law with copious case law citations by discussing doctrines such as the now discredited "tender years doctrine," and the universally accepted but illusive "best interest of the child" standard for determining custody and child support issues. She concludes by saying that the persistence of the indeterminacy of these parental rights issues, cause contradictions and inconsistencies that continue to plague this area of the law.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Library Hours

The hours of the Fred Parks Law Library have returned to normal operating hours. The staff wishes all our graduates good luck on the bar exam!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Houston Area Law Librarians (HALL) is presenting a full-day seminar, "Legal Research Around the Globe," on Wednesday, March 10, 2010, here at South Texas College of Law. Students can attend at the member rate full day or half day. The State Bar of Texas has approved the program fro 5.50 hours of MLCE credit.

The program will cover subjects such as international law practice, international tax law and Islamic finance, as well as the laws of China; Argentina, Brazil & Mexico; Commonwealth countries; and, the European Union. Speakers include law librarians from South Texas College of Law, the University of Houston, the University of Texas, and representatives from LexisNexis and Westlaw.

You can see the full announcement for the seminar on the HALL website For more information about HALL, see the home page at

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Library acquires rare sixteenth-century treatise on Arbitration

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

The Special Collections Department is proud to announce the recent acquisition of a first edition Tractatus de compromissis, in quo omnia ad arbitrorum, by Camillo Borrello. Published in 1597, it is a treatise on arbitration and award in canon and Neapolitan feudal law. South Texas College of Law is one of four institutions in the United State to have a copy of this work. UC-Berkeley Law School, Princeton and Harvard Law also have copies, though Princeton and Harvard have the 1600 edition.

The library also recently acquired Sir Thomas Smith’s De republica Anglorum libri tres. Quibus accesserunt chorographica illius descriptio aliiq[ue] politici tractatus.. Described as "the most important description of the constitution and government of England written in the Tudor age”, it went through eleven editions between 1584 and 1691. The library’s 1641 edition is the fifth and final Latin edition. Published in miniature format by Elzevier, it measures 2½ inches by 4½ inches.

For photographs of these “new” old books, visit our Facebook page:

Friday, January 29, 2010

FDsys Search Strategies

The Government Printing Office, the agency that publishes our nation's official documents, has almost completed its migration to FDsys, the new Federal Digital System that will ultimately replace the current GPO database of government publications, GPOAccess. The migration to FDsys was slated for completion at the end of 2009, but the date has been pushed back to April 2010. More content will be added in the next few months, but you don't have to wait to use the many good collections already available.

On this blog, we've kept you up-to-date with the latest additions to FDsys, but we have not yet provided any search strategies to help you locate and utilize the content. There are, however, two good articles online at, a excellent source for the latest law and technology information.

For an introduction to basic FDsys search techniques, see

The Government Domain -- Congressional Documents on FDsys: the Basics.

And for more advanced strategies, see

The Government Domain -- Congressional Documents on FDsys: Advanced Techniques

Happy searching!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Faculty, staff and students can now access personal library accounts

Access your library account from campus and home! You can now see everything you have checked out, renew your books, and save searches of your research interests online.

· Access your account through Stella, the online catalog, from Stanley or the library's public home page.

· Select login and enter your last name and your G number (with the G included).

You will now be logged into your personal library account. On the left are Help instructions for renewing books and setting up your preferred searches. Be sure and log out (click on "Log Out" above the search box) when you are finished, especially if you are on a publicly-accessible computer.

If you have any questions or need further information about this new feature, please don't hesitate to ask the Reference Librarian on duty or any of the staff at the Patron Services desk.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Senate Executive Documents & Reports

A student approached the reference desk recently, trying to locate a Senate Executive Report. These reports contain committee recommendations regarding the ratification of proposed treaties, or recommendations on proposed nominations. Beginning in 1979 these reports were published in the Serial Set, but the document we needed was issued in the 90th Congress, 1968. To locate this older report, we needed to look outside of the Serial Set in a unique collection called Senate Executive Documents and Reports (SED). This collection is indexed in Congressional Universe (aka Lexis/Nexis Congressional), but to locate the report itself, we had to search the SED on microfiche. The fiche are filed by Congress, session, and report number. For example, in this citation -- Exec.Rpt. 5, 73-2 -- we would look for the 73rd Congress, session 2, report number 5.

If you’re ever doing treaty research and need to find a Senate Executive Report, stop by the Reference Desk so we can help you locate it on microfiche on the first floor of the library at KF 39.

We can also help you to find Senate Executive Documents (renamed “Treaty Documents” in the 97th Congress, 1981) in this collection. These documents are issued by the Senate when the President asks them to ratify a treaty. They generally contain the text of the Presidential communication supporting ratification of the treaty and the text of the treaty agreement itself. Like the Executive Reports, these documents are also published in the Serial Set beginning in 1979; the older documents can be found in the SED microfiche collection.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Civility and the Practice of Law

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, materials from the Special Collections Department of The Fred Parks Law Library on legal ethics and professional responsibility will be on display in the library lobby until the end of April, 2010. Items on display include works by Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant, and Frederick Pollock. The Texas Lawyer’s Creed was promulgated by the Texas State Supreme Court in 1989. It is an authoritative statement on professional standards for all Texas lawyers. To read the text of the Texas Lawyers creed, please go to the State Bar of Texas website.