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The last post described some very useful resources that are only available for free if you visit the law library.  But to be fair, we should point out that there are several very useful sources that are only available online.  Every legal researcher should know about these items.

Minnesota Title Standards

The Minnesota State Bar Association has been making their publications accessible through its website.  One of the very useful publications is Minnesota Title Standards.  The standards are edited by the MSBA’s Real Property Law Section, Title Standards Committee, and was originally published in 1949.

Why are Title Standards important?  From the preface:

The purpose of the title standards is to state in concise language how the real property bar views various title problems within the state and indicate how the majority of experienced Minnesota title lawyers would probably deal with such problems as they come up from time to time. … In examining a title, lawyers must identify the appropriate standard for approving or objecting to transfers and encumbrances found in a chain of title. The judgments an attorney exercises will also depend on applying justifiable presumptions as to certain matters and, in particular situations, these presumptions may be strong, medium, or weak.  In this situation, it is extremely beneficial for an examiner to have an indication of how other examiners would treat these problems.

Many of the present State Title Standards were adopted by the Real Property Law Section of the State Bar Association at its annual meeting in June, 1946, and have been reviewed and updated since.  The most recent edition was updated in 2017, and is freely available to everyone on the Minnesota Bar Association, Section of Real Property Law’s web page.

mnseal

Minnesota State Register

The Minnesota State Register is the official publication for proposed and final administrative rules, executive orders, agency notices, state grants and loans, state contracts, and more.  Since 2004, the State Register has only been available online at the Revisor of Statutes website (or if you must pay for your regulations, Minnesota State proposed and adopted regulations are on Westlaw; the Minnesota State Register is available via Lexis in their MNSTR file.)

The State Register is the official source, and only complete listing, for all state agency rulemaking in its various stages. State agencies are required to publish notice of their rulemaking action in the State Register.  Approximately 80 state agencies have the authority to issue rules.  If they are contemplating amending an existing regulation or want to implement a new one, the agency must put notices in the State Register.

Why is the State Register important?  If you practice in areas of law regulated by state agencies; if you or your clients bid on government contracts or submit RFPs; if you want to participate in the rule-making process, this is the only comprehensive and updated publication that tracks changes to the administrative rules.

If you would like to read more about the process, the Minnesota Department of Health has written Minnesota Rulemaking Manual: A Reference Book for the Practitioner, edited by Patricia Winget.  Special kudos to her Rulemaking Progress Chart, which explains the process on one page.

In addition, the Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes also publishes two books that help understand the rulemaking process:  Rulemaking in Minnesota: A Guide by Paul M. Marinac, Deputy Revisor of Statutes and Minnesota Rules: Drafting Manual with Styles and Forms.

 

House Chamber

House Chamber, Minnesota Capitol Building.

Minnesota House Legislative Research

The Minnesota House of Representatives has a research staff that provides non-partisan research services to all House members.  It was established in 1967 to provide information for representatives so that House members and Committees could make informed decisions as they proposed, implemented, and amended Minnesota law.  The House Research department creates publications and other web-based materials that provide information and analysis for use by all members of the House, other staff, and the public.

In addition, attorneys on the research staff advise the House on legal matters that arise from conducting House business.  The research staff also compile various data, produce tax-related simulation runs, and provide data lookup tools, and in addition, they also summarize pending and enacted legislation.

House Research is nonpartisan. Its services are available to all members of the House. The department strives to be politically neutral and impartial on issues.

 

Minnesota State Law Library.

Minnesota State Law Library.

 

Minnesota State Law Library

One last place that has oodles of useful information for free is found at the Minnesota State Law Library.  The law library staff produce and maintain Library Research Guides on a myriad of topics.  These guides are great for getting the basic information about a particular area of law, including references to statutes, regulations (if applicable), court rules, references to credible websites (Nolo Press, LawHelp MN, legal aid organizations), as well as listings of books (with call numbers) on the topic.  If applicable, it will include links to appropriate forms, as well as suggestions for related topics that can be helpful.

