Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New York Times, Sunday, December 17,2011 "For Law Schools, a Price to Play the A.B.A.'s Way."

David Segal wrote the article discussing how American Bar Association accreditation standards contribute to tuition costs at law schools. The first paragraph is actually the only part of the article discussing the standards for law libraries. You can find these standards on the A.B.A. website. (Standards of Rules and Procedures for Approval of Law Schools.)

The standards for law libraries are in Chapter 6. Segal's article talks about how a school in Appalachia, the Duncan School of Law, copes with the requirement that the library maintain a "core collection." Duncan meets this requirement by providing online access to the core collection. The required core collection is:

Interpretation 606-5
A law library core collection shall include the following:
(1) all reported federal court decisions and reported decisions of the highest appellate court of each state;
(2) all federal codes and session laws, and at least one current annotated code for each state;
(3) all current published treaties and international agreements of the United States;
(4) all current published regulations (codified and uncodified) of the federal government and the codified regulations of the state in which the law school is located;
(5) those federal and state administrative decisions appropriate to the programs of the law school;
(6) U.S. Congressional materials appropriate to the programs of the law school;
(7) significant secondary works necessary to support the programs of the law school, and
(8) those tools, such as citators and periodical indexes, necessary to identify primary and secondary legal information and update primary legal information.

Interpretation 606-6
The dean, faculty, and director of the law library should cooperate in formulation of the collection development plan,
While the requirements for a core collection may be straightforward, the more abstract principle and one that almost necessarily requires a large expenditure of money on materials and access is:

(a) A law school shall maintain a law library that is an active and responsive force in the educational life of the law school. A law library’s effective support of the school’s teaching,scholarship, research and service programs requires a direct, continuing and informed relationship with the faculty, students and administration of the law school.
(b) A law library shall have sufficient financial resources to support the law school’s teaching, scholarship, research, and service programs. These resources shall be supplied on a consistent basis.
(c) A law school shall keep its library abreast of contemporary technology and adopt it when appropriate.

While refraining from getting into Segal's arguments on ABA accreditation, one can contend that a library located in a large and sophisticated community like Harris County and contending with schools like the University of Houston and the University of Texas law libraries, requires at least a "Mercedes library." Our alumni also practice in sophisticated and demanding specialities like international arbitration, intellectual property and maritime law. Of course our library is a Rolls-Royce, "Silver Cloud." Our students, faculty, and alumni deserve no less!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Attorney, Employ Thyself! - Jennifer Kim Chau, Maritime Specialist

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

This will be the first in a series about young attorneys, who in the face of hard economic times have found success in solo practice.

Jennifer Kim Chau,12335 Kingsride Ln, No. 388, Houston, Texas 77024, hails from the small coastal town of Palacios, Texas. She is a patron of our library. I am always curious about the backgrounds and aspirations of young lawyers. I am fearful for young lawyers with student loan debt who cannot find employment with law firms or governmental agencies. However, it is possible to thrive with determination and creativity.

Jennifer graduated from the independant, Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, in Michigan. After graduation she aspired to work in criminal law and become an assistant district attorney. She did an internship with the Matagorda County District Attorney, but permanent employment was not possible.

Jennifer's dad who used to be in the shrimping business is now a municipal judge. The president of a corporation who owned a shrimp boat was talking to her dad about his need for an attorney to represent the corporation in an ad volarem tax matter. Jennifer landed the work and the rest is history. She now represents the corporation full-time, and is stimulated and excited about her new found speciality.

She comes to our library often to use our extensive maritime collection, and to consult other resources as well. Our maritime collection includes the major standard works in the area. You can peruse our collection on the fourth floor at KF 1096-1114. She said she loves our library and "its the best library she's ever been to hands down!"

Reference Tidbit, Briefs Available Online 14th Court of Appeals

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

The 14th Court of Appeals, Houston, has just implemented online access to briefs. Dates of inclusion are not apparent from the website. In the meantime, this is an important addition to their existing search utilities.

I have published a piece before on simultaneously searching Texas courts using Google scholar since the court system itself has never instituted cross-court searching. This new access by the 14th Court probably grows out of the fact that attorneys have been filing petitions and briefs online. Beginning January 1, 2012, attorneys in civil cases will be required to file all petitions and briefs through e-Filing for Courts. This requirement does not extend uniformly to the trial courts, so be sure refer to the official page of each trial court to find out if it participates in the efiling program.

