Here’s an update about a couple of core legal resources that all attorneys used in law school.  They are the Restatements of the Law and the Uniform System of Citation, (the Bluebook). These long-established titles have undergone some changes in the past few years.  Regarding the Restatements, the new publishing plan has caused the law library to rethink where the materials should be placed in the collection.

Published by the American Law Institute (ALI), the Restatements of the Law include many titles and their respective supplements, appendices, and numbered new versions.  Various titles cover major areas of law such as contracts, torts, property, judgments, conflict of laws, and others.  ALI began the system in 1923 to issue “restatements” that would promulgate one highly authoritative source stating the common law, with rule-like content and explanatory material.  In recent years, they devised a new numbering system in 2014, and they converted their more specialized “Principles of the Law” series to Restatements in 2015.  The narrower topics appear in more recent restatement titles which reflect ALI’s decision to publish new titles without any numbers.

It’s possible that only a law librarian would savor delving into the details about the changes.  However, our users should know that we’ve departed from our customary scheme of placing all the Restatements in one section of the library.  Our new scheme involves keeping the older Restatements, with their broad subject coverage, in the north reading room where they’ve always been.  The newer, more specialized, topical restatements are dispersed into the collection where similar subject matter is located.  That way, users who are browsing an area (i.e. employment law) will find that a restatement was published for the topic.  The law library continues to acquire the Restatements in print, and they are also available on our Westlaw service.

A new edition of the Uniform System of Citation (aka the Bluebook) is published about every five years.  The library has the current and several previous print editions.  The Bluebook is a combined effort of law review editors at four law schools–Yale, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard.  The 21st edition came out in 2020 and is noticeably smaller than its recent predecessors.  The decrease in size is due the elimination of Table T2, which accompanies Rule 20 on “Foreign Materials,” from the print version.  Table T2 is now online only.

The Bluebook not only describes how to cite to various electronic resources, but it is itself available in electronic format and includes access on mobile devices.  There is a cost for the online version.  The Bluebook editors would like feedback from attorneys and judges and comments can be sent to editor@legalbluebook.com.

For those who would like a very condensed overview of the new Bluebook, the law library also has the User’s Guide to the Bluebook: Revised for the twenty-first edition, by Alan L. Dworsky.

 

More Libraries for National Library Week

To end National Library Week 2021 with a bang, we thought we’d tell our readers about CALCO, the Capitol Area Library Consortium.  Member libraries of CALCO represent a variety of state agencies, as well as entities of the judicial and legislative branches of Minnesota government.  CALCO was formed in 1973 to encourage cooperation among the government libraries.  Today, there are fourteen full members and four associate member libraries.  Associate members are libraries or affiliated groups that share the same interests as CALCO, but do not meet the membership criteria. The Ramsey County Law Library is an associate member of CALCO.

All CALCO libraries have experienced staff to help its patrons find information.  Other benefits of the CALCO Libraries:

  • Provide access to unique services and government materials that are not available elsewhere. 
  • Have material available in print, but also in microforms, electronic, and other formats.  For example, the Minnesota State Services for the Blind Library has audio and braille resources available to Minnesota residents.  In addition, the libraries include publications on diverse topics including the arts, business and economics, environment and natural resources, health, history, law and legislation, public policy, and transportation.
  • Provide access to their unique collections to the public.  The general public can find these unique materials through the online catalog or by contacting the library.  (Note that hour and access might be limited due to COVID-19.  Please contact each library directly for access.)

The pandemic has forced many of these libraries to adapt to providing services remotely, as many of the librarians were forced to work from home (and many still do.)  Dan Gausman from the State Services for the Blind Library observed, “Our service model has always been by phone and by mail.  Given that our offices are closed to the public during the pandemic there has been no drop-in, drop-off, or pick-up service.”   

The CALCO Librarians meet regularly to keep each other apprised of the issues within their respective libraries.  These regular meetings have been especially helpful in the last year, as Dan Gausman commented, “I also appreciate that our member libraries can offer support to each other during these difficult times.”

To see a full list of CALCO member libraries visit CALCO’s website at https://mn.gov/library/index.html.

Be kind to your librarian, and have a wonderful National Library Week!

 


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Exciting news!  The law library has recently added PACER to the legal research resources available in the law library.

What is PACER?

PACER, which is an acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, is an electronic public access service of United States federal court documents. It allows users to obtain case and docket information from the United States district courts, United States courts of appeal, and United States bankruptcy courts.  This service is maintained by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.  The funding to support PACER is derived entirely from user fees.

Content

The PACER database contains federal case and docket information (except for Supreme Court dockets).  Dockets are the equivalent to the roadmap of a case. It tells the user what documents were filed, and when documents were filed for a case.  In addition, PACER also provides access to the underlying documents filed for the case.

Astute legal researchers know that docket information is available via other online databases (Westlaw, for example).  However, the law library’s Westlaw subscription does not include access to federal dockets and filings.  If your legal research requires federal dockets, PACER is your way to access them.

Searching in PACER

The PACER Case Locator (PCL) is a national index for district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts.  Patrons can use this search tool to conduct nationwide searches to determine if a party is involved with any federal cases.  If you know the court where your case is located, you can limit your search to a specific court to reduce the number of results.

You may search by case number, party name, Social Security number, or tax identification number in U.S. bankruptcy courts. In district courts, you may search by case number, party name, or filing date range. And for appellate courts, you may search by case number or party name.

Case information is available in PACER once it has been filed or entered in the courts Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system.

How do you access PACER?

PACER can only be used in the law library.  If you want to use PACER, please contact one of the law librarians, who will log you into the system.  There is no user charge to access PACER at the law library, though regular printing charges (15 cents/page) will apply.

For more information, please come visit the law library!

 

 

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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

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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!