Workers’ Compensation … Road to Recovery

photo: freedigitalphotos.net

photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Whether you have joked at work about making a claim for a paper cut, or have had a serious work injury, most of us know something about workman’s compensation.  But did you know that Montana has its own Workers’ Compensation Court?  Or that every working person, except an independent contractor is considered an employee under Montana work comp laws?  Did you know that Montana has a no-fault system, meaning the employee doesn’t have to prove the employer did something wrong?  While the work comp laws have a technical and sometimes confusing burden of proof for most employees, the system is not completely unmanageable for someone who wants to navigate through the process themselves.

Established by statute in 1975, the Montana Workers’ Compensation Court is still relatively new.  It was created to provide an efficient and effective system for resolving workers’ comp disputes.  You can learn more about the laws the legislature enacted regarding workers’ compensation by viewing the Montana Code online.  Workers’ compensation statutes are in Title 39 (Labor), chapter 71.

Alright, I think I have a work comp injury; where can I find more information?

pp-woman-on-ladder

photo: sillydog via photopin cc

Let’s follow Jane Doe.  She recently suffered an on-the-job injury.  She was at work standing on a ladder cleaning out a large vat when she fell and broke her leg.  Now she needs help pursuing her claim, getting her medical bills paid, and recovering her lost wages.

Jane needs to look at how the Workers’ Compensation Court website can help her start the process of filing a claim.  The site offers general information to help Jane get an idea of what the process entails and also provides the forms (in printable format) that she will need to file her claim.  Best of all, this information is FREE!  One suggestion for Jane: click on the Site Map located at the bottom of the homepage and use it as a table of contents to the website.  She might also want to scroll down the site map list to “Navigating Our Website” for useful tips on getting around the site.  (see below)

_________________________________________________________________

WC-sitemap-tips-navigating__________________________________________________________________

At this point, Jane may be saying to herself, this seems like a lot of work!  Am I sure I can even get what I need from work comp?  What Jane needs to know is that workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy.  Meaning, if her employer carries work comp insurance (most do), the only way an employee can get their medical bills paid and recover lost wages is by filing a work comp claim.

Now that Jane knows this is her only option, she needs to begin researching her next move.  From the Workers’ Comp Court homepage, Jane can see that the court is in Helena.  But she doesn’t live in Helena; what can she do?  Jane should go to the General Information tab on the homepage menu bar.  Here she will find trial dates and deadlines information.  Jane can rest easy because the work comp court has statewide jurisdiction and holds regular trial terms in 5 Montana cities: Billings, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula.  These trials are held in each city four times a year.  Whew!  Jane, resident of Great Falls, is covered!

Another great feature that Jane might be interested in is the “Representing Yourself WC-self-help-guide-frontpageSelf-Help Guide,” located under the General Information tab.   Some useful information the guide provides includes:  a brief synopsis of the court rules that Jane must abide by, a list of the requirements for filing a petition to seek benefits, and a summary of what will take place during the trial.  Now Jane has a more complete idea of what she can expect in work comp court.

Okay, so Jane has read through the Self-Help Guide and is beginning to feel more comfortable with her claim.  What other useful information can this website provide?  Of course, a big question weighing heavily on Jane’s mind is how much will she be paid?  For most injured workers this can be the biggest motivator in getting the process moving.  As bills begin to pile up and with no paycheck coming in, disability payments become a necessity.  The workers comp court website includes a link to the compensation rates an injured worker may be paid.  Jane can locate this link by looking under the Legal Information tab and then selecting Compensation Rates from the drop-down.  The rates are broken down by time frame and type of disability (temporary total or permanent partial).  Jane was hurt in 2014.  Using the table (see below), Jane can determine that the maximum amount she can recover for a temporary total disability is $698.00 per week.  The type of disability payment (whether temporary total, temporary partial, permanent total, or permanent partial) will be determined by the court.