There will be more information to come on these developments. One question to be answered is whether the ProDoc eFiling service will continue to be an option for filing in Texas Courts.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Legal Education at a Crossroads

Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian
New York Times, "What They Don't Teach Law Students: Lawyering, is informative when the reader studies the whole content. However, its main thesis, that somehow law students are ill-served by the case (Socratic) method of legal study, is a subject for debate. It seems to assume that the only purpose for a legal education is a lucrative career. But a legal education has more riches to offer than monetary gain. A law degree is a platform for an extremely informed way of looking at current and historical events. All relationships, whether between persons, a person and the environment, a person and their government, business entities, or animals, to name a few, have a legal component. A legal education provides the ability to sense more than one level of these relationships just as musical talent or education provides the ability to hear more than one harmonic voice in a chorus.

There is a degree of panic relative to legal education because the economy has made it much harder to find a lucrative job after law school. High tuition costs have heightened the difficulty law graduates face after completing a degree. All criticism of legal education should trend towards balancing the need for practical training and the love of the law that a Juris Doctor provides.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reference Tidbit - Going to the Poll on November 8, 2011 - Non-disclosure and Expungement of Criminal Records in Texas

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

I made it to my polling station last Tuesday, November 8, 2011, with three minutes to spare. I will admit that I did not know that I would have an opportunity to vote on a constitutional initiative that may ease the problems with so-called "deferred adjudications" in Texas.

Proposition 9 on the ballot was worded: "The constitutional amendment authorizing the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision." (Spanish) “Enmienda constitucional que autoriza al gobernador para conceder el indulto a personas que cumplan con éxito un plazo de supervisión comunitaria por adjudicación aplazada.” See Texas Legislative Council analysis of the proposition at

For years citizens and even attorneys believed that a deferred adjudication plea bargain in a criminal case meant that, after the probationary period of deferred adjudication had run, the accused's criminal record would be clear. But, the cold truth is that these deferred adjudications show up in publicly accessible law enforcement records and are treated as convictions by people such as potential employers and landlords, however wrongly. Secondly, the expungement procedure under Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure is not available to people who are placed on Community Supervision under Article 42.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Alas, almost all people who plea in exchange for deferred adjudication are placed on Community Supervision.

For purposes of brevity see the website of the Harris County District Attorney, Patricia Lykos, and click on Frequently Asked Questions -- deferred adjudication.

Back to election of November 8, and Proposition 9. : It passed by 57% in favor to 43% opposed. It is companion to a bill signed into law on June 16, 2011, SB 144 of the 82nd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, 2011, introduced by my friend, Representative Royce West of Dallas, and authorizes "...the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision."

The law is codified in Article 48.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Information on the implementation of the new law can be found on the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles web page.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reference Tidbit - Using Google Scholar for Combined Search of Texas State Court Opinions

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

The official web sites of the courts in the Texas Judicial system are not integrated when it comes to case and opinion searches. See Texas Courts Online. Thanks to the Google Scholar search this problem is solved to some degree.

Obviously Google has a search algorithm that extracts Texas appellate opinions from the official websites. Google overlays them with a Southwest Reporter citation. Of course the search is limited by the date spans of the loaded opinions.

To perform a search, go to the main Google page and click More and click on ScholarYou can search from that page by clicking the button Legal opinions and journals, or, even better, click on the Advanced search button. Put in your search terms and go to the bottom of the search form and specify the courts (either state or federal) that you want to search. Note there is also a link to a menu of combined searches. You can search any or all of the state or federal courts in a particular jurisdiction. The images below depict a sample search. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Fred Parks Law Library is pleased to announce our acquisition of four rare fifteenth century legal works.

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

In honor of our 10th anniversary, the Fred Parks Law Library has purchased four 15th century legal works. These books are important not just because of their rarity and subject matter, but because of their age and condition.

Paul de Castro’s Super primo, Secundo et Tertio Libro Codis... is a Commentary on the Code of Justinian printed in Venice in 1495. The Fred Parks copy is one of only two copies in the Western hemisphere. Jean Barbier’s Viatorium Utriusque Iuris is a legal handbook. printed in Strassburg in 1493. It combines elements of Roman and canon law with the legal customs of southern France. Jodocus of Erfurt’s Vocabularium Iuris Utrius(que) is a work of great authority. This early law dictionary went through more than 70 editions. The Fred Parks copy was printed in Nuremburg in 1481, a mere 29 years after the invention of the printing press, making it the oldest book in the library's collection. Finally, we have a first printed edition of Nicholas Statham’s [Abridgement of Cases], printed in 1490. Covering the reigns of Edward I through Henry VI, it was considered the standard abridgement until the publication of Sir Anthony Fitzherbert's Le Graunde Abridgement in 1514.