These guides are very useful for attorneys who need quick access to materials on a topic they aren’t familiar with.  For example, a criminal law attorney might be asked by one of his clients if he could help out with a child custody issue; a bankruptcy attorney is contacted by his cousin for information about his workers’ compensation claim.  The guides have all of the primary information necessary to dive into a new area of law.

The most recent library guide is one for self-represented litigants titled, “Representing Yourself in Court.”  This newly updated guide has answers to many of the questions that SRLs have, as well as links to helpful articles and videos, instructions, forms, books, legal clinics, self-help centers, legal referrals by county, and of course, links to county law libraries.

The resources described above are just a handful of places to get accurate legal information for free.  For more suggestions and referrals, please visit us at the law library.  See you soon!

 

 

No, not everything is online yet.

Computers and books coexisting in the Ramsey County Law Library

Computers and books coexisting in the Ramsey County Law Library

 

A recent visitor to the Ramsey County Law Library (RCLL) was amazed at the number of volumes we have here.  “Isn’t everything online these days?” he asked.

Experienced researchers know that not everything is online, and certainly not all legal materials online are free.  RCLL, along with many other County Law Libraries in Minnesota, do offer some very useful materials in print that are not available for free online.

 Course material from Minn CLE.

Course material from Minn CLE.

 

Our collection contains all the deskbooks published by Minnesota CLE, a key provider of educational material for Minnesota lawyers.  These deskbooks are well-written, and give practical, comprehensive information for attorneys.  Best of all, the content is regularly updated and refreshed.  While they do have an online product, it isn’t free.  However, the law library has a standing order for all material published by Minnesota CLE, and we allow attorneys to use and borrow these items for free.

RCLL also is on standing order to receive most course materials that accompany the CLE seminar of the same name.  The course books (easily identified by their blue, three-ring binders) often contain explanations of specific aspects of a topic, or focus on new developments that might not be found in standard treatises.  Here is a bonus – the individual chapters of course materials are listed in the RCLL’s online catalog.  Your search results will pull up the course materials if one of the program handouts match your search!  How cool is that?

Another very useful resource that we have that is not available for free online is Dunnell Minnesota Digest.  This encyclopedia of Minnesota law has an easy-to-understand arrangement (all topics are in alphabetical order), an index, periodic updates, and lots and lots of references to cases.  It is a great place to start your research if you are not familiar with an area of law and you want access to major cases and statutes.  The narrative style makes it a good tool for self-represented litigants, too.  In the law library, this set of books is conveniently located on the shelves at the front reference desk.

 

Prince's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations.

Prince’s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations.

 

Physical reference books are still useful, even in the age of Google.  One such tool is Prince’s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations.  If you have ever encountered an unfamiliar acronym, abbreviation, or symbol whilst researching, this is the definitive source to help you identify these abbreviations.  This book contains nearly 36,000 terms used in legal encyclopedias, law dictionaries, law reporters, loose-leaf services, law reviews, legal treatises, legal reference books, and citators.  To find this handy reference book, all you have to do is visit the reference desk in the Ramsey County Law Library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Up with Immigration Law

immigration

 

Many attorneys are aware of the important immigration case Padilla v. Commonwealth of Kentucky (559 U.S. 356, 2010) which decided that a criminal defense attorney must advise a noncitizen client about deportation risks should the client negotiate a guilty plea.  The consequences of criminal activity are many and complex.  The book Immigration Consequences of Criminal Activity: A Guide to Representing Foreign-Born Defendants by Mary Kramer provides detailed analysis and resources for assisting noncitizens charged with crimes.  The book regularly references two legal sources: The Immigration and Nationality Act (8 USC Chapter 12) and the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 8).  Kramer details removal, detention, and deportability circumstances; she also discusses how to fashion a plea to avoid adverse consequences, including visa options for cooperating witnesses.  The section on immigration defense describes waivers and other available relief.

