We know that modern habeas corpus law has its roots in the historical Magna Carta, but what is the role of habeas corpus in modern law? Who may petition for such a writ? What tools are available for seeking this writ and where are can they be found?  The writ of habeas corpus is clearly specified in both the U.S. Constitution (Article I Section 9) and the Minnesota State Constitution (Article I, Section 7). Minnesota statutory law specifically outlines the provisions for a writ of habeas corpus under M.S.A. §589. Basically speaking, “[A] person imprisoned or otherwise restrained of liberty, except persons committed or detained by virtue of the final judgment of a competent tribunal of civil or criminal jurisdiction, or by virtue of an execution issued upon the judgment, may apply for a writ of habeas corpus to obtain relief from imprisonment or restraint.”  Conveniently, M.S.A. §589.05 even provides form language for seeking state habeas corpus relief.

Habeas corpus is probably more commonly  understood in its federal application, as a remedy for  a person in custody pursuant to a state court  judgment to petition the federal courts for relief, and who has exhausted all of their state remedies. This application of habeas corpus as a legal remedy provided under 28 U.S. Code §2254, plus its historical significance, is described in detail by the U.S. Supreme Court  in the case of Fay v. Noia 372 U.S. 391 (1963).  Forms to file for the different federal writs of habeas corpus (including §2254) are available at the website of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota.  This page offers two different habeas corpus petition packets (based on different sections of  U.S. Code), so one should carefully read the enclosed instructions prior to making their final selection.   If you are an attorney embarking on a habeas corpus filing, the library has some additional resources that might help.  April 27 2015 001

  • Allan Ellis’s Federal Prison Guidebook (James Publishing 2015) by Alan Ellis et al. This is a book of programs and policies for 105 prisons, including educational, vocational, and apprenticeship opportunities, UNICOR, counseling and rehabilitation services, fitness and recreation facilities, religious services, telephone policy, accommodations in surrounding area, and much more.  There is an entire chapter providing guidelines for preparing habeas corpus motions.
  •  Federal Habeas Corpus Practice and Procedure (LexisNexis 6th Ed. 2011) by Randy Hertz and James S. Liebman  This is an authoritative and practical 2-volume treatise with practical advice and expert analysis from practitioners and subject matter experts.  The treatise and the accompanying supplement includes the latest habeas corpus case law as well as important statutory changes.

Of course, don’t miss our Law Day event this Thursday (April 30) which will feature a special talk on habeas corpus.



shopping[1]Be it judges or attorneys, there is nothing unusual nowadays about seeing women serve key roles in Minnesota’s modern justice system.  After all, Minnesota even boasted the first state Supreme Court bench that had a majority of women.   Yet despite its Midwestern-progressive vibe, Minnesota has had something of a reputation in the past for dragging its feet where gender equality is concerned.  Our judge portrait collection visibly demonstrates this fact.  Another case in point- Coya Knutson was elected to represent her Minnesota district in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1954, where she served two terms.  From that point on, Minnesota never again elected a woman to Congress until the 2000 election of Betty McCollum.

With a forward by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement (Minnesota Historical Society Press) covers not only the Coya Knutson story, but other eye-opening details regarding the  sometimes-slow progress of women in Minnesota law and politics.  For instance, the book speaks of a Gender Bias Task Force  of the late 1980s which discovered that judges and male attorneys often assumed that women attorneys were assistants or secretaries, made comments about their sexuality, and addressed them as “dearie,” “ma’am” or “little lady.”

This book is also treasure for anyone who simply enjoys Minnesota history, particularly the life of the late justice Rosalie Wahl.


5091914[1]No lawyer can have an answer prepared for every zinger of a question that pops up when a client calls.  Zingers like:  “[M}y ex is stealing money from my son’s bank account,” or “my grandmother’s life savings were just wiped out by her investor-boyfriend,” or even “the cops just showed up at my home with a search warrant.”  These examples show why it’s critical to be able to find a quick a summary and cite for the authoritative case or controlling statute.   That’s where the new edition of this handy tool from Minnesota Continuing Legal Education comes in.  Answers to these and other questions are supported by references, commentary, and recommended readings.   Also provided is a chapter on the delicate ethics of answering legal questions at cocktail parties. (Hint: It may be better to excuse yourself and go get another drink instead.)