WC-compensation-chart-2

Next, Jane may be ready to start filling out her forms.  After looking at the self-help section of the website, Jane knows what the court will expect of her.  But where might she find the forms she needs?  How can she be sure she gets all the forms?  Oh right, THIS WEBSITE!  Forms in a printable version, ready to go for Jane, are located under the same Legal Information tab where she found the compensation rates.  (see below)

WC-court-forms

Jane never imagined it could be this simple!  But she may want to look at some older work comp cases to see how her situation compares.  Jane can find these easily by clicking on the Case Law tab.  But, Jane thinks, there has to be thousands of cases out there.  How will she ever find one that is similar to hers?

WC-topic-search-indexOne option is for Jane to narrow her search using the Topics Index found on the top right of the workers’ comp court homepage.  The index lists various work comp-related issues, such as attorney’s fees, causation, and even injuries like asbestosis.  Although Jane may wonder whether she picked too broad of a topic to look into, she needn’t worry because each topic has a subtopic.  Clicking on a subtopic takes Jane to a list of case law (prior cases that set the standard for the topic) and statutes (the related laws).  Cases are presented in an easy-to-read format and are current through November 2010.  For decisions after this date, Jane can look at work comp decisions by year by clicking on the the Case Law tab and then selecting Workers’ Comp Court Decisions from the drop-down.  Jane can look at cases by year going back to 1993 up through the current year, and alternatively, she can view cases listed alphabetically.

Jane’s second option is to search by keyword.  The search option is tucked away in a couple of spots near the bottom of the website’s homepage (see below) (as well as from the Sitemap’s tips to navigating the website).

WC-search-options

Jane can enter, for example, the terms broken and leg into the search box.  To receive the maximum number of “hits,” she should enter the terms without quotation marks.  This way she’ll receive results that include phrases such as “leg was broken” and “broke his leg” — all which may relevant to Jane.  The initial list of results is for all of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.   To narrow results to just the workers’ comp court, Jane will need to click on the link to the court.  (see below)

WC-search-results-page______________________________________________________________

Jane now has her documents drafted.  But when should she file them?  By clicking on the Calendar and Case Status tab and selecting Annual Trial Calendar from the drop-down, Jane can determine when her petition needs to be filed if she wants her case heard in Great Falls.  According to the calendar, it looks like Jane will need to have her petition filed by May 19 with trial set to begin on August 4.  (see below)

WC-deadlines-dates

Simply by using the workers’ comp court website, Jane has obtained the information she needs in order to file a workers’ compensation claim for the on-the-job injury she suffered.  Jane is on the fast track to recovery and receiving compensation for her injury!

Authored by Brittany Santorno, 3L, University of Montana School of Law.  Brittany came to law school with a medical background, including a degree in Exercise Science.  She first became interested in workers’ compensation law during her employment at an orthopedic surgeon’s clinic.  This past spring Brittany enrolled in a work comp course and hopes to incorporate this area of law in to her future practice. 
 
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EDGAR: It’s Not that Guy Whispering Stock Tips …

search-edgar-promoEDGAR is a free public database of corporate information collected and maintained by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Since 1996 all public domestic companies have been required to submit filings on EDGAR and in 2002 all foreign entities were required to submit electronic filings to the EDGAR system.  Currently, there are over 20 million documents available through EDGAR.

Today EDGAR is primarily all electronic file cabinets of filing documents submitted by companies as required by various statutes and regulations.  In an effort to make the data from filed forms more usable, the SEC is currently updating EDGAR to use “interactive data,” which allows users to view and download the actual data from the filings rather than just a copy of the filing.  Most information on EDGAR is about public companies and mutual funds.

You might be surprised to know that there are hundreds of filers in Montana.  Some Montana filers include large publicly traded companies like Glacier Bancorp sharing information with investors, former governor Brian Schweitzer disclosing stock options from Stillwater Mining, and local Missoula business Montgomery Distillery detailing a small private investment offering.

The Available Information

There are many uses for the information found on EDGAR and while much of it may be available from third-party or even news organizations, searching EDGAR directly lets you get the news straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak.  You might search EDGAR if you are interested in investing in a public company or mutual fund or perhaps you are assisting a client with estate planning and need information on some of their investments.

