Monday, September 23, 2013

STELLA Online Catalog Temporary Disruption Scheduled

by Barbara Szalkowski, Senior Catalog Librarian

Tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 24, the online catalog (STELLA) will be unavailable due to a server upgrade. You will still be able to search STELLA Plus+ for materials, including specific titles, and discover library locations and call numbers, but the links to the actual online catalog will not function during the installation. We apologize for this inconvenience.

The South Texas College of Law turns 90!

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian
        “It will be our purpose then to seek out for students only sincere men – only earnest men, who have enlisted not for a battle only, but for a war, and upon whose persevering interest we may securely count.
        Given such students, it will be our hope and purpose to turn them out not practitioners merely, not craftsmen in tort or contract, criminal law or admiralty, but lawyers, capable of reasoning broadly and abstractly, and of testing by the same general touchstone ‘conformity to right and justice,’ every question, no matter in what particular branch of the law it may arise.”
                        -Judge Joseph C. Hutcheson, Dean, South Texas School of Law, South Texas School
                        of Law Catalogue, 1923-1924.
      The South Texas School of Law, a part-time evening law program run by the YMCA, welcomed its first class on September 24, 1923. Housed in the Fannin Street YMCA, the freshman class of 29 men and 5 women were taught by some of the most impressive members of the Houston bench and bar.  The first dean, Joseph C. Hutcheson, was a federal judge for the Southern District of Texas. Faculty members held degrees from Harvard, Columbia, and the Universities of Texas and Michigan.  The Board of Governors, which consisted of partners at some of the largest law firms in the Houston, were determined that this law school not only fill a gap by providing affordable legal education in Houston, but also that it be a first class law school. 
        The rapid growth of the oil industry in the 1920s created an urgent need for lawyers in the Houston area.  Experts in Texas law were required to examine titles, draw up conveyances, organize new corporations and generally deal with the business created by oil exploration and discovery.[i] One of the original missions of South Texas, then, was to train lawyers who would serve the needs of Houston and Harris County.[ii]  It should not be surprising that the general counsel of Humble Oil & Refining, E.E. Townes, Sr., was among the faculty.  Being the oldest law school in Houston, South Texas was an innovator in Continuing Legal Education: Townes, as Dean of the South Texas School of Law, established the Oil and Gas Lecture Series in 1935.
         South Texas has always had a high degree of integration between practice and theory.  By the early 1920s the casebook method of instruction was replacing the traditional apprenticeship model, and the prevailing belief in academia was that law professors should not practice. South Texas took a middle ground[iii] with a faculty composed of practicing attorneys and judges, all recognized experts in their fields, who taught the case system while giving students “a familiarity with the practical legal problems and difficulties, and instructive experience explained in the classroom by a real lawyer.”[iv] 
         Unlike many of the YMCA law schools, South Texas has retained its independence and part-time program. We still keep to the middle ground between practice and theory. The majority of our faculty, full-time and adjunct alike, practiced law prior to joining South Texas and all bring expert knowledge to the classroom.  Our top-ranked Advocacy program provides intensive training in the courtroom. Our extensive clinical program gives students real world experience while providing much needed legal services to the community.
           There has been a great deal of talk in the legal community about the future of legal education; many graduates lack the practical skills needed for effective lawyering. In response, educators are shifting focus, emphasizing the kind of skills-based instruction that South Texas has embraced since 1923. Preparing students to be effective legal practitioners is exactly what our founders envisioned.  By staying true to this vision, South Texas is now on the leading edge of clinical and skills-based education.  Our legacy of practice-ready attorneys is a true sign of our success over the last ninety years.
        In honor of our first 90 years, items from the College Archives are on display in the Library Lobby.  This exhibit will be up until December 20, 2013.

[i] Christopher Anglim, South Texas College of Law: Houston’s Gateway to Opportunity in Law, 39 S. Tex. L. Rev. 9210, 921.
[ii] id, 923
[iii] id,  926
[iv] E.E. Townes as quoted in Anglim, 926.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

FDsys Authentication of United States Code Online.

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

A major problem posed by use of online governmental resources is authentication. FDsys stands for the United States Government Printing Office's (GPO) Federal Digital System. It provides authenticated digitally signed PDF documents, including the United States Code. The new online service makes citation to a section of the United States Code a bit easier, but with caveats.

All fifty (50) titles of the United States Code are re-published in paper volumes in their entirety every six years, e. g., 2000, 2006, 2012.  In intervening years yearly supplements are published.  As of this date the GPO has paper volumes up to Title 10 for 2012. That means that forty titles have not been published in paper for 2012, not to mention amendments in 2013 from the 113th Congress.  FDsys represents an improvement., but not a total solution as far as authentication goes. For 2012 FDsys has published up to Title 19. However, FDsys issues a caveat on the site.  They warn:
"FDsys contains virtual main editions of the U.S. Code. The information contained in the U.S. Code on FDsys has been provided to GPO by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives. While every effort has been made to ensure that the U.S. Code on FDsys is accurate, those using it for legal research should verify their results against the printed version of the U.S. Code available through the Government Printing Office."

Before FDsys,The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation R. 12.2.1. at 112 (Columbia Law Review Ass'n et al. eds.,19th ed. 2010) required citation to a federal statute "currently in force" to the official United States Code in its paper form.The rule required the writer to determine whether the title and section of the United States Code had been published in paper by the GPO. Since the GPO runs at least a year behind in paper publication the process could be cumbersome. Unfortunately, the process can still be difficult, even with FDsys.

 What to cite and how to determine the correct site:
  •  Consult a proprietary source like the United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A. West) or United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.) LexisNexis) to check the date of the last amendment(s) to a particular code section.
  • Check the library's shelves physically or ask a librarian to consult the check-in records in the library's catalog to determine the latest paper publication of the Code.
  • If the paper publication is not up to date with the amendments,cite to the U.S.C.A.,or the U.S.C.S. 
  • However, if FDsys is authenticated and up to date, the user can use the official United States Code citation as if the paper publication is on the shelves in libraries, maybe. The Bluebook is not clear on this:  Rule 12.2.1 says:
  • "...a new main edition of the official United States Code is published every six years, and an annual cummulative supplement is published for each intervening year. An exact copy of the United States Code in PDF format may be found at;these versions may be cited as if they were the print code. Codified federal statutes enacted subsequent to the latest edition or supplement of the Code should be cited to an unofficial code, (e.g., West's United States Code Annotated) until published in the United States Code."
Another caveat about the Bluebook  and citation of the United States Code: Table 1 says the citation for for the United States Code and the proprietary publications begins with the volume number. This is not correct. There are no volume numbers in the set.  Instead there are title numbers (e.g. 18 U.S.C...). 
When I started writing this blog piece I thought there were set answers.  After I saw the caveat on FDsys, I realize that I should contact the Bluebook editors as well as other law librarians who may have comments on the inconsistencies both at FDsys and in the Bluebook.