Early printed books, dating from 1452, when movable type was invented, to 1500, are called incunabula. Due to their age and the impact of constant warfare in Europe, they are very rare and often incomplete. It is not unusual for incomplete, or alas, even complete works, to be sold leaf by leaf in order to make the most profit.

The process of printing a book developed by Gutenberg in 1452 was much faster than hand copying, but it was still a laborious endeavor. Each letter of each word was hand-placed by a workman, called a compositor, into a small tray. Each line was carefully placed to form to an even margin, and when the tray (called a compositing stick) was full, the workman transferred it to another tray called a galley. The galley was large enough to hold an entire page, and when the page was complete, the workman set the tray aside to begin work on the next one. He did not go leaf by leaf but rather section by section. Large sheets of paper would be printed with multiple pages on each side; they were then folded into what we would recognize today as a section of a book. As a result of this process, not all the type was facing the same direction. On one sheet of paper there could be as many as 24 leaves, or pages, of a book on each side.

Once all the type was laid out correctly and was in the printing press, it would be covered in ink and paper would be pressed onto it. The paper would be removed, more ink would be applied, and another sheet laid on top to be pressed. And so it went until the workman had the total number of sheets needed for the edition he was preparing. Then the letters were returned to their individual bins, and the next section in the book was prepared and printed. The books were then assembled (hopefully in the correct order), and delivered to the binder, who would sew them together and bind them in paper, wood, leather or in a custom design for a specific buyer.

The four works now in our collection are in remarkable condition for their age, and will be on display in the library lobby now through the end of November as we celebrate our 10th anniversary.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Confluence Noted: New York Times Opinion Piece, "The Military and the Death Penalty" and Our Houston Mutiny and Riots Collection

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

The issue of race, military tribunals and the imposition of the death penalty is an issue that has been shaped by events that occured in August 1917 in Houston. African-American soldiers who were involved in the construction of Camp Logan, a World War I military encampment were the subjects. They rioted and murdered white citizens and police officials in August 1917. The catalyst was the police beating of two soldiers and a false report that one of them had died. The racial hostility from the white population and law enforcement authorities contributed to the atmosphere of violence. As a result, sixty-three African-American soldiers were court-martialed. Five of the accused were acquitted, thirteen were sentenced to death, forty-one were sentenced to life in prison, with only four receiving lesser sentences. See the article written by Fred L. Borsch, III, The Army Lawyer, February 2011, under the byline, Lore of the Corps, "The Largest Murder Trial in the History of the United States: The Houston Riots Courts-Martial of 1917." at page 1. (The table of contents does not refer to the piece, but scroll to page 1 to read it.)
The issues in the Houston riots are still reverberating. The rush to judgment and near summary executions involved in the Houston incident has shaped military justice ever since.

When the The New York Times published an editorial on August 31 called "The Military and the Death Penalty," it called to mind the 1917 executions. The editorial highlights the results of a study co-authored by David Balthus which showed that "Minority service members are more than twice as likely as whites — after accounting for the crimes’ circumstances and the victims’ race — to be sentenced to death." (David Baldus died in June).

The Fred Parks Library is fortunate that Mark Lambert, our former archivist, acquired the entire microfilm collection of the trial proceedings. We asked the Law Library Microform Consortium (LLMC) to digitize the film and our present archivist Heather Kushnerick has loaded the digital files into our South Texas College of Law Digital Collection and provided indexing and other annotations of the resource.

To highlight this unique accomplishment we are planning a symposium on the Houston Mutiny and Riots for the spring of 2011. Stay tuned for more information about this event. Professor Geoffrey has volunteered to spearhead this event, along with Professors Kenneth Williams and Val Ricks. Professor Corn has already recruited Fred Borsch,III to be one of the keynotes. Professors David Cowan, Library Director and Dean Helen Jenkins are supporting the event from an institutional standpoint.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BNA’s United States Law Week is for all Comers.

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

Prior to the ability to obtain up to date case law via databases such as Lexis and Westlaw, United States Law Week, a print publication of the Bureau of National Affairs, now known as BNA, was the traditional way to get weekly updates of federal case law. It is available in print, KF101.U5 (current volumes on reserve, non-current volumes on main (3rd floor) and on-line.