The primary types of information found on EDGAR include disclosure of financial information, executive compensation, insider transactions, shareholder meetings, initial public offerings, and bankruptcies.  Companies submit this information to EDGAR through the use of a variety of forms, many identified by an array of numbers and letters, such as 10-Q and 14-A.  Below are short explanations of some of the most common forms accessed by investors on EDGAR.

Financial information forms include financial statements, earnings announcements, and registration statements for selling investment securities.  Three common financial forms you’ll come across are:

  • Form 10-Q:  Unaudited quarterly financial statements
  • Form 10-K:  Audited annual financial statements
  • Form 8-K:  Current information provided between Form 10-Q filings, including earnings announcements.

The officers and directors of a company and any beneficial owners of more than 10% of any class of a company’s equity securities must file a statement of ownership regarding those securities.  The specific forms they file are:

  • Form 3:  Initial statement of beneficial ownership
  • Form 4:  Statement of changes in beneficial ownership
  • Form 5:  Annual statement of beneficial ownership.

HELP!  10K, 10Q, 8K, S1!  Sorting through Form Soup

There are many more types of forms that companies are required to file besides those few listed above.  You might be thinking — I thought a 10K was a racing distance and how does anybody know where to find some actual information and not just a form!  The good news is that there are many helpful lists, links, and websites that can help you sort out the Form Soup.  A few are listed below:

SEC Guide to Researching Public Companies through EDGAR.  Not only does this guide contain information about EDGAR, search tips, and FAQs, but it also breaks down types of information you may be searching for (such as insider transactions or initial public offerings).  In addition, it tells you which forms contain that information.  I recommend bookmarking or opening a new tab for using this guide, because it contains lots of hyperlinks that can led you to more about specific forms, reading financial statements, and the rules and regulations behind all the information.

SEC Forms List.  As you gain more familiarity with the types of forms companies must file this list can be a helpful resource.  It lists all the forms companies may be required to file on EDGAR.  Also, links are provided to blank versions of the forms that include instructions for completing each form.  Because certain company filings can be hundreds of pages, having the blank form may help you determine what section of the form contains the specific information of interest to you.

Investopedia.  This is a free financial encyclopedia that not only can help explain SEC forms, but also has definitions for terms of art you may encounter while reviewing information on EDGAR or even this blog post!

Search Tips

As with all electronic searches, there are some limitations to watch for.  When conducting a company search on EDGAR, you should use the full name of the company rather than its common name.  For example, searching for IBM (a common name) won’t get you IBM.  But using the full name, International Business Machines, will pull up filings for IBM.  Also, you may need to try searches with and without punctuation that may be part of a company’s name.  Finally, EDGAR uses “Corp” for corporation and “inc” for incorporation.

When you have pulled up a list of a company’s filings, the default listing is chronological, with the most recent filing first.  Also note that in cases where a company amends a filing, the original filing is not pulled off the system.  The amended filing is added and “/A” is added to the filing number.  For instance, a listing for “10-K/A” is a Form 10-K audited annual financial statement that has been amended.  Thus, always check to see whether the filings you are relying on have been amended.

Let’s Actually SEARCH

Now that you know that EDGAR is not a guy whispering stock tips, let’s walk through a company search.  Perhaps you’re interested in investing in a Montana company, so let’s go check out the financial statements for Glacier Bank.

From the SEC Homepage the easiest way to access EDGAR is to click on “Company Filings” at the top right of the page.  See the figure below.

Screen Shot-SECHomepage

Once you’ve reached the company filings search page, you can conduct a basic search or an advanced search.  Click on “More Options” to bring up the advanced search features.  In addition to accessing the company search functions from this page, you can also link to some of the helpful SEC guides on using EDGAR and navigating Form Soup.  See the figure below.

Screen Shot-Search-Guides-FilingTypes-Help

Since I need to enter a company’s full name for my search, I input Glacier Bancorp rather than Glacier Bank to make sure I get closer to my targeted result.  My search results in two “hits.”  I’m interested in the Montana company so I select the first result by clicking on the highlighted red number under the CIK (Central Index Key) column on the left.  See below.

