RIPS Law Librarian
vol. 20, no. 2
Message From The Chair
Kory D. Staheli
Happy Holidays! Actually, the Holidays will probably
be over by the time you read this. If so, I hope everyone had a nice
holiday. In my last message I outlined our plan for the coming year,
and mentioned briefly that we will be reinstituting roundtable discussions
at the Annual Meeting in Anaheim. I am very excited about the possibilities
these roundtables will afford our members, and would like to tell you a
little more about what we have planned.
There will be four different RIPS roundtables in Anaheim. Three
will deal with patron services (i.e.; reference, circulation, interlibrary
loan/document delivery) and one with research instruction. These
roundtables will provide RIPS members with an opportunity to come together
as groups, in specific areas of interest, to discuss common problems, share
and generate ideas, and so forth.
Unlike past years, the roundtables have been scheduled for times
separate from the RIPS Business Meeting. And although we do not know
specific dates and times for each roundtable yet, our requests have been
sent to headquarters. I should also point out that we have tried
to schedule the roundtables so that members with related interests will
be able to attend more than one. For example, the reference and research
instruction roundtables will be scheduled at different times. Likewise,
the times for the circulation and lnterlibrary loan roundtables will
not conflict. Each roundtable will last between 45 minutes and 1
hour. Specific information will be printed in the Annual Meeting
Program. As we get closer to the Annual Meeting, we will also include
specific dates and times in both this Newsletter and on our RIPS web page,
which we hope will be up and functional by then. (By the way, Bobbie
Studwell and her committee have been working very hard on the RIPS web page, and Bobbie tells me we should be seeing something soon.)
The reference roundtable will be led by Mark
Silverman, circulation by Mon Ying Lung, interlibrary loan/document
delivery by Monica Ortale, and research instruction by Darcy Kirk.
These discussion leaders are in the process of putting together preliminary
agendas for each roundtable, and welcome your input and ideas. If
you have an idea or suggestion, please give the discussion leader in your
area of interest a call.
I would like to thank Mark Silverman, our Patron
Services Committee Chair, for coordinating the
roundtables and arranging for our discussion leaders.
Mark's participation has been invaluable. I would
also like to thank the discussion leaders for their
willingness to help.
One of the biggest complaints we have received from
RIPS members over the last couple of years is that
there is not enough time during the Annual Meeting
for those working in specific areas to simply come
together as a group and talk. Hopefully this will solve
the problem. We are listening to your concerns, and
doing our best to respond.
Pennsylvania County Case Reporters
by Marc Silverman
Among the oddities of case law research exist a
group of reporters that have been a continuing source
of confusion for many non-Pennsylvania reference
librarians. Over half of the sixty-seven counties in
Pennsylvania currently publish a case reporter covering decisions
issued by their Court of Common Pleas. These trial level decisions
tend to span all areas of state law. Many of these reporters have
been in existence for fifty years or longer with a few going back to the
Situations and issues do arise for which an appellate opinion doesn't
exist but a lower court decision can be found. Some of the features that
we have long taken for granted in the appellate reports also can be found
here. Thus, most volumes will contain a table of cases and a simple
Paperback advance sheets also exist for many of these reporters although
those from the rural counties tend to report a single case each month and
primarily consist of bar news and legal notices.
Editorial diligence has never been a hallmark of
these publications. Generally there have been
problems with consistency in volume numbering and
pagination. That probably was the reason why
Shepards, a publisher that relies on accurate citations,
stopped providing citation information for the
individual county reporters around 1972/73. West
also stopped including them in their case digest
around 1975. There currently is no quick and easy
subject access to the opinions in the county reporters.
There are several other Pennsylvania case
reporters that belong in this same context. The
District and County Reports, now in its fourth series,
selectively publishes those trial decisions that its
editors feel are novel or important. Roughly ninety
percent or more of the decisions appearing in this set
are also found in the individual county reporters, but
it does include decisions from counties without a
reporter and some opinions overlooked by the county
reporters. This title is still included by Shepards
West in their Pennsylvania research tools. The
Fiduciary Reporter contains Court of Common Pleas decisions from
all over the state in the estates and trusts area. Finally, Chrostwaite's
Pennsylvania Municipal Law Reporter contains both appellate and trial level
decisions dealing with local government law.
Because these decisions are from trial courts they don't carry
much weight. Still, situations and issues do arise for which an appellate
opinion doesn't exist but a lower court decision can be found. Controversies
involving small amounts of money like landlord tenant often don't find
their way to the appellate level and it is in these areas that the county
reporters are useful.
Marc Silverman is Associate Director for Public
Services at the University of Pittsburgh Law School.
The Wide, Wide World of Reference
by Melissa Serfass
Our reference desk has really been hopping lately.
Well, actually it's the librarians who have been hopping. The desk
remains fairly stable. Recently we have seen our questions from lay patrons
outnumber requests from law students or attorneys. This situation
has added some spice to our routine hours at the desk. Their sometimes
unusual, often unanswerable, questions can be more entertaining than explaining
the digest system for the thousandth time.
One afternoon a man was wandering around the reference area.
He looked somewhat lost, so I went to help him. I call this one the "Friend
in Need." The conversation went something like this:
Librarian: Can I help you find something?
Patron: My friend is in jail and I need to find out
the law on how to get him out.
L: Does he have an attorney?
P: No, he doesn't.
L: Has he had a trial?
P: Yes, he had a trial already.
L: He had a trial with no attorney?
P: Well, there was an attorney there, but it was my
attorney. I have a public defender, but my friend
doesn't have an attorney. I'm supposed to be the one
in jail and I need to find out how to get him out.
L: You're supposed to be in jail?
P: Yes, what happened was, he went to my hearing
yesterday because I couldn't go, and he got put in jail
and no one knows he isn't me. I didn't think he would
get put in jail.
L: Your public defender didn't know it wasn't you?
P: No, I never met him, I only talked to him on the
L: Have either one of you told anyone yet that the
wrong person is in jail?
P: No, because I don't want to get in trouble for
missing my hearing. I just need to find the laws on
how to get him out since he's innocent.
L: I can show you the Arkansas Code, but I really
advise you to call your public defender and tell him
P: You think that is the best thing to do?
L: Yes, I strongly advise you to do that.
P: Okay, I'll call him, but I would like to look at the
code. That will have the law in it, right?
L: Yes, it is the Arkansas law, but I don't think you
will find anything there that covers your situation.
After I showed him the Arkansas Code, he spent at
least an hour looking through it, but never came back
to the reference desk. I don't know if his friend ever
got out of jail!
Melissa Serfass is the Computer Services/Reference
Librarian at the UALR/Pulaski County Law Library in