The print version is split into the Supreme Court and the General editions. Opinions are summarized by the editors. Full Supreme Court opinions follow the case summaries. In the online edition look for links to full opinions in original format (PDF) at the end of the article. It is well worth a user's time to study the search features and customization abilities of the database.
  • Circuit Splits --This very important feature notes circuit splits on various legal issues. This is a tried and true method for identifying research topics.
  • Law Firm Authors -- A student who has an interview scheduled with a firm can search for articles written by firm members.
  • Customization -- Sign in by providing your name and email address. Click on Preferences. You can choose to display highlights or headlines (case alerts). Create folders to save your searches and make notes about search results.
  • Advanced Searches -- Search by headings (terms in headlines and headings), topics (subject thesaurus), case names, authors and states.
  • Split Screens -- This feature makes navigation inside a topic or list easier – the results list appears on the left side, while the selected item appears on the right.

Now that you purchased your dream expresso machine, learning how to actually make latte …?

Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian
As a Reference Librarian, I am excited by purchases of the latest and greatest databases. The library has subscribed to a number of BNA online databases for years. But our new BNA Premiere package is daunting in its coverage.

With such expanded online coverage, I am burdened by the need to communicate best practices in conducting research in these databases. The BNA Premiere package contains over 100 separate titles, and within those titles hundreds of separate resources. For example the Tax Planning and Tax Management(TM) databases number about seventeen titles, including the well-known Tax Management Memorandums.

In the future, see my blog postings on these databases, as well as information on the databases in our LibGuides.

Monday, August 15, 2011

So Cool! - SXSW Volunteer Shirt Worn by New Student, Abdul Pasha.

Jessica R. Alexander, JD., M.L.S., Reference Librarian

A new student, Abdul Pasha, a UT Government grad volunteered for the SXSW Film festival. Since I am a big fan of the SXSW Interactive Festival, I was impressed by his volunteer t-shirt. His shirt, pictured on Abdul, at left, depicts a "deer in the headlights." In the library, we try to spot our new students and help them not to feel like a deer facing a Ferrari.

Later, I will be blogging on our BNA databases. We now subscribe to over 100 of these databases, and there is something for every patron in that mix.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Laws In Space featuring South Texas Faculty and 2010 Alum

Two of our librarians, Jessica Alexander and Adreinne Cobb, had a great time at Houston Bar Association's annual production of Night Court, "a parody of pop culture, current events, politics, and the legal profession." This year's theme was Laws in Space, and it featured our very own Dean Helen Jenkins (aka Padme Amidala), and 2010 South Texas graduate, Darryl Scott (aka Darth Vader). Dean Guter and his wife, Pat Guter, were also in attendance, along with James Goodwille Pierre, South Texas class of 2006, and Hayes Jenkins, Princess Amidala's husband. Jessica and Adrienne had a great time as you can see. They were the show's number one groupies!

Click here for a slide show and a special message from Darth Vader:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Casey Anthony Documents Online

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

Twenty-five thousand pages related to the Casey Anthony murder case are online at

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy 10th Anniversary to us!

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

The Fred Parks Law Library opened in 2001, and in the past 10 years a lot of things have changed. We’ve increased our print collection, gotten a multitude of fantastic databases, added digital collections, and built up our Special Collections. Our Special Collections consist of the library’s rare book collection, manuscript collections, and the college archive. These are closed stacks collections that may be accessed by appointment with the Special Collections Librarian. The preservation and the security of collections are ongoing concerns for the library. Items from Special Collections are not eligible for interlibrary loan and must be used in the Jones Reading Room under the supervision of library staff. Currently, the oldest item in Rare Book Collection dates from 1481 – that’s a mere 29 years after the Printing Revolution began with Gutenberg’s invention of movable type.

The Rare Book Collection consists of items considered too old, rare, valuable or fragile to be housed in the main collection. We focus on Texas legal history, Texana, Houston history, Mexican and Spanish law, and seminal works in legal history, particularly those dealing with Common Law. Items from Special Collections are placed on exhibit 3 to 4 times a year in an effort to promote the collection. Since 2011 is the year of our 10th anniversary, we have purchased some real gems in honor of this milestone. On display now in the library lobby is an exhibition featuring some of our most recent acquisitions, including a Spanish and Catalan edition of the Consolato del Mare, a study on Siete Partidas, a sixteenth century work on legal theory, a Spanish treatise on criminal procedure (which includes a section on the use of torture on both witnesses and the accused), a Spanish naval treatise addressing international law written at the time of the American Revolution, and a volume containing primary sources in Texas legal history. This exhibition will be up through September.

