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The AALL Spectrum® blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
7/26/2013 8:44:49 AM


Book Review:  Courthouse Democracy and Minority Rights:  Same-Sex Marriage in the States.

Hume, Robert J., Courthouse Democracy and Minority Rights:  Same-Sex Marriage in the States. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013), 217, pp., incl. index.  ISBN9780199982172, $85.00 (hardcover).

Courthouse Democracy and Minority Rights, written by award winning author, Robert J. Hume, Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University, examines why certain state court decisions have had a lasting impact on same-sex marriage by legalizing it while other state courts have been unable or unwilling to provide marriage equality to residents.  I recommend that Courthouse Democracy and Minority Rights be included in an academic law library collection. 

In the introduction (chapters 1 and 2), Hume provides a clear roadmap of the book’s structure and sets forth his thesis that various factors relating to the democratization of state courts and state constitutional systems have been critical to state court success in legalizing same-sex marriage.  Hume provides a context for his thesis by discussing and comparing previous state court decisions in favor of and against same-sex marriage.

In Part II (chapters 3 and 4) of the book, Hume provides a more thorough history of same-sex marriage by discussing, in great detail, the state court decisions that have shaped the debate surrounding same-sex marriage.  Through this extensive history, Hume discusses the limited, but important, early court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage and the backlash that occurred as a result of these court decisions, which led to many states passing constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriage.

Hume shifts gears in Part III (chapters 5 -8) of the book by focusing on how some state courts have been able to initiate policy, implement the policy, and ultimately have a long-term effect on the issue of same-sex marriage.  In this section of the book, Hume helps readers understand the different factors that impact state courts’ ability to initiate, implement, and have a lasting impact on same-sex marriage, including institutional, constitutional, ideological, and environmental factors.  Hume also revisits the passage of state constitutional amendments that prohibit same-sex marriage by examining the factors contributing to states passing these amendments.  In the final chapter of the book, Hume summarizes his finding, providing a concise narrative for his readers.  Part III of the book includes extensive data from existing and original surveys to support Hume’s findings.  The data is presented in both chart and narrative form, making it easy for readers to understand the arguments that Hume is making.  Hume’s knowledge of the issues surrounding same-sex marriage and his grasp of the statistics are evident while reading this book but it should be noted that Hume does not hold a J.D. degree.

A review of this book would not be complete without considering its relevance in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decisions in U.S. v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ____ (2013) and Hollingsworth v. Perry, 570 U.S. ___ (2013), two cases decided after the publication of this book.  With the Court’s decision in Windsor placing the issues of legalizing same-sex marriage and obtaining federal benefits squarely on the states, Courthouse Democracy and Minority Rights may play an integral role in determining how to challenge state constitutional amendments that outlaw same-sex marriage.  However, Windsor may also create new ways of challenging marriage inequality in states that were not discussed by Hume, potentially rendering it outdated.  There is no indication that this book will be updated to include a discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court cases mentioned above.  Even without additional discussion of Windsor and Hollingsworth, Courthouse Democracy and Minority Rights will remain useful in providing a historical perspective on the same-sex marriage movement in the United States.

The book concludes with a comprehensive bibliography, table of authorities, and subject index. 

Nancy B. Talley is an Assistant Professor and Reference Librarian at Rutgers University School of Law Library in Camden, New Jersey.

Sources Cited:

1.  U.S. v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ____ (2013).

2.  Hollingsworth v. Perry, 570 U.S. ____ (2013).



Posted By Nancy Talley at 7/26/2013 8:44:49 AM  0 Comments
7/25/2013 2:56:02 PM

REVIEW: It’s All About the Money: Rethinking the Way We Teach Cost Effective Legal Research

Presenters: Kathleen Darvil, Coordinator, Brooklyn Law School Library; Sara Kasai Gras, Mediator, Brooklyn Law School Library;  Caren Biberman, Speaker, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP; Mark A. Gediman, Speaker,  Best Best & Kriger LLP; Connie Smith, Speaker, Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Cheryl Lynn Niemeier, Speaker, Bose, McKinney & Evans LLP.

Four words: Mo Money, Mo Problems. Though the Notorious B.I.G. didn’t appear as a hologram to share these sage words of advice to attendees, I couldn’t help but feel this should be this program’s anthem as I listened to Ms. Gras moderate the discourse by Ms. Biberman, Mr. Gediman, Ms. Smith and Ms. Niemeier. The takeaway from this presentation was research must be conducted efficiently in a law firm environment. This means knowing the costs of conducting your research versus the speed and comprehension needed. The major concern of all the presenters was that newer associates may learn cost effective research techniques in law school but they do not have the proper grasp of the recovery of research costs. In 2011, Lexis conducted a cost recovery survey that showed only 37% of those polled incorporate cost-recovery in their research classes.