Screen Shot-results-search-GlacierBancorpAfter selecting the first result, the page that comes up provides a list of all the filings Glacier Bancorp has made, with the most recent filing listed first.  In the figure below, notice that you can filter your results to only look for certain filing types, by date, and can choose to include or exclude reports on director and officer ownership.  Because I want to search for financial statements to evaluate the company’s health for a possible investment, I’m going to select the most recent 10-Q (unaudited quarterly financial statements).  Also note that I have the option to view results in either “Documents”” or “Interactive Data” format.

Screen Shot-filings-GlacierBancorp

First, let’s look at the document view format to examine our information, beginning by selecting the 10-Q filed on November 8, 2013.  The figure below shows you all the documents that makeup the parts of the 10-Q filings.  There is the Form 10-Q itself and the CEO and CFO certifications that verify the information in the report is accurate.

Screen Shot-10-Q results-GlacierBancorp

Next, let’s take a look at the Form 10-Q.  The document that comes up is a copy of the form as it was filed with the SEC.  Click on this link to look at Glacier Bancorp’s 10-Q in its entirety, complete with a linked table of contents to assist you in navigating this 62-page filing.

How does the “Interactive Data” format view compare with the “Document” view?  You can access the “Interactive Data” view from either the search results page or from the Form 10-Q page as shown and noted in the figure above.  Once you select “Interactive Data” view, the next screen looks like the figure below.

Screen Shot-InteractiveData-GlacierBancorp

Once here, use the yellow box to view all the different types of information available.  You can print the information or, even better, download it into an Excel spreadsheet where you can format the data to calculate various financial ratios, create charts tracking company revenues, or format the data in a variety of ways useful to your particular situation.

Whew!  With over 20 million company filings made on all kinds of forms, our search has only just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to EDGAR.  Go explore — it’s free!

Authored by Amanda Henthorne, 3L, University of Montana School of Law.  Prior to Law School Amanda spent several years working for the SEC and has a close familiarity with EDGAR, the topic of her law resource review.
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Welcome to a special  spring semester-long edition of the Jameson Law Library Blog where over the next several weeks law students taking Advanced Legal Research will contribute blog posts on a variety of legal resources.  Expect some stellar posts longer in length and with added detail.
Our post, “Exploring the Criminal Law Deskbook,” is authored by Jeremie Marrow, 3L at the University of Montana School of Law.  Jeremie has a masters degree in French Literature and a strong interest in criminal law.
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What to Write About

question markYou have to write a paper and so far you’ve gotten as far as “what should I write about?”  It’s still the beginning of the semester, so you’re okay, but you need to find a topic soon.  If you’re still stuck on the first step, here are a few hints.

First, think about your paper as more than an assignment.  True, you wouldn’t be writing it if it weren’t an assignment and you will be receiving a grade for work, but more than that, you have the opportunity to add important ideas to the body of legal discourse.  You should be looking for a topic that is novel — you shouldn’t just be summarizing what everyone else has already said but pick a topic that you can say something new about.

Regardless of the topic you choose, you will learn something about the law you didn’t know before and think about the law in a way you never contemplated — your professor knows this; it’s why you were assigned the paper in the first place.  This paper will add something to how you practice law.

Second, write about something that really interests you.  Before you commit to a topic, think about it for a little while, discuss it with your classmates and friends.  If you find yourself getting excited when you talk about it, it’s probably a good topic.  On the other hand, if your mind starts to wander as soon as you sit down to research or you come up with a series of excuses not to start your research, consider finding a new topic, one that sparks your interest more than any of those excuses.

Good advice, but still, where do you find that magic topic?  Start with what you know.  You did something before you came to law school — had a job, a career, studied a subject other than law.  You have hobbies and interests.  For example, you’re an artist — think about intellectual property; you’re a scientist — how do courts treat scientific evidence; an athlete — international sports law.

Talk to your professors, either the one who assigned the paper or one who teaches a subject you’re interested in.  They will know what’s going on in their areas of law, where the controversies are and what’s being discussed on the listservs and blogs.  They can help you take a germ of an idea and turn it into a paper topic, or narrow a broad topic into a concise thesis.

