Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Library Policy: 4th & 5th Floors of the Fred Parks Law Library Now "Ultra Quiet"

Starting April 1, 2013 the 4th and 5th floors of the Fred Parks Law Library will be designated as "Ultra Quiet" throughout the entire year.  This means that cell phones, pagers, and conversations are forbidden in  the study rooms, the book stacks, and at all the carrels and tables on these floors. The library asks that all noise and conversations be taken to another floor or into the stairwells. Exceptions to this rule will be made for class tours and reference assistance.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Following the Same-Sex Marriage Cases in the Supreme Court

By Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian
Here is a short list of sources for following the same-sex marriage case arguments in the Supreme Court.  The arguments are scheduled for tomorrow (CA Prop 8) and Wednesday (DOMA).

The cases:

Hollingsworth v. Perry - the California Proposition 8 case
United States v. Windsor - the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case

United States Supreme Court briefs and filings
Oyez project at Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago Kent College of Law has a "deep dive" website on the cases.


South Texas College of Law Professor, Josh Blackman's blog has insight on the issues and legal actors in the controversies.

Listen to National Public Radio legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg's, clear and incisive review of the arguments and personalities involved in the cases at

The Legacy of Lawrence v. Texas

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

      This week two cases concerning gay rights will be argued before the Supreme Court. The first, Dennis Hollingsworth, et al. v. Kristin M. Perry, et al. (12-144), seeks to strike down California’s voter-approved ban on same sex marriage and declare that gay couples can legally marry not just in California but nationwide.  The other, United States v. Edith Windsor (12-307), challenges the Defense of Marriage Act. These important cases could change the lives of countless citizens, providing not just equal protection, but equal recognition of their relationships and families.
      Ten years ago this week another landmark case was heard by the Supreme Court. In Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), the United States Supreme Court voted 6-3 to strike down the sodomy law in Texas and reversed the Court’s own decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), where the Court held that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment did not confer a fundamental right on homosexuals to engage in consensual sodomy.  The majority, consisting of Justices Kennedy, Stevens, Souter, Ginsberg, and Breyer, held that the convictions under the Texas statute violated the petitioners’ vital interests in liberty and privacy, protected by the due process clause, for several reasons, among them that the statute sought to control a personal relationship between two consenting adults.  Lawrence thus invalidated similar laws throughout the United States that criminalized sodomy between consenting same-sex adults acting in private and invalidated the application of sodomy laws to heterosexual sex based on morality concerns.  Justice O’Connor agreed that the Texas statute was unconstitutional, however she based her decision on the equal protection clause, not on the due process clause, as the statute discriminated against homosexuals as a distinct class of persons.  She did not join the majority in overruling Bowers.  The dissent was written by Justices Scalia and Thomas and Chief Justice Rehnquist, who did not believe that Bowers should have been overruled, that the Texas statute did not violate due process nor did it infringe on a fundamental right, and it did not deny the equal protection of the laws.   Justice Thomas believed that the statute was “uncommonly silly” and should be repealed by the state legislature, however the Supreme Court was not empowered to help as there is no general right of privacy in the Bill of Rights or in any other part of the Constitution. 

     On display now in the Fred Parks Law Library lobby is The Legacy of Lawrence v. Texas, an exhibit that contains some of the briefs presented in the Lawrence case as well as materials on gay rights and marriage equality from the Library’s main collection. The Special Collections Department houses the records of the Lawrence case, which were graciously donated by one of the attorneys on the case, South Texas alumnus and Adjunct Professor Mitchell Katine.  The whole collection can be viewed online in our digital collections.  This exhibit will be up until August 31, 2013.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Legal Websites: Houston Public Library Law Databases

While the Fred Parks Law Library has an extensive collection of over 90 databases for students and patrons to take advantage of, it’s important to be aware of other resources that are available.  This may become especially relevant upon graduation when access to certain resources provided by the library may be limited. One such freely available resource is the selection of law related databases provided by the Houston Public Library. The collection includes resources you may already be familiar with through the Fred Parks Law Library such as Congressional Universe. It also includes practitioner oriented databases such as Gale Legal Forms. All one needs to access them is a library card through the Houston Public Library. Here is information on obtaining one.