The Waivers Book: Advanced Issues in Immigration Law Practice provides attorneys with exceptions to the rules regarding inadmissibility and removability.  It introduces waivers—from A to Z—and includes waivers for refugees and asylees, and waivers related to unlawful presence.

These two books, as well as the following immigration titles Asylum Primer (2015), Business Immigration: Law & Practice (2017), and Litigating Immigration Cases in Federal Court (2017), were recently added to the law library collection.

 

Federal District Court of MinnesotaWe probably take our easy access to state court materials for granted, what with much electronic access offered in all Minnesota courthouses, backed up with archived material at the State Law Library.  On the other hand, how do you find the federal case information you need, with as little inconvenience and expense possible?  Sounds simple if you just want an appellate opinion from the Eighth Circuit (Google Scholar of course), but it is trickier if you need a filed motion or complaint at the district court level.  We investigated three different options for locating federal materials.

Courthouse Access - For one or two items filed in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota, a visit to the Warren Burger Courthouse might be your easiest answer. There you will find two public computers in the clerk’s area for accessing filed materials. Be aware that you can only get Minnesota district or appellate materials this way, and that printing them will cost you10 cents per page. If you need assistance from the clerk staff, the document will cost you 50 cents per page to print. If a filed item is listed electronically but not linked (probably because it is greater than 50 pages long), you must get it from the clerk staff who will copy it at the 50 cents per page rate.  Clerk staff told us that this electronic system will allow users to search records back to “the early 1990’s.” If a case has progressed to the 8th Circuit appellate level, the documents are still accessible provided it started or became a Minnesota district case. (You cannot access 8th Circuit appellate documents that started in Iowa, for instance.)  The Minnesota clerk’s office can send materials out-of-state either electronically or in hardcopy, but that a person must send in their money first. The charge will again be 50 cents per page.  For more information contact the clerk’s office.

PACER – Federal court users are strongly encouraged open an online PACER account, which might be the most convenient and affordable option of all. Simply go to the PACER homepage and select the registration tab. The “registration wizard” will then walk you through the steps to get started. One must provide credit card information, or allow PACER to verify their address to allow for billing. Pacer will allow you to search and print district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts, and print filings from any of their districts and not just Minnesota. By Judicial Conference policy, if your usage does not exceed $15 in a quarter, fees are waived. PACER’s greatest value is in accessing filings for out-of-state districts, as opposed to having to contact the respective clerk’s office.  For additional information, you may want to print out this handy PACER users guide, or take their online training.

Westlaw -  We offer free Westlaw in the library, and our subscription offers much (but not comprehensive) federal case law coverage.  Federal case coverage available through Westlaw begins with 1790. At the district level this will be opinions only, but Westlaw does offer brief access for U.S. Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals cases.  And not all cases are available, as the Westlaw scope note states that “[c]overage varies by court.”  Westlaw allows free email delivery of documents, but not every document is offered with the email option.  We charge 15 cents per page for print jobs at the library.

 

 

Good news for workaholics who don’t have round-the-clock access to Westlaw or other subscription databases for their legal research needs.  If you  have internet service, you can likely find what you need on Google Scholar  Of course, the tools and filters available through Westlaw have no equal, but being able to simply access and search case law can make all the difference for most research needs. Here is where Google Scholar probably offers more than you realize.

Many people know that they can use Google Scholar to access cases by citation, but you can use Boolean terms or natural language to search words and terms as well.  To this end you can also use this court selection interface to fine-tune your search.   With the “My Library” function on the left side of your results page, you can set up an account to save what you find and come back to later.  From your same results page you can even create an alert for any new cases that may come down later.  Besides case law, does your research task require you to access law review articles?  Google Scholar can serve these up through its “articles” search feature on its home interface.  To learn more about all of these and other features, consider printing out this handy tutorial for Google Scholar users that we recently discovered through this recent article in the Minnesota Lawyer.