What’s going on in town?  In the state?  In the region?  Read or watch the news.  What makes you yell at the television or puzzle at how something will be resolved?  There are plenty of news stories that are directly legal and plenty of others with legal aspects.

Congress, your state legislature, and your city council are probably up to something, whether it’s something that you support or something you absolutely disagree with.  Congress, state legislatures and even city councils have websites you can look at to track current legislation.  The Library of Congress’s new Congress.gov website is a great place to start researching federal legislation.  In Montana, the legislature meets only every-other year and won’t be in session again until Jan. 2015, but you can research what they did at their last session (and other previous sessions) on the Montana Legislature website.  Legislative hearings are a great way to understand the multiple sides of an issue — likely there will be at least one side you agree with and one that drives you nuts.

See what lawyers are talking about.  If you work at a law firm, ask the lawyers there for an idea — chances are, there are unanswered questions they have been considering.  The American Bar Association sections all have websites with various resources that might make you start thinking about an issue.

If you’re still baffled, peruse legal news and current awareness sources.  Here are a few:

And if after all that you still don’t know what to write about, go visit with your librarian.  We have new books, newsletters, journals, databases, all of which are full of interesting legal issues and controversies.

Selecting a topic and formulating a thesis is part of the writing process; instead of being frustrated by it, think about what you’re learning just by digging into the law.

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Un-American Activities

Pete Seeger died this week at age 94.  He was a man of so many accomplishments, though he said he thought his greatest accomplishment was finishing his book “How to Play the 5 String Banjo.”  He was simple and humble with a deep love of music and people, and he was driven in his mission to get everybody to sing together.

Thinking about Pete Seeger this week also made me think about the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

ALGER HISSIt was created in 1938 to investigate subversive and disloyal activities of private citizens and organizations.  Mainly it was looking for any ties to Communism and the Communist Party.  It investigated people’s private lives, associations, friends, what they read, where they went … does this sound familiar?

It ruined a number of lives on rumors, sketchy evidence, and guilt by association.  During a nine day investigation, the committee came up with a list of 300 names that became the Hollywood Blacklist.  These were people working in the motion picture industry that supposedly had some kind of Communist ties.  Nobody on the list could find work in Hollywood.  Some, like Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin, left the country and lived in exile.  Those who couldn’t leave had their careers shattered.

Pete Seeger was proud of his activism for social justice, and he was proud to have been a “wobbly”, a member of  Workers of the World, so it’s no surprise he was subpoenaed by the committee in 1955.  He refused to answer any questions about his political associations or what he read (he was accused of having read the Daily Worker, the newsletter of the Communist Party).  Instead, he told the committee that they were the ones being un-American. He said:

 I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known.  I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American.  I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them.

I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else.  I love my country very deeply, sir.

Pete was sentenced to 10 consecutive one-year contempt counts, but he never served time and the sentences were overturned in 1962.  The House Committee on Un-American Activities continued until 1975.

Below: Pete Seeger sings at the opening of the Washington labor canteen in 1944.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is seated between two servicemen, smiling.

seeger_roosevelt.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge

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HeinOnline Now Linking to Case Law Via Fastcase

 

pp-blueIt’s always great when we can pass along good news and do we have some good news for you!  Now you can link to case law from publications in HeinOnline.  Look for case citations that are highlighted in blueClick on the citation and you will link to the case in either HeinOnline or Fastcase.

Fastcase?  What’s that?

Fastcase is perhaps best known for providing legal research services to 25 state bar associations (and in the near future to the State Bar of Montana) and dozens of voluntary bar associations — and now as the power house that helps integrate case law into HeinOnline.

What’s the case law coverage?

      • Federal cases include:
        • Supreme Court (1854 – present)
        • Federal Circuits (1924 – present)
        • Federal District Courts (1924 – present)
        • Board of Tax Appeals (vols 1-47)
        • Tax Court Memorandum Decisions (vols 1-59)
        • U.S. Customs Court (vols. 1-70)
        • Board of Immigration Appeals (1996 – present)
        • Federal Bankruptcy Courts (1 B.R. 1 – present)
      • State case law:
        • Covers all 50 states, with nearly half dating back to the 1800s.
        • Coverage for the remaining states dates back to approximately 1950.