With Minnesota-specific answers provided by and for local practitioners, this book can be your lifeline or your entry point.   This reference tool cannot be checked out, but if a client just threw a surprise zinger at you while you are at the Court House, swing up to the library to read the quickest answer available.   Of course, this legal 9-1-1 manual can provide helpful information to lay people as well.


Legal Research in International Law

CAP INTL SERIESYou may not need to research international law on an everyday basis in your law practice, but when it comes up you will appreciate a logical starting point.  That is where International Law Legal Research (Carolina Press) comes in.  This is a “concise yet comprehensive” tool meant to be accessible for beginners and more experienced researchers alike, with each type of search tool and search strategy covered in detail with explanations to provide background comprehension.  This book gives you an idea of how non-concise the area of international law is, and lets you chart your research course with as few obstacles as possible. Read more about this book here. If you think you might be interested, this book is available in the Law Library.

Mary Ann E. Archer, retired Associate Director of the Warren E. Burger Law Library at William Mitchell College of Law, is co-author of this book.


Understanding-the-ADA-Goren[1]Most of us fortunate enough to live without the challenge of a disability may be unaware of what is contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S. Code § 12101 – 12103) and how it applies to a disabled person’s life of work, travel, and education.  Unless their practice specifically addresses it, attorneys are apt to be similarly unaware.  ADA consultant William Goren claims he wrote Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ABA 2013) specifically to address what he considered to be the shortage of legal materials  devoted to making the ADA understandable.  The new Fourth Edition  goes into some of the new complexities of recent disability claims.    This book includes new expanded topics, including discussion of how ADA relates to sports and the Rehabilitation Act, use of negligence action as an alternative legal remedy, and improved checklists and forms.  It also offers expanded guidance on legal remedies and determining whether or not one has legal standing.

People wanting to file their own ADA claim with the Department of Justice can do so directly at the ADA website.  More legal information to assist those with disabilities is available at lawhelpmn.org or at disability.gov. For job accommodation questions related to the ADA, see askjan.org, a service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor.


There’s Probably a Department for That

9780160919510_0Even if you think you are a whiz at knowing what makes up our federal government with all of its moving parts, it never hurts to have a review source.  Better yet, it never hurts to have a more detailed source of contacts than what you find at public government websites.   Here is where The United States Government Manual 2013 (Federal Register) comes in.  Since it’s not always what you know so much as whom you know, this resource actually shows you both.

The United States Government Manual is quite simply the official handbook of the Federal Government. What if you need the phone number of the department that’s in charge of keeping snow shoveled from the Capitol sidewalks?  What if you want to submit a resume and cover letter to the Smithsonian, but need to know the name of the human resources director?  Or who would you need to subpoena in order to obtain documents previously held by the now-defunct Coal Mines Administration Department?  Hundreds of names and phone numbers come together in this handy manual.    In addition, there are complete lists of federal acronyms and abbreviations, organizational charts, and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for quick reference.  This resource is also available online, but flipping through the pages lets a user actually see the depth and detail of information possible.  This book is on our reference shelf, so come in to look it over and decide if this is something you need on your own bookshelf.   Meanwhile, check out its Table of Contents.


A Brief Post about Brief Writing

5310427_big[1]Anyone facing down a major writing chore isn’t up for reading a massive instructional treatise on the task.  That is why A Brief Guide to Brief Writing (ABA 2013) by Janet S. Kole is so attractive.  Pocket-sized and only 132 pages, one can brush up on the main points in only a few minutes, or read its entirety in about an hour.  Some of the basic touch points covered in this no-frills book include what a brief looks like, how to write with your goals in mind, and some common hazards to avoid.  This tool can be valuable for attorneys who want to brush up on some points, law students seeking the best fundamentals to master brief writing, and for pro se litigants facing the task of writing a brief for the first (and last?) time. 

So consider taking a minute or two to peruse this gem before you start writing your next brief.

John M. Butler

John M. Butler

The Law Librarian was taken aback by last spring’s case of the Missouri man who was wrongfully convicted of rape in 1984 and couldn’t get released until this year for want of a DNA test. Beyond the sad story of the court worker who lost her job for helping the sister of this man obtain helpful documents needed to draft the successful motion for the DNA test that ultimately freed him, is the fundamental reality of how key DNA evidence is to modern law, not the least of which include determination of guilt and innocence. Suffice it to say that most legal professionals are not scientists, and thus need helpful information from people who are. To meet this end comes a leading expert on DNA, John M. Butler of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He is the author of three books which explain DNA information and make the necessary connections to legal practicalities that legal professionals need. All three are available for check-out at the Law Library.