Each presenter shared their law firm library’s role in cost recovery as well as teaching cost effective and cost recovery consciousness researchers. This was more of a show-and-tell type presentation then what I had originally expected. Sometimes it was unclear if the presenters discussed their practices with each other before sharing them with us. Though useful to learn of others’ methodology and the level of success each firm may have experienced with teaching their own associates, as an academic law librarian, I felt the directives on how to teach such topics weren’t as strong. Rather we learned of general descriptions or methodology each law librarian may use to train their associates. Some had Westlaw and Lexis reps practically on-call to give trainings, often with incentives for associates to attend. Others shared tips to their attorneys to help them improve their research or required meetings with new hires. However, it was interesting to learn of the individual pricing plans and law firm practices.

This program gave me many concrete examples to utilize for my own class instruction purposes as each librarian presented very different cost recovery models. Ms. Biberman’s firm charges clients only for Westlaw and Lexis, which includes the exact cost as well as vendor discounts. On the other hand, Mr. Gediman’s firm has its own undisclosed formula to create a flat per search fee which results in predictable costs. Ms. Smith’s firm has an hourly rate based on the firm’s usage history while Ms. Niemeier’s firm was not at all concerned with cost recovery but focuses on utilizing an attorney’s time efficiently.

Another take-away from this program was the shared concern of the librarians over the current Google age and how law firms can reach out to students before they begin practicing. By Google age, I mean students have this “just Google it” mentality that translates into their research practices as new attorneys. According to the presenters, law schools should emphasize the research process, offer a multitude of courses, and stress precision for researching to help curb this Google mindset. As to students and law firm interactions, the presenters encouraged law schools to collaborate with firms by inviting a panel of local law firm librarians to your school or inviting law firm librarians to your classroom. Basically, the sooner our students begin to understand the value of the research dollar and how that translates to both their employer and their client, the better it will be for everyone involved and law firm librarians are willing to help us make that happen! 

Posted By Kathryn Crandall at 7/25/2013 2:56:02 PM  0 Comments
7/25/2013 9:28:46 AM

Program Review: Copyright and Digital Images: If it’s on the Web I Can Use It, Right?

As an academic librarian, I often incorporate digital images in my presentations and handouts for students. I have wondered about the legal ramifications of using images from the web, so I was excited to attend the program “Copyright and Digital Images: If it’s on the Web I Can Use It, Right?”

The presenters provided practical information, and the program was thorough. Coordinator Alicia Brillon quickly dispelled the notion that copyright law does not apply to most images on the web.

Russ Tarleton’s presentation was a comprehensive overview of copyright law as it applies to digital images. He also gave practical tips on how to assess risks when using digital images, and ways to minimize those risks.

Hayley Talbert also discussed how librarians can minimize risk when using digital images. Her presentation included an example of librarians using Flickr, and gave helpful hints about what to do when a photographer or owner of an image contacts you about using their image. Her presentation was especially helpful as Ms. Talbert demonstrated how to search for images using Flickr with various degrees of copyright protection.

Phyllis Marion shared an interesting anecdote about her experience as the agent designated to receive infringement complaints at an academic law library. Ms. Marion’s presentation offered a cautionary tale, and a roadmap for what to do when presented with a takedown notice. Her presentation illustrated some of the pitfalls in using images for common work-related activities such as invitations to office parties.

Sarah Glassmeyer offered advice on how not to be a cautionary tale. She discussed using images in presentations for a non-profit. Her talk was informative, and one of the best tips she offered was to simply ask the holder of a copyrighted image if you may use it.

Finally, Emily Lawson discussed the topic of copyrighted images and website design. She gave great tips such as using your own images, recognizing that not all government images are free from copyright, and the importance of proper attribution.

The presenters kept the audience engaged with live polling questions. Audience members texted in their votes in response to Powerpoint polling questions, and the results of the first forty participants were displayed throughout the presentation.

The session was mainly concerned with risk management as it applied to using digital images for library marketing materials, internal invitations, or online classes offered via a membership subscription. I would have appreciated a brief rundown of the fair use exception for copyrighted images used for an educational purpose. However, the session was thought-provoking and informative. I highly recommend this program as it contains practical advice about using digital images that would be helpful for any law librarian.

Posted By Stephanie Hayes at 7/25/2013 9:28:46 AM  0 Comments