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.

 

Bank Robber Shon Hopwood’s Second Chance

13155188You may have recently read Shon Hopwood’s story in the national news: After spending the late 1990’s robbing banks across rural Nebraska, time and justice finally caught up with Shon Hopwood. At 23, he was facing federal Judge Richard Kopf for sentencing on robbery charges. Hopwood’s appeal to the Judge for leniency was unsuccessful, for he wound up serving over a decade in a federal prison for his crimes.

Prison, however, was where Hopwood discovered the law library, as well as his own knack for legal analysis and application. He was a quick study, soon becoming the in-house go-to guy for various inmate legal needs. Hopwood’s coup was preparing a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of fellow prisoner John Fellers. When the Court granted certiorari in a 9-0 against-all-odds decision, it started the chain of events that ultimately lead to Mr. Fellers’ sentence being reduced by four years. Young Mr. Hopwood had clearly found his calling. Released from prison in 2008, Hopwood enrolled in law school at the University of Washington. Now thirty eight years old and the father of two small children, he is currently scheduled to graduate in 2014. He will then serve as a clerk for Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Both NPR and the New York Times have featured recent articles highlighting Mr. Hopwood’s turnaround. Hopwood and his wife Marie have a personal blog here. (Their take on life is a decidedly Christian one.) Now semi-retired, Judge Kopf has evaluated the sentence he imposed on Hopwood in his own blog. (See Hopwood’s own comment entry here as well.) Mr. Hopwood has also written an inspiring memoir of his turnaround: Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption (Crown 2012 ). Law Man is here in our library and available for check-out.

 


Over 180,000 Minnesotans are summoned for jury service every year. Service may be compulsory, but few are actually chosen to this powerful and exclusive club. If you have recently been called up for jury duty in Ramsey County, you are apt to have questions, particularly regarding what you “can-and-can’t do” where your electronic communication habits are concerned. (Example: In a recent trial, a judge required the jurors to provide information to their Twitter accounts.) For answers to some of these questions and other information, see the Courts webpage.

Are you a practitioner planning your voir dire questions for an upcoming jury trial? Consider reading Inside Jurors’ Minds:The Hierarchy of Juror Decision-Making by Carol Anderson (NITA 2012). This book is basically a psychology primer for litigators. Anderson explains how it is impossible for jurors not to apply the same cognitive tools in court that they use for everyday decision-making. So despite any careful instructions presented to them about keeping an open mind and so forth, jurors still bring their lifetimes of mental baggage and preconceptions into the jury box. As human beings they really have no choice. According to Anderson, good litigation strategy depends on recognizing these tendencies that we all possess and making a game plan with them in mind.

For those litigators seeking more news and information pertaining to juries, an interesting blog is available here. (Note: Most of this information is presented with Florida law in mind.) Jurors Behaving Badly is a less formal but still informative blog aimed at jurors, courtesy of Judge Steve Halsey of Minnesota’s 10th Judicial District.

 

If it’s a small or solo practice, most likely it does not. If this is the case, you might at least want to consider purchasing the Legal Information Buyer’s Guide & Reference Manual (2013 ed.). New England LawPress publishes this book “…to address the needs of the solo practitioner and the attorney in the small or medium-sized law firm operating without a law librarian.” (p. 5)

This 857 page resource contains extensive history of the legal publishing industry, with the publishers’ developments and mergers noted along the way. It also explains what the most bare-bones law office needs for its core collection of legal information, and how best to evaluate the extras. Guidance is provided on managing the time, money and mess of supplementation. It identifies the best authoritative sources in each of numerous legal specialties, as well as the appropriate published codes, court reports and research guides for each state. The book concludes with addresses, phone numbers and websites for publishers and representative prices for used law books.

“When are online services or subscriptions a better deal than the hardcopy versions?” you ask. A chapter on services and pricing of computer-assisted legal research is also provided, with the options going far beyond the market-dominant standbys of Lexis and Westlaw. (Sometimes a very good, and most affordable option is plain old free internet and Google.) Stop by the Law Library if you would like to take a look at this useful reference tool.

 

Rulings on Evidence…

Retired Judge Gordon Schumaker of the Minnesota Court of Appeals (and before that the 2nd Judicial District Court) is the author of a new easy-to-use evidentiary guidebook for attorneys and judges. Rulings on Evidence: An Evidentiary Manual for Minnesota Trial Judges and Judicial Officers (and Attorneys!) shows how to analyze certain evidentiary issues, and what factors to consider when either ruling on evidentiary issues or presenting them to the court. The Honorable Salvador Rosas of the Second Judicial District states that this book is “expertly written with clear explanations, helpful notes, citations and examples,” plus “clearly written by an experienced trial judge with appellate insight.” The Law Librarian observes that the book also includes the Minnesota Rules of Evidence for handy reference. In addition to the expected case and subject matter index in the back, there is an additional index of the Minnesota Rules of Evidence that gives corresponding pages of manual coverage for on-the-spot clarification.

In short, you wouldn’t want to be the judge or lawyer in a courtroom without a copy of this reference tool at hand. Check it out and see if you agree.