  • Forensic DNA Typing (2d ed. 2005) – Now in its second edition, Butler charts the history and development of DNA in criminal forensics with a text that caters to all audiences. This book examines the science of current forensic DNA typing methods by focusing on the biology, technology, and genetic interpretation of short tandem repeat (STR) markers, which encompass the most common forensic DNA analysis methods used today. Ten new chapters have been added to accommodate the explosion of new information since the turn of the century.
  • Fundamentals of Forensic DNA Typing (2009) – This book presents the step-by-step DNA analysis process beginning with collection of evidence at a crime scene to the statistical interpretation of the results. Also included are brief discussions of such news worthy topics as victim identification from the 9/11 attacks, the identification of the remains of the Romanovs, and the O.J. Simpson case. New applications, such as genetic genealogy and tracing domestic pet hairs to perpetrators, are also detailed. Its clarity and extensive list of online resources and study aids makes the subject accessible to lawyers who need enough cursory information to understand and speak to jury, law enforcement, crime scene investigators, legal professionals and government/legal policy makers.
  • Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing: Methodology ( 2011) –  This book contains up-to-date coverage of essential topics in 9780123745132_p0_v1_s260x420[1]this important field and citation to articles and internet resources. The book builds upon the previous two editions of  Butler’s internationally acclaimed Forensic DNA Typing textbook. This book provides the most detailed information written to-date on DNA databases, low-level DNA, validation, and numerous other topics including a new chapter on legal aspects of DNA testing to prepare scientists for expert witness testimony. Over half of the content is new compared to previous editions.

DNA technology has changed (and continues to change) many modern plot lines, considering its role in the President Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, identification of the remains in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and revelation that Thomas Jefferson fathered a child by one of his slaves. Thanks to DNA, you will never see a great old movie like this one get rehashed for modern audiences.


tvisa-cover_for_web[1]Human trafficking doesn’t often make headlines in the Minnesota legal news, but now and then a case with local connections can arise.  A well-meaning practitioner can easily be at loss for how best to serve the needs of a trafficking victim client outside of conventional legal tools. This is why The Immigrant Legal Resource Center has published a valuable resource book, Representing Survivors of Human Trafficking: A Promising Practices Handbook (ILRC 2010).

Based on their ten years of working with trafficking survivors, authors Ivy Lee and Lynette Parker created this book to assist survivors’ advocates, which include case managers, health care providers, and law enforcement agencies, in addition to attorneys. The result is not a conventional legal treatise per se, but rather a guidebook to serve as a social roadmap of real cases and lessons learned firsthand. As well as an overview of the basics, the book contains tips for identifying a potential victim of human trafficking, answers common questions about trafficking situations, and offers suggestions on how to deal with the practical challenges of a trafficking case. There may be diverse options for relief available to the practitioner and client, as well as the service providers of a trafficking case.

Despite its non-law book layout and its California-slanted perspective, the extensive experience of the authors makes this handbook particularly thoughtful, relevant, and comprehensive. It is available for checkout at the Library.


Illustrated_Guide_to_Criminal_Law_-300x300While not the most scholarly treatise on our shelves, the Library now possesses The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law (Jones McClure 2012). In this book criminal lawyer Nathaniel Burney explains via illustration Legal concepts such as punishment, rehabilitation, deterrence and retribution. He attacks and destroys the common myths and misunderstandings surrounding criminal law (i.e. the mistaken belief that an undercover cop must reveal being a cop to a suspect or else it is entrapment). The legal layperson reading this book for fun and excitement will actually have a firm grasp of criminal law on completion. (Don’t be too quick to scoff at illustration as a tool for legal communication. Last year an amicus brief was submitted to the U.S. District Court of New York, which was completely executed in comic book format.)

While it won’t replace more conventional treatises on criminal law, this book is a gem with its own unique appeal. It’s not only handy tool for students or laypeople seeking an understanding of criminal law concepts, but an irresistible comic book-style read for legal professionals in need of a superhero fix.

More information about this book can be found at Burney’s website.