Tuesday, August 21, 2012

If it's not one thing...it's your brother!

siblings arguingI just notice that lately I've been writing a lot about probate stuff.  Probably the reason for that is because we have a whole lot of people coming into our library looking for ways to screw their siblings out of something in Probate OR they're looking to keep from being screwed by a sibling in Probate.

For instance, we had an older gentleman come in looking to prevent his children from fighting over his estate after he passed on.  Seems he had a rather sizable estate and was looking to minimize ensuing battles.  While in my capacity as a law librarian I can't give him legal advice I can (and did) give him Charitable Giving: Taxation, Planning, and Strategies (West) which suggests ways to give away your money other than just giving it to siblings who are going to fight about it anyway.

While it's sad how money changes some people, what you need to know is  that if ever a situation arises that you need help fighting for or defending against someone in Probate, know that your friendly neighborhood county law library has just what you need to help you do whatever it is you have to do.

Oh, I Get It!

Beam light heavenly wisdomI don't know if you know this but I hold classes (at our law library) teaching people how to do their own legal research.  I teach refresher classes for attorneys, I teach paralegals how to build on what they know, and I teach beginning classes to everyone else.  Probably the best thing about teaching legal research is that "Oh, I get it" moment when people finally realize how easy it is to do legal research.  It's like a beam of light reaching down from heaven touching you and enlightening your mind to new views and vistas never before dreamed - at least that's what it was like for one lady I had in my class a while back.

Turns out we were learning how to use the Table of Cases.  The Table of Cases lists all the cases located in a particular book or other legal resource and identifies on what page(s) you can find that case.  The "why" of why you'd want to use a Table of Cases is to avoid having to use (or start with) the general index.  If you have to use the index, that means you don't really know where to start looking (and you could be looking for a long, long time).  If you have the name of a  case (either because you've done some research or someone told you about a case), you have a more definite starting point.  So, with the name of a case (like Blue v. Red), and we look in the Table of Cases alphabetically ("B" for Blue) and the Table of Cases tells me on what page(s) Blue v. Red can be found in that resource.  Piece of Cake!

If you're still confused on what is or how to use the Table of Cases, just go to your local county law library and ask your friendly neighborhood law librarian to help you learn about the Table of Cases (or anything else for that matter - because that's why we're here (to help you help us help you))!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Consider the Source

frazzled nervesThe other day, a lady came up to me demanding to know why she couldn't find what she was looking for.  Seems she was looking for information about unlawful detainer (i.e. she was being evicted from her apartment).  The problem was that she was looking in the index in one book expecting to find what she wanted in another book.  For 20 minutes she stood there becoming more and more agitated because I "wouldn't" help her.  What I tried to convey in the simplest terms (and what she failed to grasp) was the concept that you can't use one index and expect to find what you want in a completely different book (she thought all legal indexes were on a 1:1 scale meaning all indexes referenced all books because they were all law related).  

Yeah, I'm sorry to have to tell you this but if you want information about Landlord Tenant stuff, you need to be holding the Landlord Tenant book (not just any book on Landlord Tenant but the book that you want to find information in).  If you want information about zoning, you have to be holding the book about zoning.  If you want information about trademarks, corporations, probate, domestic violence, or animal rights (or any of the other 50 zillion (that's right, zillion) topics found at any law library), you have to be holding that respective book.

There, I said it.  I feel better now.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Why would I ever need a law book?!

talk, talk, talkThe other day I was speaking with a group of people and in the course of our discussion someone asked me what I did for a living.  I told him I'm a Law Librarian.  "A Law Librarian?  What's that?!?!"  I explained what I do to which they responded that they not only don't like lawyers but that they could not imagine a situation where they would ever need to use a law book.   Then one of them asked, "Why would I ever want to go to a law library, anyway?"  Why?  Well, I'll tell you why.

wedding bells ringingSay for example you get married. Now let's say that the person to whom you've affixed your affections has been unemployed for the last 12 years, is presently living in his parent's garage, and has no assets to his name - but he does have a winning smile.  Notwithstanding all warning signs to the contrary you plow forward with your marital designs.  Turns out this guy is really, REALLY interested in marrying you what you having a steady job, a plethora of credit cards and a trust account to rival the gold that (at one time) was in Fort Knox.

Shortly before you take the plunge, you acquiesce to your collective group of friend's requests that you draw up an ante nuptial (aka "prenuptial") agreement  to protect your assets.  Knowing that you don't know anything about ante nuptial agreements, a friend of yours tells you about all the great resources you can find at your local county law library.  Quick as a wink, you fly to your local county law library and, after consulting with the ever knowledgeable law librarian, you head over to Williston on Contract, Forms 4th Edition (West), take a look in the Index under Premarital Agreements and get your betrothed to sign on the dotted line thus protecting your hard fought assets and putting your friend's collective minds at ease.