For more information on the Special Collections Department, please contact Heather Kushnerick at

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Book Review

Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice
By Gary M. Lavergne
University of Texas Press, 354 pages

Reviewed by Stuart Stern
South Texas College of Law
Office of Development & Alumni Relations

The Postman Cometh: The Integration of UT School of Law

South Texas students are undoubtedly familiar with Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the two most well-known legal cases affecting the racial composition of public schools in the United States. But few, I’d venture, have heard of Sweatt v. Painter (1950). Yet this Texas case was called “the big one” by none other than Thurgood Marshall, who argued both Sweatt and Brown before the U.S. Supreme Court—and won each of them. For Sweatt, which was heard by the Court in 1950, resulted in the desegregation of the University of Texas School of Law and paved the way for Brown four years later.

In his engrossing book Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice, Gary M. Lavergne presents the stories of plaintiff Sweatt, a black Houstonian, and his attorney Marshall, the star counsel of the NAACP, and depicts the painstaking groundwork that was laid by Marshall and his legal team to achieve victory in the landmark case. (The Painter they opposed was acting UT president Theophilus S. Painter.)

Heman Marion Sweatt was what we would today term a second-career student, which adds to the impressiveness of his accomplishment and makes him an intriguing figure. Sweatt was a thirty-seven-year-old mailman with a wife, an undergraduate degree in biology earned sixteen years previously, and a house on Delano Street in the Third Ward. In one of the ironies of the case, Sweatt, who said he wanted to be a lawyer when he applied, in 1946, for admission to UT, had originally wanted to be a doctor. But it was Sweatt who had stood up, when no one else did, at an NAACP meeting in a neighborhood church the previous fall to volunteer to be the plaintiff in a law school–desegregation suit the association was planning to file. He would later describe this turning point in civil rights history as a “brash moment.”

Lavergne, a UT Austin administrator and the author of four previous books, leads us up to this moment with his meticulous descriptions of a variety of interrelated historical threads: the history of public higher education in Texas, including the funding of both UT and Texas A&M through the profits of a very bountiful oil field; the history of the NAACP, including that of its outspoken Texas branches; the cases the NAACP took on in Texas prior to Sweatt to desegregate the state’s Democratic-primary elections (the only primaries held at the time); and the nature of life in both Houston and Austin during the first half of the twentieth century, a period in which the black and white citizens in each of these cities were rigidly divided by the racial caste system of the times.

Despite the segregation that characterized Austin, the UT campus itself during the 1940s and ’50s showed the first glimmers of open-mindedness that would later come to symbolize the capital city. The student newspaper, The Daily Texan, “exhibited a surprising liberalism,” according to one black educator. Following the denial by President Painter of Sweatt’s application to UT, a group of students formed an all-white campus branch of the NAACP. And two years later, in 1948, according to Lavergne, “UT polls indicated that nearly six in ten students approved of the desegregation of their campus, especially the graduate and professional schools.”

That wouldn’t happen, however, for another two years. Sweatt v. Painter went from the 126th District Court, in Austin, in 1946 to the Third Court of Civil Appeals, also in Austin, in 1947. The following year, the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the case, and in November of 1949 it went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The following April, the Court heard oral arguments in Sweatt, and two months later, in June of 1950, issued a unanimous verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

In the meantime, the state of Texas had attempted to conform to the “separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson by providing more funds for Prairie View A&M University and, in 1947, establishing the Prairie View Law School, in downtown Houston (which generated no applicants); the Texas State University for Negroes (now Texas Southern University), in Houston (which generated 2,300 applicants and immediately became the largest African-American university in the South); and the School of Law of the Texas State University for Negroes, in Austin (which enrolled three students).

Although TSU became known as “the House that Sweatt Built,” Sweatt refused to attend either its makeshift law school, which consisted of four rooms in an Austin office building, or the Prairie View Law School, which comprised three rooms in a Houston office building. He was determined to go to UT, and the Supreme Court agreed that he should. In its ruling, the Court stated:
Whether the University of Texas Law School is compared with the original or the new law school for Negroes, we cannot find substantial equality in the educational opportunities offered white and Negro law students by the State. In terms of the number of faculty, variety of courses and opportunity for specialization, size of the student body, scope of the library, availability of law review and similar activities, the University of Texas Law School is superior. . . .