We are proud to offer free Westlaw access to our patrons, but Google Scholar can be a research lifeline when you cannot be here.  It can be a lifesaver for the solo attorney without a Westlaw subscription, the pro se litigant, or anyone who must do their research away from the law library.  Give it a try and see what you think!

 

 

Appellate briefsAny lawyer writing a brief will consult relevant case opinions, but the most inspirational tool for the job is often other briefs (especially those that inspired past favorable opinions.) And we all know that those briefs are not as quickly and easily obtained as the opinions.  Our patrons may be afraid to ask us about briefs, for fear of being taken to that huge microfiche viewer in the back. Fortunately, the electronic age is slowly making inroads in this much-requested area, and access to the brief you need may be at your fingertips.

  1. First, users might be surprised that both appellate and district court briefs can be accessed via public access computers in any Minnesota state courthouse. (In the main Ramsey County courthouse, go to Room 72 in the basement.) So long as they are not sealed or confidential, briefs are available from January 2015 on, and include both published and unpublished cases.  The familiar drawback is that the MNCIS and MACS interfaces only allow searching by case numbers or names, with no option for subject matter searching.
  2. Second, be aware of the Minnesota State Law library’s online archive for briefs and oral arguments, with coverage beginning with volume 705 of the Northwestern Reporter 2d series (2005). Though not as sleek as a Westlaw interface, the search blank can be filled with statute numbers, terms like “limine”, or with Northwest Reporter citations. Criminal opinions are only available for the Supreme Court, and not the Court of Appeals, and appendices and exhibits are not electronically available.   Are you looking for an appellate brief that is very new and not yet on MACS?  You can send an email to the State Law Library to request it.  For more assistance in locating briefs, see also the State Law Library’s excellent page on finding briefs and oral arguments.
  3. Third, our expanded Westlaw subscription now allows access to many (but not all) briefs.   The “briefs” link on the Minnesota page allows access to selected briefs or petitions filed with a federal or supreme or appellate court, beginning with 2001.  (Briefs for other states can be accessed from their respective pages.)  A limited number of district court briefs are also available through the “Minnesota trial court documents” links.  You may not be able to find exactly the case brief you need, but the advanced interface lets you search for briefs in certain subject areas, such as “motion to quash” or “motion to dismiss.” (Be aware that few Ramsey District briefs are available through this source.)
  4. The old-fashioned brief options are hardcopy and ….microfiche.  The Minnesota State Law Library keeps hardcopy briefs for published opinions back to 1917 Those of the 300 NW2d Reporter series onward may be borrowed.  (A money deposit may be needed.)  And yes, we still have briefs on microfiche here at the Ramsey County Law Library for published cases, going back to the 300 NW2d Reporter volume forward (roughly 1981 and after.)  You can at least use the microfiche to see if a brief is helpful, and either print it or go to the State Law Library to borrow it.

We hope your brief searching is itself brief and painless.  When you are ready to start writing your own, consider borrowing our copy of A Brief Guide to Brief Writing: Demystifying the Memorandum of Law.

 

A frequent issue that arises for users of the court system is that of finding contact information of the parties they need for their court case. This could be the intended defendant that must be served, or a potential witness to be subpoenaed. The task is made all the more challenging with the modern need to keep personal information personal for security reasons. So what is a litigant to do? Even though there is no single perfect method for locating someone, you may find one of these resources useful.mailbox