Divorce begets lack of furnitureNow let's say 18 months down the road you realize that prince charming isn't all that charming and, in fact, he's really starting to get on your nerves - what with maxing out your credit cards, demanding an allowance, and always trying to get his fingers on your trust account.  So annoying!  Realizing you maybe jumped the gun on this marriage thing, you decide it's time for a divorce.  Knowing how helpful your local county law librarian was before you got married, you hurry over to the law library and, after consulting with the law library again, you head over to American Jurisprudence Pleading and Practice Forms Annotated (West), look in the Index under Husband and Wife and discover a whole bunch of resources to help you be rid of this financial parasite.

So, what have we learned?  If nothing else that while you may never need a lawyer, or a law book, or even the assistance of your friendly neighborhood county law librarian, we'll be here when you do.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Enough Already!

research read books
A question I get a lot of from people who do their own research is, "How do I know when I've done enough research?"  Most always my answer is, "When you start seeing the same thing over and over and over again you can stop.  In a way, sometimes when you're doing extensive legal research it feels like you're chasing your tail - and that's not a bad thing.  It's just the research gods telling you you are on the right track.  Let me elucidate.

Say you're researching something about Foreclosures (specifically regarding rescue scams).  You'll probably start with Black's Law Dictionary (West) to get a basic definition.    Then over to to the United States Code you find information about rescue scams is under title 42 USCA §1801 (for reference purposes, the "§" symbol means "section").

With the law in hand, you then head over to:
  • American Jurisprudence 2nd (AmJur) and look in under Consumer and Borrower Protection § 250.20 and find a whole lot of other information on foreclosure stuff;
  • Then you mosey over to American Law Reports (ALR) and find pages and pages of information on foreclosures;
  • Then maybe take a look at Words and Phrases (West) and look for cases dealing with foreclosures and scams.
  • Then you you head over to Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS) and look under Mortgages § 641;
  • Then over to Forclosures (NCLS) for a discussion on all things foreclosures;
  • Then you head over to Federal Procedure, Lawyers Edition § 44:174.60 (Warning of Foreclosure Rescue Scams);
  • Then you head over to the Federal Digest, 4th Edition to look for Federal cases regarding forclosures;
  • Then you might use WestlawNext (my personal favorite when it comes to online legal research);
  • Then you might take a quick look at the Decennial Digest (West) just to see how other states have dealt with foreclosures;
  • and finally you'll want to Shepardize or use Key Cite in WestlawNext to make sure your cases and codes are current and relevant.
At some point in all of this, you're going to see the same things over and over again and that's when you'll realize you've probably found all of what you need to find on that topic.  Now you can go home knowing that if there is anything you've missed odds are it's not all that important, anyway.

write brief study
So stop with the worrying and know you're on top of your game (because you've been reading this awesome blog about all things legal research and it just told you you were on top of your game) and get with the writing of your motions or briefs or complaints or appeals or whatever it was you came to your local county law library to do research for in the first place.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Word of the Month for August 2012: Eminent Domain

This month's definition is more of a phrase than an actual word, and it is: EMINENT DOMAIN.  I selected this because we've had a slew of questions about eminent domain in the last few weeks and people are generally always freaked out about the concept of government having power to take you house at the drop of a hat.  

According to Black's Law Dictionary (West), eminent domain is defined as: the inherent power of a governmental entity to take privately owned property and convert it to public use (subject to reasonable compensation for the taking). The concept of eminent domain came to the forefront in 2005 when the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005). Basically, what Kelo said is that governments can take a person's property and give it to another private person to further economic development.  What this means is that governments no longer have to use the property merely for public use - they just have to say the property is going to benefit the community economically.  Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?  I mean, what with having your home torn down to help the whole community.  Yeah, real fuzzy!

Let me elucidate the concept of eminent domain with a simple example.  Say you've been living in the house you were born in.  When you hit the ripe old age of 36, your local government decides to give your property to Donald Frump to build a casino because Mr. Frump says it would bring jobs and tax revenue to the area.  Even if it doesn't bring jobs and tax revenue to the area, government can still take your house, tear it down, and build Frump's casino.

Now, I'm not saying that when you hit the ripe old age of 36 that your local government is going to tear down your home to make way for some inane government project. What I am saying is that the very nature of government is insanity and psychosis - so what you might want to do (before it all hits the fan) is read up on eminent domain. Might I suggest you take a look at Nichols on Eminent Domain (Matthew/Bender).  Might I also suggest you look at The Law of Zoning and Planning (West) and Eminent Domain Use and Abuse: Kelo in Context (ABA).
The important thing to remember is that your local county law librarian is always ready to help you find whatever it is you are looking for...and now that you are sufficiently paranoid about all things government and abuse, we can help you find something about that, too!