What is more important, the University of Texas Law School possesses to a far greater degree those qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness in a law school . . . [including the] reputation of the faculty, experience of the administration, position and influence of the alumni, standing in the community, traditions and prestige. It is difficult to believe that one who had a free choice between these law schools would consider the question close.
Heman Sweatt began classes at UT School of Law in September of 1950, and I will leave it to the reader to explore the bittersweet denouement of his complex story. Of significant note is that the portion of the UT campus known as the Little Campus, located at 19th and Red River streets, was renamed the Heman Sweatt Campus in 1988, and that the courthouse where his case was originally heard was renamed the Heman Marion Sweatt Travis County Courthouse in 2005.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Legal Social Media

Social media sites have become a ubiquitous part of the today's society, and the legal world is no exception. Both the federal and state governments have engaged heavily in social media forums.

The complete list of the Texas state government's social media sites can be found here. Kind of surprising that the Department of Agriculture does a podcast, isn't it?

The federal government also uses social media in a number of different ways, from the institutional ones you'd expect - The White House has a twitter feed and a Facebook account - to ones you might not - The United States Government Printing Office, the Office of Law Revision Counsel and all have Twitter accounts.

There are also some unofficial social media sites that are very handy when it comes to research. Want the latest US Supreme Court decisions? Usethe Unoffical Supreme Court Twitter Feed If you really look hard, you might be able to find an actual Supreme Court Justice using Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BAM! POW! Comic Books and the Law

Calling all comic book fans and those looking for a fun study break --
Two attorneys, James Daily and Ryan Davidson, who are both recent law school graduates, maintain a great blog called Law and the Multiverse where they explore the legal implications of various comic book scenarios and the behavior of comic book heroes and villains. Have you ever wondered:
  • Are mutants a protected class?
  • Who foots the bill when a hero damages property while fighting a villain?
  • What happens legally when a character comes back from the dead?
The authors use primary source material to support their discussions while considering issues such as sexual harassment in the workplace, as depicted in the recently-released Green Hornet movie, and comic book characters' use of social security numbers to hide their true identities and create alter egos. Fun stuff!
A good interview with this authors can be found here. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

SXSW March 12

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

I am attending a presentation called "Why Government Data Makes Taxpayers Happy. The Data analysis experts from the Texas Comptrollers Office are discussing "open data." There is a website called One purpose of the project is to provide data on how federal stimulus money is being spent by the state. American Recovery and Investment Act funding by regions, counties is available. A federal website called provides information on tax receipts and expenditures. Google has a tax visualization utility.

The presenters powerpoint has a screen headed "Government Data Can Save Lives. -, etc.

They highlight which visualizes data on unclaimed property. Texas has outreach efforts to help citizen awareness of unclaimed property.

The presenters emphasize Google Earth mapping tools to enhance data presentation. Using free web tools saves the state the development costs.

After the conference I will follow up on this subject.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Announcing the South Texas College of Law Digital Collection

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

The Fred Parks Law Library would like to announce our first four collections, now available online. Our inaugural collections celebrate the history of South Texas College of Law and the success of our nationally ranked Advocacy Program. We are also proud to feature a collection that brings to light a forgotten race riot and the largest murder trial in American history.

You can now view early South Texas School of Law catalogs, browse the photos of our winning Advocacy teams, examine YMCA postcards, and read through JAG documents on the three courts-martial that stemmed from the Houston Riot of 1917. These four collections are still growing and soon other collections and documents will be added, including a letter written in 1823 by Sir William Adams, “surgeon and oculist-extraordinary to the prince regent,” to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Robert Dundas, Lord Melville, supporting British recognition of Latin American countries newly independent from Spain. This is the beginning of an effort to bring materials from the South Texas College of Law Archives, Manuscript Collection, and Rare Book Collection to the attention of the South Texas community and allow greater access to materials that, due to their condition and age, must be kept in a closed stack, climate controlled environment.

You can go to to learn more about each collection or browse them directly at .

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Annotations Archive is now online

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

What was going on at South Texas in April 1976? When did the campus first get Westlaw access? When did Justice Clarence Thomas visit the campus? We used to have a football team? You can now learn the answers to all these questions and more by browsing the Annotations Archive online. The library has partnered with the Portal to Texas History in order to provide digital access to our campus newspaper, Annotations, dating from 1967 to March 2010. The last paper issues of our newspaper had not been printed when the project was begun, and those few remaining issues will be added soon. You can find Annotations at

The Portal to Texas History, hosted by the University of North Texas, has partnered with hundreds of Texas libraries, universities, museums, and historical societies in order to share and showcase unique collections.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

FREE scanning in the library!