  • Consider the old printed white pages and yellow pages. This used to be the standard tool, but has declined with fewer persons having “land lines” for phone service and even fewer publishing their numbers. Still, they can be valuable especially for business information. Most libraries will have this resource, and a public library or historical society is likely to have printed phone directories from past years.
  • The post office likely has forwarding address information for a person that has moved. It is not generally publicly available, but you can opt to fill out a 5-2 Requests for Employee or Customer Information, and provide the requested information pursuant to legal process service.
  • County property records can also be a resource, especially if you are looking for a landlord or other property owner. For Ramsey County, look up address and then see taxpayer reports for the identified taxpayer for the year in question. (You don’t necessarily need to be a subscriber.)  This will normally give the taxpayer’s address as well.  You can also find the official name of the owning business this way, and then look that up through the Secretary of State to find a person and contact information behind that business.
  • Does the person in question have a business (or used to)? Use the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office business filings lookup and get their Registered Office Address.
  • If the person in question has been in court on a traffic citation, their address may be part of that file which can be found in court records (MNCIS).  Similarly, they may have been served as part of another court action and their address is given on a service list. You will still have to go to the courthouse to access the actual records, but there you can check pleadings like the complaint for addresses.
  • Might they be in prison?  Try the Department of Corrections offender locater search.  Even if you have no plans to sue someone in prison, you may still need them as a witness.  If so, speak to a court administrator about getting a subpoena.

These are just some of the possible tools that might help you locate your person in question.  Also read the Courts’ webpage for information on this task.  Do you know of other any handy resources for locating people? Feel free to share them here!

 

Weed for What Ails You

Cannabis leafThis year Minnesota joined 21 other states and adapted the Theraputic Research Act so as to allow for the medicinal use of marijuana.  Though the legislature was originally concerned about the medical side effects of chemotherapy for cancer, the final Act allowed nine qualifying conditions into the marijuana medicinal use program, including cancer; seizures including epilepsy; glaucoma; multiple sclerosis and other disorders that cause severe muscle spasms; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; HIV; AIDS; and Crohn’s disease.   Earlier this month however, the medicinal use exception under the Act was widened to include “intractable pain.” Specifically, this means pain that “cannot be removed or otherwise treated.”  For recreational use, however, ”cannabis” remains illegal in Minnesota.   (See this map indicating which states allow legal use of medical or recreational marijuana.

This is still pretty newsworthy, considering the historical/legal/cultural roller coaster that marijuana has experienced in our society.  According to this timeline, the cultivation of hemp was encouraged in our nation’s early years for practical uses such as making rope. But the cultural climate had changed considerably by 1936, when the propaganda film Reefer Madness was produced to warn young people about the dangers of a life built around recreational marijuana use.

So if you or someone you love is experiencing what they consider to be intractable pain, is this the green light to light up?  Not exactly. To be covered under the Act, both a patient and their physician are required register with the Department of Health.  Meaning, a patient will first need to convince their physician that their pain indeed meets this “intractable” threshold.  Also, they will have to wait until August 2016 to actually receive the marijuana for use.  For more information about Minnesota’s medical cannabis program, please visit the Minnesota Department of Health’s medical cannabis website.

We don’t want your research of state marijuana laws and regulations to be intractably painful.  Start with these two Information Briefs from the Minnesota House Research Department: Medical Cannabis: A Guide to the Minnesota Law and Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research Act.  An emerging legal issue on this topic is the question of how an employer needs to accommodate a worker’s medical marijuana use, as highlighted by this interesting article in the December issue of Minnesota Bench & Bar written by University of Minnesota Law student Richard Sharp.  Additionally, some recent CLE’s available in the library address this particular issue:

  •  Public Sector Labor & Employment Law Manual 2015 – “The New Medical Marijuana Law – Implications for the Public Sector Employer and Employee” by T. Jacobson & T. Louris (MN-CLE)
  • Employment Law Handbook 2015– “Clearing the Haze of Marijuana in the Workplace” by S. Ballard (MN-CLE
 

Getting Schooled in Education Law

ClassroomWith area schools back in swing, legal professionals know that education and all of its related issues can pose a landmine of legal challenges. From issues that include school funding, security lockdowns, religious expression, and student disability matters, many areas of law are touched upon in a typical school day.   These legal areas can include, but are not limited to contracts, criminal, and constitutional law. Of course, if you are researching a legal issue related to education, you already know that much of education is under state and local control.  Your research will likely require consultation of the applicable Minnesota Statutes, as well as the  Minnesota Administrative Rules for the Minnesota Department of Education.   You might also want to consult the policy manuals of your local school board and minutes of their meetings.   In addition, the State Law Library also provides a handy list of resources specific to education law. We also have local CLE binders as on the subject, as well as some other unique print materials:

  • Special Education and the Law: A Guide for Practitioners (Corwin, 3rd Ed.) by A. Osborne et al. Special education is an area of law impacted by significant court decisions and changing legal developments.  This book can provide a road map to meeting today’s special education requirements. Helpful analysis in specific areas such as IDEA, discipline, parents and students rights, and preventive suggestions on avoiding litigation.  More information is available from the publisher.
  • 2015 Deskbook Encyclopedia of American School Law (Center for Education & Employment Law). Its publisher describes this book  as “a one-stop reference guide that helps you learn how courts are deciding school cases, what the legal issues are and how your colleagues across the country are faring.”  Case summaries are provided in areas covering employment practices, school operations, academic practices, students with disabilities and  more.  This resource is reprinted annually for the most up-to-date coverage.
  • The Principal’s Quick-Reference Guide to School Law: Reducing Liability, Litigation, and Other Potential Legal (Corwin, 3rd Ed.) R. Hachiya et alThis book presents information that shows school principals how to address issues including:  student use of technology, zero-tolerance discipline policies, and school safety and violence prevention.  It also includes useful insights for collaboration with other school personnel for addressing these issues.
  •  Education Law: An Essential Guide for Attorneys, Teachers, Administrators, Parents, and Students (Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company, Inc. 2nd Ed.) by  M. Gerstein & L. Gerstein.  This substantial treatise understands how the incidents that arise in school touch on the many areas of law mentioned previously. How do these broad legal practice areas intersect with state and local laws? This broad treatise can be your road map to putting the details of your particular education issue into the right legal framework for your continued research.

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Building Your Federal Case

US District Courthouse - St. Paul Minnesota

US District Courthouse – St. Paul, Minnesota

Frequently at the law library we will send people to other courthouse floors to access documents filed in Minnesota’s 2nd Judicial District (plus its other districts for that matter). Unfortunately it gets trickier for patrons seeking federal court documents.   Consulting a law library at the St. Paul location of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota is not an option for members of the general public.  Our library is in fact the closest publicly-accessible law library to the federal courthouse. Here, patrons can use our free WestlawNext service to access opinions from the federal district courts for all states, plus appellate level court opinions. Our Westlaw subscription also allows access to opinions from federal tax court and bankruptcy courts.   Note however, that our law library does not have a PACER subscription, which also allows its subscribers to access the filings from federal courts.

There are also online options for accessing federal court records for when you are away from the law library. Would you like to see a list of what new cases have been filed in the Federal District Court of Minnesota over the last month? Try this link. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals also has its own porthole for opinions, including newly released ones. In fact, try this: Go to this site and then do a single word search if you are looking for past opinions surrounding an obscure subject or name. While not as not as flexible and friendly using WestlawNext, this option is at least free and convenient. Also be aware of what is freely available online through the Government Printing Office (GPO).  At this page you can find both U.S. District and U.S. Court of Appeals opinions going back to 2004. Again, not as scientific as WestlawNext, but free and accessible from any computer.  Going down to the clerk’s office of the local federal courthouse might still be your best bet if you need briefs or memoranda filed in the Federal District Court of Minnesota. There, one can use an in-house version of PACER to access these filings.

That stated, getting federal case records may not be as easy as you would like, but here in the law library we keep up a respectable collection of federal practice tools.  These include such resources as the United States Code Annotated (West), Moore’s Federal Practice (LexisNexis), and the Federal District of Minnesota Civil Practice Deskbook (Minnesota CLE).

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UPDATE (October 6, 2015):  The Law Librarian is pleased to correct/update this information by stating that our WestlawNext subscription WILL in fact allow users to access publicly-available court filings (i.e. complaints, briefs) for the Federal District Court of Minnesota back to 2000.  However, it will NOT allow access to filings in Federal Appellate Courts, or in Federal District Courts of other states.