When do you link to cases on HeinOnline versus Fastcase?

HeinOnline case law includes early editions of the Federal Reporter (1891 to 1922) and U.S. Supreme Court Reports.  Whenever possible, you will link to a case in HeinOnline.  When the case law is not included on HeinOnline, you will link to the case on Fastcase.  You’ll notice a difference in the format between the two.  See below.fastcasescreenshotweb

   But wait … there’s more …

You can also retrieve case law by citation on HeinOnline.  Look for the Fastcase tab at the top of the HeinOnline home page screen.  Click on the tab to open a citation search box.  You can copy and paste a citation directly into the search box.

fastcase-tab-pic2There is also a “Direct Citation” option, which allows you to type in the volume, use a drop-down menu for the case abbreviation, and enter the page number to find your citation.  To use Direct Citation, click on the Fastcase tab, but do not enter anything into the search box — instead, click “Get Citation.”  On the screen that appears, the Direct Citation option appears at the top left.  See below.

Fastcase-direct-citationBoth options retrieve the full text of the case in HTML format and can be downloaded to a PDF or printed.

Anything else you need to know?

Cases do not come with headnotes.  Nor can you “Shepardize” the cases.  However, you do receive a list of articles (if any) that cite to that particular case.

Tell me again, how do I access HeinOnline?

To access HeinOnline for your research, go to the Law Library Databases link on the Law Library webpage and select HeinOnline from the list.

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Book Review: The Law of Superheroes

superheroThe Law of Superheroes
by James Daily and Ryan Davidson*

Other than a few issues of Archie Comics when I was a kid, I have never been a reader of comic books, but the idea of this book intrigued me and I thoroughly enjoyed the book itself.  Most of us have enough pop culture knowledge to recognize Batman and Superman and some of the most villainous villains and even know a bit about their alter-egos and some of the story lines.  That is enough to get into this book and find it exceedingly interesting.  The authors are self-described “lawyers and comic book nerds” and this book grew out of their blog, Law and the Multiverse.  In an attempt to make law more interesting, both the blog and the book introduce real world legal principles by applying them to the facts and situations found in comic books.

In addition to appealing to both comic book fans and novices, this book is also written for both legal experts and those without legal training.  The authors have a knack for discussing legal concepts in a way that is neither dumbed-down nor obtuse.  Lawyers can have fun thinking about questions like how the Second Amendment applies to superpowers, whether allowing superheroes to testify in costume violates the confrontation clause (or whether requiring them to remove their masks violates their privacy rights), whether mutants are a protected class and how the ADA applies, and what is the best business organization for the Justice League.  For non-lawyers, the authors explain a plethora of legal concepts briefly before demonstrating how those legal concepts would apply in the worlds of various comic books.  Contracts aren’t so hard to understand when you apply the concepts in contract law to a contract between Batman and Penguin’s thugs to help find the survivors of an earthquake in Gotham City.

The table of contents reads a little like a law school transcript, with chapters covering constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, criminal procedure, tort law and insurance, contracts, business law, administrative law, intellectual property, travel and immigration and international law.  The authors explore an impressive list of legal issues.  Even just reading the headings raises interesting questions: citizenship and parallel universes, immortality and compound interest, superhero corporations and liability, hearsay and telepathy, supervillain sentencing and the Eighth Amendment, anti-mutant hate crimes, mutants and civil rights, psychic powers and the Fifth Amendment.

The book certainly provides a new look at law, but for those who don’t read comic books, it also provides an look at the government and legal systems in comic books, which it seems are detailed and sophisticated, with government agencies, courts and laws.  The DC Universe even has its own version of the Twelfth Amendment.

And the authors even have something for legal researchers — the discussions are carefully footnoted with citations to cases, statutes, constitutional provisions and law review articles in flawless Bluebook format.  The comic books themselves are even cited in proper Bluebook format, which, for a citation geek like me, is just another example of how well this book blends law and comic books.

*James Daily & Ryan Davidson, The Law of Superheroes (Gotham Books 2012).

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