New FREE scanning options are now available in the library! You may have already used our desktop scanner, located next to the Patron Services desk, which allows you to save your scanned images to a USB drive or send them to your email account, but you might not be aware that our new photocopiers on floors 2, 4, and 5 also have scanning capabilities.

Which scanner should I use?

Features of the desktop scanner:
  • Color scanning

  • Auto correction for page placement

  • See your image on the monitor before saving it

  • Crop your image before saving it

  • Specify desired file type (JPG, TIFF, PDF -- with or without OCR)

  • Best for low volume jobs, especially when using the email function. File size is limited to 10 MB when sending by email; USB storage is limited only by the storage capacity of your drive.
Features of the Oce Photocopiers:
  • Scan to USB drive only

  • Adjust settings for brightness and image size

  • Black and white scanning only

  • No image preview feature

  • All files saved as PDFs (without OCR)

  • Best for high volume jobs when original document is unbound (loose pages). The automatic sheet feeder is heavy-duty, and it allows for the scanning of double-sided documents.

  • Slight learning curve when scanning images from bound source material into a single PDF
Regardless of which machine you use, all scanning in the library is free for students. To activate the Oce photocopiers, a copy card with at least $0.10 value is required, but no money will be deducted. Copy cards can be checked out with your student ID at the Patron Services desk.

The desktop scanner is very user friendly, and, while scanning on the photocopiers can take a little getting used to, there are detailed instructions posted next to each machine. Of course, if you need help using any of the machines, please let us know.

Friday, February 18, 2011

2010 Census Figures and Legislative Redistricting

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

The Houston Chronicle annotates the release of the 2010 Federal census in its February 18, 2010 print edition, with its headline article,"Trends show Texas increasingly urban and Latino," by Jeannie Kever. The Houston Chronicle also provides an interactive map of the Texas census figures at

The apportionment of representatives from various counties in the Texas House of Representatives is prescribed by Texas Constitution Article 3, §§ 26, 27, and 28. These sections provide that apportionment is based on the most recent United States Census. Government Code § 2058.001 provides that no action can be taken by a governmental entity of Texas until September 1 of the year after the calendar year during which the census was taken. Important exceptions are set out in §2058.002 -- the Legislative Redistricting Board and a governing body elected from single-member districts may act before September 1 of 2011.
The website of the Legislative Redistricting Board has further information on redistricting and the role of the Board. Also see the website of the United States Census Bureau.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Current Awareness

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

The library's "Current Awareness" service is directed to our faculty. However, an article entitled "The Natural Law Lecture, 2010, Torture, Suicide and Determinatio" by Jeremy Waldron in the "American Journal of Jurisprudence, Volume 55, 2010, page 1, is worth pointing out to law students at any level of study. The article contains beautiful illustrations of "natural law" v. "positive law" (the process of determinatio).

Waldron shows how complex philosophical concepts can be illustrated in every day terms. He approaches two controversial criminal questions: torture and assisted suicide. He starts with the reality of physical suffering as a factor in each determination. In cases of assisted suicide, there is usually an individual who is or will be in the future, living with some unbearable physical suffering. In torture an individual is being subjected to some degree of physical pain. Each situation requires two or more actors. Someone has to assist with suicide. Self-inflicted pain is not criminalized as torture.

Before Waldron tackles the specifics of determinatio (defined in the article as the method whereby general forms are particularized as to details) on assisted suicide and torture, he provides an everyday illustration of how "natural law " evolves into "positive law":

"And something similar may be true for law. Natural law principles---indeed, commonsense moral thinking by itself---might indicate to any sensible person the need to slow down whatever they are driving (a horse and cart or an automobile) when they move from a rural to an urban setting. But human law is needed to specify exact speed limits and determine where exactly the limits kick in (where the signs are posted) and that is a task for determinatio." (page 2)

When trying to master complicated concepts even first-year students might want to draw pictures in their minds or on paper of ordinary events or examples of such concepts.

Of course Waldron's article is very scholarly and his arguments tightly drawn. A law student might benefit from just how clearly he defines the issues. He does this again by use of vivid scenarios. He compares the case of a woman seeking to make assisted suicide legal in England with the treatment of water boarding and other painful interrogation measures by officials in the United States.

While reading his article we can see the lady and the water boarder asking, "How far can I go with my planned course of action, before I bump up against the criminal laws?" Where is the bright line? In his article Waldron argues that the woman suffering from an incurable and painful illness has the right to ask where the bright line is drawn. Suicide itself was de-criminalized in England. As for torture, he contends that an interrogator who wants to inflict physical pain has no such right to request a bright line determination. Again, his illustrations are beautiful :

"An example of someone who does have such a legitimate interest might be a tax-payer who says, "I have an interest in arranging my affairs to lower my tax liability much as possible, so I need to know exactly how much I can deduct for business expenses." Another example is the driver who says, "I have an interest in knowing how fast I can go without breaking the speed limit." For those cases, there does seem to be a legitimate interest in having clear definitions. Compare them however to some other cases: the husband who says, "I have an interest in pushing my wife round a bit and I need to know exactly how far I can go before it counts as domestic violence..." (page 23).

The illustrations make the article easier to read and digest. Students will benefit by such examples of clarity in legal thinking and reasoning, regardless of whether one agrees with the legal conclusions that Waldron draws .

Monday, February 7, 2011

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

Sexy Title, Pedestrian Concerns - Texas Transportation Code "Rules of the Road."

The Texas "Rules of the Road" are located in Tex. Transp. Code Ann. Sections 541-600 (West 1999 & Supp. 2010). Not only do these rules cover the operation of motor vehicles but also rules for the safety of pedestrians. They give certain rights of access to pedestrians but also restrict their movement upon and adjacent to a roadway. Most case law interpretations concern motor vehicle accidents or incidents where a pedestrian violates a law and then is arrested for a more serious criminal offense. Consult the case blurbs in the annotated code.
For procedural issues concerning traffic tickets a good starting place is the Texas Criminal Practice Guide Volume 1, Chapter 3. Proceedings in Inferior Courts. The Criminal Practice Guide is also online for in-house patrons, and available off campus for students and faculty, via Stanley. Check with a reference librarian for further information.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

South Texas College of Law Closing due to Weather

The South Texas College of Law, including the Fred Parks Law Library will be closed from noon Thursday February 3 until Saturday February 5, when we will resume normal business hours. During this time no library services will be available.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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

Finding Federal Legislative History Reports.

Many reports can be found in full-text in our Congressional Universe database. Access the database from Stanley, or from a public portal in the library. Click the "search by number" option and enter the congressional year number and report number in the pull down box. If the item is not available in full-text see the reference librarian. The item can be obtained from our microfiche collection.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pretty Old Law Books

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

Books are great, aren’t they? Ok, that may seem like a silly thing for a librarian to say, but have you ever really looked at a book, at how it is put together? Most people don’t pay much attention to books except to note if it is a soft-cover or a hard-back. Really, unless it’s falling apart you don’t notice its binding at all. The art of bookbinding isn’t seen by most people, and it is an art – one with a long history that began out of practical necessity.

The shape of the modern book can be traced to the Roman diptych. It was made of wooden ‘pages’ with the inner sides hollowed out and filled with wax, which would then be written on. The pages were hinged together with leather cord. One of the oldest books of this kind ever found was discovered at Pompeii, and dates from 55 AD. The codex – a multi-page vellum document written in ink and sewn together, soon followed. Vellum, however, curls over time so it was placed in between wooden boards to keep the pages flat. Later, it was noticed that the leather ties holding the pages together started to come apart so they covered the spine as well, connecting it more securely to the wooden boards covering the pages. The book as we recognize it today was made. The covers of books could then be decorated. Holy books of all kinds, particularly Books of Hours, owned by the wealthy, can be seen today in museums and were richly decorated in bindings created by jewelers and metal smiths.

Until the mid 18th century books were sold in sheets to be bound by the new owner; it was customary to have all the books in one’s library bound in a similar manner. The Industrial Revolution created a new market of readers: the middle class. As literacy spread, so too did the demand for books, and publishers increasingly bound books themselves prior to sale. If the buyer had the money to spend on a custom binding, they would still buy the book unbound, and take it to a small workshop where it would be bound by hand. By the early 19th century the binding process was mechanized, and publishers would bind their books in decorative cloth or leather. Books can be bound in virtually any material – there are books bound in velvet, fur, papier-mâché, and mother-of-pearl.

Law books were not often bound in glitzy covers, but in sturdy cloth or leather. What they lack in decoration, they make up for in durability. On display now in The Fred Parks Law Library Lobby is Pretty Old Law Books, a selection of 16th and 17th century materials from the Special Collections department. These items are some of the oldest, and prettiest, books in our collection and include an early work on arbitration, a manuscript of the High Court of Chancery reports, and a branded book. This exhibit will be up through the end of March 2011.